I WORKED WITH A NUMBER OF CONTACTS AND AGENTS IN Paris. One of my most useful auxiliaries was a Cuban named Nildo Alvarez Valdes (code name "Ernestico"). Alvarez was not on the D.G.I. staff, but rather was with the Cuban commercial office. Nevertheless, he served as a mail drop and contact point for Intelligence. Persons arriving in Paris who sought to get in touch with the Centro would contact Alvarez, who then notified Intelligence. Messages were also transmitted through Alvarez, and his house served as a meeting place, too. Persons traveling through Paris en route to Cuba occasionally stayed in Alvarez's home until passage was obtained for them. He and his wife had become accustomed to having total strangers‑sometimes three or four at a time‑descend on their house and remain for several days. Alvarez was about 27 years old, good-natured, balding, and rather stout. His wife chided him that his belly prevented him from seeing his toes. Alvarez's assistance was particularly convenient for me: Alvarez lived on the third floor of an apartment building at Faraday No. 10; my family lived on the fifth floor of the same building.
My tasks in Paris ranged from lesser matters, such as assisting persons who were going to Cuba, to affairs related to high policy.
For a period of time I was in contact with Paul Verges, a French deputy. Verges was trying to organize a meeting of Vietnamese, Korean, and Cuban representatives. The purpose of the conference would be to condemn the Soviet Union for not providing sufficient support to the Viet Cong and to Cuba. Fidel Castro at the time was in one of his periodic sulks against Moscow, and so the Cuban government was receptive to the idea. For a while, Intelligence, in the person of myself, encouraged Verges in his plans. The conference was to be held in Cuba or Viet Nam, and nonaligned nations were to be invited to attend. It would convene prior to the conference of Communist parties that was to meet in Moscow in 1969. The plans never came to fruition, however. Fidel Castro, although he shunned the Moscow conference, reached an agreement with the Soviets, and thus lost interest in having his own international parley.
A different type of collaboration with Cuban Intelligence was maintained by an Argentinean scientist at the National Scientific Research Center in Paris. I had carefully cultivated the Argentinean, who used the code name "Ernesto" (which seems to have had a vogue among the Intelligence collaborators in Paris). Ernesto provided detailed information about the biological research he was engaged in, as well as the work of other scientists. He also reported on the scientists themselves. Havana displayed considerable interest in Ernesto, sending precise instructions regarding the information desired from him.
On one occasion, I commented to Lopez: "Why do they want this information? These are areas in which no work is being done in Cuba."
"Don't concern yourself," Lopez replied. "Those are the instructions, and they have to be carried out."
I was convinced that it was not Cuban Intelligence, but rather Soviet Intelligence that was seeking the information. We Cubans were being utilized as a means of obtaining it for Moscow.
Not all efforts to build contacts in Paris had satisfactory results. A Frenchman who had been of assistance to D.G.I. in contact and recruitment work was leaving Paris to travel to Cuba. Among the Frenchman's friends was an attractive French divorcee who enjoyed the good life. E.C. worked for a publishing house and moved in intellectual circles, and Intelligence figured that she could be useful and therefore was worth remaining in contact with. This task was assigned to me. Lopez introduced me to the Frenchman, who in turn arranged a meeting with E.C.
The Frenchman explained to E.C.: "This is a friend of mine. He's going to take care of my correspondence while I'm away. Any mail that you receive for me, please give to him."
E.C. agreed. I arranged future meetings, took her out to lunch, cultivated her; I was following the usual procedure of recruitment for Intelligence. Then, a meeting was set for nine one evening, but the woman failed to show up. I waited, then left for a secondary, "reserve" rendezvous point. No sign of E.C. here, either, so I decided to go to a reception that was being held that night at the Embassy.
At eleven o'clock E.C, appeared at the reception ‑ obviously and thoroughly inebriated. Raucous and boisterous, she quickly became the center of amused attention at the party. Lopez demanded to know what was going on. I explained that E.C. had failed to keep an appointment that had been set for early that evening. "Vaya, this is impossible," Lopez said. "The woman can't be trusted. If that had been an important meeting, she would have done the same." Thus abruptly terminated E.C.'s relationship with Cuban Intelligence.
Then there was the case of the bizarre Brazilian. S.H., a member of the Brazilian Communist Party who had been living in exile in French Guiana, came to Paris after attending the 1967 conference of the Latin American Solidarity Organization in Cuba. He was to remain in Paris a few days, waiting for a large amount of propaganda materials that was to be sent to him from Havana, propaganda which he had promised to distribute in South America. Almost daily he showed up at the Cuban Embassy in Paris and inquired about the material, but it failed to arrive.
