Falling Short in Understanding Cuban Intelligence: Part I in a Series 5

In “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” the newly released assessment by The University of Miami’s Cuba Transition Project, Dr. Brian Latell provides a breezy and very readable summary of Cuban Intelligence with two notable exceptions:

  1. The primary mission and target of Cuban Intelligence is incorrect.
  2. The number of Cuban operations known to have been destroyed/degraded by US Counterintelligence is grossly understated.

Today, I will address the first issue.   In “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” Latell claims the United States is “the raison d’être” of Cuban intelligence, according to still another experienced defector I interviewed.” 

In reality, the primary target of the Castro regime’s intelligence services are the Cuban people.  The core mission of its five-service Intelligence Community remains regime protection.    Maintaining domestic stability in support of government continuity is the overriding concern.  This is consistent with other totalitarian regimes and characterized by its two Counterintelligence services dominating the manpower of Cuba’s Intelligence Community.  The collection of intelligence on foreign enemies has remained second to domestic control and monitoring of the Cuban people.

Historically, Castro’s foreign intelligence services focused on the collection of intelligence on foreign enemies. Throughout the Cold War, these services were also viewed as primary tools “to export the Revolution.”  Currently, the United States is the regime’s sole foreign target. 

According to defector Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, the General Directorate of Counterintelligence (DGCI) [now called simply the Directorate of Counterintelligence (DCI)], has remained the most important intelligence service in revolutionary Cuba.  According to the Library of Congress, at its peak, the DGCI/DCI numbered 20,000 personnel.  However, as the Castro regime consolidated its domestic controls, the DGCI/DCI drew down.  At the time of Rodriguez Menier’s 1987 defection, its manpower had declined to roughly 3,000 personnel.  

Likewise, during the Cold War, the Cuban Military’s Counterintelligence service (CIM) was reportedly as large as the DGCI/DCI.  However, during the 1990s, armed forces manning was slashed by an estimated 53 percent.  This likely led to similar manpower cuts in the CIM.  Despite these losses, according to defectors and émigrés, the CIM still reportedly numbers several thousand personnel. 

In stark contrast to Havana’s robust Counterintelligence organizations, its three foreign intelligence services, the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM), and the intelligence wing of the Cuban Communist Party number less than 3,300 total personnel.

Latell’s error has been to focus overwhelmingly on the DI, rather than examine Cuba’s entire “intelligence machine.”  Additionally, his research is further undermined by excessive reliance of DI defectors.  The US has been blessed with an abundance of Cuban defectors and émigrés, many of which can and have provided ample insights into the inner workings of regime intelligence.  This information is further enhanced by intelligence provided by defectors from Cuba’s Cold War allies.   Successful US Counterintelligence investigations and operations have also produced a veritable treasure trove of information on Havana’s “intelligence machine.”  For example, government holdings from the Wasp Network alone are said to number roughly 100,000 pages. 

Brian Latell has devoted his life to providing valuable insights into regime dynamics in general and the Castro brothers in particular.  That said, when it comes to Cuba’s spy services, I fear he has stepped outside his realm of expertise.

See his assessment, “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” here:  The July 2012 Latell Report

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