Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking intelligence official ever
to have defected from the Soviet bloc country of Romania. The CIA
described his cooperation as "an important and unique contribution
to the United States."
Who Is Raúl Castro?
A tyrant only a brother could love.
August 10, 2006
By Ion Mihai Pacepa
Fidel Castro may be on his deathbed. Or he's already gone.
Unfortunately, in the Communist countries of Latin heritage, the tyrants came
pairs - buy one, get one free. Communist Romania got Nicolae and Elena
Ceausescu. Cuba got Fidel and Raúl Castro. On Christmas Day 1989 the Romanians
themselves of both Ceausescus, and twelve years later Romania joined NATO.
Cuba will soon be left with one Castro, who is heir to the throne.
So who is Raúl Castro? While Western experts speculate that he may plan on
shifting Cuba toward collective leadership and democracy, that's nothing but
wishful thinking. To be sure, I wish they were right, but Raúl has transformed
a paradise on earth into a shambles, and there is good reason to believe that
he will turn Cuba into an even worse tyranny.
I met Raúl many times, both in Cuba and in Romania. He had coordinating responsibility
for the Cuban intelligence service (the Dirección General de Inteligencia, or
DGI), and in the early 1970s he entered into a drug venture with my former
service (the Departamentul de Informatii Externe ,or DIE). Whenever he was not
in Havana or Moscow, he was in Bucharest. We worked, talked, fished, and
snorkeled together. We challenged each other at the firing range; he was an
excellent shot. Together we raced our identical Alfa Romeo cars. I saw nothing
in him suggesting he might ever want to democratize Cuba.
Raúl was always under the influence -of alcohol and self-importance. My Cuban
intelligence counterpart in those days, Sergio del Valle, who was Raúl's
closest associate going back to their early days in the Sierra Maestra, used
to call his boss "Raúl the Terrible" in a semi-serious allusion to the first
Russian to crown himself tsar. Raúl was Cuba's uncrowned tsar - his official
title was "Maximum General." Fidel gave the speeches, hour after hour. Raúl
ran Cuba's economy, her foreign policy, her foreign trade, her justice system,
her jails, her tourism - even her hotels and her beaches.
Raúl is generally perceived as a colorless minister of defense, but he has also
been the brutal head of one of Communism's most criminal institutions: the
Cuban political police. I met him in that capacity. He was cruel and ruthless.
Fidel may have conceived the terror that has kept Cuba in the Communist fold,
but Raúl has been the butcher. He has been
instrumental in the killing and terrorizing of thousands of Cubans, and there
is no question
in my mind but that he would fight tooth and nail to preserve his powers. Otherwise,
sooner or later Raúl would have to account for his crimes, and I do not know
him to be suicidal.
Before meeting Raúl in the flesh, I had gotten a general picture of him from Nikita
Khrushchev and General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, the creator of Communist
Romania's intelligence structure, and by this time head of the Soviet foreign
intelligence service, the PGU (Pervoye Glavnoye Upravleniye). That was in
1959. Both Soviets had arrived in Bucharest on October
26 for what was billed as a "six-day vacation in Romania." Never before had Khrushchev
taken such a long vacation abroad, but neither was his visit to Romania a
vacation. He was there to discuss the on-going Cuban revolution with the
current Romanian leader, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, until then the only Communist
tyrant ruling a country of Latin heritage.
Khrushchev dreamed of going down in history as the Soviet leader who had installed
Communism on the American continent, and he was prepared to go to any lengths
to see that dream come true. But Khrushchev did not trust Fidel, believing he
was a stranger to Marxism. The leaders of Cuba's Communist party were
convinced that Fidel was a dangerous adventurer, and the Soviet party
bureaucracy was also reluctant to endorse him.
Khrushchev did trust Raúl, though. According to Sakharovsky, who had secretly
brought Raúl to Moscow in the mid-1950s, it had been love at first sight. Both
Nikita and Raúl loved vodka. Both were fascinated with Marxism. Both hated
school, religion, and discipline. Both considered themselves military experts.
Both were obsessed with espionage and
counterespionage. And both liked to sleep with their boots on. Sakharovsky
the "warm relationship" between the two men to have convinced Khrushchev to throw
himself entirely into the Cuban revolution.
At Khrushchev's order, Sakharovsky had given Raúl an intelligence adviser: Nikolay
Leonov, the PGU's best expert on Latin America. Leonov (today a retired KGB
lieutenant general and member of the Duma) provided Raúl with intelligence on
the military forces of the then Cuban dictator, Batista, and helped Raúl plan
his guerrilla war. In June 1957, Leonov gave him
documents and photographs showing that Washington was providing weapons and
logistical support to Batista, and he suggested that Raúl take a few dozen Americans
hostage to force Eisenhower to withdraw from the conflict. Raúl did so. On June
26, 1958, his guerrilleros kidnapped fifty American and Canadian military and
civilian personnel working in Cuba. Fearing for the lives of the hostages,
Batista declared a cease-fire. That enabled the
Soviets to bring new weapons into Cuba.
The course of the Cuban revolution was changed forever. The era of political kidnappings
was also introduced.
On the night of December 31, 1958, Batista fled Cuba, and the Castro brothers
took over the country. During the following month, Raúl organized the
execution of hundreds of police and military officials of the Batista regime.
The prisoners were shot and the corpses buried in mass graves outside of
Santiago de Cuba.
A year later, Soviet deputy premier Anastas Mikoyan landed in Havana. He was welcomed
by Fidel, Raúl, and the country's new KGB adviser, Aleksandr Shitov. The
latter's task was to help Raúl create a Cuban KGB and a Soviet-style army. In
1962 Khrushchev took the unprecedented step of appointing Shitov as ambassador
to Cuba. Soon, Moscow started secretly building rocket bases in Cuba.