I came to know S.H. as a result of these visits to the Embassy. One day the Brazilian said to me, confidentially: "Bueno, now that I have trust in you – I see that you are honest, you are a sincere man. I have a secret to tell you."
The man was charming and seemingly intelligent, and so I, puzzled, asked, "What secret?"
"A secret that will be of great interest to the Cuban Revolution." He went on to explain that he knew of a way of securing "atomic raw materials" from which it was possible to extract cobalt. S.H. assured me that this process could be carried out in any socialist (i.e., Communist) country. He said: "I spoke to the Czechs, and they were interested, but they haven't given me a definite answer. Anyway, I would rather deal with the Cuban Revolution because it is more in need of assistance, of greater strength."
S.H.'s plan called for the smuggling of the "raw materials" from Brazil into French Guiana. S.H. told me that he was acquainted with border contrabandists, and these would be willing to do the work, despite the danger. In return for organizing the project, S.H. said he would expect ten percent of the profit, which would be used to pay the smugglers and to suborn the necessary authorities.
Propaganda supplies and nuclear raw materials were not the only matters that concerned S.H. There was also the affair of the photographs. While in Havana, the Brazilian had been wont to leave the organized, guided groups to which he was assigned and go off by himself. He had a borrowed car and a borrowed camera, and he took photographs on his one‑man sight‑seeing excursions. This had not pleased the Cuban authorities. When it had come time to leave ‑ so S.H. related to me ‑ he had wanted to keep his film. At the airport he approached what he took to be a representative of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples and said to him: "This camera was loaned by your Institute, and I want to give it back. I don't know how to remove the cartridge. Will you please do it for me? "
The man agreed, took the camera, and returned shortly afterwards and handed S.H. a cartridge. In Paris, S.H. took the cartridge to a photo shop for developing. When he went back five days later to pick up the developed photographs, the clerk demanded to know whether this was some kind of a joke‑the cartridge had been empty, there was no film in it. S.H. realized that the film had been removed by the man at the airport, who evidently had been D.G.I. or G‑2.
I dispatched a message about S.H. to the Centro Principal in Havana, relating the offer he had made about nuclear materials. A reply came back from the official in charge of Brazilian affairs, "Fermin," who reported that D.G.I. had been in touch with S.H. in Cuba, but that he never said anything about atomic secrets, nor offered anything. Perhaps he was trying to work a swindle, or he was an enemy provoker, or maybe just plain crazy. I was ordered not to have anything further to do with him, and I never saw him again.
A fundamental task of the Intelligence Center in Paris was to provide support for the various guerrilla movements the Cuban government was attempting to spawn in Latin America. Of the Latin American republics, only Mexico maintained diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba ‑ and Mexican surveillance of Cuban intelligence activities in that country was brisk. With no direct means of commercial transportation existing between Cuba and the other Latin American countries, it was difficult for Cuba to move men back and forth. Latin Americans received guerrilla training in Cuba, and then Cuba would utilize its fleet of Lambda‑type fishing boats to smuggle the men, together with weapons, back into their home countries. To get people from these countries to Cuba ‑ for training or other purposes ‑ was more difficult. A regular schedule of clandestine pickups was not feasible.
Thus, the Paris Centro entered the picture. Persons traveling to Cuba from Latin America would fly to Paris on any of the several commercial air routes operating to Europe. They would remain in Paris while the Centro obtained the necessary documentation for further travel, either Russian or Czech visas. From Paris, the men would fly to Moscow or Prague, and from there to Havana on Soviet TU‑114 airliners.
One week a group of Bolivians arrived in Paris. Another week a group of Argentineans. Then Venezuelans. Each official at the Centro dealt with specific countries, and Venezuelan matters were my concern. A typical case was that of the Cruz brothers, one about 22 years old, the other a bit older. The usual message was received at the Centro: Persons of such‑and‑such description will arrive in Paris. They will contact Ernesto. Arrange for their travel requirements.
Travelers of this type were not met at the airport, so as not to reveal official Cuban interest in them. They would phone an agente buzon upon their arrival, and then proceed to whatever address he directed them. The agente would notify the Centro that the men had arrived, and then one of the officials would go to see them and arrange for their continued travel. The Centro was rarely told much about the men: the reasons for their travel and sometimes even their true nationality was usually not divulged, either by Havana or by the men themselves.
The Cruz brothers arrived in Paris toward the end of 1968. I was assigned to take care of them, and I went to see them at Alvarez's house, where they were staying, in order to ascertain their requirements and obtain data to be used in securing Czech visas. The two men were willing to talk, and I learned that they had been with guerrillas in Venezuela for three years. Their view of the revolutionary situation in that country was bleakly pessimistic: the guerrillas had made no progress, they were receiving no popular support, and because of internal dissension they had split into factional groups.
