For the first time since 2003, the Cuban government has revealed the identities of agents it had placed in and around the dissident movement.
A new Cuban television documentary shows, as Prensa Latina puts it, that two Cubans “inserted themselves into the circles of the counterrevolutionary groups and were able to show United States plans to attempt to destabilize the country from within.”
The documentary revealed the identities of the two government agents, Moises Rodriguez and Carlos Serpa. Serpa’s activities were more recent and get more prominent coverage. He acted as an independent journalist, regularly covering demonstrations of the Damas de Blanco in Havana.
The documentary featuring Rodriguez and Serpa is on YouTube in two parts, and for everyone’s convenience there’s a version with English subtitles: part 1 and part 2. Juventud Rebelde has an interview with Serpa, also with an English translation, here.
To state security, Serpa is known as agent Emilio. The interview is headlined, “There will always be an Emilio,” which I suppose Cubans can take as a sentimental statement, or as a warning.
In the interview, Serpa lists his activities. He was National Coordinator, Julio Tang Texier Cultural and Civic Project; Director, Ernest Hemingway Independent Library; Director, Union of Free Journalists of Cuba, which he describes as having six members; Representative of Brigada 2506; Correspondent, Misceláneas de Cuba; Spokesman and Director, Frente Nacional de Resistencia y Desobediencia Cívica; and National Liaison for “presumptive opposition governments,” an operation run from Puerto Rico.
About the dissidents, the documentary asserts that they don’t represent anyone, they are guided from abroad, they are interested in money, and they are interested in leaving Cuba by claiming they are persecuted and getting a U.S. refugee visa. Many have argued that the refugee program drains the country of opposition activists, but an interior ministry official in the documentary argues that it fuels dissident activity. Refugee applicants, her argument goes, need to show a record of activity and government repression against them.
I’ll note two items in the documentary. In part 1, there is a scene (16:25) where the Damas de Blanco arrive at a prison gate and the leader, Laura Pollan, reports by cell phone that the prison guards are running toward them. The camera shows otherwise. In part 2, Serpa speaks to the camera (4:00) as if addressing a small group. He says he is going to manufacture a news story on Radio Marti. He calls Radio Marti and claims he was detained, threatened, and released. The story aired on Radio Marti last May 4; the documentary claims it aired 90 minutes after the phone call. Serpa uses the episode to argue that Radio Marti does not verify reports that come from single sources.
Other videos: Serpa appearing by phone on the Miami program A Mano Limpia with Oscar Haza, December 11, 2009, to describe repression against the Damas de Blanco, and his on-the-scene audio report, same subject, December 9, 2009, to the Directorio Democratico Cubano in Miami (video here).
As in previous cases of other agents posing as activists or independent journalists, there was an apparent effort to build Serpa’s credibility by showing that the government was after him:
- A Cubanet interview in 2002 with Serpa, following news that Serpa had been “the victim of acts of repression.” The interview was conducted by Manuel David Orrio, himself a state security agent who masqueraded as an independent journalist until 2003.
- A Cubanet report from 2002 on the arrest and “psychological tortures” applied to Serpa.
- A Cubanet report that Serpa was detained by police in December 2006.
- A Cubanet report from 2003 on a “late-night visit [to Serpa] from political police agent Vladimir Rodes La O,” who threatened Serpa with a 20-year prison sentence.
- A Cubanet report from 2010 about Serpa’s tribulations in trying to get film developed at a “Foto-Servi” store. According to reporter Aliomar Janjaque Chivaz, the manager told Serpa: “This establishment belongs to the Ministry of Interior and we will not permit you to develop photographs where the counterrevolutionary Damas de Blanco appear.” Serpa, Janjaque reports, said the manager’s statements were “ridiculous and desperate.”
[Juventud Rebelde photo of Serpa with U.S. diplomat Michael Parmly]
Update: An interview with Moises Rodriguez, agent “Vladimir,” appears in the March 1 Granma.
Several of the Damas de Blanco think Serpa wasn’t really an agent – he was a dissident who got cold feet (Europa Press).