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1988: Cubans blame shooting on 'CIA plot'

A Cuban diplomat opened fire in a crowded London street because of an American plot to make him defect, his government has said.

The shooting occurred yesterday afternoon in Bayswater and left one man slightly injured.

The British Government has condemned the behaviour of Cuba's commercial attaché, Medina Perez, and expelled him and the ambassador, Oscar Fernandez-Mell.

The Foreign Office has so far refused to comment on the Cuban version of events, but Scotland Yard said the wounded man was a member of the UK security services and not the CIA.

Mr Perez was on the way back to his flat when he fired on a group of people who were shadowing him.

Havana officials said the group contained a former Cuban intelligence agent who defected to the West in June 1987.

Florentino Azpillaga is alleged to have threatened Mr Perez and tried to persuade him to defect, but ran off when the diplomat fired his gun.

Mr Fernandez-Mell condemned the expulsions as "extremely irregular" and said he did not want to leave Britain.

"I am very sad because I leave a lot of friends here," he told the BBC.


"It makes James Bond read like a railway timetable"

Labour MP George Foulkes

Mr Perez left the UK without saying anything about the incident.

Ministers have made it clear the expulsions were meant as a lesson - that it is not acceptable for diplomats in Britain to use, or even carry, firearms.

But Labour foreign affairs spokesman George Foulkes called the episode a "monumental mess" and demanded the prime minister give a full explanation.

"It makes James Bond read like a railway timetable," he said.

In Context
No official statement giving a full account of the incident was ever made by the British Government.

But leaks from within the UK and US intelligence communities said the Cuban defector, Florentino Azpillaga, was with an MI5 team shadowing Medina Perez.

The sources also said the agents may have asked the diplomat to defect.


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