N.Y. Contact of Alleged Spy Denies Giving Cuba Secrets
February 24, 2000 - Miami Herald
A flamboyant New York publicist linked to accused Cuban spy Mariano Faget
denied Wednesday that he passed secrets to Cuba.
Cuban-born Pedro Font, 57, a man with a troubled financial past and a deep
interest in doing business with Cuba, confirmed to the Univision television
network that he has known Faget since childhood and had met with diplomats
attached to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.
But his contacts with the diplomats from Havana were only to renew the
Cuban passport he still uses for travel, Font told Univision anchorwoman Maria
Elena Salinas during an interview in the European principality of Monaco.
His account contradicted a Tuesday report in the Cuban newspaper Granma
that Font hosted a 1998 meeting in Connecticut between Fernando Remirez de
Estenoz, in effect Cuba's ambassador to the United States, and Cuban-American
"I challenge the Cuban government and any other person in the United
States to show Pedro Font has passed information ... to Cuba," he said.
"That would be humiliating [because] I've raised my children to be
Font, whose full name is Pedro Jesus Vidaurreta Font, said he has known
Faget since childhood because both were sons of senior officers in Cuba's
pre-Castro armed forces, but he refused to answer substantive questions on the
Font has been identified as the man that Faget telephoned and to whom he
relayed secret information on a purported Cuban defector soon after Faget
received the tip from the FBI Feb. 11 - in fact, an FBI trap to arrest the INS
Faget was charged with revealing classified information. Font was not
charged, and lawyers experienced in espionage cases say he probably did
nothing illegal unless he passed Faget's tip to Havana.
"Having access to sensitive information is not a crime in itself. It's
what you do with it that makes it a crime," said J. Richard Diaz, Miami
attorney for convicted Cuban spies Nilo and Linda Hernandez.
Font's secretary in New York said he returns March 7 from a four-week trip
to China and Europe.
Friends and business associates, meanwhile, are describing Font as a
bombastic businessman with a list of solid successes marred by financial
"He was always a controversial person, very original, did things in a
different way, a very eccentric man who called attention to himself," said
Arturo Villar, head of Hispanic Market Weekly.
Font, whose father died in Cuba before Fidel Castro's rise to power, fled
to Miami with his mother and three sisters while still a teenager in the early
1960s. He became active in the entertainment business in Peru and Ecuador at
the end of the decade, said Humberto Cortina, a Miami businessman who lived in
Lima at the time.
Some of his businesses were dogged by complaints of financial shenanigans,
and one in Ecuador once ran up a bank overdraft of $34,000, according to
former Ecuadorean banker Jose Regalado, who is now a Miami stockbroker.
SUCCESS IN NEW YORK
By the time Font turned up in New York City in 1979, however, he seemed to
be relatively rich, initially trying to buy a Spanish-language advertising
agency and eventually setting up a new firm, Font and Vaamonde.
Font and Vaamonde quickly established itself as a major player in the
field, winning accounts from Procter & Gamble, WXTV-Channel 41 in New Jersey
and New York's huge Key supermarket chain.
He later sold the firm and founded Global Media Distribution, which holds
the distribution rights for Mexican television giant Televisa's programs in
Asia and Eastern Europe, Villar said.
Acquaintances described Font as a man who smokes foot-long cigars, pays an
office aide just to make him Cuban coffee and once wore a set of progressively
longer toupees. When he got to the longest, he would announce he needed a
haircut, they said, and turn up the next day wearing the shortest.
Font married a wealthy Peruvian woman and they had two children, according
to friends. The couple were divorced in Miami in 1977.
One business associate said Font recently closed or sold his $1.3 million
home in Greenwich, Conn., and bought a home in Denver, a more convenient
location for doing business with customers in Asia.
SOUGHT CUBA TRADE
But friends said Font's real passion for years was the possibility of being
able to develop business opportunities in Cuba once Washington lifts its trade
"Since about 1990 he was always saying that one had to return to Cuba to
do business," said one former business associate. "Usually he would say,
'after Castro,' but the way he talked sometimes made you wonder."
According to two former business associates who did not want to be
identified, Font's son, Peter, has recently boasted that his father was
working on a deal to market luxury Cuban real estate to European and Latin
American business people. Font did not address that issue in his interview.
In 1993, Font, Faget and three other investors established a Florida firm,
America-Cuba, to be prepared to do business with Cuba when the time came. Two
of the owners have said the company never did any business.
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