Everywhere in the world the communist Castro dictatorship has an embassy or consulate, it is staffed by spies. Their job is to destabilize democracies, attack their enemies, and help their Chinese and Russian allies. That is the case in Canada, where the Cuban regime runs a significant espionage operation hosted by Canada, which enjoys a friendly relationship with the Castro dictatorship.
It is not all that different in the United States. Cuban spies are crawling all over Washington, D.C. and New York, as well as major cities across America. Even Miami has a large contingent of Cuban spies living among the Cuban exile community. And they all have the same mission: destroy democracy and their enemies. Keep this in mind the next time someone tells you we should be like Canada and embrace Cuba’s communist dictatorship.
The Havana spies in Canada
The opening between the United States and Cuba that culminated in President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016 began with very secret talks and negotiations in Canada. However, the machinery of infiltration and destabilization by the Cuban regime never stopped spying, infiltrating, and destabilizing “friendly” countries like Canada.
The recent arrest of former U.S. diplomat Víctor Manuel Rocha for spying for Cuba over decades sent shockwaves through the iceberg that was the sonic attack on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana. These activities began only a few months after Obama’s historic visit to Cuba.
Attacking Canada, a significant trade and tourism partner for Cuba that does not support the U.S. embargo, might seem illogical. However, there is a rationale behind it. China and Russia did not favor an opening that could lead to losing Cuba as a valuable geopolitical ally. The Cuban dictatorship has always been ready for “silent war” against the United States and has been an international spearhead for the Chinese and Russians.
China’s interference in elections and the establishment of extraterritorial police stations in the United States and Canada lead it to use Cubans as mercenaries in its asymmetric warfare campaigns, including cyber warfare, to evade ongoing rigorous investigations. Meanwhile, Russia, engaged in the war against Ukraine, seeks to intimidate both North American countries.
Canada, being the best ally of the United States and a neighbor on its northern border, has always been a strategic target for Cuban espionage. The Cuban Intelligence Directorate, DI (formerly known as the General Directorate of Intelligence, DGI) of the Ministry of the Interior, MININT, is constantly monitored by Canadian counterintelligence services. History shows that its officers and agents are detected, infiltrated, and neutralized in Canada.
The following is a small sample of DI officers who have been detected and neutralized in Canada.
One of the most notable cases was in the mid-1980s when Argentine journalist Alberto Rabilotta, based in Montreal, Quebec since 1970, was accused by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of being a paid agent of the DGI and the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina. His role was to cover up Cuban agents’ operations, and Prensa Latina had served as a conduit in the 1970s to finance separatist terrorist groups in Quebec.
Lieutenant Colonel Roberto Carbajal Acebal, a DGI officer, directed penetration and disinformation operations against the Cuban exile community from the DI’s Q-2 Department in Montreal. The RCMP neutralized him.
In November 1992, former DGI officers Florentino Aspillaga and Enrique García publicly revealed a long list of DGI officers worldwide and the locations where they operated. The event took place at my residence in Montreal, Canada, attended by journalists from various Canadian and U.S. media outlets.
Among the more than a thousand denounced DGI officers and collaborators, Orlando Brito Pestana stood out. He was in charge of the Intelligence Center at the Cuban consulate in Montreal and operated under diplomatic cover.
Two years later, the DGI decided to launch an attack to neutralize my actions against the Fidel Castro regime, and Consul Adelfo Martín was assigned to carry out the operation.
I was invited to the Consulate General of Cuba in Montreal, supposedly to participate in a future meeting in Havana known as the “Nation and Emigration” gatherings. It was the debut of a new tool by MININT to divide and discredit the Cuban exile community.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had warned me not to participate or enter the consulate, as they knew the DGI considered me an enemy. Nonetheless, I attended the meeting. Martín conducted the meeting, and I was received in a spacious room at the consulate, where cigarettes, Johnnie Walker, and coffee were offered.
In what was purported to be a “private” conversation, I was told I could freely participate in the event on any topic I wished to discuss. However, it was all a lie, and everything was recorded behind a mirror. Months later, a supposed dissident sent a well-edited video to Miami attempting to tarnish my image as a fighter against the Cuban dictatorship.
The plan failed miserably, and Miami media mocked the operation. CSIS took action since a diplomatic venue had been used to compromise, blackmail, and extort dissidents and opponents, and I was a Canadian citizen.
The Canadian reaction had incredible results that, over time, linked three DGI officers in the most unexpected way.
Orlando Brito Pestana, whom Enrique García had denounced as an official of the DGI, was expelled from Canada along with Consul Martín, the author of the manipulated video. They were replaced by two young diplomats, Julio Cesar Oliva Perdueles as consul and Ramón Hurtado as vice-consul.
Although not on García’s list, they encountered an unpleasant surprise. José Cohen, another high-ranking DGI officer, had escaped from Cuba on a raft in August 1994 after collaborating with the CIA in Havana for several years. He brought new information identifying them as DGI officers.
Thus, they were expelled from Canada along with Julio Concepción González and their respective families. Simultaneously, CSIS took the opportunity to clean up the Cuban embassy in Ottawa and sent DGI officer Raúl Rodríguez Averhoff, who served as the Third Secretary, back to Cuba. In total, six DGI officers were expelled following the failed Montreal video operation.
The Cuban regime was not intimidated and continued its attacks in Canada, sending ambassadors closely linked to intelligence. First, they sent Carlos Fernández de Cossío (1999-2004), a man closely tied to the services who is now Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
From 2018 to 2021, Josefina Vidal, also Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, served as ambassador. Vidal had led the Department of the United States during the Obama rapprochement and the sonic attacks and is the wife of José Anselmo López Perera, who was expelled in 2003 while serving as consul in Washington for activities against the national security of the United States.
Today, facing new threats from Havana and the dangers faced by the democracies of the United States and Canada, it is extraordinary to see that three former officers who participated in the battles against Cuban espionage in Canada—Enrique García, Orlando Brito, and José Cohen—have jointly signed a document with three other prominent defectors from the Cuban regime, calling for an end to the Cuban dictatorship.
Antonio Tang is a Cuban-Canadian private investor. He exiled to Canada in 1981 and has been a prominent activist for the freedom of Cuba.