"We don't spy," Cuban envoy to Mexico says
Special to The Herald
Cuba's Ambassador to Mexico, Mario Rodríguez, rejected
allegations that his
government conducts espionage in Mexico, as stated last week by a former
Cuban diplomat, Pedro Aníbal Riera Escalante.
``We don't do intelligence work here in Mexico, that's for sure,
nor in the United
States,'' Rodríguez said during a public ceremony Sunday in Mexico City marking
the 33rd anniversary of the death of Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentine-born
leader of the Cuban revolution.
``The Central Intelligence Agency knows that well, and so do the
people,'' the Cuban diplomat said.
Rodríguez's comment was Cuba's first -- though unofficial
-- reaction to Riera's
allegations. As of late Monday, the government of President Fidel Castro had
issued no statement on the matter.
The Mexican government arrested Riera on Oct. 3 and repatriated
following day, saying he lacked official permission to be in Mexico. Riera, 49, who
served as Cuba's consul in Mexico City between 1986 and 1992, told a human
rights organization that he headed a Cuban spy network that infiltrated U.S.
intelligence operations in Mexico.
He told the human rights group that he had asked for political
asylum in Mexico.
However, the Mexican Interior Ministry last week denied receiving such a request.
Riera has not been heard of since his forcible return to Havana
Approached by a Mexican reporter in Havana last week, Riera's brother Carlos
César refused to comment, saying he knew nothing about his brother's activities.
Riera's repatriation should not affect relations between Cuba
``It shouldn't muddle anything,'' the ambassador said.
Riera's alleged activities were first reported by the Mexican
daily Reforma, last
``First as chief of the Mexico Group of Section Q-14 of [Cuba's]
General of Intelligence, and later as a spy under the cover of consul, Riera
monitored the activities of Central Intelligence Agency agents stationed in the
U.S. Embassy between 1978 and 1992,'' Reforma said.
The paper quoted Riera as saying that the CIA station in Mexico
City ``is one of
the largest in the world, in terms of the enormous number of personnel and its
budget of tens of millions of dollars.''
Riera retired from diplomatic work in 1993 and left Cuba last
with the regime of Fidel Castro,'' Reforma said.
Riera is believed to be a nephew of the late Aníbal Escalante,
communist who sided with Fidel Castro in the 1950s but later dissented and was
imprisoned. Riera joined the Intelligence Directorate in 1969, when he was 18,
One of his biggest successes was achieved in 1989 during ``Operation
Glass,'' when -- through a Mexican confidant -- Cuba gained access to much of
the correspondence to and from CIA agents in Mexico, the newspaper said.
``His services included the recruiting of double agents and the
penetration of CIA
stations in Mexico, Japan, Spain, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Mozambique, Uruguay
and Guyana,'' Reforma reported. Beginning in 1983, Riera was in charge of
modernizing Cuba's ``methodology for the recruiting of CIA staff personnel.''
To that end, Riera wrote a 100-page guideline that in 1986 was
adopted by the
Cuban intelligence service as the ``master plan'' for the recruitment of agents
abroad, Reforma said. Turning an intelligence operative into a double agent is
known in intelligence circles as ``bending.''
The plan was good enough for the Cubans to share it with the then-Soviet
service, the KGB, the paper said.
``As part of that strategy, Cuban intelligence sharply focused
on the recruiting of
`native personnel' at U.S. embassies as a means to gather biographical,
psychological and operational information that might reveal the ``vulnerabilities'' of
CIA staff employees and make them accessible,'' the newspaper said.
Some of the operations cited by Reforma:
Codename ``Turquino,'' targeting a CIA official identified
as Q-187, between
1984 and 1985;
``Dawn,'' aimed at an official identified as Sara in 1987;
``Moncada,'' focusing on the secretary to the CIA's deputy
chief in Mexico,
about the same time.
The infiltration allegedly was done with the assistance of Mexicans
to the Cuban regime.
Weeks before his arrest, Riera reportedly told Reforma that ``in
the past six years
Cuban intelligence had recruited as many as 150 Mexican informers, from leftist
sympathizers to business people, members of the security agencies, politicians
and journalists. He did not reveal any names.''