Juan Juan Almeida, 19 October 2015 — The G2, Cuba’s domestic spy agency, is nothing more than a fun-loving caricature of the former KGB. What is difficult to believe is that the special services headquarters which direct espionage operations against Cuba have shown themselves to be even more inept.
The Cuban government neither has nor could maintain an army of spies. We have bought into this myth. Espionage is an expensive proposition and recruiting spies is not like planting rice. Though difficult for us to accept, Cuban authorities are talented and treacherous enough to know how to stoke paranoia, distrust and confusion by creating a constant and frantic struggle for reaffirmation against “a person unknown.” This has made us prone to isolation, some degree of lunacy and a few too many hallucinations.
Albert Einstein, that most international of physicists, said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it.”
Now is the time to find common ground in order to face the obstacles that divide us. There is no point in inventing yet more informants, those agents created for a specific task and trained for a specific mission. We routinely label people as “agents” with dangerous and contagious certainty. We should realize that no single nation can simply go around recruiting and sending infiltrators out into the world like spores in search of information.
From the enigmatic Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to a young physicist named Klaus Fuchs, from former CIA officer Aldrich Ames to Soviet military intelligence colonel Oleg Penkovsky, and to the legendary James Bond, history and literature are replete with spies who have captured our imagination. Adventurers or idealists, altruistic or greedy, heroes or informers, the world certainly knows of spies who succeeded in altering the course of history. But such cases are a far removed from our all too mundane reality. The fact is there are fewer Cuban spies in Miami than bullfighters with mustaches in Madrid.
Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, a Dutch woman known worldwide as Mata Hari, was a famous exotic dancer, high-class prostitute and a well-known actress who used her luxurious perch to collect information and sell it to both the French and German intelligence services. She was caught, tried and executed, but not — it is said — before blowing a kiss to the firing squad. You’ve heard of Percy Alvarado*? Listen, the life of agent Friar is more an embarrassment than a source of pride.
There was the wily and charismatic Richard Sorge, — a man with an exquisite sense of humor — who was a Soviet spy and German national who worked for the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. A student of political science, he served as a volunteer in the German army and worked as journalist in Japan. Closer to home, the story of Antonio Guerrero — one of the five Cubans convicted on espionage charges in the US — is more foul than the dog mess on my shoes.
It is a profession older than prostitution, or even carpentry. The Cold War continues to feed into our exaggerated and overly fanciful mythology with the obvious glamour this secret activity acquired in the last century. Perhaps that is why terminology such as “intercepting communications,” “reading encrypted codes” and “eavesdropping” bring to mind intrigue and stimulate the imagination.
But the G2, Cuba’s domestic spy agency, is nothing more than fun-loving caricature of the former KGB. What is difficult to believe is that the special services headquarters which direct espionage operations against Cuba have shown themselves to be even more inept. It seems they relied on informants who knew how to sell information that was full of gaping holes.
The only way to make our dream a reality is to wake up and stop seeing spies, informers and snitches among our next door neighbors.
*Translator’s note: A Guatemalan national who infiltrated the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami on behalf of Cuba’s security services. Known as “agent Friar,” he now writes a blog from Havana.