Cubanálisis El Think-Tank

ARTÍCULO ORIGINAL PARA EL THINK-TANK DE CUBANÁLISIS

 

 

                                                                 by Juan F. Benemelis

 

 

 

 

THE WASP NET IN THE UNITED STATES

 

OUR MEN IN MIAMI

 

     The scope of the Cuban espionage against the United States was placed in the public arena when the FBI dismantled an intelligence network, the ramifications and consequences of which still continue being inferred in official institutions in Washington.

 

     The following details of the Cuban operations discovered by officials of the FBI counter-intelligence by the end of the 1990-decade revealed and actualized the intensity of this regional Cold War and demonstrate the determination of Fidel Castro to continue it.

 

     Assessment performed by the Cuban analyst Ernesto F. Betancourt, “the 14 of September of 1998, special FBI agent, Raul Fernandez appeared in the Miami courts to present before the district judge Joan Lenard, an accusation that resulted as one of the most original cases of espionage. 1 The FBI, after a prolonged investigation, arrested 10 individuals in Florida for conducting espionage work against the United States on behalf of Cuba.  The Naval Criminal Investigation Services formed part of the investigations.  The discovery of the Wasp Net aided to focus the attention in the ampleness o f the Cuban espionage against the United States.

 

     The Wasp Net, composed by 16 Cuban agents had as one of its assignments to spy official American agencies, infiltrate important military installations of the United States such as the Southern Command, the Central Command (CENTCOM) in Tampa, responsible for the military activities in the Near East and in south and inside Asia. The Commander of CENTCOM, general Tommy Franks, has headed the military operations against terrorists in Afghanistan and the neighbor areas.

 

     As the Wasp net was taken apart by the FBI, its members were accused of conscientiously acting as Cuban agents, and of conspiring to appropriate information of the defense and the national security. Of the 16 identified members of the Wasp Net, eight have been condemned or they have been declared guilty, four escaped to Cuba and the rest started being judged. 2

 

   The FBI external counter-intelligence team that investigates the foreign intelligence operations, conducted since 1995, the direct watch and scrutiny of the movements, telephones and residences of the Cuban spies, through the use of techniques. 3 Also, they searched their residences in a secretly way and monitored their telephones in a permanent way. As a result of all this controlled activity, it was discovered that a vast net that operated in agreement with other clandestine agents from the government of Cuba.

 

   It was detected that these illegal agents communicated directly with the Government of Cuba informing their activities, receiving instructions to carry out special missions, that later the “center” in Florida would assign to other “sub-agents”.   The FBI discovered extensive illegal evidence in the content of such messages from and to Cuba, including stored data in computer diskettes that were preserved in the residences of the three leaders of the Wasp Net. 4   

 

     In the criminal accusation against the Wasp Net, the FBI noted that “the group compiled and reported intelligence information concerning, among other things, the political activities of Anti-Castro organizations Defense installations, government operations to include infiltration to American military bases; concealed participation in Anti-Castro organizations and manipulation efforts of political institutions and government entities of the United States through disinformation and alleged collaboration. 5

 

     It would be Castro himself who in a public interview, trying to deny the direct involvement of Cuba in espionage against the military bases, confirmed this indirectly through the operative plans of the Wasp Net:  “if perhaps we were interested in something related to the United States installations nearby Cuba, it would be the movement of troops” “the movements of troops and key units can perfectly be obtained by radio-electronic means”.  “We could be interested in how many troops gathered in Florida for the invasion, how many ships, and where the fundamental units that would be utilized against our country could by sea and air are positioned”. 6

     The Wasp Net received financial support from Cuba and worked directly for the Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Interior even though it was known that this was a shared operation with the military intelligence of the Cuban Armed Forces.  The communications among the members of the group made reference to the Intelligence Information Department; they cited as the main Center the Ministry of Interior and made reference to the Cuban Armed Forces Directorate. 7         

 

THE OPERATIONS

 

     The FBI concluded, over the seized data, that the director of the Wasp Net was Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo (alias Giro or Giraldo), who utilized the false identity of Manuel Viramontes.   Hernandez inspected the infiltration of his sub-agents in the domestic anti-Castro groups in the Miami area.  The components of the group gave special attention to maintain their identities and the missions they executed as agents in secret, establishing a much elaborated tactic to avoid detection. 8

 

     When Hernandez was arrested in Miami Beach, he identified himself as captain of the Cuban army that had been in this country since 1992.  The electronic observation about Hernandez revealed numerous conversations reference the intelligence operations, a short wave radio was found in his apartment, computers and numerous diskettes with compromising information, recorders and photographic equipment of high sensibility.  Inside the diskettes there were literally thousands of pages with conversations in detail between Hernandez and the government of Cuba, and also conversations between Hernandez and the rest of the officers of the Wasp Net.

