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Robertson Says Senate Testimony Documents Cuban Missiles

March 2, 1988

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson on Tuesday cited second- hand testimony from a Senate subcommittee hearing 21 years ago as documentation that Soviet intermediate-range missiles are based in Cuba.

However, several U.S. officials said Tuesday the Cuban military has some surface-to-surface missiles in its inventory, but none has a nuclear warhead and none could reach the United States even if they did.

The former religious broadcaster said the information indicates a ″loophole″ in the U.S.-Soviet arms control treaty awaiting ratification in the Senate.

Robertson quoted 1967 testimony by Paul Bethel, a State Department official from Miami who said Cuban refugees had told him of seeing missiles, and one of the refugees, identified only as Mr. Apud, who swore Cuban soldiers let him know about missiles aimed at Washington before he left in 1966.

Neither man testified he had personally seen the missiles, the transcript indicates.

The testimony was given to the Judiciary subcommittee to investigate the administration of the Internal Security Act and other internal security laws. Robertson read portions of it to supporters at a breakfast here and during a rally the night before in Miami.

″I’ve been accused of bringing funny facts,″ Robertson told the Fort Lauderdale gathering. ″Ladies and gentlemen, the clear eyewitness, sworn testimony of witnesses before a Senate Judiciary committee is not funny facts. ... This is documented evidence.″

Robertson’s assertion that there are missiles based in Cuba has been denied by the White House, congressional defense experts and Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Several defense and administration officials were asked Tuesday about Robertson’s claim. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to become involved in the presidential race, said Cuba has about five dozen Frog-4 and Frog-7 battlefield missiles, date to the 1960s.

The Frog-7, when originally introduced by the Soviets, could carry either a conventional or nuclear warhead, ″but we’re confident no nuclear warheads ever went to Cuba for that missile and it doesn’t have any range anyway,″ said one source who requested anonymity.

According to the reference book ″Jane’s Weapon Systems,″ the Frog-7 has a range of only about 43 miles - or half the distance between Cuba and Florida. Moreover, the rocket has no guidance system to direct it to a specific target.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said last month that Cuba has been under extensive surveillance since the 1962 missile crisis and there was ″no evidence″ any other nuclear weaponry had ever been deployed there by the Soviet Union.

Robertson concentrated heavily on the Cuban-American vote for the March 8 Super Tuesday primary during a two-day swing through South Florida.

The Miami rally drew little more than half of the 1,500 people that campaign organizers had predicted in a show of the candidate’s strength among Hispanics.

At a news conference following the breakfast, Robertson refused to say how he obtained the missile testimony transcript.

″How I got it is my business, but the thing that’s important is that it’s available in the records of the United State government,″ he said. ″And, frankly, I think it shows that the staff work by the State Department was not adequate on the INF treaty because there’s clearly a Cuban loophole.″

A Cuban refugee who claims he saw a variety of missiles, including long- range surface-to-surface missiles, there as late as 1985 said he met Thursday in Miami with Robertson.

Copies of a Spanish-language newspaper, Diario Libre, with a headline proclaiming ″YES, PAT 3/8 YOU’RE RIGHT 3/8″ and maps drawn by the refugee to pinpoint the missile sites were distributed to campaign supporters throughout his South Florida visit.

The man identified himself only as E. Rodriguez, saying he feared revealing his full name would result in retribution against family members still in Cuba. He said he was an agricultural planner and had access to aerial photographs and to areas of Cuba where the missiles were based.

Robertson said he couldn’t vouch for the authenticity of the newspaper’s account of the refugee’s story.

″I’m not saying I have other than this proof,″ he said, referring to the subcommittee transcript. ″It’s coming to me from many, many people now, people who are aware of it.

″But the issue is not can we prove or can we not prove. The issue is verification We have a treaty. There’s a loophole in the treaty. We must put in verification of the Cuban missile sites.″

He told reporters the only way to verify his claim was to personally go to Cuba and look for the missiles. But, responding to a question, he said he would decline an invitation to do so should it be extended by Castro, who he has described as ″a butcher and a tyrant.″

In the subcommittee transcript, Apud said he was told by Cuban soldiers he had known for many years that the missiles were nicknamed ″Washington Left,″ ″Washington Right,″ and ″Washington Central.″

Robertson quoted Bethel’s acknowledgement, in response to questioning by Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., that numerous refugees had told him they had seen missiles left in Cuba after the Cuban Missile Crisis and new ones constructed in 1964.

Bethel testified he could not state with certainty that intermediate or intercontinental ballistic missiles were in Cuba, but that the State Department also couldn’t be certain they weren’t there.

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