MH/Chris Simmons: The Miami Herald
- MIAMI HERALD
Posted on Tue, Mar. 11, 2008
When spies become diplomats
By CHRIS SIMMONS
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.
WALTER LIPPMANN, CubaNews
Los Angeles, California
"Cuba - Un Paraiso bajo el bloqueo"