The Miami Herald
October 9, 2000

 "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 American
 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 him the
 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 Oct. 4.
 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 and Mexico,
 Rodríguez said.

 ``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] Directorate
 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 year, ``disenchanted
 with the regime of Fidel Castro,'' Reforma said.

 Riera is believed to be a nephew of the late Aníbal Escalante, an old-line
 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,
 Reforma said.

 One of his biggest successes was achieved in 1989 during ``Operation Magnifying
 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 secret
 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 sympathetic
 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.''