 

     The second in rank was the Cuban intelligence Major, Ramon Labañino Salazar, born in 1963, which utilized the false identity of Luis Medina (alias Alan), obtained through a driver’s license with this name. Labañino had the duties of overseeing the infiltration plans and obtaining classified information of the active military installations in South Florida.  Among them were the United States Southern Command (characterized by the Intelligence Directorate as one of the main objectives in the Miami area), and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West.  Gerardo Hernandez and Labañino would collect the reports from their respective sub-agents and they would pay them and instructed them on the missions required by Cuba.  Hernandez received orders from Havana and later would assign as plan to the individual agents within the theater of operations.

 

    Labañino had operated in Tampa already, since 1992, providing information to Cuba on everything related to the movements of the McDill Air Force base.  Labañino was appointed to Miami in 1996, with the task of infiltrating in the Southern Command.

 

In a communication coming from the Intelligence Directorate, by the end of 1996, Gerardo Hernandez was instructed to organize in Miami, under the direction of Labañino, a group of his agents with the intent of a counter-operation against the Southern Command, suggesting the “colleagues Mario (Joseph Santos), Julia (Amarilis Silverio), Gabriel and Antonio Guerrero (alias Lorient)”. 9 In the recovered information from Labañino’s computer, he would refer to himself as an “illegal agent”, which is the synonymous utilized in intelligence for a spy that utilizes a non-official covert.  Even though Labañino was frequently away from the Miami area, to perform other espionage duties, the FBI maintained him under vigilance for two years, and during this time he was filmed in a New York restaurant, while exchanging information with a prominent UN Cuban diplomat.

 

     The third man on board was Fernando Gonzalez, who performed under the identity of Ruben Campa (alias Vicky), and who was responsible of directing in the practice all of the sub-agents.  Another of the projects of the Wasp Net was the manipulation of the electronics and mass media means of communications, the public opinion with anonymous phone calls and letters to the newspapers and political figures.  Fernando Gonzalez was detected in July of 1998 performing his duties of espionage with Gerardo Hernandez, and among other matters, working on the case of a Cuban agent that had faced problems in Moscow.

 

   Antonio Guerrero, American citizen whose family returned to Cuba when he was a child, was a civilian employee in the Naval Air Station base in Boca Chica under Labañino’s orders, and at the same time reported directly to Gerardo Hernandez.  The task of this emissary was of such importance that the ring-leader of the net, Hernandez, was assigned by the Intelligence Department to go to Key West, if necessary, every two weeks to gather any details that Guerrero detected.  Guerrero should report any uncommon movement connected to the combative capacity of this military base, such as exercises, maneuvers and other activities.

 

     Guerrero obtained detailed information of the activity of the air base, to include the types of war aircrafts, the description of the buildings prepared to be used for secret activities, the detection of aircraft specialized in the technology war, and the management of high level officers assigned to the base. 10

 

     One of the most intriguing elements mentioned by the FBI agent Raul Fernandez is precisely the case of this spy, Antonio Guerrero, who furnished to Cuba the addresses of hundreds of personnel stationed in Boca Chica Naval Air Station. 11   Jane’s Defense in its edition number 6 of March 1996, reports that since the beginning of the 1990-decade, Cuba trained commandos in Vietnam, precisely for this type of plan. According to the publication: “Havana’s strategy after such trainings is to attack the logistical bases of the forces of the United States that are preparing to invade Cuba. The political objective is to take the reality of the war to the American people”. 12

 

     One of these detained Cuban officers, Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert (alias Castor), was an American citizen who specialized in gathering data that was immediately sent to Cuba. He was also an FBI informant with the mission of providing details that were sent immediately to Cuba. 

