The Cuban government was allegedly behind a plot to smear Sen. Bob Menendez’s name with accusations that he solicited underage prostitutes, according to a letter sent to the Justice Department by the lawyer of the Democratic senator from New Jersey.
The Washington Post reported that Sen. Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes.
Menendez’s lawyer said that the hooker story published by The Daily Caller in 2012 was part of a Cuban plot to thwart his re-election campaign and his efforts to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
According U.S. intelligence sources, the CIA obtained evidence that Havana tried to plant the rumor in U.S. and Latin American publications. Since the story first ran, three Dominican women who claimed to have sex with Menendez for money have rescinded their stories. At the same time, the FBI was never able to corroborate prostitution charges against him.
The article published by The Washington Post said that “the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims”.
The intelligence information indicated that operatives from Cubas Directorate of Intelligence helped create a fake tipster using the name Pete Williams, according to the former official.
The tipster told FBI agents and others he had information about Menendez participating in poolside sex parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing at the Dominican Republic home of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor, donor and friend of the senator.
Sen. Menendez is known as one of the most staunch critics of the Castro regime, and the plot started a few months before the November 2012 elections that the Senator easily won against his Republican opponent.
It is deeply disturbing that a foreign government whose intelligence service is an enemy of the United States might try to influence U.S. foreign policy by discrediting an elected official who is an opponent of the Cuban regime, said Stephen M. Ryan, Menendez’s attorney, in a statement published by The Washington Post.
The report added that it seems that Cuban operatives worked through business allies and lawyers in the Dominican Republic to create the fictitious tipster.
“If assertions of Cuban involvement in the prostitution claims were ever proved true, they would represent another flash point in a lengthy history of tensions between the United States and Cuba”, added the report.
In recent months, the U.S. Agency for International Development was forced to confirm the existence of a secret program to create a Twitter-like network in Cuba.
The two nations have been at odds over the imprisonment in Havana of a USAID contractor, Alan Gross, accused by Cuba of spying, and they have clashed over the imprisonment of Cuban spies in the United States.
Last month, Thomas J. Donohue president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a critic of Cuba sanctions argued for more-open business relations between the countries after a visit to Havana. Some prominent Cuban American executives who have long backed the embargo have also begun to soften their stance, such as sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul, who revealed this year that he had visited the island and was open to doing business there someday. And President Obama, who has loosened some restrictions, has signaled a willingness to do more.
The Post said that Menendez, with a long-hardened resolve and a key seat overseeing U.S. foreign policy, is perhaps the single most important obstacle to normalizing relations.
Enrique Garcia Diaz, a former high-ranking Cuban spy official who defected and is now living in the United States, said in an interview that it was routine for Cuban intelligence officials to plant damaging news stories about opponents of the regime.