Chicago Tribune
August 23, 1981


By Daniel James


NEW YORK.--A recent defector from Cuba's General Intelligence Directorate (DGI) says that the April, 1980, flood of 125,000 refugees from the port of Mariel was part of a plan to destablize the United States and relieve Cuba of "excess" population it could not support.In an interview, defector Genaro Perez said that this "Plan Bravo" was conceived by Cuban President Fidel Castro and the DGI. Before defecting last year, Perez operated under cover of Havanatur, a DGI-run travel agency in Miami that maintained surveillance of Cuban-Americans visiting Cuba and tried to recruit intelligence agents from among them.

In June, 1980, the CIA testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that it had warned the State Department, National Security Council "and higher" authorities as early as Jan. 31, 1980, of Castro's intention to unload large numbers of new refugees on the U.S. The CIA added that Castro's removal of security guards from Havana's Peruvian embassy on April 4, 1980--causing thousands of Cubans to invade that embassy--"was probably calculated to precipitate a crisis and force the U.S.... to accept sizable numbers of new refugees."

Perez charges that Plan Bravo would "unleash violence in the U.S.--riots, disturbances, bombings, shootouts, assaults on banks--in an effort to terrorize the American public and government."

He adds that Puerto Rican terrorists are vital to Castro's plan and would encourage violence "in all parts of the U.S.--not only in New York or Chicago but also Washington, Miami, Los Angeles." In addition, Perez says, the plan involves the incitement of racial conflict among Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and "especially blacks."

U.S. intelligence officers express concern about the increased activities of Puerto Rican terrorists aided and abetted by the DGI. And, intentional or otherwise, Miami--where most of the Mariel refugees ended up--became the scene of riots as unemployed blacks protested not just the brutal murder of a black by white police but the refugees' alleged seizure of available jobs.These troubles discouraged tourism, contributing to a serious decline in Miami's economy while fanning blacks' and whites' resentment toward the new refugees and toward Cubans in general.

Tomas Regalado--a respected reporter whose "Cuba Today" radio program on Miami's WHRC is listened to widely in Cuba--adds another charge. Under cover of the chaotic boatlift, he says, Castro sent "hundreds" of new intelligence operatives to the U.S.

The State Department estimates that more than 200,000 Cubans hold exit visas and are ready to sail for the U.S. upon Castro's signal. However, Perez believes that Castro would prefer to succeed with another plan--the first priority "Plan Alpha." Its goal is to normalize relations with the U.S., beginning with removal of the 20year trade embargo against Cuba.

Although his failed Marxist programs made a shambles of the Cuban economy, Castro has made the embargo his whipping boy and the keystone of the U.S. policy. The embargo choked off international credit to Cuba, without which the country cannot buy the capital goods required for economic survival. Therefore, Castro is attempting to secure normalized relations while simultaneously using U.S. businessmen and DGI commercial fronts to violate the embargo and bring in forbidden products.

This and all other DGI operations in the U.S. are directed from the Cuban mission to the UN in New York. Although Cuba is among the smallest members the mission, with a staff of 50 to 80, is the second largest in the U.N. As many as 75 percent of those accredited to the mission are not diplomats, but officers of the DGI, and other Cuban intelligence agencies

Some of them are officers of the Department of State Security, or D.S.E. which controls Cuba's internal security. Others belong to the Department of America and Daniel James is the author of "Cuba: The First Soviet Satellite in the Americas, the Cuban Institute for Friendship with Peoples, or ICAP, intelligence agencies that keep visitors to Cuba under surveillance.

Not surprisingly, many of these members of the Cuban mission don't bother to show up for regular UN duties. At least two ranking members who are listed as "political counselors" are actually high intelligence officers. One is Mario Monzon 38, chief of all DGI operations in the U.S. The other is Alfredo Garcia Almeida who heads the America Department here and performs ICAP functions.

Monzon answers not only to his superiors in Havana but also to Moscow's intelligence organization, the KGB, through its station chief in New York. The KGB created the DGI in the early 1960s and, though still a satellite of the Soviet agency, is rated professionally as among the world's top five intelligence services, after the KGB, the CIA, Israel's Mossad, and Britain's M16.

The DGI has special value for the KGB because its officers, accredited diplomats, are allowed complete freedom of movement in this country, while Soviet and other Soviet-bloc emissaries are restricted to a 25-mile radius around New York and Washington.

"The Soviets parcel out the intelligence pie," said a State department official, "giving all kinds of functions to the DGI."

U.S. business is a central target of the DGI's Washington activities, with agents encouraging businessmen to circumvent the trade embargo. After Carter's February, 1977, announcement that he would lift the embargo if Castro withdrew his troops from Angola, U.S. businessmen flocked to Cuba in search of trade and investment opportunities.

Cuba's push for circumvention of the embargo was so aggressive that it upset even the generally sympathetic Carter administration, which threatened to expel the DGI officer in charge of the operation.

Undeterred, the DGI continues to flout the embargo. Last summer it incorporated in Panama a front that smuggles U.S, auto parts, radios, TV sets, and heavy equipment into Cuba. The DGI also uses scheduled airlines to smuggle desperately needed items like sugarmill parts to Panama and Nicaragua, from which they are shipped to Cuba.

The DGI has a special interest in tourism as a source of dollars and intelligence agents. Havanatur was the DGI's most important tourism agency in Miami until agent Genaro Perez, posing as a Havanatur executive, broke with it and exposed it last year.

Perez claims that the agency fleeced Cuban-Americans anxious to visit relatives in Cuba of $100 million in surcharges and "commissions." But more sinister, he said, was agents' secret videotaping of the tourists' Havana hotel rooms to learn whether they could be blackmailed into working for the DGI. Agents would threaten to harm Cuban relatives if the tourists did not "cooperate" with the Castro regime upon returning home.

The DGI's normalization drive was nearly successful in 1977, when a group of prominent Cuban-Americans formed the Committee of 75 to initiate a "dialog" with Cuba and to secure the release of some 3,000 political prisoners in Castro's jails.

The Committee of 75, which soon grew to 100 or more, was actually run by DGI officers. Bernardo Benes, vice president of Miami's Continental National Bank, went to Havana at the head of a six-man commission of the Committee of 75 to negotiate with Fidel Castro. He had several meetings with the prisoners, which made their families and the Carter administration happy.

Normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations seemed well on the way to becoming a reality until Benes' personal dealings with Castro made anti-Castro Cuban exiles suspect that he was an intelligence agent. Soon after breaking with the DGI, Manuel Espinosa charged him publicly with being a DGI operative.

But Benes had conducted the negotiations with Castro with the knowledge of the FBI, to which he reported his activities almost every step of the way, and of the State Department. The State Department seems to have tacitly approved of his role and later Cyrus Vance, then secretary of state wrote Benes and thanked him for his "services." In short, Benes had functioned virutally as an extra-official, one-man State Department. This might merit investigation because, in the course of it Benes, a private U.S. citizen, concluded an agreement with a foreign state, with the U.S. government's tacit agreement, that led to 3,000 foreigners' immigration to the U.S.

Athough the DGI and committee of 75 failed to achieve "normalization," they did attain another desirable objective: the breakup of the hitherto-solid anti-Castro bloc presented by the Cuban-American community. Until now, no administration has dared normalize relations, fearing that the increasing Cuban-American vote in south Florida might turn against it--as happened to Carter in November, 1980. But