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MH/Chris Simmons: The Miami Herald

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  • Walter Lippmann
    MIAMI HERALD Posted on Tue, Mar. 11, 2008 When spies become diplomats By CHRIS SIMMONS http://www.miamiherald.com/851/story/451679.html Since the earliest days
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2008

      Posted on Tue, Mar. 11, 2008
      When spies become diplomats


      Since the earliest days of the Castro regime, the Cuban government has used
      diplomatic cover for its spies. Among them are Félix Wilson and José
      Imperatori, both of whom served at the Cuban Interests Section in
      Washington, D.C. Historically, this practice is generally reserved for
      either the United States or for sympathetic regimes and close allies.

      However, the choice of René Mujica Cantelar as Cuba's ambassador to the
      United Kingdom highlights a disturbing new trend. London is a close U.S.
      ally and, more important for Havana, a primary U.S. ally in the global war
      on terror. During extensive discussions during the past months, two former
      Cuban intelligence officers who are now in the United States identified
      Mujica as a deep-cover spy in Cuba's foreign-intelligence service, the
      Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

      Mujica spent his earlier years in U.S. posts. He served at the Cuban
      Interests Section in 1977-1986 and then at the Cuban Mission to the United
      Nations (CMUN) in 1990-93. Juan Antonio Rodríguez Menier -- who served with
      the DI's predecessor, the Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI), for 28
      years -- noted that both of Mujica's U.S. postings carried the rank of first
      secretary. Historically, the DI uses senior diplomatic positions only for
      its higher-ranking officers.

      Additionally, Mujica is apparently highly trusted by Raúl Castro, given that
      his CMUN assignment followed a devastating 1989 restructuring and downsizing
      of the DGI into the DI.

      In the wake of the 1989 arrest and execution of Division Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa,
      Castro and the Ministry of the Armed Forces took control of the Interior
      Ministry (MININT). Army Corps Gen. Abelardo Colome Ibarra became the
      interior minister and conducted a massive purge. Armed forces officers loyal
      to Castro replaced hundreds of MININT/DGI officers who were jailed, fired or

      After a few years back at DI headquarters, Mujica was transferred to Europe,
      where he spent six years as ambassador to Brussels (1996-2002) and another
      three as deputy director of the Europe Division. There, he worked for better
      E.U.-Cuban relations and recommended the E.U. rethink its position on Cuba.
      Mujica sees signs of warming European-Cuban relations but fears that E.U.
      enlargement may slow rapprochement since some new pro-American members tend
      to take a hard-line position.

      Since his posting to London, Mujica is focused on stronger bilateral
      relations with the United Kingdom. He is a strong and vocal critic of Bush
      administration measures intended to hasten the end of the Castro brothers'
      rule, including tightened restrictions on family visits and remittances from
      Cuban Americans -- funds now critical to the regime's survival.

      According to former DI officer Juan Reyes-Alonso, Mujica's diplomat postings
      were intended to improve his cover for intelligence missions. Now, he enjoys
      the best of both worlds. As a deep-cover DI officer, he does not meet with
      regular DI assets like traditional intelligence officers at an embassy. This
      has kept him ''off the radar'' of foreign counterintelligence services and
      their surveillance teams. As a result, he is living the dream of DI officers
      and diplomats -- he has little direct supervision and enjoys considerable
      freedom of movement.

      Mujica's presence marks an unsettling pattern in Havana's use of spies as
      ambassadors. Its increasing tendency to target U.S. neighbors, close allies
      and nations that serve as bases for U.S. operations in the War on Terror is
      a concern. In these situations, the presence of an ambassador-spy guarantees
      that the DI will always have the necessary diplomatic protections to
      accomplish its mission. Regrettably, America's allies have done little or
      nothing in the face of this new intelligence challenge.

      © 2008 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

      Los Angeles, California
      "Cuba - Un Paraiso bajo el bloqueo"
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