Hartford Courant
November 10, 1999
Puerto Rican Independence: The Cuban Connection

Code Name 'Junior': Spies, Cash, Cubans

                  By EDMUND MAHONY

                  MEXICO CITY -- Juan Segarra Palmer is an unlikely participant in a revolution
                  by the downtrodden. But so are most other members of Los Macheteros.
                  Unlike Victor Gerena, they were, for the most part, well-educated
                  professionals, members of a demographic niche containing much of the tiny, if
                  vocal, Puerto Rican independence movement.

                  Segarra was the son of a successful San Juan attorney. He was educated at
                  Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Harvard University. It was his
                  experience, he says, at two of the country's elite institutions of learning that
                  pushed him into the violent independence movement. Others may have trouble
                  making the leap.

                  During his final year in Andover, a teacher persuaded Segarra to write a paper
                  on the Spanish-American War. Segarra agreed, initially because it was an
                  excuse to escape the prep school campus for research in Cambridge, Mass.,
                  deep in Harvard's Lamont Library.

                  He became captivated by his subject, mostly by the jingoistic,
                  turn-of-the-century debate in Congress that treated Puerto Rico as a spoil of
                  war to be dictated to, rather than consulted.

                  A year later, Segarra was enrolled at Harvard. In 1969, he watched from his
                  dormitory window as police officers in riot gear put down the first anti-Vietnam
                  War strike at the school. The police knocked one of Segarra's housemates
                  from his wheelchair.

                  By early 1983, Segarra was sufficiently immersed in the clandestine
                  independence movement to be darting around Mexico City using the code
                  name "Junior," seeking Cuban financial and tactical support for the ailing

                  The Mexican megalopolis had become an operational hub for the Cuban
                  diplomatic-intelligence establishment. The Cubans appreciated how easy it
                  was to get in and out of Mexico, for them and the insurgents they supported
                  around the hemisphere. The Mexican security forces were notoriously inept.
                  And it was simple to get lost in a sprawling city where homes run tenuously up
                  the sides of distant mountains on those rare days when the smog clears.

                  It was here that Segarra first met Jorge Masetti.

                  Masetti, who has since broken with the Cuban government, at the time was
                  working for the DGI, the Cuban intelligence service. He was assigned to
                  Cuba's strikingly contemporary embassy tucked among Versace and
                  Ferragamo and Tiffany in the city's tony Polanco district.

                  Masetti, in a number of brief interviews and in a book he published in France,
                  says now that he and his colleagues at the embassy were charged with
                  assisting the Latin American insurgencies that Cuba had decided to support,
                  including Los Macheteros. What the groups needed most was money. They
                  were advised, under the Cuban revolutionary model, to live off the land, to
                  "expropriate" -- euphemisms for stealing money from places like banks and
                  armored car companies.

                  "Some friends specialized in these types of missions, sliding toward
                  revolutionary banditry," Masetti wrote in his book.

                  One day, Masetti was told to work with a Machetero called "Junior." A meeting
                  was to take place outside the Latino Cinema, near El Angel, the beautiful
                  statue that commemorates Mexican independence in the median of the city's
                  broad Paseo de Reforma. Junior had been instructed to carry a rolled
                  newspaper in his right hand.

                  "The problem was that the hour for our meeting coincided with the end of the
                  film," Masetti wrote. "A lot of men came out with newspapers.

                  "I waited. When the place had emptied out a bit, I noticed someone leaning
                  against a column. Without being certain it was my contact, I approached him
                  and asked a mundane question. I wanted only for him to answer so I could
                  verify his accent. It was pure Puerto Rican."

                  Masetti squired Junior around the city. He first introduced Junior to a Chilean
                  who knew how to pirate television signals, a skill critical to the Machetero goal
                  of interrupting commercial television broadcasts with propaganda messages.

                  But Junior had two odd questions, which stuck with Masetti. He wanted any
                  information he could get about the design of armored cars. And he wanted to
                  know what narcotics could be used to incapacitate guards.

                  Of course, Los Macheteros needed money as well. After a weeklong course
                  on wavelengths from the Chilean tutor, Masetti says, he put Junior in an
                  apartment to await the arrival from Cuba of $50,000. It arrived three days later,
                  delivered by Jose Antonio Arbesu, who was then responsible for Cuban
                  operations in the United States and would later be appointed to head Cuba's
                  diplomatic offices in Washington.

                  According to Masetti's account, the Cubans gave Junior a couple of secret
                  agent suitcases in which he smuggled the money and some broadcast
                  equipment out of Mexico on a commercial flight.

                  Back in Hartford, Victor Gerena was enduring his own financial crisis. In early
                  1983 he had been working as a part-time guard at the Wells Fargo depot in
                  West Hartford for about six months. It was another in a string of meaningless
                  jobs he drifted through since dropping out of Annhurst College.

                  His life was tranquil, if lacking in professional direction. He showed no interest
                  in politics. He was sharing an apartment on Hartford's Asylum Hill with his
                  fiancee, Ana Soto. She was studying to be a beautician.

                  By the time of Segarra's visit to Mexico City, records kept by Los Macheteros'
                  two principal executive committees -- the central and directive committees --
                  show that the group's tiresome whining about finances had been replaced by a
                  flurry of activity. Los Macheteros had a plan. The leaders were working on what
                  they alternately called a "fiesta" and an "operative." They called it "Aguila
                  Blanca" -- "White Eagle."

                  Segarra was a young but increasingly influential voice among the Macheteros.
                  He was traveling frequently. He was aligned closely with Filiberto Ojeda Rios,
                  the Puerto Rican-born Cuban spy who founded Los Macheteros.

                  Telephone records show that on March 19, 1983, Segarra began a long series
                  of conversations with Victor Gerena.