 

He was also an informant for the FBI, with the intended mission of providing drug trafficking details even though in reality it constituted a way of diverting the attention of the American counter-intelligence about its real operations, obtaining information of the FBI activities, its agents and the progress of certain investigations of interests for Cuba.  Decoded messages sent to Havana refer to activities of the Cuban exiled groups that were later on transferred to the FBI with no apparent result.  In a message from Cuba sent to Hernandez and discovered by the FBI the Cuban intelligence suggested that one of the reasons for the assumed cooperation with the FBI was to maintain an open channel to utilize it “in case of an emergency that would be of our interest and to accelerate an action by the American government against the Cuban exiled groups”. 13

 

     In 1997, the Wasp Net leader, Gerardo Hernandez, notified Cuba, that Jorge Mas Canosa, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, had terminal cancer.  Rene Gonzalez, who at the same time had infiltrated the Democracy Movement and had done the same in Brother’s to the Rescue organization, provided the information to Hernandez. 14 According to El Nuevo Herald, and after Mas Canosa’s death, the General Intelligence Directorate developed a disinformation operative to discredit this organization and deepen the divisions amongst their principal figures by distributing a flyer put together by one of the spies of the Wasp Net. 15

 

     FBI investigations concluded that Nicolo Hernandez (alias Manolo) and Linda Hernandez (alias Judith) were sub-agents that also reported to Gerardo Hernandez and were highly trusted and given a great amount of responsibility. This couple who lived in New York were relocated to Miami in the early 1990s operating under the disguise of a small export and sales business of computer peripherals and medical instruments and owned by Nicolo Hernandez.  One of the General Directorate of Intelligence messages, referred to this couple as “lieutenants” who had been working for the Cuban government for “numerous years” and held positions in the military reserve.  Also known as “junior”, they enjoyed an elevated status within the Wasp Net to the point that they knew the identities of other intelligence operatives in the United States.

 

     The Hernandez’s couple was assigned special projects by the Cuban intelligence, including the surveillance of two other Cuban agents under suspicion of deserting.  Amongst other functions, Nicolo Hernandez was assigned the task of infiltrating the Latin American Chamber of Commerce (CAMACOL).  Additionally, they were given the responsibility to investigate local telecommunication companies, establish relationships with ex-employees of the United States Navy, with the possibility of recruitment.  The Hernandez were involved in a plan that covered the issuance of thousands of anonymous letters of fictitious Cuban exiles, of intimidation against political figures within the United States including a letter supposedly sent by an Anti-Castro figure that threaten to politically a United States Senator.

 

     By describing in detail one of such campaigns the General Directorate of Intelligence instructed that they had to be carried out by Hernandez because of his previous experience in this type of project where he demonstrated that he knew how to act. In the same manner the General Directorate of Intelligence suggested cognizance of security measures such as to avoid leaving fingerprints on correspondence, to mail letters in different mailboxes, using the appropriate stamps and avoid been seen depositing letters by using camouflages to avoid recognition and to behave in a natural manner.

 

      Joseph Santos (alias Mario) and Amarilis Silverio (alias Julia) were transferred to Miami with the specific mission of helping Labañino in the deep infiltration of the United States Southern Command.  The General Directorate of Intelligence instructed that Santos and Amarilis start to work immediately, since the moment the instructions were issued.  Both had as main goals the espionage of the general staff of such command.  Santos was an employee in a food company in Miami, near the military area and had previously conducted a preliminary study of the operative situation in the area were the Southern Command projects were carried out.  Other documents revealed that the Cuban intelligence was in the process of mapmaking the construction and the geographical of the Southern Command and its surroundings. 16

 

     On 20 September 2001, the couple of Gerardo Gari, with 41 years of age and Marisol Gari, with 42 years of age, and who operated under the false name of Luis and Margot, declared themselves guilty of being part of the espionage “Wasp Net”.  The Gari’s were accused of working closely with agent Fernando Gonzalez Llort (alias Oscar).  According to FBI agent Hector M. Pesquera, they “were not arrested three years ago because we had to be selective.  We conducted these arrests with urgency because we knew that some of them had received orders of going back to the island; in the case of these two, we had the conviction that they would not escape, such as it happen. 17

 

     Gerardo Gari was accused of trying to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, whose area of responsibility (AOR) is the military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, to collect information and transmit it to the Cuban intelligence.  According federal prosecutor Guy Lewis, Gerardo Gari “was a very qualified Cuban agent that received training in surveillance and counter-surveillance, micro-point film, clandestine communications and explosives”. 18 The couple transferred to the United States in 1990 where they began their espionage activities between 1991 and 1998.  Both would travel constantly to New York to deliver information to the Cuban chiefs of intelligence in U.S. territory and to pick up money.

