How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García
Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head
or torture him with electric prods. Let's call him Josué. (The names in
his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made
jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a
diehard fan of LeBron James.
He used to work at a gasoline station. One day earned the equivalent of
fifty dollars, enough to have some beers at a Havana bar with his
buddies. "One of my friends was an opponent of the regime and two were
independent journalists," says Josué. "That wasn't a problem for me. I
had known them for years and they were decent, trustworthy people. We
talked politics but, when we just hanging out, we usually talked about
sports or our daily lives," says Josué.
One morning two officials from the Department of State Security (DSE),
dressed as civilians and riding motorcycles, showed up at his door.
"They wanted to 'have a friendly chat' with me. They asked if I would
collaborate with them, if I would pass on information about my dissident
friends. When I refused, they threatened to charge me with embezzling
"'We know you are stealing gasoline,' they said. 'Either you work for us
or we'll press charges.' At first, I went along with it but only passed
along false information or said that my friends didn't tell me anything
about their work activities. Then they suggested I infiltrate the
dissident movement. I refused. In the end I quit my job at the gas
station. So now they hassle me constantly and come up with any excuse to
arrest and detain me at the police station," say Josué.
For Sheila, an engineer, the modus operandi is familiar: "First, they
tried to blackmail me, accusing me of having an extra-marital affair
with a dissident. When I told them, 'Go ahead; do it,' they changed
tactics and said they were going to charge me with harassment of
foreigners and prostitution because I have a European boyfriend."
One of the objectives of Cuban special services is to "short-circuit"
the connections that so many of the regime's opponents, such as
independent journalists, have with official sources. "They are in a
panic over the possibility that dissidents and independent journalists
are building bridges and establishing networks of trust with employees
and officials at important state institutions. That's why they are
trying to poison the relationships dissidents and journalists have with
relatives, friends and neighbors," claims an academic who has received
warnings from the DSE.
According to this academic, "The DSE will use whatever weapon it can to
achieve its goals. These include blackmail, psychological pressure, a
person's commitment to the party and the Revolution, and threats of
imprisonment for criminal activity, which is not uncommon given that
some potential informants work in the financial or service sector and
often make money by defrauding the government. State Security does not
need to torture its informants. A system of duplicity, widespread
corruption and fear of reprisal are enough to accomplish the objective:
to isolate the opponent from his circle of friends."
Yusdel, an unlicensed bodyshop repairman, recalls how one day an
agent from State Security told him, "If you want to keep your business,
you have to inform on your stepfather," a human rights activist.
"They're pigs," says Yusdel. "It doesn't matter to them if you betray
one of your relatives. If you refuse, you are besieged by the police."
For Carlos jail is a second home. "Once, when I was a serving time at
Combinado del Este prison, a guard asked me to intimidate another
inmate, who was a dissident. 'Punch him, do whatever it takes. Nothing
will happen to you.' In exchange for this, they were going to give me
weekend passes. I said I wouldn't do it. But there are common criminals
who are all too willing to do this shit," says Carlos.
The pressure to become a "snitch" is greater when a government opponent
or an alternative journalist is inexperienced. Because the dissident
community is made up of groups of pacifists and because it operates
openly, it is easy for counterintelligence to infiltrate it and
blackmail dissidents, who can easily break down or crack under
With eighteen years' experience in the free press, a colleague who has
known fake independent journalists such as the late Nestor Baguer and
Carlos Serpa Maceira says that ultimately they became informants
"because of pressure exerted on them by State Security."
A professor of history who has been subjected to bullying by an agent
believes, "The revolutionary/counterrevolutionary rhetoric was inspiring
in the first few years after Fidel Castro came to power, when those who
supported the revolutionary process were in the majority. Now, those who
collaborate do not do it out of loyalty or ideology. They do it out of
fear. And that makes them vulnerable and unreliable citizens. Not to
mention that the professionalism of the current DSE officers leaves much
to be desired. Some agents seem marginal and very intellectually unstable."
To achieve its objective, Cuban counterintelligence resorts to extortion
of would-be informants. And in the case of the opposition, to physical
violence. If you have any doubts, just ask the Ladies in White.
Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -