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Bernard Barker dies at 92; Watergate burglar was a CIA operative

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Bernard Barker, a Cuban-born CIA operative who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion and was later a Watergate burglar, died Friday in suburban Miami. He was 92.

Barker died at his home after being taken to the Veterans Administration Medical Center on Thursday night, his stepdaughter, Kelly Andrad, told the Associated Press. He appeared to have died from complications of lung cancer, and he had also experienced heart problems.

Barker was one of five men who broke into the Watergate building in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1972. They were trying to plant a wiretap at the Democratic National Committee headquarters to gather information on Richard Nixon's Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, George McGovern.

Four of the burglars -- Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, Rolando Eugenio Martinez and Frank Sturgis -- were anti-Castro activists recruited in Miami by CIA agent E. Howard Hunt. The fifth, James W. McCord, was a former CIA agent and security consultant on Nixon's campaign staff.

The men were caught inside the Watergate building, leading to criminal charges and political scandal. Besides the burglars, several of Nixon's top aides were convicted of related charges, and the president resigned in disgrace in August 1974. Barker served 13 months in federal prison.

Although the national spotlight faded from the burglars over the last few decades, their role in the affair made them well-known in Miami's anti-Castro Cuban community.

Barker's own anti-Castro views didn't change 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," Harding said.

Bernard Leon Barker was born March 17, 1917, in Havana to a Cuban mother and an American father. He came to the United States as a teenager but returned to Cuba to attend the University of Havana.

A dual citizen, he left college to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1942, serving in Europe.

After World War II ended he went back to Cuba and worked as a policeman. When Fidel Castro came to power, Barker left for Miami.

He worked for the FBI and the CIA and in 1961 took part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

After Barker's prison term for his involvement in the Watergate burglary, he worked for the city of Miami as a building inspector.

Twenty-five years after the break-in, Barker said he had no regrets.

"I think it's time that people forget the whole damn thing," he said in a 1997 interview with the Associated Press. "That was a sad time."

Besides his daughter and his stepdaughter, Barker is survived by his wife, Dora Maria Baker.

news.obits@latimes.com

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