A former sugar industry labor leader reported to have died in 1983 while escaping to the United States aboard a small boat was actually a spy whose mission was to infiltrate Miami's Cuban exile community, the Cuban government says.
The Cuban daily newspaper Granma, official voice of the Cuban Communist Party, identified the dead spy as Rogelio Iglesias Patiño, 56, also known by his nickname of "Pao" Iglesias, a former official of the Cuban Confederation of Workers (CTC) had been considered a traitor in Cuba until the announcement of his role as a spy. No independent confirmation of the report could be obtained immediately.
Granma, according to a dispatch from Havana by the Spanish news agency EFE, said Iglesias had infiltrated Miami's Cuban exile community and had secretly provided information to the Castro government about exile affairs until his death in 1983 "while fulfilling a mission behind enemy lines." It said Iglesias' role as a spy had not been known even by his children, who live in Havana with Iglesias' widow, Gladys Junosa.
The Granma report said Iglesias was awarded a posthumous decoration and promoted to the rank of major in Cuban security apparatus by the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Gen. Jose Abrantes. It identified Orestes Hernandez, a Cuban security official, as having been Iglesias' liaison officer during his secret life as a member of Cuba's intelligence services.
Iglesias' widow, Gladys Junosa, was quoted by Granma as saying: "I had hoped that some day Pao's true life would be known....I suffered for my children, I suffered for his physical loss, I knew I would never see him again, and I suffered because, knowing he was a dedicated combatant who had died for the father land, the people the neighbors, his comrades, believed him a traitor."
Granma quoted security official Hernandez as saying: "Inside the country he [Patiño] fulfilled important missions which earned the trust of the worms [anti-Castro exiles] in Miami. The enemy never discovered Pao's role as an agent. He won his credibility through his intelligence, tenacity and conspiratorial experience and within the most absolute silence."
On Feb. 16, 1983, a U.S. Navy destroyer had carried to safety in Charleston, S.C., two Cubans who said they had drifted for more than a week through stormy weather in a 16-foot motorboat after fleeing Havana. The two men, Orlando Otero Hernandez and Pedro Julio Garcia Cepeda, said then that Iglesias, who was escaping with them in the boat, had been washed overboard in the high seas on Valentine's Day.
Neither Otero nor Garcia could be contacted Saturday night.
When the rescue occurred, Garcia had said Iglesias had spent four years in prison for his role in an attempt to overthrow Castro in 1965.