July 9, 2014

Cuban ‘dissident’ says he was really an infiltrator

Lawyer Ernesto Vera said his main task was to attack and sow discord within two key Cuban opposition groups on the island.

A Cuban lawyer has confessed that he was a State Security collaborator for the four years he spent portraying himself as a dissident and harshly attacking two of the country’s most active opposition groups.

Ernesto Vera, 34, had been accused of being a collaborator last year, but his confession cast a rare spotlight on how State Security agents recruit informants and pay them thousands of dollars to discredit dissidents and generate rivalries among them.

Vera also pointed a finger at five other Cubans who in his view have been suspiciously critical of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White, the largest and most aggressive dissident groups on the communist-ruled island.

“My mission within State Security was to disparage and discredit UNPACU, especially its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, and the Ladies in White,” Vera told el Nuevo Herald by phone Wednesday from his home in the eastern city of Santiago De Cuba.

But he said he sat for a 44-minute video taped confession to Ferrer earlier this month because he was “disgusted with so many lies, the double life and faking a friendly relationship with people I hated so much.”

The two men shook hands at the end of the video.

State Security began the slow work of recruiting him as “Agent Jorge” after he was fired as a law professor at a medical school in Santiago, he said. Until then, he had been only on the periphery of dissident groups.

People who identified themselves as dissidents arranged to meet him in public places. But they were State Security agents and their meetings were videotaped — recordings then used to blackmail him into becoming an informant in 2010, Vera said. They also threatened to kill his mother and make it look like an accident unless he cooperated.

“I am ashamed to say I was a coward,” he told el Nuevo Herald, confirming that he had recorded the talk with Ferrer and written a three-page confession dated July 5 and published Tuesday by UNPACU.

“All of my attacks on José Daniel Ferrer and the Ladies in White were ordered by State Security,” he said. They were part of a one-two punch, “to discredit the dissidents and lessen the impact of the repression when it came.”

The lawyer said he falsely accused Ferrer of stealing money sent by supporters abroad and abusing his wife. He and another infiltrator also sparked the biggest schism within the Ladies in White, causing about 30 members in Santiago to break with the main group.

Vera said he wrote the attacks with information and photos provided by State Security Col. Ernesto Samper. He was paid several thousand dollars over four years so he could send his columns abroad via the Internet, which costs $6 to $10 per hour in Cuba.

He said Samper also gave him specific instructions to send his columns attacking UNPACU and the Ladies in White to Miami exile Aldo Rosado Tuero, administrator of the anti-Castro blog Nueva Accion, and assured him that Rosado would publish them.

Rosado, a steadfast critic of Ferrer and longtime radical opponent of the Castro government, said Wednesday that he was not a Cuban agent and accused Ferrer and Vera of joining forces with State Security to attack him.

Vera’s confession was not a surprise because Ferrer had unmasked him in October with hard evidence. State Security is known to target almost every dissident group on the island nation for infiltration and has even reportedly started a few.

One knowledgeable Miami exile said he was concerned with Vera’s identification of other agents of State Security, also known as G2. “The guy who says he was G2 now can say someone else is G2 and create a lot of problems,” said the author. He asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Vera said he began distancing himself from State Security about one year into his work as a collaborator, refusing to submit written reports, then missing scheduled meetings with his handlers and refusing to write more attack columns.

Over the past two years, he suffered bouts of depression, he said. And State Security officials told him they knew that he was really opposed to the Castro government but didn’t care as long as he kept writing his attack columns.

He finally broke with State Security earlier this year, after delivering an open letter to the Venezuelan embassy in Havana condemning the harsh crackdown on anti-government protesters in the oil-rich nation that left more than 40 dead.

“For four years my life has been a constant suffering,” he wrote in the letter, published by UNPACU. “I should have been brave, should have confronted the repression in all its harshness. But I lacked the fuel that heroes have in surplus.”

He is afraid of government retaliation against him or his mother for his confession, Vera wrote. “I hold the Castro regime responsible for anything that could happen to my family.”

But he has decided “to work 100 percent for the democracy of my country without giving in to pressures or blackmail,” he said. He has been in talks with Ferrer for about a month and hopes to work as a legal adviser to UNPACU, he added.

Ferrer, who spent eight years in prison and was freed in 2011, praised Vera for publicly confessing his work as an infiltrator and said it showed the perfidy of the government.

“The government says we’re tiny groups always fighting with each other,” he said. “But then it puts us in jail and sends infiltrators to sow discord among us precisely because of our strong work for democracy.”

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