By JUAN O. TAMAYO
Herald Staff Writer
When Daniel and Vivian Rafuls came to Miami from Cuba three years ago,
they were warmly welcomed by exiles as examples of Fidel Castro supporters
who had grown disillusioned with communism.
Daniel, 40, a professor at Cuba's top military college, was soon interviewed
on Radio Marti and joined the Cuban Military Research Center, a group of
armed forces defectors who study the island's military.
Vivian, 42, who taught atheism at the University of Havana, lectured
University of Miami seminar on Cuba last year and found work through friends
as a substitute teacher at Kinloch Park Elementary.
But the Rafuls got an even warmer welcome when they returned to Cuba.
A ``companero from State Security called a meeting of Vivian's former
university co-workers in January and presented her as a ``true revolutionary
who had been ``on a mission abroad with her husband, said two Cubans
The Rafuls were spies, just two of the 16 men and women identified as
Havana intelligence agents in Miami over the past six months by Cuba's State
Security Department or the FBI.
Some appear to have been career intelligence officers. Others were informers
or true Castro opponents at one time, threatened by Cuban security agents
with jail and worse for them and their families to force them to become
Their primary task was to penetrate exile groups and alert Havana to
plots. But they also instigated conspiracies and sowed dissent among
exiles, a dozen U.S. officials and exiles told The Herald.
One spy's betrayal may have helped push an elderly exile to suicide.
Castro has long spied on South Florida's exile community, and over the
knowledgeable exiles have estimated that he maintains some 300 trained
agents, collaborators and knowing or unknowing informers here at any one
``It's been going on almost virtually since the day Fidel Castro came
power,'' said Skip Brandon, a retired FBI agent who spent 10 years of his
career chasing suspected Cuban spies in the Miami area.
``South Florida is kind of interesting because the deep cover agents
the kind of intensive language and other training that a Russian might have
needed,'' Brandon said. ``Someone from Cuba could come right in and go
right to work -- blow right through the doors.''
The FBI office in Miami has one Foreign Counter-Intelligence squad with
12-14 agents assigned exclusively to tracking suspected Cuban agents, and
another that follows all others, mostly Russians and Israelis.
Cuba, China, Iran, Israel, France and Russia were listed as the nations
active in industrial espionage against the United States in a CIA report to
Congress in 1996.
But Havana's unveiling of six agents since January and the arrests of
suspects in Miami Sept. 12 have focused fresh attention on the spies, their
tales of exile terror plots and exile charges of Cuban provocations.
``When Castro accuses exiles of terrorism, their defense could be stupidity
entrapment, said one State Department official, referring to recent Havana
charges that exile leaders financed a bombing campaign against Cuba from
1992 to 1998.
Daniel and Vivian Rafuls' telephone answering machine is still working
apartment on Southwest 17th Terrace. There's furniture in the apartment, food
in the refrigerator and clothes in the closets.
But FBI agents began picking up their phone messages and mail, according
friends and neighbors who were interviewed by the Bureau, soon after the
Rafuls disappeared -- just six days after the 10 accused Miami spies were
The FBI declined comment on the Rafuls or their links to the 10 that
them bolt back to Cuba. ``There are many related activities that are still under
investigation, and at this point the FBI is not commenting,'' said spokesman
But the Rafuls appear to have been ordinary spies, with no known contacts
with radical exiles who support violent attacks.
Daniel was a professor at the Cuban military's Jose Antonio Maceo Interarms
Academy when he picked up a U.S. passport -- son of a Cuban couple living
in the U.S, he was a citizen by birth -- and left for Miami in late 1995.
Vivian and their adopted 10-year-old son followed Daniel in 1996. Because
she was head of the Communist Party cell in the university's philosophy
department, her departure sparked a scandal. The cell later expelled her.
They made a striking family, friends in Miami said. He was tall and
she was blond and green-eyed. Their son was so obviously of indigenous
descent -- she claimed he was the son of a Peruvian guerrilla leader -- that
Vivian complained Miamians would stare at him.
Daniel first moved in with a Miami uncle, Arnold Rafuls, who last week
knew nothing about his nephew's whereabouts. ``He told me they were
moving to Orlando but never wrote. The ingrate! After all we did for him!
Daniel and Vivian started out working at a Wal-mart store until he found
as a waiter at Botin, a Spanish restaurant on Coral Way, and she found the
part-time job at Kinloch, friends said.
``She told me they were having a tough [economic] time, said Enrique
Patterson, a Dade County schoolteacher and former Havana university
professor who met her at the University of Miami seminar on religion in Cuba
But over time, Daniel moved into exile activist circles, going on Radio
least once to talk about the Cuban military and joining the Cuba Military
Research Center, said center director Frank Hernandez Trujillo.
Made up largely of defectors from Cuba's armed forces and Interior Ministry,
the center says it studies the military's possible role in any transition to
democracy and sends medicines and other humanitarian assistance to veterans
of Cuba's Afican wars.
