Respected Defector Exposes Cuba’s Intelligence Presence in Cold War Ecuador 4

Legendary Cuban Spy-Master, Manuel Pineiro Losada

Legendary Cuban Spy-Master, Manuel Pineiro Losada

By Chris Simmons

Former Dirección General De Inteligencia (DGI) officer Enrique García Diaz reports that prior to the 1979 re-establishment of diplomatic ties, Cuban intelligence maintained three positions in Quito. DGI officer Boris Castillo Barroso held a position in the Latin America Energy Organization (OLADE), while Luis Enrique Benites Montero “Enrique” and Javier Buduen Martinez “Miguel Angel” served undercover with the Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para América Latina (CIESPAL).

When official ties between the two nations warmed, the Cuban Embassy was allowed to re-open on August 24, 1979. Thereafter, Castillo established the DGI Centro within the safety of Havana’s diplomatic facility. He would later be assisted by Commercial Attaché and fellow DGI officer Roberto Oliva, whom the CIA took note of in December 1981.

Oliva is a likely match for Roberto Oliva Ibarra, a Cuban official assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) who served as a representative to the United Nation’s Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during the latter half of the 1970s.

García Diaz said another spy assigned to the very small Embassy was Prensa Latina Correspondent and Departamento America (DA) asset Oscar Perdomo Marin, first posted to Ecuador in June 1974. Perdomo’s DA affiliation meant he worked targets and responsibilities outside the control of the DGI Centro. The Venezuelan asset was a friend of legendary Cuban spymaster Manuel Piñeiro Losada. During the early 1980s, Perdomo’s boss in Havana was the DA’s South America Section Chief, Jose Miguel Guerra Diaz, who also personally directed DA operations in Ecuador.

Relations between Quito and Havana were downgraded to a Chargé d’affaires in April 1981. A Chargé is the lowest rank of diplomatic representative recognized under international law. José Francisco Ross Paz arrived that July as the Chargé, only to be identified by the Washington Times as a DA officer on August 25, 1983.

The second DGI Centro Chief in Ecuador was Hermes Cachon Gacita noted García Diaz. He reportedly arrived in Quito in 1983 for a three year posting using a non-traditional cover assignment. Roughly concurrent with the change in Centro Chiefs was the return of Javier Buduen Martinez, this time as Commercial Attaché. Other newcomers included Buduen’s wife “Elvirita” and Luis Enrique Benites Montero, who took Castillo’s former position in OLADE.

Ambassadorial-level relations were re-established on January 24, 1984 and DGI Officer Carlos Rafael Zamora Rodriguez was immediately assigned as ambassador.  He was accompanied by his spy-wife, Maura Juan Perez. Shortly thereafter, Guerra Diaz, the former DA Section Chief for South America, arrived in Ecuador as the new First Secretary. Two years later, the DGI Centro welcomed Nelson Quesada (Carlos Alfonso) and Ricardo Cruz Fernandez (Max).

Ambassador Zamora and his wife remained in Ecuador until 1989. Public records show by the year 2000, he was Havana’s Ambassador to Panama and several years later became the regime’s Ambassador to Brazil, a position he held until 2013.

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.