Cuba Replaces Spy-Diplomat Who Directed US Relations Within Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2

DI Officer Josefina Vidal

Cuba Replaces Official Who Led Talks to Resume Ties with U.S.

HAVANA, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) — The Cuban government has replaced Josefina Vidal, head of U.S. relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who chaired the island’s delegation during the talks to restore formal ties with the U.S.

A government statement published on Monday announced that Vidal‘s position will be taken by the “experienced diplomat” Carlos Fernandez de Cossio.

“Fernandez de Cossio is one of the most complete Cuban diplomats,” said Johana Tablada, the deputy head of U.S. relations, on Twitter.

A former ambassador to Canada and South Africa, Fernandez de Cossio already held this position at the U.S. office during the 1990s, at a time of great tension between Washington and Havana.

According to the statement, Vidal handed over her duties to Fernandez de Cossio on Feb. 9 after a formal ceremony.

“In her almost 12 years at the Directorate-General of the U.S. Office, Josefina Vidal carried out her complex job with efficiency, talent and sensibility,” read the statement.

Josefina Vidal was considered the Cuban face of the long process of negotiations that concluded in the restoration of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations in August 2015.

After 54 years of political enmity, respective embassies in Havana and Washington were re-opened, and former president Barack Obama visited the Caribbean nation in March 2016.

However, relations have soured once again since President Donald Trump promised to roll back formal ties “in search of a better deal with Havana.”

Thus, Fernandez de Cossio returns to his previous office in similar conditions to those he had to deal with two decades ago.

The statement did not clarify what functions Vidal will be taking on.

Editor’s Note: Career Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal, expelled from the US in 2003, is one of Havana’s premier experts in US affairs. Numerous accounts of her DI service can be found in the Cuba Confidential archives.

DI officer Johanna Tablada concluded her tour as Cuba’s ambassador to Portugal in late 2017. She is suspected of being assigned to Department M-I, the elite element focused on targeting the US intelligence community, universities, and Congress.

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EXCLUSIVE: Senior Cuban Spies Leading “Normalization” Talks With US 12

Josefina Vidal

Josefina Vidal

Gustavo Machin

Gustavo Machin

Josefina Vidal Expected Choice as Cuban Ambassador to US

By Chris Simmons

Two career Cuban spies, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro and Gustavo Machin Gomez, will lead this week’s migration and normalization discussions with the United States. The pair are members of Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service – the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), and serve as Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the North American Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX).  This is Machin’s second time in the Division, having served as Deputy Chief in 2003 and Division Chief from 2004-2005.

As Havana’s lead “diplomats” on U.S.-Cuban relations, they handled the Alan Gross negations, the return of three of Havana’s jailed spies, and the artificial insemination of DI officer Adriana Perez O’Connor (wife of freed spy Gerardo Hernandez). Perez herself was a member of the Wasp Network – the largest Cuban spy ring ever known to operate in the US. Incidentally, when details are eventually released regarding the Obama administration’s secret talks to restore US-Cuba relations, Vidal and Machin will undoubtedly be at the center of events.

From the DI’s perspective, MINREX’s North America Division is now seen as a de facto wing of the spy service. This assignment is so important that three former members were appointed to ambassadorships. Now we are witnessing the unprecedented return of Ambassador Gustavo Machin to serve as Josefina Vidal’s deputy. Given this pattern of events, I think it’s fairly safe to say Vidal is Raul Castro’s choice to be the first Cuban Ambassador to the United States.

Espionage Backgrounds

Little is publicly known about Vidal’s espionage career.  In May 2003, the US expelled 14 Cuban diplomats for espionage. Seven diplomats were based at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and seven at the Interests Section. Among the seven Washington-based spies declared Persona Non Grata was First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez PereraHis wife, First Secretary Josefina Vidal, also known to the US as a Cuban Intelligence Officer, voluntarily accompanied her expelled spouse back to Cuba.

Previously, Vidal’s lone known success was her support to the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); in particular, Julia E. Sweig, a CFR Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Latin America Program. In her book, Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground, Sweig profusely thanked six Cuban spies for assisting her with her research. The six intelligence officers were Jose Antonio Arbesu, Ramon Sanchez Parodi, Fernando Garcia Bielsa, Hugo Yedra, Jose Gomez Abad and Josefina Vidal.

The son of a revolutionary hero, Gustavo Machin Gomez, was expelled in November 2002 in retaliation for the Ana Belen Montes case. In 2003, he was Deputy Director of MINREX’s North America Division and Chief the following year. In 2006, he was appointed Cuba’s first ambassador to Pakistan, where he is believed to have targeted US counterterrorism operations in the region. He then returned home to head the International Press Center before his current assignment.

DI officer Johanna Tablada preceded Machin in his second tour as Deputy Division Chief before her appointment as ambassador to Portugal.  She was suspected of being assigned to Department M-I, the elite element focused on targeting the US intelligence community, universities, and Congress.

Eduardo Martinez Borbonet previously assisted Vidal as a Counselor in the North America Division.  In November 2011, two weeks after a landslide victory propelled longtime Havana-ally Daniel Ortega into a controversial third term, he became Havana’s ambassador to Nicaragua.

In late December 1998, First Secretary Martinez Borbonet was expelled for his involvement in the South Florida based Wasp Network.  The diplomat-spy served at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations (CMUN), the traditional hub for Havana’s US-based espionage operations. He had arrived approximately eight years earlier as a lowly Third Secretary.