 

     Gerardo Gari made attempts to work in the air force base of MacDill, in Tampa.  Marisol Gari would be accused of taking advantage of her federal employment job with the United States Postal Service in the Miami International Airport to intercept the letters received or sent from the Cuban-Americans target of espionage activities in the U.S. territory.

 

     Authorities noticed that after the arrest of the members of the net, Gerardo and Marisol Gari suspended immediately their espionage activities, and in the year 2000 they transferred to the area of Orlando.  There, Gerardo Gari, worked during some time for the aeronautical enterprise Lockheed-Martin as an equipment tester. 19 The main accusation against them was of spying in the U.S. Southern Command through a planted agent, called “Gabriel” 20

 

THE ESPIONAGE TECHNIQUES

 

     The FBI detected the Wasp Net in 1996 and monitored its activities until their arrest was conducted on 12 September 1998, when 10 of their members were arrested and the expulsion of two diplomats from the Cuban Interests Section in the United States was conducted.  One of them was first secretary Eduardo Martinez Borbonet, for carrying out espionage activities jointly with the “Wasp Net”.  During the course of the investigation, it was known that these intelligence officers from the net, were trained in counter-surveillance to avoid been detected in their meetings.  The Cuban government would utilize their offices in the United Nations in New York, and the Interests Section in Washington to oversee and direct these and other espionage operations in the United States territory.

 

     The agents made use of false identities, assuming names, date of birth and social security number of dead individuals that also implied the collaboration of individuals within the American administrative system.  Evidence was obtained that Gerardo Hernandez and his colleagues, besides utilizing false identities, had plans prepared to escape from the United States in case of being discovered.

 

     The weekly publication, New Times, from Miami, said that the FBI decoded transmission of numbers of Cuban messages between 1995 and 1998, after entering in a covert manner in the residences of the agents of the Wasp Net, and books of codes were copied.  Amongst the messages some to be noted were:  “prioritize and continue friendship with Joe and Dennis (personnel from an Air Force base)” and others such as “initiate infiltration of personnel” supposedly meaning the equipment of congresspersons Lincoln Díaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. 21

 

     According to a court testimony, Cuba stole the credentials of two individuals of South Florida, to provide double identities for two of their spies.  The falsification occurred after both individuals submitted their documents to the Cuban government with the intent of obtaining visas to enter in Cuba.  This way the passports and driver’s licenses of Osvaldo Reina, a truck driver in Broward County and Daniel Cabrera, a maintenance employee in West Palm Beach were duplicated.  Such replications were assigned to Gerardo Hernandez, the chief of the “Wasp Net”, and Fernando Gonzalez Llort, one of his subordinates. 22

 

     The communications between Cuba and its agents were clarified only after the FBI decoded the secret writing from Havana. Some of the witnesses of the trial described telephonic recordings as super-fast Morse code with micro-point inserts in letters or messages.  Two of the detained spies took on names from death certificates from children who passed away in California during the 1960’s. With the stolen identities they were able to obtain all the documents necessary to move about in a legal manner—driver’s license, social security cards, and credit cards.

 

     According to statements from Jose Cohen, an ex-Cuban intelligence officer that defected to the United States in 1994, the most substantial achievement of the United States in this case was the de-codification of Cuban secret codes that enabled all evidence in this case.  Cohen believes that the evidence was in the old codes that the Russians had taught the Cuban spies.  “Cuba must be very worried”, said Cohen, “for all we know the FBI can decipher the Cuban communications with the drug dealer.  This is only the beginning”. 23

 

     When conversing by telephone amongst themselves, the members of the net utilized code language and accents from other Hispanic countries.  The Net submitted a financial routine statement to their Cuban supervisors making emphasis on the expenses done by the “operations base”, and the payment to the sub-agents. 24 It is considered that these espionage activities are subsidized from what Cuba receives in the narcotic operations supervised by the Department of America.  In one occasion, to facilitate protection to their financial sources in case they were exposed, the General Directorate of Intelligence informed Gerardo Hernandez that due to the economic situation of the country, the directorate of operations was in the need of reducing the budget to their agents in the United States.

