x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Watergate burglar dies at 92

Bernard Leon Barker, one of the five Watergate burglars whose break-in led to America's biggest political scandal, has died.

MIAMI // Bernard Leon Barker, one of the five Watergate burglars whose break-in led to America's biggest political scandal, died on Friday in suburban Miami. He was 92. The Cuban-born former CIA operative who also participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion died at his home after being taken to the Veteran's Administration Medical Center the night before, said his stepdaughter, Kelly Andrad. He appeared to have died from complications of lung cancer, and he had suffered from heart problems. Mr Barker was one of five men who broke into the Watergate building in Washington on June 17, 1972. A piece of tape used by the burglars to cover the lock to a stairwell door was noticed by a security guard, setting in motion events that would topple Richard M Nixon's presidency. Mr Barker and three of the others were recruited in Miami by CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, with whom they had worked a decade earlier in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The fifth burglar was a security consultant for Mr Nixon's campaign. They were trying to plant a wiretap to gather information on Mr Nixon's Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, George McGovern. While the national spotlight faded from the burglars over the past few decades, their deed was never forgotten. Mr Barker lamented the infamy of his crime in a 1997 interview. "I think it's time that people forgot the whole damn thing," Mr Barker said at the time. "That was a sad time." Still, Mr Barker said he had no regrets about the break-in. He served a little more than a year in prison for his role and later worked for the city of Miami. The Watergate affair made Mr Barker well-known in Miami's anti-Castro Cuban community, where he remained steadfast in his own dislike of the dictator over the years, said his daughter, Marielena Harding. "His fight for true freedom continued to the end, and he was just sorry that he never got to see Cuba free," Ms Harding said. Mr Barker said in 1997 that he had watched with interest as the image of Mr Nixon, who resigned in disgrace in August 1974, underwent a rehabilitation of sorts. The former president died in April 1994. "As the years go by people are not so uptight about these things after all," Mr Barker said, "What he had done in the international field, he was in my concept, one of the best presidents this nation ever had."