Today in History: Cuba Announced Unification of Nicaragua’s Sandinistas Reply

December 26, 1978:  Havana announced the unification of the three factions within the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN). In January 1979, the Sandinistas announced that they would increase their efforts against Somoza, specifically by increasing military operations against the National Guard and seek to occupy major towns. Subsequent negotiations between Castro, America Department (DA) officers, and FSLN factional leaders resulted in the formation of the FSLN’s National Directorate.

Editor’s Note: The America Department (DA) was the name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s. The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).

Today in History: Police Raid Exposed Cuban Ties to Honduran Guerillas 1

November 17, 1981:  Police raided a Tegucigalpa safe house of the Honduran Front for Popular Liberation (FHLP). Documents seized there revealed that the Nicaraguan Sandinistas created the FHLP and established its headquarters in Managua. FHLP members received their military training in both Nicaragua and Cuba. In a similar fashion, other Honduran guerrilla groups involved in aircraft hijackings and hostage-takings during the early 1980s received sanctuary in Cuba.

This Month in History: Senior Spy Appointed Ambassador to Manley’s Jamaica 2

July 1979:  Havana rewarded the success of career spy Armando Ulises Estrada Fernandez with  an appointment as Ambassador to Jamaica.  For the previous several years, Estrada, a Deputy Director in the America Department (DA) and one of Cuba’s best Central America specialists, had worked extensively to lead Havana’s Nicaraguan allies, the Sandinistas, into power.

Unfortunately for Estrada, Castro supporter Michael Manley lost Jamaica’s 1980 presidential elections in a landslide.  This shift in the political environment ultimately led to the two nations ending relations in late 1981.  Estrada was then reassigned as Cuba’s ambassador to South Yemen.

Editor’s Note:  The America Department (DA) was the name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s.  The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).

This Date in History: Legendary Cuban Spy Departs Nicaragua Reply

June 25, 1992:  Lieutenant Colonel Renan Montero Corrales [aka Andres Barahona Lopez], a member of the America Department (DA), left Nicaragua on the last “official” Cubana Airlines flight out of Nicaragua.

Montero was posted to Nicaragua in 1979 to lead the Fifth Directorate (aka Directorate V or VDIR) of the Sandinista’s General Directorate of State Security (DGSE).  Under Montero, the VDIR conducted Nicaragua’s foreign intelligence activities, influence operations, and monitored Managua’s overseas diplomats.  It had a staff of approximately 300-400 personnel.

Interior Minister Tomas Borge and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega both acknowledged that Montero headed the VDIR and worked under the direction of Borge and his deputy, Lenin Cerna.  In addition to his foreign intelligence responsibilities, a Spanish newspaper cited Montero as the Cuban ‘in charge of organizing the Sandinistas’ counterespionage unit.”  A declassified US intelligence report characterized him as “a legend among Cubans and Nicaraguans for his intelligence exploits.”

For his participation in the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Sandinistas awarded Montero the rank of Comandante in 1980. It is not clear whether this award was for his service from 1979-1980 or for some unidentified earlier period. Promoted to brigade commander in 1985, he fell ill three years later and was replaced by Comandante Jacinto Suarez-Espinosa. In 1989, Montero became the assistant to Defense Minister Humberto Ortega.

According to Sandinista defector Miguel Bolanos, Montero began working with the Sandinistas in the late 1960s.

Montero served as a consular officer in San Jose during the 1970s.  One of his duties was liaison with Sandinista military forces operating out of northern Costa Rica

During the mid-1960s, Montero operated in Bolivia, where he supported members of Che Guevara’s guerrilla column as they arrived.  There he served as the liaison between Havana and Guevara.

Note:  The “America Department (DA)” was the name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s. The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).