 

     In June 2001, the sub-director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Florida, Mariano Faget, 56 years of age, who arrived in the United States very young, and worked for 34 year in the Immigration and Naturalization Service, was found guilty of the offense of providing classified information to the Cuban intelligence service and convicted to five years in prison. 

 

Faget had access to the secret files of the Cuban defectors and the asylum seekers, including Cuban ex-government officials who lived in places not revealed publicly. As part of the responsibilities of his high level position, Faget received in the year 2000, classified information about a Cuban spy who was going to defect to the United States.  Minutes after this, Faget telephoned a friend who was a direct contact with the Cuban intelligence and to whom he informed the confidentiality.  This whole process forced the United Stated to expel a Cuban diplomat from the country who acted as Faget’s contact and also accused of conducting espionage work in U.S. territory.

 

     Two other Cubans, Ricardo Villarreal (alias Horacio) and Remigio Luna (alias Remi or Marcelino) also exercised activities of directing and inspecting groups of agents that formed part of this Cuban intelligence.  But these last two also abandoned U.S. Territory. 25 FBI agent Hector Pesquera did not want to reveal how many individuals were linked to the so-called Wasp Net.  According to Pesquera, Cuba removed from the United States at least four agents, when the net was being dismantled because they believed that the FBI was going to act immediately against them.  Pesquera also added that they are aware of the existence of other agents operating in the country, but the FBI was vigilant of them and their illegal activities.

 

     Latin American countries such as Panama, Colombia, Chile and Venezuela served as other theaters for activities of operatives of the General Directorate of Intelligence in the United States.  In spite of such espionage operations, the media and electronic communications in the United States did not make such a fuss about them.

 

THE DEATH PILOTS

 

     Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert was born in Chicago in 1956, and since the past century his family immigrated to the United States, returns to Cuba and emigrated again in various occasions.  At the age of five, Gonzalez returned to Cuba with his parents entering the army when he had the military age.  In the 1970 decade, he was sent to Angola to serve in the Air Force.  In 1991, Gonzalez, who was an instructor in the Cuban Air Force, was sent to become a member of the Wasp Net with the assumed name of Castor.  Gonzalez faked an escape by stealing an airplane and landing in the United States, after which he would reside with his wife in Miami since 1996.

 

     Rene Gonzalez developed a friendship with a few Cuban exile leaders.  He became an active member of the Democracy Movement and became a member of Brothers to the Rescue as a voluntary pilot, which objective was to infiltrate.  Being here, he became a regular pilot, next to other spies, Juan Pablo Roque (alias German), which also infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue.  On the other hand, Roque received pilot training in the Soviet Union during the 1980 decade, and there he married the daughter of a Russian general that he later abandoned when he got tired of the life in Russia.  In 1992, Roque, with 35 years of age, major in the Cuban Air Force and trained by the military intelligence, supposedly decided to abandon the country and apparently swam through the Guantanamo Bay until reaching the American Navy base.  Roque infiltrated in the organization Brothers to the Rescue after his transfer to Miami.

 

     In Miami, Roque married Ana Margarita Martinez on 1 April 1995, an executive secretary mother of two children and as part of his “track to legitimize in the United States. 27 To strengthen his “track” Roque wrote his profile in exile and he mingled with the top leaders and main elite of the opposition. A paragraph of the book written by Martínez-Montané illustrates Roque’s method.

 

“Juan Pablo dedicated himself to the task of gaining the sympathy and trust of everyone, he adopted the language, and walked gracefully among the tightrope of the hard liners of the “old guard”, winning over the most stubborn ones.  He even documented his life in Castro’s Cuba in a book titled “Deserter”, and published by the powerful organization of Cuban exiles that lobbied in Washington, the Cuban American National Foundation. 28 On the other hand, Ana Margarita said that Roque had paranoia if anyone found out his address and he did not try to get a job. 29   Roque performed several tasks only to cover his activities, “and even though he could not get another job for several months, sometimes he arrived home with cash. 30 In other occasions he received other payments for drawings of detailed maps and for providing military information. 31   I would see him drawing for hours in the preparation of these maps”. 32

 

