Before his June sentencing for helping Russia spy on the United States, Héctor Cabrera-Fuentes pleaded for leniency. His lawyers argued that he was a world-renowned researcher on cardiovascular disease, and a role model for his charitable work in the impoverished Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Cabrera-Fuentes’ journey began from humble origins in the small town of El Espinal, known for its spicy stew estofado oaxaqueño and colorful flowered clothing during holidays. He rose to become an internationally prominent doctor before becoming entangled in the espionage scandal.
Reporters from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Miami Herald have also discovered that this improbable saga included stops at Mexico’s National Palace, the official workplace of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
At the palace, Cabrera-Fuentes met numerous times with officials involved in López Obrador’s lofty ambition to build a railway across southeastern Mexico, which could upend some global shipping routes and challenge the Panama Canal.
Cabrera-Fuentes had been living in Singapore, and the Mexican government hoped to enlist him to attract investment from the Asian financial power, according to El Espinal Mayor Hazael Matus Toledo, who said he attended meetings between senior government officials and the scientist-turned-spy.
“The last meeting was to be on a Tuesday. He was arrested on a Sunday,” Matus told OCCRP.
The meetings were about the Trans-Isthmus Corridor, which would connect Gulf and Pacific ports by rail. As an alternative to the Panama Canal, it potentially threatens U.S. hegemony in the region and the populist president has prioritized Asian investment. The project has drawn protests from environmental groups and raised U.S. concerns about its use by drug traffickers.
The extent of Cabrera-Fuentes’ political connections in Mexico has not previously been reported, but much ink has been spilled since his arrest in 2020, especially as details filtered out about allegations of espionage and his secret other family in Russia.
For those in Mexico who respected his scientific achievements and knew of his charitable work helping reconstruct earthquake-damaged areas and funding study abroad, it’s hard to accept the accusations against him.
“It’s a vile lie,” insisted Román Cruz Ortiz, a chemical engineer who became Cabrera-Fuentes’ mentor after meeting him when he was a 16-year-old high school student interested in science.
Cabrera-Fuentes pleaded guilty in February and was sentenced to four years in a U.S. prison for working as an unregistered foreign agent, helping Russia spy on an informant in Miami. That informant had shared information about Russian intelligence services with the U.S. government.
These few details were outlined in an FBI affidavit in support of the criminal complaint in February 2020. The relationship with Russian intelligence ran from March 2019 to February 2020, according to the affidavit. It also revealed that Cabrera-Fuentes, 37, told FBI counterintelligence officers that he had two wives and two sets of young children, one in Mexico and another in Russia.
The FBI described Cabrera-Fuentes as a “co-optee,” used by Russian intelligence to provide “a layer of obfuscation” between the target and the Russian intelligence officer.
Source: Yahoo News