Cuba has detained Donald Nixon Jr., a nephew of the late president, and his wife has asked Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Nixon’s congressman to help win his release, administration and congressional officials said Friday.
Circumstances surrounding the detention of Nixon were unclear. According to congressional sources, Nixon’s wife, Helene, said Nixon had been in Cuba attempting to arrange for a pharmaceutical test in Cuba.
Administration sources, however, said Nixon was with Robert L. Vesco when the fugitive financier was arrested on suspicion of being a “provocateur and agent for foreign special services.”
Cuba informed the U.S. diplomatic office in Havana in early June of Vesco’s arrest, touching off speculation that Cuba might be willing to surrender the financier to U.S. authorities.
But Cuba subsequently informed the United States it had no such intention. President Fidel Castro told CNN last Sunday that it would be “immoral” for the two countries to allow Vesco to become a pawn in bilateral relations. The State Department expressed regret, saying Vesco was charged with “very serious violations” of U.S. law.
Congressional sources said they were not aware of any link between Nixon’s detention and Vesco.
An official at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba said he had no information about Nixon’s being in Cuba and could not comment in any case because of privacy act considerations.
Other U.S. officials said, however, that Nixon’s wife sent letters to Christopher and to Rep. Christopher Cox, a Republican of Orange County, Calif., where the Nixons live, asking them to intercede on Nixon’s behalf. They said she also wrote to Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas.
Vesco is under indictment for a $200,000 contribution to Richard Nixon’s 1972 presidential reelection campaign. He had fled to the Bahamas the year before to avoid an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1972, the SEC charged in a civil suit that Vesco and 40 other people had diverted more than $224 million in assets from four mutual funds.
Vesco, 59, settled in Cuba in 1982. In 1989, he was indicted on drug conspiracy charges in Florida.
Columnist Jack Anderson this month identified Nixon as “a trusted aide to Vesco.”