How can the Cuban government, all but obsessive about its need for secrecy, protect the privacy of the cellphone used by one of Fidel Castro’s best-known sons?
And how can it prevent embarrassing leaks when it needs to send a camera crew into Havana prisons to shoot a film promoting the high quality of its prison labor?
Both those questions may have been answered after a German newspaper reported earlier this month that furniture giant IKEA had contracted for Cuban prison labor to make thousands of sofas and tables in 1987.
The report lifted part of the veil of secrecy that the communist government has long cast over information from economic data to the details of the emergency surgery that led Castro to pass power to brother Raúl in 2006.
Cuba’s side of the IKEA deal was identified as EMIAT, an import-export firm owned by the Interior Ministry, in charge of national security. MININT runs two of Cuba’s key spy agencies, the Directorates of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
EMIAT also is the owner of record of the cellphone number used by Fidel Castro’s son, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, in 2009, according to a once-secret list of more than 70,000 telephone numbers for important government officials and offices.
The list shows 1,543 numbers assigned to EMIAT. It does not list Antonio Castro’s name, but does include his cell number and the notation: “Client Classification: Especial Services Defense.”
Miami blogger Luis Dominguez obtained the number when he passed himself off as a Colombian woman on the Internet and flirted for eight months with Castro, a physician well known for his involvements with Cuba’s baseball teams.
The cell numbers for two of Fidel Castro’s less well-known sons were also on the list, but without the secrecy. Alejandro Castro Soto del Valle was listed under his own name, and Alex was listed as “Alex Castro Soto del Valle MININT.”
The list of sensitive numbers was briefly published, accidentally or on purpose, on the Web pages of Cuba’s state-run telephone monopoly, ETECSA, a few years back. Dominguez and others made copies before it was removed.
A man who answered Antonio Castro’s cell number Thursday said “He’s no longer here” and hung up. There’s been no indication that Castro had any business dealings with EMIAT or IKEA. El Nuevo Herald calls to EMIAT offices in Havana seeking comment were cut off when the caller identified himself.
“The Cuban government tries to hide all the information, but in the age of the Internet it can’t do that well at all,” said Dominguez, whose Web page, Secretos de Cuba, publishes the private telephone numbers and addresses of government officials.
An Internet report on the IKEA deal for Cuban prison labor also led a defector from the film section of MININT’s Counterintelligence Directorate (DCI) now living in Florida to contact El Nuevo Herald last week.
His DCI bosses ordered him to shoot a 10-minute film showing the high quality of the manufacturing shops at the Combinado del Este prison for men and Manto Negro prison for women, both in Havana, in 1986 or 1987, the defector said in an interview.
A DCI camera crew was put on the job because it could be trusted to keep quiet about what it saw or heard in the prisons, he added. Cuba does not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit its estimated 200 prisons.
“If they had sent in a regular government film crew, the word would have been all over Cuba the next day,” said the man, who provided evidence of his MININT work but asked to remain anonymous for personal reasons.
The defector said his crew — two cameramen and one person who handled lighting —shot for several days as male prisoners made furniture, like stools with designs burned into the leather, and women inmates sewed jeans and made tourist-type handicrafts.
Prison factories throughout the island are run by Provari, a firm also owned by MININT that makes everything from clay and cement building blocks to playpens and insecticides, El Nuevo reported earlier this month.