Rafuls told friends that he had become disaffected with Castro, but
advocated violence against Castro or asked the kinds of probing questions
that might have made him suspect a spy, Hernandez-Trujillo said.
``We had a decision to make a long time ago. Either we don't talk to
guys [defectors who might turn out to be spies] or we welcome them. We
decided to welcome them because we do everything legally, he said.
in Cuba bomb trials
Oscar Madruga, Juan Francisco Fernandez and his wife Olga make unlikely
Madruga, 66, and Fernandez, 63, are sickly veterans of Castro's prisons,
having served 14 and 10 years, respectively, in the 1960s and '70s. They later
became some of the earliest members of the human rights movement in Cuba.
Fernandez visited Miami four times starting in 1986. On his last visit,
1998, Madruga was with him. He also brought his 21-year-old daughter and
left her here.
``We took him right to the hospital when he came last year because he
emphysema, said Rolando Borges, who met Fernandez in Castro's prisons
and now heads the Miami-based Ex-Club of former political prisoners.
But Fernandez was ``arrested after returning to Cuba last June, and
Department even mentioned his case in its 1998 report on Cuban human rights
Cuban prosecutors at the trials of two accused Salvadoran terrorist
last month showed videotapes of Fernandez and Madruga saying they were
long-time state security agents who had been recruited by Borges to bomb
targets on the island.
Fernandez's wife did not testify at the trial but did give interviews
radio confirming her role as a spy.
One of the targets listed by Fernandez: The mausoleum that holds the
of Cuban-Argentine guerrilla leader Ernesto ``Che Guevara in the central
provincial capital of Santa Clara.
Fernandez claimed Borges taught him how to make a bomb and told him
``a Central American man would call him after he returned to Cuba, give him
the password, ``I have the medicines, and hand over explosives.
One of the Salvadoran bombers, Otto Rene Rodriguez, later telephoned
Cuba and gave him the password, Fernandez said. Rodriguez was arrested on
Fernandez offered no hard evidence for his allegations, and it's not
he and and Madruga did not testify in person at the trial instead of through a
Rodriguez and the other Salvadoran, Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, accused
bombings against Havana tourism centers in 1997, were convicted on
terrorism charges and were sentenced to death by firing squads.
Borges told The Herald he had done nothing illegal and that Fernandez
Madruga were lying -- no doubt under threats by Castro's police against them
and their families.
``These are two poor viejos [oldsters] who were broken in prison, Borges
said. ``Prison is hard and the government terrorizes you.''
Exiles close to the Ex-Club told The Herald, however, that Fernandez
Madruga had indeed talked about bombs with Ex-Club members during their
last two visits to Miami.
``Of course they talked about C-4 explosives and things, said one exile
in the Ex-Club, ``perhaps not with Borges himself but certainly with some of
the more radical members of the Ex-Club.
Fernandez and Madruga ``were always talking about sabotage when they
came to Miami, according to one human rights activist here who said he
avoided them because of ``their troublesome talk.
A third Ex-Club member said Fernandez and Madruga began acting
secretively during their last visit to Miami, telling friends that they had
``returned to the armed struggle against Castro.
Borges acknowledged to The Herald that he paid for the hotel room of
Guillermo Pinel Calix, then head of Honduran army intelligence, when Pinel
Calix visited Miami in 1994, but claimed to have known nothing about the
colonel's mission here.
The Herald reported last May that Pinel Calix was in Miami to negotiate
deal: Cuban exiles would pay a $100,000 bribe to Honduran military officers
in exchange for permission to use their country as a secret base for training
commandos and launching attacks on Cuba.
The Herald report also identified the deal's mastermind as Luis Posada
Carriles, a Cuban exile living in El Salvador who has publicly admitted sending
the two Salvadoran bombers to Cuba.
Said Borges: ``I cannot deny my anti-Castro vocation. We help, in any
anyone who does anything against this dictatorship. We have to support that
struggle. But we do nothing knowingly violent.
He claimed he was
recruited by CANF
Percy Francisco Alvarado, a stocky, 49-year-old professor of Marxism
University of Havana, opened his testimony at the Cruz Leon trial last month
with a statement that sent a buzz through the audience.
``To the Cuban American National Foundation, I am Agent 44. But to the
Cuban organs of State Security I have been Agent Monk for the last 22 years,
he declared in a forceful voice.
Alvarado testified that, during one of his many trips to Miami between
and 1995, CANF officials recruited him to carry out several missions in Cuba,
from locating likely targets for bombings to smuggling two bombs into Havana.
The son of a Guatemalan Marxist who moved his family to Cuba in 1960,
Alvarado used his Guatemalan passport to go to Miami as a ``mule, charging
exiles a fee to take back cash and medicines for relatives on the island.
