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

Hernandez had other personal issues to tackle involving his Key West agent, Antonio Guerrero (alias Lorient). Guerrero, who was employed as a sheet-metal worker at the Boca Chica U.S. naval air station, was requesting permission to advance his relationship with his girlfriend, a masseuse from Pennsylvania named Margaret Becker. "It is evident that there are three fundamental steps being discussed: (1) move into Maggie's house; (2) get married; (3) have a child. I am of the opinion ... that Lorient is ready to take the three steps, on the one hand to save the relationship but also out of consideration to Maggie and her well-being." Hernandez proceeded to weigh the pros and cons of the three options. He noted that Guerrero had lived alone for more than three years, "which by itself is very strange in this environment, especially in a young man. The tendency of everyone here, we have said it before, is to get together, at least with one other person to share expenses.... If you add this to the fact that he almost always sleeps with her (not doing so would make it even more abnormal), everything gets very strange in the eyes of friends and family and even the couple itself."

Of course as a single guy renting a cheap apartment in North Miami Beach, Hernandez had his own relationship woes. He was getting tired of bachelor life, especially when living on a shoestring. "If one had a larger budget for personal expenses, then maybe the solution would be to change relationships more frequently, but aside from other dangers, there aren't enough resources for that. Establishing and maintaining a relationship here costs a lot of money. Going out one night to a club costs you $50 easily, without eating. An alternative would be to find a woman who has all her papers taken care of and who has money besides, but this type of person has other aspirations, and they look for men with more money than they, new cars, et cetera."

It all led him to conclude that the Directorate of Intelligence should allow his wife to move from Cuba to Miami. "Logically the presence of my wife here would permit me to find at home everything that I have to go out to find. I suffer a big loss of time and energy from this, and it also to a certain degree disassociates me from my operational work, besides bringing with it risks to my health, my security, and my finances." Spies need lovin', too.

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
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

Hernandez also monitored his agents for any ideological infirmity. In a message to Havana in late September 1996, Hernandez reports that two of his operatives, Joseph and Amarylis Santos (alias Mario and Julia), were vexed at local reaction to a much publicized debate between Cuban American National Foundation chairman Jorge Mas Canosa and Cuba's foreign minister at the time, Ricardo Alarcon. "They can't explain why people here are saying that Mas Canosa had pulverized Alarcon, when the truth is that it was quite the opposite. I asked whether they had listened to [AM-radio talk show host Francisco] Aruca's program, in which he aired an hour of Alarcon's remarks on the debate. They said no. I told them that I had brought them a cassette recording of the program that I wanted them to listen to as soon as possible, because I had to take it to other comrades as well."

So boundless was his zeal it sometimes led him to tattle on his countrymen back home. While in Havana in early 1998, Hernandez encountered a taxi driver who was critical of Castro. The driver, who was stationed at a tourist hotel, complained the Cuban government had refused to allow him to obtain a large inheritance from a family member in Puerto Rico. Hernandez informed his supervisors. "He started to badmouth the commander [Castro] and the [revolutionary] process, saying that hopefully the pope's visit would improve things because things were real bad." Hernandez provided the driver's name and taxi number to the Directorate of Intelligence. "I was angry as hell to know that someone who sees so many tourists on a daily basis would express himself that way, because I can imagine that he will express himself to others as he had to me."

It wasn't just disgruntled Cubans who gave him trouble. Imperialist authorities were ever lurking. Once on his way back to Florida from Havana, he was traveling without a passport. Instead he was using a Puerto Rican driver license and a U.S. birth certificate, both in the name of Manuel Viramontez. From the Cuban capital he had flown to Cancún and then to Memphis, where he had to clear U.S. Customs. He would then fly to Tampa and take a bus to Miami. He took a place in line for a booth marked "U.S. Citizens."

Hernandez wrote about it in a report dated February 5, 1998. "The officer asked me for my passport while I was placing on the [counter] my driver's license and folded birth certificate. Without touching these he asked me again for my passport, and I told him I didn't have a passport, that I travel with those. He took both documents and looking at my license, asked me my name, residence, and length of time that I had been living there. When I answered, he asked me why I didn't have a passport. I answered that I had not obtained one, that I was coming from Mexico and that I didn't need one to go to Mexico. After this the man placed my documents aside on the table and told me to go to office number three.... I acted bothered, without exaggerating, and went to said office."

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