Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Likely Received Special Attention
By Chris Simmons
The Directorate of Intelligence, Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service, spied on Terry McAuliffe before and during a four-day trade mission to Havana. The experienced politico undertook the trip in April 2010 as a personal quest to increase Cuban purchases of Virginia agricultural products.
Given the Directorate’s intimate understanding of the American political arena, it undoubtedly awarded McAuliffe a level of attention fair beyond normal business travelers since his return to politics was virtually assured. At the time of the Cuba visit, McAuliffe had recently failed in his 2009 gubernatorial bid. His earlier political efforts included running Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, service as DNC Chair (2001-2005) and co-chairing Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.
Cuban targeting was likely triggered by McAuliffe’s trip preparation. More specifically, his meetings with Jorge Bolaños, the “retired” spy who headed the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC from 2008-2012. The CIA identified Bolaños as a suspected intelligence officer in the early 1970s. More recently, former Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Lieutenant Juan Manuel Reyes Alonso confirmed Bolaños’ intelligence service. He also opined that Bolaños’ multiple ambassadorial tours suggest that at some point he began working his cover identity more than his intelligence mission.
However, Reyes Alonso also noted that Bolaños maintained close ties with staff members of two of Cuba’s five spy services as well as the Superior Institute of Intelligence (ISI), where the regime’s civilian intelligence officers are trained. The de facto ambassador was also a close friend of (then) ISI Director, Nestor Garcia Iturbe, one of the regime’s top experts in targeting Americans. Normally, Cuban diplomats distance themselves from intelligence services because such ties can cripple their careers when counterintelligence services suspect them of being intelligence collaborators or undercover officers.
Upon arrival in Cuba, McAuliffe met with the leadership of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade’s Empresa Comercializadora de Alimentos. Known as “ALIMPORT,” this government agency coordinates all overseas purchases and its director authorizes the import of products to Cuba. Significantly, the DI provides the ALIMPORT head and his staff with detailed biographical reporting on every member of a trade delegation, with emphasis on their personal strengths and weaknesses.
This sharing of biographic data with ALIMPORT “is a normal procedure of the Cuban Intelligence” according to Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, a former DI Major. Rodriguez Menier said the spy agency’s information is focused on any detail that can provide Havana an edge during negotiations with a foreign delegation.
His assessment is echoed by Reyes Alonso, who declared “Cuban Intelligence always does that with high government officials that will meet with foreigners, especially those coming from the US.” Having previously worked in the spy service’s “Science & Technology” department, Reyes Alonso told the Miami Herald earlier this year that the DI also recruited collaborators within ALIMPORT to “identify possible targets to do industrial and corporate espionage.”
McAuliffe and his entourage subsequently remained under Cuban Intelligence control when they stayed at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Featuring a staff rife with DI informants, the Hotel Nacional is known to be wired for video and audio surveillance of foreign guests.
Cuban Intelligence tradecraft also calls for recruitment efforts targeted against the close associates of important visitors. In this “one-off” technique, the DI or the Directorate of Counterintelligence seek individuals who – according to Reyes Alonso – “are usually more vulnerable, less visible and easier to follow up with at later times.” When successful, this approach provides indirect access to the targeted principal and opens the door for the new spy to follow their American mentor to higher positions in the future.
Agricultural Leaders Also Targeted
The Commonwealth’s food sales to Cuba have skyrocketed from $838,000 in 2003 to a record-setting $66 million in 2012. Virginia is now the second largest US exporter of agricultural products to the Caribbean island. As such, Cuba has also spied on Agriculture Secretary Todd Haymore and key members of the Farm Bureau, the USA Rice Federation, Purdue AgriBusiness, Smithfield Foods and Crown Orchards. Haymore – who, like McAuliffe, maintained a close working relationship with retired spy Jorge Bolaños — led his sixth annual trade mission to Cuba last November.
Editor’s Note: The author is internationally renowned as one of America’s foremost experts on Cuba’s intelligence services.
The republishing of this article is permissible if the author is acknowledged as the originator.