The Miami Herald
May 8, 1999

Top spy planned Brothers ambush

Herald Staff Writer

The mastermind behind Cuba's ambush of two Brothers to the Rescue airplanes
was ``MX, the code name for the head of Havana's Directorate of Intelligence (DI),
according to the indictment returned Friday by a Miami grand jury.

His agents in Miami, known as the Wasp Network, used beepers to signal each
other, contacted a Cuban diplomat in the men's room of a restaurant and filed
reports on U.S. military activities in South Florida, the indictment added.

The indictment offered an intriguing glimpse into DI activities and interests in
Miami in connection with ``Operation Scorpion -- the ambush of four Brothers
pilots shot down and killed by Cuban MiGs on Feb. 24, 1996.

It also accused a top agent of the Wasp Network of conspiracy to commit
murder. The DI captain, who has used fake U.S. passports in the name of Manuel
Viramontes, was identified in the indictment as Gerardo Hernandez.

But the indictment also left some key questions unanswered:

   Why were no charges filed against Viramontes' supervisors in Havana,
including the mysterious ``MX?

   Why were no charges filed against Cuban President Fidel Castro, who the
indictment says visited ``MX'' twice in the week after the ambush to analyze
``follow-up operations.

The indictment indicates the plot to ambush the Brothers pilots started around
December 1995, when defendant Juan Pablo Roque was ordered by Havana to
``urgently inform'' on the activities of Brothers leader Jose Basulto.

Hernandez was told on Feb. 17 that ``MX had directed that none of his spies
should fly with Brothers Feb. 24-27, the indictment said, apparently to safeguard
them from the planned shootdowns.

By Feb. 22, 1996, the trap appeared to be in place, with DI officials in Havana
reporting that a special agent had traveled to an undisclosed site to support
Roque's escape after the trap was sprung.

Roque, a ``defector who had become friends with Basulto, disappeared on Feb.
23. While initial media reports had him returning to Cuba via the Bahamas, the
indictment says he escaped through Mexico, long a base for Cuban intelligence

One of the accused spies had a Mexican driver's license, and two of the accused
who traveled back to Cuba to receive new orders appear to have done so through
Mexico, according to the indictment.

The indictment also charged that the Cuban spies used beepers to message
each other, and were under orders to use a special code in ``an emergency
indicating a U.S. military threat being planned against Cuba.

The spy network appeared to have been primarily assigned to report on Cuban
exiles in Miami while provoking and encouraging differences within the exile
community, the indictment said.

But the agents were also tasked with ``influencing U.S. public and private
institutions, including law enforcement and political entities, the document added.

Their work included sending letters to The Miami Herald portraying the writers as
Cuban-American moderates and attacking exile community leaders like Jorge
Mas Canosa, the late founder of the Cuban American National Foundation, law
enforcement officials said.

The indictment also indicated that the alleged Cuban agents had apparently spent
more time spying on U.S. military installations than previously thought.

Defendant Antonio Guerrero filed two reports on the Boca Chica Naval Air Station
in Key West, describing planes and their takeoff and landing times, as well as the
home addresses of some officers, the indictment said.

Joseph and Amarylis Santos filed at least one ``detailed'' report on the
Miami-based U.S. Southern Command and were under orders to try to obtain jobs
at the complex, which controls U.S. military activities in Latin America.

And defendant Rene Gonzalez, a pilot with the exile Democracy Movement,
reported he had flown close to the Homestead air base to report on activities

One unidentified member of the Wasp Network met on April 14, 1998, with a
Cuban diplomat -- apparently attached to the Cuban mission to the United
Nations -- in the men's room of a Wendy's in Nassau County, New York, the
indictment added

Although the indictment did not identify the mysterious ``MX, the post of chief of
the Directorate of Intelligence is usually held by a deputy minister in the Ministry
of Interior, which handles Cuba's internal security.

The staff at the DI, formerly known as the DGI, was heavily purged after the 1989
trial and execution of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and several Interior Ministry
intelligence operatives on charges of drug smuggling.

Gen. Jesus Bermudez Cutiño, then head of army intelligence, was named to head
DI but was transferred back to military intelligence in 1995, several Cuban armed
forces defectors in Miami said.

The identity of Bermudez's replacement was not immediately available.