Henchmen of Castroism Are Taking Advantage of the U.S. Border Crisis (Part 3)
The United States has opened its arms to Cuban exiles since 1959, but the current crisis on the southern border and the lack of control in legal migration processes attract servants of the socialist tyranny and violators of human rights to the same country where the regime’s victims found refuge.
This is part three of a four-part series. Read part one and part two.
Repressors Yesterday, Agents of Influence Today
The married couple of Ivette Bermello and Edgerton Ivor Levy crossed with their son in the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits in a boat. They arrived in the southern keys in 1993, pretending to seek political refuge. They were actually part of the Wasp Network, a Cuban group of spies that monitored military installations and contributed to the murder of four Americans who were guiding rafters to the mainland.
However, as soon as Levy arrived in the United States, he turned himself in to the FBI and operated as a double agent. During the fall of the Wasp Network, at the end of the 1990s, the couple was a key piece in the trial that sentenced five of the agents to long prison terms, including several life sentences. Barack Obama, in his second term, freed them.
Years later, Levy explained, in an interview, that the FBI and other U.S. security agencies did not evaluate Castro’s capabilities fairly.
In 1987, Ana Belén Montes, a promising Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, visited the El Paraíso military base in El Salvador. Weeks later, the Marxist guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) attacked the facility, leaving 69 dead, including U.S. Sgt. Greg Fronius. Montes had passed information to the Cuban regime, for which she spied, and Havana had sent the intelligence to its FMLN allies.
In 2002, Montes was sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison. She was released in 2023. This same year, the Biden administration extended invitations to high-ranking Castro soldiers to tour U.S. ports, something “extraordinarily imprudent,” according to Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.).
When another member of Congress, David Rouzer (R-N.C.), questioned the Cuban visit to the port of Wilmington, the State Department avoided speaking about security concerns, telling the media that the Biden administration had “repeatedly asked the Cuban government, in public and in private” to “immediately and unconditionally [release] all political prisoners.”
For John Suárez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, the response “does not address security concerns, nor the regime’s history of involvement in and sponsorship of terrorism, or recent high-level visits to Cuba by Russians, Chinese, and Iranians.” Suárez questions: “Does this mean that if the regime releases political prisoners it will have more access to the United States and its port security?”
For human rights activists, the sons and daughters of exiles from the Cuban Marxist Revolution, Biden’s openness is “deeply worrying.” Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst, experienced something similar decades ago. “Cubans were underestimated for more than a quarter of a century,” he wrote in his memoir. Washington thought they were dealing with amateurs until 1987, when agent Florentino Aspillaga Lombard defected and revealed Castro’s espionage capacity. The Cuban regime developed one of the top six foreign intelligence services, according to Latell, with achievements in handling double agents and counterintelligence that “have been unparalleled.”
Suárez recalls that agents at the service of the Cuban regime “have penetrated the Pentagon, the CIA, USAID, and the State Department, they have caused soldiers to die abroad, they have shaped Washington’s foreign policy, and they have written evaluations of threats from hostile countries that underestimate the dangers they pose to the union.”
The case of Carlos Lazo, who arrived in Florida in 1991 on a raft and assumed refugee status, is one of the most iconic among agents of influence. Since 2020, he has led the Bridges of Love initiative for the end of the sanctions against the regime, something that would oxygenate the dictatorship by allowing it access to international credits. Lazo, a veteran of the U.S. Army, is applauded by leftists in power on the island, which received him at the Palace of the Revolution.
But the homage in the socialist court was not well received by all. In 2021, Edmundo García, an old spokesman for Castroism on Miami radio, revealed in a bizarre broadcast his anger with Lazo, who was received by “the president [Miguel Díaz-Canel] like a king.”
García also addressed his message to Raúl Castro and to the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), Álvaro López Miera, whom he also blamed for “abandonment” of the regime after sending it on “a mission” to the United States. “I have never been a traitor, I have never stopped being a revolutionary. I would never have come here if the need had not been explained to me many times,” he revealed.
Would he be annoyed by a change among the agents of influence in Havana?
Lazo’s initiative attracts a variety of anti-embargo fauna, such as Uberto Mario, a Miami resident and former member of the political police, who shared the same car as the professor in a protest against U.S. sanctions in February of this year.
Could Castro’s henchmen, spokesmen, and collaborators entering through the southern border join the movement?
With such a historical background, John Suárez advises that “Washington should not underestimate the current entry of repressors into the country.” The failure to control the southern border is a prime opportunity for Castroites to enter U.S. territory and then mutate into agents of influence.
Between 2021 and 2022, the Cuban Institute for Press Freedom (ICLEP) reported the arrival in the United States of at least 12 communicators who served as spokespersons for the dictatorship media until shortly before crossing the border. None apologized for the reputation assassinations against human rights defenders that they carried out in state media or for their participation in propaganda for Castroism.
One of them was the announcer Yunior Smith Rodríguez, “famous for denigrating independent reporters and opponents of the regime on Cuban Television,” confirmed Normando Hernández, who chairs ICLEP.
The military Ernesto Alemán, head of Information Technology of the Technical Department of Investigations in Havana, has also arrived in the United States.
Although the United States seems to be the most desirable destination for the henchmen, the truth is that in other nations, such as Russia (one of the few countries that do not require a visa for Cubans), there have been reports of regime collaborators fleeing the economic disaster there. Mario Alberto Céspedes Pérez is one of them, who went from ratting out dissidents in Cuba to being beaten and hunted with dogs by Belarusian policemen when he tried to cross into the European Union.
The writer and journalist Alberto Méndez Castelló, one of those watched by Céspedes Pérez in the town of Puerto Padre (Las Tunas Province) forgives his repressor, but it bothers him to see others like him living “very well established [lives] in the United States, Canada, Spain, or any country; not fighting for the freedom of Cuba, but living, without fear, the freedoms of democracy against which they themselves fought in Cuba.”
“I do not hold grudges or plan reprisals against any of my persecutors because, inside the dungeons, I was a free man,” says Méndez Castelló. “Every day that I spent on hunger strike in the cells, my stomach was sick, yes, but my heart was full of freedom — much more than my persecutors — who today are belches from the regime that used them and then spit on them.”
Read part four
** The author would like to thank the Cuban Studies Institute and Cultura Democrática for their contributions to this investigation.
Yoe Suárez is a writer, producer, and journalist, exiled from Cuba due to his investigative reporting about themes like torture, political prisoners, government black lists, cybersurveillance, and freedom of expression and conscience. He is the author of the books “Leviathan: Political Police and Socialist Terror” and “El Soplo del Demonio: Violence and Gangsterism in Havana.”