By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com
Cuban blogger Ernesto Vera Rodriguez thought he had a scoop: Exiles in Miami had cut off funds to the island’s most active opposition group in recent months, the Cuban Patriotic Union, UNPACU.
But the report was a fake, concocted by UNPACU leaders in a rare effort to unmask government agents infiltrated into the ranks of the opposition. And Vera, who claims to be a dissident, was the first to publish it. But he insists that he has no connection with State Security.
“It was a hook, to see who would bite,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer, UNPACU’s Miami representative and brother of José Daniel Ferrer, who heads the opposition group from his home in the eastern Cuban town of Palmarito de Cauto.
More importantly, Luis Enrique Ferrer added, the fishing expedition was also an attempt to hit back at State Security, the branch of the Interior Ministry that monitors, harasses, intimidates and arrests dissidents.
State Security agents have repeatedly infiltrated and at times even created opposition groups to disrupt their plans, embarrass their leaders and sow mistrust.
Infiltrators “cause more damage within the opposition than even the active repression,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer. “They are more damaging because they create mistrust and discredit the opposition inside the country.”
The Ferrer brothers’ scam was revealed Friday by Cuban journalist Michel Suarez in Diario de Cuba (Cuba Diary), a Web page based in Spain.
El Nuevo Herald spoke to the people involved and confirmed the details in Suarez’s story.
Luis Enrique Ferrer told El Nuevo that he and his brother arranged the sting using secret email accounts and a code they developed when they were held in separate prisons from 2003 to 2010.
Then in mid-September they talked about the fake report over a telephone line. It went like this: The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) had stopped its financial support for UNPACU in favor of the dissident Ladies in White.
They were certain that State Security agents would listen in on all of their conversations.
About three days later, on Sept. 17, Vera posted the report on his eponymous blog. “It is not a rumor; it is not a joke. This information was confirmed by various people, all of them human rights activists with access to CANF leaders,” he wrote.
Vera, who lives in Santiago de Cuba, near Palmarito de Cauto, insists he obtained his “completely true” report from “reliable sources.”
“I don’t have any type of link with State Security,” he told El Nuevo Herald Friday by phone from Cuba.
At the same time Vera published his “scoop,” State Security Maj. Luis Plutín, in charge of the Santiago region, began telling area dissidents that CANF would no longer provide them with assistance, said José Daniel 0Ferrer.
Omar Lopez Montenegro, who handles human rights issues for CANF, said there was no truth at all to Vera’s report. “He got that information from the intelligence services of Cuba,” Lopez said. “The assistance is being maintained.”
The Ferrers were not surprised that Vera, a lawyer in his early 30s, bit on their bait because they have denounced him as an infiltrator many times over the past year or so.
Although he sometimes criticizes the government, the vast majority of Vera’s blog posts attack UNPACU, José Daniel Ferrer and the Ladies in White.
Luis Enrique Ferrer also noted there were others who echoed Vero’s report.
Percy Alvarado Godoy, confirmed by the Cuban government as an intelligence agent who infiltrated CANF in the 1990s, wrote in his blog on Sept. 20 that Vero’s report showed the “terrorist” CANF had broken with the “delinquent” José Daniel Ferrer.
In Miami, Edmundo Garcia, who runs the pro-Castro blog La Tarde se Mueve (The Afternoon Moves) also repeated the Vera report. So did Aldo Rosado-Tuero, of the blog Nueva Accion (New Action). He is a harsh critic of both the Cuban government and dissidents.
“It was like they were in the same orchestra, playing the same rhythm,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer.
UNPACU, currently the most visible and pugnacious of Cuba’s dissident movements, has been targeted for several destabilization efforts by government agents in recent months.
Sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003, José Daniel Ferrer was freed in 2011 following talks between Cuban President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega. While most of the more than 100 other political prisoners freed at that time, including his brother, went directly from prison to exile in Spain, Ferrer stayed in Cuba and founded UNPACU.