Longform

Inside the Wasp's Nest

Page 5 of 7

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.

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."

Hernandez had three long minutes to himself in the room before the officer came in and asked him where he had been born. "I told him in Cameron County, Texas, but my parents were Puerto Rican and I had lived there for a long time. That was why my English was not perfect, for which I apologized." In response to more questions, Hernandez said his father was dead and that his mother resides in Puerto Rico. "He took my driver's license and held it up to the light to check for watermark seals and asked me if I had any other identification. I opened the wallet I had in my hand and took out all the cards: a credit one, Costco, the J.C. Penney one, the language school one, the medical insurance ones that look real, et cetera. As I as was showing them to him, I told him I couldn't believe what was happening to me, that he could call any friend of mine, the school ... my work, or even my house where a recorder would answer with my voice, or my girlfriend in Mexico where I was coming from." Hernandez then pulled a photo album from a piece of carry-on luggage. The officer flipped through it. "Then he returned the album and the cards, put together my license and folded certificate. Taking these in one hand, he hit his other hand with them, shaking his head no. He left the office without saying anything."

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Kirk Nielsen
Contact: Kirk Nielsen