Senior US Senator alleges Cuban govt behind prostitution scandal
Robert Menendez, the senior Senator from New Jersey and the chairman of the key Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has been a staunch defender of the US policy of embargo over Cuba. As a Democrat, Menendez has even opposed the White House in protest of moves to relax restrictions over the Communist nation inserted into legislation.
Menendez’s political fortunes were imperiled in 2012 when a scandal erupted days prior to his re-election race, when GOP political operatives set up several Skype interviews in the Dominican Republic with several women claiming the Senator had paid them for sex. The Daily Caller, a popular conservative news site, ran with the story.
Now, according to information published by the Washington Post, Menendez has asked the department of justice to look into the Cuban government’s complicity of his involvement with those underage prostitutes as part of a conspiracy to undermine his influence, and thus eliminate a political obstacle advocating for the continuation of embargo policies.
Intelligence information cited by the Post indicates that both the CIA and the FBI were aware of evidence linking Cuban agents to the prostitution scandal, including the creation of a fake tipster who operated under the name “Pete Williams.”
An attorney representing Menendez, Stephen M. Ryan, confirmed a letter had been sent to the Justice Department requesting the links be investigated.
“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 Ryan.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Menendez represents a key obstruction to any easing of political and economic restrictions which have been invoked by the US over Cuba for decades. According to Enrique Garcia Diaz, a Cuban spy who defected to the US, the country routinely seeks to promote damaging publicity over opponents of the Castro regime.
“From the moment that article about Senator Menendez was published, I suspected that it was an invention of Cuban intelligence, because that is the way they work. It is their modus operandi,” he said. “They fabricate lies. They look to create intrigue.”
Diaz’s claims seem to be further corroborated by a book published by Robert Eringer, a former FBI informant who worked undercover in Cuba, who wrote that the country’s government was “obsessed” with the politician, and had approached him to seek out and uncover material to “expose and humiliate” Menendez.
The so-called tispter had sent an email in April of 2012 to the liberal watchdog group CREW -- or Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- informing them of alleged “first hand information” regarding the Senator’s participation in “inappropriate sexual activities with young prostitutes.”
At the time, ABC News declined to run the story, citing suspicions that the alleged underage prostitutes had been “coached.”
Last year, as Menendez demanded a probe into the prostitution allegations, the Senator seemed to imply a plot had been hatched against him.
"All I know is obviously there must be interests [who] were trying to defeat me in my election and who obviously did not want to see me in my role as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."
Himself the son of Cuban immigrants, Menendez is one of several key Latinos -- which include Republicans Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida -- aligned against any relaxation of the embargo.
The latest evidence that may corroborate Cuban involvement in the political scandal is part of a larger FBI and Justice Department investigation into Menendez, which has been looking into whether the Senator intervened on behalf of a friend who may have defrauded Medicare to the tune of $8.9 million. According to several sources by the Post, possible charges are still looming for the Senator as a result of that probe.