WASHINGTON — A Nicaraguan military officer believed to have access to highly sensitive information has defected to the United States, an Administration official said today.
The official refused further comment, but published reports said the officer was familiar with the Sandinista government's tactics, strategy and intelligence operations.
Maj. Roger Miranda Bengoechea, 34, abruptly left Nicaragua on Oct. 25, the New York Times reported today, quoting diplomats, politicians and a Nicaraguan government communique.
The Washington Times quoted a well-placed source as saying Miranda had been spying for the United States for some time before he defected, and is now being debriefed. The newspaper did not say where Miranda was.
A Nicaraguan Defense Ministry communique said Miranda had left with at least $15,000 in government funds as he was being investigated for "various anomalies."
The reported defection came at a critical time diplomatically, with a Central American peace accord scheduled to take effect Thursday.
"Even if he has not been working for the CIA all these years, he is still a gold mine for them," a foreign military officer who studies the Nicaraguan army told the New York newspaper.
That newspaper quoted Miranda's associates anonymously as saying he supervised the staff of Defense Minister Humberto Ortega, brother of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Miranda also directed the military's public relations effort, took the official notes at meetings of the military general staff and was at private meetings when Humberto Ortega discussed tactics, strategy and intelligence, the newspaper said.
Miranda was one of about 105 members of the Sandinista Assembly, the ruling party's top consultative body, the newspaper said.
Miranda apparently went to Mexico on a regular basis for medical treatment, the Washington paper said. Last week, he took his wife along and stayed there. The Sandinistas then closed his office and dispersed his staff across the government.