March 11, 1998: Manuel Pineiro Losada died in a car accident. An early member of Cuban Intelligence and long-time chief of the America Department (DA), he resigned as DA head in February 1992. He was replaced by Jose Antonio Arbesu Fraga, one of the DA’s Vice Directors.
Pineiro remains the personification of Cuban intelligence. No other individual had such a defining role in defining, organizing, and providing strategic vision to Castro’s espionage institutions. Born in 1933 to an influential and affluent family, Pineiro the youngest of the siblings. Of average build, he stood 5’ 8’’ and weighed 190 pounds. Brown-eyed and sporting red hair, thick red eyebrows, freckles and a red beard, he received the nickname “Barbaroja” (Redbeard).
In Havana, Pineiro attended the Hermanos Maristas Elementary School and then the Matanzas Institute. He attended college in the United States, enrolling in Columbia University in 1953. There he studied Business Administration. In New York, he met a doctor’s daughter named Lorna Nell Burdsall. She was a professional ballerina and member of the Communist Party. The two fell in love and married on June 10, 1955. Pineiro and his wife left the US and settled in Cuba.
Pineiro joined the July 26 Movement at the end of 1956. He initially served in the underground, supporting efforts in Matanzas and then Havana. In July 1957, he was transferred to the Oriente and served under Efigenio Amejeiras. He subsequently served in the “Frank Pais” column of Raul Castro’s Second Eastern Front beginning in March 1958. There, in the Sierra Cristal, Raul Castro promoted him to Captain and made him chief of the Territorial Personnel and Inspection Directorate, the Intelligence Service, and the Rebel Police for the Second Front. In January 1959, Pineiro was promoted to Commander (Major equivalent) and assigned as Chief of the First Military District (Oriente Province). By the year’s end, he was Raul Castro’s representative to the headquarters of Rebel Army Intelligence.
Fidel Castro allegedly selected Pineiro to serve on the Revolutionary Tribunals, formed to try 43 Batista’s pilots and airmen with genocide. Over the years, he developed a reputation as being fiercely loyal to Fidel Castro. A close advisor and confidant of Castro, Pineiro was respected as audacious and intelligent. He attended formal intelligence training in the Soviet Union and served as a member of Havana’s Exterior Relations Commission.
In 1961, he helped found the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), which he served with until 1975. For almost ten years, he led the MININT’s Technical Vice Ministry as Director of the DGI before subsequently heading the National Liberation Directorate (DLN). A 400-man element, previously assigned to the DGI, this entity oversaw support to foreign revolutionary movements. Over time, the DLN evolved into the Cuban Communist Party’s America Department, which Pineiro led for over 15 years.
In addition to his intelligence duties, Pineiro was a member of the 148-member Central Committee of Cuba’s Communist Party since its establishment on October 3, 1965.