New Head of Spain’s Secret Services had to Leave Cuba in 2009 for Espionage

Esperanza Casteleiro, the new head of Spanish intelligence, spent six months in Cuba at the head of the espionage network on the island. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 11 May 2022 — Esperanza Casteleiro Llamazares, the new director of the Spanish National Intelligence Center (CNI), briefly directed the antenna of the secret services in Cuba in 2009 and had to return hastily to Madrid to avoid expulsion after the arrest of an informant.

According to the data reported this Wednesday by the Spanish digital The Objective, the official arrived in Havana in 2008 without hiding her identity, since she had ceased to be an anonymous agent when she reached positions of responsibility (general secretary of the CNI in 2004).

In June 2008, she was relieved of that position and sent to the island to direct the office of the Spanish intelligence service in Cuba, at a time when an opening under the new command of Raúl Castro was expected.

According to The Objective, the Cuban regime immediately mistrusted Casteleiro and she was constantly watched by the island’s secret service. Her downfall occurred in just six months.

The decision came after the arrest, in February 2009, of Conrado Hernández, a Cuban businessman and delegate of a commercial entity of the Basque Government, when he was going to travel to Spain.

The arrest was attributed to a case of business corruption, but two weeks later it emerged that Cuba’s economic vice president Carlos Lage, and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque, frequently visited a property that Hernández had in the current province of Mayabeque.

Those ties served to result in the dismissal of both ministers, whom the Communist Party of Cuba accused of leaking information to the Spanish government about possible changes on the island.

State Security kept surveillance on Hernández, a CNI informant, and had recorded him with Spanish intelligence agents, eating in a Havana restaurant.

Fidel Castro dedicated one of his Reflections to the case , in which he accused Lage and Pérez Roque of allowing themselves to be “seduced by the honeys of power” in the hope of putting themselves at the head of the country, and of having been trapped by the siren’s songs coming from “external agents.”

The Objective states that Casteleiro’s presence in Cuba made him uncomfortable, so the Spanish government chose to withdraw the CNI agents before they were expelled. Casteleiro returned to Spain, while the businessman was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Last October he received a prison benefit that allows him to serve the rest of his sentence at home.

Casteleiro began her career at the National Intelligence Center in 1983 and has held various positions of responsibility. In 2014 she assumed the leadership of the Intelligence Unit of the CNI in the Intelligence Center against Terrorism and Organized Crime. From there she went to the Ministry of Defense, in 2020, as Secretary of State and was the right hand of Minister Margarita Robles.

Her arrival at the position in the CNI occurs after the dismissal of Paz Esteban, relieved of the position this Tuesday as a result of a case of wiretapping directed at pro-independence politicians in Catalonia. To this espionage, judicially authorized for reasons of national security, illegal interceptions were added, also by the Pegasus system, against the president himself, Pedro Sánchez, and several ministers, including those of Defense and Interior.


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