Inside the Wasp's Nest

In the cloak-and-dagger world of a Cuban chief spook, Puerto Rican music magazines, wet beepers, and pregnancies can cause unexpected turbulence

The pensive operative also had to prepare to play the role of another Puerto Rican, one named Daniel Cabrera, his escape identity. To help him in this effort, Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence had provided Hernandez with a fraudulent U.S. passport, a U.S. Social Security card, and a Puerto Rican driver license in Daniel Cabrera's name. Along with it was yet another detailed legend. "After assuming the new identity, he must attempt to leave the country, as quickly as possible.... Avoid airports in New York, Washington, Miami, and Los Angeles. These are among airports with the tightest security in the U.S. They are not to be used upon initiating escape plan travel." Option number one called for proceeding to another state by land, taking a flight to San Antonio, crossing the Mexican border at Juarez, then traveling by bus or plane to Mexico City. A second option was to fly to Nicaragua from another state. Another possibility was to cross the U.S.-Canadian border by land. "Once in Buffalo, try reaching Canada via Niagara Falls at the border crossing at Rainbow Bridge."

But Hernandez didn't get to play Daniel Cabrera.

An FBI surveillance shot of Ramon Labañino and Remijio Luna, who eluded capture
An FBI surveillance shot of Ramon Labañino and Remijio Luna, who eluded capture
An FBI agent snapped this photo of Fernando Gonzalez and Hernandez on a stroll in Miami in January 1998
An FBI agent snapped this photo of Fernando Gonzalez and Hernandez on a stroll in Miami in January 1998

Just playing Gerardo Hernandez the spy, and not getting caught, was challenging enough. By 1995 he had gained a reputation among some of his colleagues in the Cuban intelligence service for being a tad absent-minded. One seized document refers to a mishap Hernandez had with his secret computer program during a 1995 trip to Mexico. The message was signed "Amador," apparently the name of someone at the Directorate of Intelligence in Havana. It was sent to Horacio, a code name for Ricardo Villareal, another Wasp Network supervisor who worked alongside Hernandez before moving to another assignment (and avoiding arrest). In the message Amador relays instructions from the "technical department": Spies are to use a new computer program and under no circumstances use the one they had been using. That is because Hernandez reported that thieves had taken his computer. "As you should know," Amador wrote, "when Giro [Gerardo] went to Mexico, his set was stolen (now I really don't know if they were stolen or if he lost them)."

Meanwhile back in Miami, Hernandez was having pager problems as well. A few months earlier he had gone to great lengths to find a beeper store that didn't require him to use his name on the application. He used some brilliant subterfuge. "I visited several beeper stores before going to the place where I ended up buying it," he informed. "Based on the legend that I had prepared for this, I was looking for a place that was neither too expensive nor too cheap, and employed by men. Believe it or not, all the stores I went to had at least one female employee." But one day he located a Beepermania store that was staffed only by a young male clerk. "I told him [the beeper] wasn't for me ... but for a female. The guy gave me the prices and an application form to fill out. I told him that I was going to pay for the entire year and immediately asked whether it had to be in my name or if I could use hers, making clear that I was getting a beeper for a woman that I wanted to keep in touch with who wasn't my wife but an affair. He said that I could use her name, and while I looked over the requirements on the form, I told him that I'd have to return because I didn't have her driver's license number. The guy openly said that if I was going to pay for the entire year, I could fill out the information I knew and that I shouldn't worry about the rest." On the application he jotted a woman's name and the telephone number of a motel in Hollywood. "The beeper and service came out to $145.99 for the year."

But now he had an operational setback to report. "In previous mailings I advised that I had purchased a beeper," Hernandez wrote to his chief at the Directorate of Intelligence, Edgardo Delgado Rodriguez. "What happened was that I got into the [apartment] building pool one day and forgot that my beeper was in one of my shorts pockets. And it drowned."

His own writings reveal Captain Hernandez was hawkish and ruthless vis-à-vis the enemy but loving and nurturing toward his own. When the Directorate of Intelligence began considering "operational marriages," Hernandez backed the policy, under which a spy could tell his wife about his real job and allow her to live in the same country as her husband. Indeed in December of 1996, Rene Gonzalez was joined by his wife, Olga, and their young daughter, who had been living in Havana. Olga was to support her husband's undercover work as a member of anti-Castro groups such as Brothers to the Rescue and the Democracy Movement, and as an FBI informant. Hernandez counseled the couple during a March 1997 meeting with Gonzalez, a now pregnant Olga (code name Ida), and their daughter (code name Idita). The routine encounter was to take place at the Canton Restaurant at 8565 SW 24th St. "There was no indication of enemy activity detected around them," Hernandez wrote, "so I let the comrades see me, and they headed towards the restaurant." He continued: "The meeting with the comrades was very cordial, and the topic of the baby dominated it. I asked her to tell me how things were going, and she talked quite a bit about it. It has been a good pregnancy, and she is due towards the end of April or early May. They did an ultrasound, but they have not said anything to the family yet because they want it to be a surprise." He then reported that according to Ida, their other daughter was jealous of the baby. "I told her this was normal because up till now she has been the center of attention and now she is going to be taken off her pedestal.' But in my opinion they should handle the situation very tactfully from now on so she does not become even more jealous."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets