Today in History: The Death of a Cuban Intelligence Legend 2

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.


  1. La muerte de Pineiro esta asociada a un cargamento de armas no autorizadas que tenia en su oficina del Departamento America, unos restos oseos traidos de Bolivia que el pretendia sorprender a su Comandante con la recuperacion de los huesos de Guevara y unas armas americanas que aparecieron en l;a represa la Guayaba al Oeste de La Habna y cerca del Punto Cero y Tropas Especiales, pero una vaca saco enredadando en sus patas los alambres de los baules del armamento que alli habia escondido Pineiro, luego al investigar el asunto, se supo que la numeracion de las armas correspondia con armas que pertenecian al Ministerio del Interior y habian sido entregadas al departamento America para su entrega a las Guerrillas del sur de Mexico , Chiapas en el ano 1999.
    El encargado de las entregas era el ultimo “marido” de Manuel Pineiro y trato de taparlo hasta el ultimo momento, pues este companero en sus viajes a Mexico gastaba el dinero en un Casino, la CI lo habia detectado y Fidel Castro para no hacer un escandalo del asunto, le quito el chofer y le prepararon el auto que manejaba para que fuera lo mas inseguro posible, su chofer se salvo pues le dieron vacaciones el dia anterio al “accidente”….el Director de Medicina Legal, Jorge Gonzalez estuvo involucrado en la muerte de Manolita Pineiro Lozada.
    Cada dia me convenzo mas y mas que los servicios de Inteligencia de EU cada vez estan mas desorientados de lo que sucede en Cuba, y lo mas interesante es que se niegan a saber …desgraciadamente para todos

  2. Pineiro was one of the Organizers of the training camps PETi1 and PETi2 in Sierra de los Organos Pinar del Rio where the Guerrillas were trained.He was very corrupt in Nature,according to those who dealt with him as well as ,the Organization he belonged to, the DA.

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