Khrushchev, Raúl, and Shitov - not Fidel - pushed the world to the brink of nuclear
In April 1971 I visited Cuba as a member of a Romanian government delegation attending
a ten-year celebration of Castro's victory at the Bay of Pigs. A couple of
days after the ceremony, Raúl invited me to go ocean fishing on his boat,
together with Sergio del Valle. The other guest was a Soviet civilian who
introduced himself as Aleksandr Alekseyev. "That's Shitov," del Valle
whispered into my ear. "He's now Allende's advisor." (The Marxist
Salvador Allende had been elected president of Chile the previous November.) There,
on that boat, it hit me more clearly than ever before that it was Raúl, not
Fidel, who was holding the reins of the Cuban revolutionary wagon.
In 1972 I prepared an official Ceausescu visit to Havana, and I was also at his
right hand during it. Fidel was the figurehead, Raúl the factotum. The Cuban
first lady was not Fidel's wife, but Raúl's. Elena Ceausescu wrinkled up her
nose at that, but eventually the two first ladies hit it off splendidly. Both
Elena and Vilma Espín Guilloys were school dropouts, both
pretended to be chemists, both had acquired phony doctoral degrees, both had joined
the Communist party before it had come to power in their countries, both
became members of the Council of State, and both were presidents of their
countries' Federation of Women organizations.
During that visit, the Castro brothers and Ceausescu laid the foundation for a
bilateral drug venture. They wanted to flood the world with drugs. "Drugs could
do a lot more damage to imperialism than nuclear weapons could," Fidel pontificated.
"Drugs will erode capitalism from the inside," Raúl agreed. I never heard the
word "money" pronounced, but I was already administering the money Romania was
making from its own drug trafficking. All of it
was going into Ceausescu's personal bank account. By 1978, when I left Romania
for good, that account, called AT-78, held a balance of some $400 million -
in spite of the substantial dents Elena made in it when she bought furs and jewelry
In 2005, Fidel was furious when Forbes Magazine estimated his fortune at $500
million. This year, the magazine upped his worth to $900 million. Particularly
in view of Cuba's penury, this amount is surely more than enough for Raúl to
bribe his political cronies and buy any new allies he needs.
In 1973 I spent a "working vacation" in Havana. Raúl gave me a tour of a huge
factory manufacturing double-walled suitcases and other concealment devices
for secretly transporting arms and explosives for terrorist purposes. By then
Raúl's DGI was working around the clock to expand Cuba's political influence
in South America and the Third World. In particular, they were striving to
consolidate the Sandinistas' power in Nicaragua, to
foment a bloody war in El Salvador, and to help the Soviet/Cuban-backed MPLA
(Movement for the Liberation of Angola) to rise to power in Angola. Raúl's DGI
and his military also had advisers and instructors in Palestine Liberation
Organization bases and had established close cooperation with Libya, South
Yemen, and the Polisario Front for the Liberation of Western Sahara. In the
mid-1970s my DIE was working jointly with Raúl's DGI to support the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist, anti-American
insurgency organization whose task was to spread Communism to South America.
In December 1974 Raúl came to Bucharest to request intelligence and political
support for his new National Liberation Directorate (DNL), a party/intelligence
group tasked to coordinate Cuba's guerrilla and terrorist training camps and
to prop up national liberation movements and
anti-American governments such as those of Nicaragua and Grenada. He got both.
Of course I no longer have inside access to information about Raúl's export of
terrorism and revolution, but I note that in 2001 his FARC took credit for 197
killings in Colombia. On April 11, 2002, the same FARC kidnapped 13 Colombian
lawmakers from a government building in Cali and held Colombian presidential
candidate Ingrid Betancourt hostage. On February 13,
2003, FARC shot down a CIA plane carrying out electronic intelligence-gathering
in southern Colombia, taking three CIA officers hostage. Now Raúl's FARC is seeking
to overthrow the pro-American government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe,
whose father was assassinated by FARC in 1983. I also note that the Communist
president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who idolizes the Castro brothers, has
threatened to stop exporting oil to the U.S. and intends to start a
conventional war against neighboring Colombia, the main U.S. ally in the
Neither within Cuba nor in the outside world does anyone have a clear picture
of Fidel's health - physical or political. Yet perhaps there is something else
going on there that Raúl may have learned from his KGB masters. Leonid
Brezhnev died on November 10, 1982, but the KGB chairman, Yury Andropov,
managed for a few days to keep his death secret from
the public, to gain time for maneuvering himself into the driver's seat. Once settled
into the Kremlin, the cynical Andropov hastened to portray himself to the West
as a "moderate" Communist and a sensitive, warm, Western-oriented man who
allegedly enjoyed an occasional drink of scotch, liked to read English novels,
and loved listening to American jazz and the music of Beethoven. Andropov was
none of the above.
Raúl may try to also portray himself as a peace-loving angel. But Andropov's age
of secrecy is gone. I pray that others who know Raúl as well as I knew Ceausescu
will come forward and disrobe the Cuban tyrant, allowing the world to see him
naked, the way he truly is: an assassin and international terrorist who made a
fortune from the illegal sale of arms, drugs,
and human beings.
Lieutenant General Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking official ever to
have defected from the former Soviet bloc. On Christmas Day of 1989, Ceausescu
and his wife were sentenced to death at the end of a trial where most of the
accusations had come almost word-for-word out of Pacepa's book Red Horizons.