I was surprised at the Cruzes' attitude toward Douglas Bravo, a Venezuelan guerrilla leader who had received a large amount of laudatory publicity in the Cuban press. They said that Bravo had spent little time in the mountains, and not done much fighting, preferring to remain hidden in the cities. Bravo, the Cruzes reported, had gone up into the mountains on one occasion when a group of Cubans and Venezuelans was infiltrated from Cuba. "The Cubans identified themselves, gave their names and ranks, only to Bravo," the Cruzes related. "But the next day everyone in camp knew this information. Bravo talked too much."
The effort by Cuba's Ernesto Guevara to develop a guerrilla movement in Bolivia is now a matter of history. It is also well‑known that Guevara envisioned "two, three or many Viet Nams" in the hemisphere. What has not previously been revealed is that, in order to achieve this goal, Cuba planned a two‑pronged attack on South America. The first prong was to emanate from Bolivia, the second from Venezuela. Guevara was not the only high‑ranking representative of the Castro regime involved right on the scene of action. At approximately the time Guevara was preparing to go to Bolivia, two members of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party were infiltrated into Venezuela to assist the guerrillas operating there. The Cubans were Raul Menendez Tomassevich and Orestes Guerra Gonzalez, both of them comandantes, highest rank in the Cuban Army.
The two officers came through Paris separately in 1968 en route back to Cuba. They were tired, in poor physical shape, and altogether disillusioned about the Venezuelan effort. Tomassevich was the first to come to Paris, arriving in the summer. Because of his rank, he was in the charge of the ambassador, although I had an opportunity to chat with him. Our acquaintanceship dated from an odd circumstance: in Havana, we both had patronized the same shooting gallery on the Prado. Tomassevich spoke of his disappointment with the Venezuelans, and told of a problem much like that encountered by Guevara in Bolivia. The Venezuelans distrusted Tomassevich precisely because of his high rank, believing that he was not there to help them, but rather to take command of the guerrilla movement. "They would not believe that we Cubans had come only to fight as soldiers," Tomassevich complained. "Nothing progressed. Always there were the misgivings, the fears that the Cubans were going to take over."
Tomassevich was in Paris two days, after which the ambassador took him to Prague, and from there he returned to Cuba. Tomassevich was about 44 years old, but during the approximately three years spent in Venezuela he had aged considerably. He was noticeably ill, and whereas in Cuba he had weighed about 180 pounds, his weight was now down to about 130. He arrived in Havana in such poor shape that when Raul Castro saw him he conceived one of his macabre jokes: he would announce Tomassevich's death, put him in a coffin, and let other officers file by to pay their last respects. Raul later thought better of the idea, and did not go through with it.
Orestes Guerra came to Paris after Tomassevich. Guerra also spoke of the unfavorable state of the Venezuelan guerrillas: hungry, in hiding, out of contact with the urban clandestine movements. The guerrillas had good weapons, but they were not using them, they were not fighting. There were bitter divisions, with different groups following different leaders. There was resentment against the Cubans, and in one case a small Cuban‑Venezuelan group had set itself up independently under a Cuban who used the name "Antonio."
Guerra placed the blame for the guerrilla failure on a number of factors. He talked of new policies by the Venezuelan government, which had eased repressive measures and offered leniency to guerrillas who surrendered. At the same time, however, there had been determined pursuit by the Venezuelan army of those guerrillas who chose to remain in the hills. Guerra found much fault with Douglas Bravo, saying: "He's the national leader of the revolutionary youth of Venezuela, but he has betrayed the goals of the Revolution. He has never actively participated in the guerrilla war, although he became famous as a guerrilla, as if he were always fighting. He lives in the city, and he only goes up into the mountains in order to get money when it is sent from Cuba, or to issue instructions." Guerra was particularly indignant because of the belief among the guerrillas that Bravo had gone capitalist and purchased a factory and an apartment house‑presumably with the funds sent from Cuba for fomenting revolution. (The reports on these matters presumably made in Havana by Tomassevich and Guerra may well have been the reason for the drop‑off in Cuban aid to Venezuelan guerrillas which seems to have occurred in 1969.)
Guerra and another Cuban who had accompanied him from Venezuela were in my charge. I flew with them to Prague, and there turned them over to the chief of the Cuban Intelligence Center in that city. From Prague they would proceed home, via Moscow.