     “Someone introduce Juan Pablo to Jose Basulto, the President and co-founder with Billy Shuss, of Brothers to the Rescue. 33 In one occasion Roque confessed to his wife that he was a collaborator of the FBI. 34   Roque and Rene Gonzalez kept an open eye reporting the activities of this organization to Cuba and to the FBI, who ignored they were before double agents.  The objective of the information that both provided to the FBI was to discredit and damage Brothers to the Rescue before the American authorities.  According to Margarita, Rene Gonzalez and Juan Pablo Roque many times would speak in Russian and she would not understand what they were saying.  She says that one time Roque in an unexpected manner, was gone for a week and did not call her, only through Rene Gonzalez.  The existing obstacle was that there was a caller ID on the telephone that would identify the phone calls, so obviously it had to be the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. 35

 

     Amongst the documents submitted by the district attorney’s office as evidence, there were secret computer and radio messages between the spies and their supervisors in Havana, where efforts were combined with Castro’s agents to sabotage Brothers to the Rescue and take advantage of the opportunity to knock down the pilots of this group in the middle of the flight.

 

     In December 1995 and January 1996, the Cuban government, utilizing the intelligence offered by Roque and Gonzalez, began planning an operation to knock down the planes of the Brothers to the Rescue organization.  The chief of the net, Gerardo Hernandez, provided Havana with the flight plan of the Brother to the Rescue planes before they were knock down and order Rene Gonzalez and Juan Pablo Roque not to fly missions on those days. 36 In a message, Havana indicated that “under no circumstance (agents) German and Castor should fly with Brothers to the Rescue or any other organization between the days 24, 25, 26 and 27 of February of 1996”. 37   Roque disappeared on Friday, 23 February 1996.  That same afternoon, the Cuban government arrested 150 dissidents inside the island.

 

     That day, Jose Basulto decided to fly over the Florida Strait looking for rafters just in case the recent repression would have force them to leave. 38 Three planes left from the Opa Locka airport, after registering the flight plan with the Federal Aviation in Miami, whom at the same time remitted information to Miami.

 

     What follows is very well documented.  At 2:57, in the middle of the flight, Basulto communicated Havana their position in international waters; Havana responded that this air space was militarily activated. Immediately, two Cuban MiGs took off and went against the light planes.  The American government had placed in alert their electronic devices over the Florida Strait, especially in the North American Defense Command (NORAD).  At Homestead Air Force two F-15 fighter planes were placed in alert after knowing about the take-off of the two Cuban planes.  At 3:21 the Cuban MiGs knock down the first plane, at 3:28 the second ran the same luck, in the meantime, Basulto, with a maneuver was able to avoid death returning to Miami, where he expressed that “United States knew what was going on.” 39

 

    The trial against the net demonstrated that the knocking down of the planes was not done by coincidence, but it was a setup very carefully planned to discredit and dismantle an organization of Cuban exiled pilots, Brothers to the Rescue, who was dedicated to save Cuban rafters that attempted to cross the Florida Strait40. Both the American radar systems and the Civil International Aviation Organization reported that the incident had occurred in International waters. 41 According to the testimony of Jeffrey Richardson, chief of the radar squadron in Mac Dill Air Force base, and who testified in the Wasp Net trial, the data of the radar systems of the Cuban Air Force that has been shown internationally differ so dramatically from the Americans that the Cuban data has to be fraudulent. 42

 

     Roque was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the Ministry of Interior, on December 2, 1996, with a high level position in the Jose Marti International airport in Havana. 43 On May 7, 1999, the United States District attorney presented conspiracy charges against some of the Cuban spies, among them Juan Pablo Roque alias “German”, in absentia. 44

 

THE OUTCOME

 

     Despite the “not unfavorable” view of the intentions of these agents expressed by General Charles Wilhelm and General Edward Atkenson—witnesses of the defense—the jury did not take seriously their opinions and voted to condemn the members of the Wasp Net.

 

     Castro’s government launched a national and international campaign, very similar to the Elian Gonzalez’s case, with the intent to pressure the United States over the case of the arrested spies.  Havana claims that their agents never had among their objectives the spying of any U.S. military installation and they were only dedicated to inform about the exile groups activities.  The arrest of the last spies, the Gari couple, and of Ana Belen Montes, not only determined Havana’s intention of putting an end to their campaign of succeeding in obtaining international support, but also to ridicule the opinion of both generals as it related to the incompetence of the Cuban intelligence to infiltrate the U.S. military bases.