The CANF officials he identified -- President Jose Francisco ``Pepe
Hernandez, human rights activists Luis Zuniga and board of directors member
Arnaldo Monzon and Roberto Martin Perez -- all denied the allegations.
Alvarado also identified the men who gave him the two bombs as Posada
Carriles and Gaspar Jimenez, sometime chauffeur and guard for CANF
Chairman Alberto Hernandez.
But radical anti-Castro exiles who met Alvarado portrayed him as a
provocation agent, always offering himself for illegal or violent actions inside
Cuba and egging on radical exiles to act.
``He was always dandole cuerda to some guy or some conspiracy, said
the exiles, using Cuban slang for ``winding up, as in winding up a mechanical
Alvarado once brought what he claimed to be an original letter from
independence hero Jose Marti and announced he wanted to sell it to CANF,
said Victor Hernandez, a friend who let Alvarado stay in his Miami home
Another exile recalled Alvarado asking for thousands of dollars in cash
finance what he portrayed as a secret cell of Castro opponents within the
Cuban armed forces and the Interior Ministry.
``Some of us didn't pay attention to him, the exile said. ``But I know
others did fall in his traps.
Castro agents accused
of instigating violence
Havana's decision to unveil Alvarado, Madruga, Fernandez and his wife
spies at the trials of the two Salvadorans -- if indeed they were telling the truth
-- did not surprise U.S. officials who monitor Cuba.
``First, they wanted to present the strongest possible case against
Salvadorans. Second, they wanted to embarrass the exiles. Third, they wanted
to push us to take action against exiles who do engage in violence, said one
official who followed the trials.
Whatever plots Havana's spies may have instigated in Miami, the official
added, ``provocations from Castro spies can never be a defense for exiles
who engage in illegal actions from U.S. territory.
But that's not the way that Francisco Avila sees it.
A Miami tile setter, Avila has admitted to working for Cuba and later
until 1992, at the same time he was serving as military chief for Alpha 66,
which advocates the violent overthrow of Castro.
``Castro's agents here instigate actions so he can then paint the exiles
terrorists, as ultra right-wingers, and take attention away from his own
terrorism against Cubans, he said.
Avila said his own Cuban bosses gave him cash in the late 1980s and
1990s to finance three boat-borne exile attacks on Cuban coastal installations
known as ``sail-by-shootings.
And he recalled the case of a Cuban dissident who came to visit Miami
early 1990s, ``simply walked into CANF headquarters and announced that he
wanted explosives and money to bomb Cuba.
Pepe Hernandez patted the visitor for a hidden recorder, Avila said,
``explained CANF's peaceful interests and threw him out. On the way out he
ran into [Luis] Zuniga, and Zuniga gave him the same lecture.
The visitor later decided to stay in Miami and confessed to CANF officials
and the FBI that Cuban State Security agents had pressured him to become a
spy and try to provoke the CANF officials, Avila said.
He may have provoked
Cuban state security officials have revealed much more about Alvarado,
Madruga, Fernandez and his wife than about the man who may well have been
one of their most successful spies in Miami in recent years.
Ivan Luis, then 48, and his wife, Maria Elena Reyes, arrived in Miami
July 9, 1993, aboard a boat with 25 other refugees. They told a tale of long
days at sea until they landed in the Bahamas, received money from relatives in
Miami and hired a smuggler to bring them here.
``The bathers received us well. They all came over to greet us. They
us, they applauded us, they gave us food, Luis told a Herald reporter who
interviewed him on the beach.
Over the next five years Luis quietly penetrated CANF and the Ex-Club,
Cuban Military Research Center and the Union of Free Soldiers and Officers,
a group headed by former Cuban air force Col. Alvaro Prendes.
He even served on the board of directors of the Civic Movement for Human
``He was everywhere, said Channel 23 reporter Rafael Orizondo, who first
identified Luis as a spy last May, soon after Luis quit his job as chauffeur for a
medical service van and vanished.
Luis was later identified as a lieutenant colonel in the Cuban armed
his wife, who apparently had returned to Cuba the previous year, as a captain
in the Interior Ministry.
Luis left behind a stunned roommate of several months, Jose Enrique
Bringuier, a poor, 79-year-old former political prisoner and member of the
Ex-Club, as well as a $5,000 telephone bill in Bringuier's name.
Miami human rights activist Ruth Montaner recalled Bringuier telling
been living with a spy! over dinner at the Versailles Restaurant just before
Orizondo broadcast his story.
A few weeks later, in late June, Bringuier telephoned her to say he
distraught over several ailments but had ``something urgent to tell me,
Montaner said. They never met.
That weekend, on June 21, Bringuier's body was found on the bed of his
Miami apartment, a thin trickle of blood beneath the spot on the chin where he
had shot himself.
Herald staff writers Rick Jervis and Lisette Garcia contributed to this
Copyright 1999 Miami Herald