One of the mysteries of the Cold War was the disappearance of Colonel Francisco Alberto Caamano Deno. Caamano had been the military commander of the rebels in the 1965 uprising in the Dominican Republic. Subsequently, as part of a political settlement, he was sent to London to serve there as Dominican military attache. In October 1967 he made a trip to The Hague‑and disappeared.
In Paris, I received instructions to carry out a detailed survey of a section of the city where a meeting of two important persons could be held, free of possible surveillance by French Counter‑Intelligence. I was told that one of the individuals was "Armando," a D.G.I. official in Havana who had directed the Cuban end of the Guevara operation in Bolivia. Later I learned that the second person was Caamano.
I studied a route which Caamano could follow in Paris, along which D.G.I. officials would be spaced in order to guard him. The actual meeting with Armando would take place at a cafe.
On the appointed day, the plan worked perfectly. Caamano dressed in mufti and wearing a toupee that didn't quite match the rest of his hair, walked along the prearranged streets under the watchful eyes of the officials. I was the final official at the end of the route, near the cafe meeting place. I saw that Caamano did not appear to be followed, and the meeting was held without incident.
A few days later I had occasion to go to Prague, and in that city I stayed in a "safe" apartment used by D.G.I. I found that Caamano and Armando were also there, preparing to go to Cuba. Clearly Caamano was to participate in a new Cuban subversive plan, probably one directed at the Dominican Republic. It may well be that Fidel Castro envisioned building Caamano into a second Guevara.
Before leaving Cuba, as preparation for my duty abroad, I had been briefed on how to spot possible surveillance by French Counter‑Intelligence and how to try to evade it. When I arrived in Paris, however, I found that the French did not appear interested in the Centro and posed a particular problem. This was a matter of some disappointment to the Centro officials: "The French are not checking on us; they don't follow us. They don't think we're important."
As it turned out, the French did not leave the Cubans in permanent limbo. One day Roberto Alvarez Barrera (code name "Remigio"), a fellow official at the Centro, came to me and said, "Am I seeing phantoms, or am I being followed? " The earlier officials at the Centro had not received specialized training in such matters as the tailing of people, as I had been given. I went walking with Alvarez, and was able to ascertain that Alvarez was indeed being followed. This was reported to Havana, and the Centro Principal ordered that a detailed study was to be made of the surveillance. I went to work watching the watchers: I noted the individuals involved, what they wore, how well they operated, the cars utilized, whether license plates were switched. I also noted where the French usually parked their surveillance vehicles, as well as where men who were afoot stood waiting. I would watch Alvarez when he left the Embassy, and sometimes I would watch from his fifth‑floor apartment, observing whatever cars followed Alvarez as, by prearrangement, he drove by in the street below.
Alvarez, one of the sharper officials, had two fondnesses: he liked to dress well and he enjoyed good music. He would ask me to accompany him on his shopping excursions for suits and records. The French persisted in their surveillance, and Alvarez would rarely go out alone. He became fearful that he might be kidnapped or an attempt made to kill him. He knew that he was of special interest to the French because he had been in contact with one of the student leaders in the riots that had wracked Paris that May.
On one occasion I went out with Alvarez, but left him afterwards in order to go to a bookstore. I noticed a young man, blond, bespectacled, staring into store windows ‑ despite the considerable cold of that day. I stayed in the bookstore for a period of time, and then the man sauntered in and looked around. Later I spotted the same person in one of the vehicles I knew was used by French Counterintelligence.
If the French were hoping to pressure Alvarez into leaving the country, they succeeded in their design. Havana, apparently figuring he was of no further utility in Paris, recalled him home.
French interest in the Centro fluctuated. At times the officials were able to detect no surveillance; at other times it was intense. Two types of street surveillance were used. In one method, the person or persons doing the tailing sought to avoid detection by remaining as inconspicuous as possible. In the second method, the surveillance was carried out by several cars and persons afoot, and there was no attempt at concealment. This method intended that the person who was being tailed know that he was under close watch, and it was usually aimed at limiting that person's activities. ('The Cubans called this type of tailing japonesa‑perhaps the Japanese like to utilize it.) I found that in evading surveillance, the great and unruly Parisian traffic was my best ally. I could lose myself among the many vehicles, and the most skillful of tails was unable to follow me.
I became convinced that the French were not unduly concerned about the activities of the Centro, except as these pertained directly to French affairs. The French kept watch, not only by surveillance and probably by wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping, but also through the utilization of some of the Centro's own contacts as double‑agents. Most of the Cuban staff were poorly trained, or not trained at all; they committed errors. After they had been in Paris a while they became too confident and tended to underestimate Counter‑Intelligence, and often did not take proper security precautions.
The Cubans overlooked a vital fact: They were comparatively new at the game. The French had been at it for centuries.