 

     The couple of Nicolo Hernandez with Linda Hernandez, and Joseph Santos with Amarilis Silverio reached an agreement with the district attorney and were excluded of the process and sanctioned in different trials to the minimal punishment of three and a half years, eligible for a fast release, and with the right of being part of the protection program for witnesses.  Joseph Santos and Amarilis Silverio were utilized as witnesses of the District Attorney and their testimonies assisted in the presentation of charges against other spies, for conspiring to kill the pilots of the exiled group Brothers to the Rescue.  Joseph Santos detailed to the jury the spy training he received in Cuba and his espionage clandestine task regarding the U.S. Southern Command.  On the other hand, the couple of Gerardo Gari and Marisol Gari also decided to cooperate with the District Attorney and their depositions served for the prosecution of the main leaders.  Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez were convicted of conspiracy for spying; meanwhile Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez faced minor charges.

 

     Carlos Cajaraville, a Cuban counter-intelligence agent, who passed away in Miami, expressed that “the Cuban campaign to liberate the five spies is the way the Cuban government has sent messages to their spies in foreign countries, including their 50 operatives that the FBI suspects are acting in the United States. The Cuban government is worried about their other spies and this is a campaign to express to them that they are not alone”. 45

 

     The Chief of the net, Gerardo Hernandez, in his final allegation, he incriminated himself by recognizing the following: “it is true that during many years some of us accused had in our power false identity documents, but their only objective was to guarantee our security”, and following this “the high frequency messages that were selected to reveal as evidence, are only a small portion of all the ones that were intercepted”. 46 The main accuser, Caroline Miller, argued that the explanation of Gerardo Hernandez was very convenient, and that an anti-terrorist mission was not basis for a lesser charge. 47

 

     Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo was sentenced to two life sentences for conspiring, for spying, and for pre-meditated assassination in the death of four pilots whose civilian airplanes had been knock down by Cuban MiGs in international air space in 1996.  Ramon Labañino Salazar was sentenced to one life sentence without parole for spying two military bases in the state of Florida.  Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert was sentenced to fifteen years in prison and Fernando Gonzalez Llort to nineteen years. 48 

 

 

NOTES:

  

1. Ernesto F. Betancourt. Backgrounder on arrest of Castro¥s Pentagon spy. 23/09/2001.

2.   .J. Michael Waller, Vivitos y Coleando. Insight Magazine, 2001.

3.   The Latin American Times, June 2001, Volume 16, Number 5, pp. 1-5.

4.   The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

5.   The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

6.   Granma, Nacionales. La Habana, 06/22/2001.

7.   The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

8.   The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

9.   The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

10. The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

11. Ernesto F. Betancourt. Ob. cit.

12. Idem.

13. The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

14. El Nuevo Herald, 12/22/2000.

15. Idem.

16. The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

17. El Nuevo Herald, 1 de septiembre del 2001.

18. Idem.

19. The Orlando Sentinel, September 5, 2001.

20. The Miami Herald, September 1, 2001.

21. Agencia EFE, Washington, 26 de septiembre, 2001.

22. The Miami Herald; February 9, 2001.

23. The Miami Herald. January 15, 2001.

24. The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

25. The Latin American Times, Ob. cit.

26. EFE, Miami, EE.UU., 10 de julio, 2001.

27. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Estrecho de traición. Ediciones Universal, Miami, Florida, 1999, p 49.

28. Time, July 2, 2001.

29. Idem.

30. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 25.

31. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 48.

32. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 53.

33. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. pp 59-60,65.

34. The Miami Herald, February 24, 2001.

35. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. pp. 61-63.

36. Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2001.

37. Agencia EFE, Washington, 26 de septiembre, 2001.

38. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 80.

39. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 83-85.

40. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 99.

41. EFE, Miami, EE.UU., 12 de diciembre, 2001.

42. The Miami Herald, May 16, 2001.

43. Time, July 2, 2001.

44. Ana Margarita Martínez y Diana Montané. Ob. Cit. p 117.

45. The Miami Herald. July 9, 2001.

46. Granma digital. La Habana, 27 de marzo, 2002.

47. AP, Miami 11-27-2001.

48. Idem.