The investigation that brought about the downfall of several officials began three years ago – A video hints at Lage’s and Pérez Roque’s disloyalty to Cuba’s historical leaders – The then-vice president referred to them as fossils and dinosaurs.
By Gerardo Arreola, correspondent
06/29/09 – La Jornada (Mexico)
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Havana, June 28. The investigation leading to the demise of the most well-known faces among the new generation of Cuban leaders blew up three years ago after Raúl Castro received an anonymous tip, according to a video making the rounds of Havana in a series of closed-door meetings.
People who have seen the recording have told La Jornada that the said tip involved Dr. Raúl Castellanos Lage, advisor with the Cuban Institute of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery and cousin to then-vice president Carlos Lage, who allegedly leveled constant and virulent criticism at the government.
“We get plenty of anonymous tips and many of them we disregard,” Castro stated at the high-level meeting held on March 2 that ended with the dismissal of Lage and other officials. He mentioned, however, his order to put a tail on Castellanos.
The tape is about Operation Medusa, launched by the Cuban State Security, which includes footage, photographs, live and wiretap recordings now being disclosed to government staff, the armed forces, and members of the Communist Party (PCC) and its junior branch, the Young Communist League (UJC).
Back in the 1980s, Castellanos had worked with Carlos Aldana, then the powerful head of the PCC’s ideological and international division and regarded as Cuba’s ‘number three’ before he fell from grace in 1992. Sources have it that the tabs kept on Castellanos soon revealed his links with Conrado Hernández, an old friend of Lage’s and the second piece of the puzzle.
Hernández also drew attention to himself for the considerable leeway he had while moving around government circles, where he used cousin Lage’s name to get confidential information beyond his reasonable clearance as the Basque Country’s business representative.
It was by happenstance that Carlos Valenciaga, Fidel Castro’s personal secretary since 1999, was also brought to the fore.
On September 16, 1999, according to sources, Valenciaga celebrated his birthday in a party he threw at the Palace of the Revolution, very near where the Cuban leader was going through the most severe stage of the illness that eventually kept him away from public view.
Soon after it was set in motion, the surveillance of Castellanos, Hernández and Valenciaga led to Lage and others close to him, like Foreign Affairs minister Felipe Pérez Roque, Council of Ministers vice president Otto Rivero, and PCC International Relations secretary Fernando Remírez.
Hernández is said to be shown –and heard– in the outdoors section of El Templete, Havana’s most popular restaurant with diplomats and businessmen, as he arranged his cooperation with an official from Spain’s National Intelligence Service.
Consulted by this diary twice in the last two months, Spanish diplomatic sources have denied such relationship, although Madrid announced last month a reshuffle of their CNI’s personnel in Havana. Hernández was arrested last February 14 at the airport as he was about to leave for Spain, reportedly carrying copies of Cuba’s assessment of the Basque elections scheduled to be over by the first of March.
On March 2, Raúl Castro calls Lage, Pérez Roque, Rivero and Remírez dishonest for refusing to admit his accusations before he showed them everything that State Security had compiled on them.
Barring the charges against Hernández, the video allegedly does nothing but link data with footage and recordings. It comes to no conclusions; it just suggests.
What can be inferred is that there was disloyalty to the historical leaders, influence peddling, and abuse of privileges at odds with the public discourse of austerity.
Castellanos was taped as he talked with Lage on February 24, 2008, hours after Raúl had been elected Head of State and José Ramón Machado Ventura appointed second-in-command.
Castellanos implies they could have easily harmed Machado when the current first vice president underwent artery surgery, and is heard saying they would be doing the country a favor. Lage, in turn, speaks of a leadership of fossils and dinosaurs.
On March 2, 2009 Raúl Castro makes Castellanos’s arrest public, and points to a table covered with documents, pictures and tapes which he describes as evidence for the whole case available to whoever wished to take a look.
An angry Raúl speaks about Valenciaga’s party as he produces photographs of Fidel Castro’s former secretary wearing a soldier’s cap and holding a bottle in his crotch. It was an obscene party, the Cuban president remarks, while his brother was fighting for his life.
The video shows the bonds among the involved parties: how Rivero and his wife went on Conrado-sponsored trips to the Basque Country; Rivero’s briefings to the latter about plans of investment; gatherings at Conrado’s private farm in Matanzas province, where they enjoyed food and drinks way beyond the reach of ordinary Cubans; a river diverted from its course to benefit the estate; political reports that Remírez had given to Conrado; a diplomatic passport that Pérez Roque issued for him in a matter of hours, and even information he supposedly received about Fidel Castro’s health.