Cuban agent speaks out
Campaign News | Tuesday, 5 April 2005
Aleída Godínez reveals details of her work as an "independent" journalist
BY LISANKA GONZALEZ SUAREZ -Granma International staff writer-
MANY of those who knew her as a rabid opponent of the Revolution - and with whom they had even shared their dreams of seeing the island regress to those days when the White House installed and removed the governments of the moment at its whim - were petrified when they saw Aleída Godínez, dissident, "independent" journalist, trade union leader and head of various counterrevolutionary organizations, testifying before the courts as Agent Vilma of State Security.
All aspects of that secret life that she lived amongst them necessarily date back to her first activities in Ciego de Avila, where she lived for 15 years with a solid reputation prepared by the State Security agencies.
But, from 1991, when she began to travel to the capital in search of contacts - by then transformed into the emissary of those groups and a vehicle for extending the counterrevolution to the central and eastern regions of the country - she had a key meeting for her consolidation as a dissident.
THE ACID TEST
Without knowing it, Robin Diane Meyer, secretary of the political and economic affairs office at the US Interests Section (USIS) at the time, contributed to the consolidation of Agent Vilma. This woman, active and efficient in her direct attention to the counterrevolution, was assigned to study Aleída's personality and direct her towards "independent" journalism and trade union work. "She prepared me for this," she recalls, "she gave me the best texts and manuals and put me in contact with many different organizations abroad."
In the summer of 1993, when a report was published in El Nuevo Herald containing the results of a survey carried out in Cuba by a US company, a request from Robin alerted her to the fact that she could turn her love of writing into a way of financing herself as a dissident.
"She asked me to quickly produce a piece of work which refuted and criticized the graphs and statistics that had been published, with the aim of presenting it to USIS and the State Department... Later she asked me for other work, until one day: ‘You know, you're a great journalist,’ she told me. I remember that I replied, ‘No, I'm not a great journalist, I'm a Cuban who wants things to change in my country.’ And she ended by saying: ‘But one of the best things that you have in your hands is the power of words. Write.’ And I started to write. I finished studying a correspondence course in journalism at Florida International University. It was a serious program, the only thing that was not serious is that they used money provided by USAID and NED for that and only came to Cuba when they had to pay money into their accounts. At the time I was declassified, in April 2003, I only had one year of studies left."
THE FARCE OF "INDEPENDENT" JOURNALISM
What allowed her to win her first war trophy as an "independent" journalist was her first direct contact with Radio Martí. "As spokesperson for the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Committee in Ciego de Avila they provided me with the information, I did the press notes, waited for the call and then sent them off. Within an hour, the news was out on air." She also used to speak on several different channels, including Cuba Independiente y Democrática. In that way, it was they themselves who took it on to reinforce her image. Between August 1992 and August 1993, she presented - in her own voice - 172 reports on alleged human rights violations for Radio Martí.
"When I began, I didn't have a cent to my name, it was all for the love of my art, we're talking about 14 years ago. They didn't pay me until I became better known and had made a name for myself, developed my reputation and then the rewards began, although it wasn't even five dollars for a report.
"I gradually realized that those exposés were a business. The business works in the following way: someone starts to provide me with information, I edit it as if I had obtained it myself and mention that person as a source, if necessary. They pay me, not the other person. Of course, some of the reports they don't publish because they're of no use, they're terrible. And then, when I receive payment and the other person tries to claim the money off me, I say that it's not being published this month but next month, or that there were problems in the reception, etc, until they get tired of claiming the money, or the smart ones just stay away. It's a business, I'll never tire of saying it, in Cuba there is no opposition, in Cuba there is a counterrevolution, encouraged and paid for. If they stop paying them for the press notes, the "talent" would come to an end.
"These people who say they are independent journalists are nothing more than mercenaries. For me, it has always been clear there is no independent journalism, in every country in the world you have to respond to the editorial line of the person employing you. If journalism is so free, so independent, why don't they write something positive? Not one of them has been capable of reporting the fact that all the polyclinics have been repaired, that they have created emergency rooms throughout the country at a time when resources are scarce. None of them have talked about that."
Up until April 2003, there were just four journalists amongst the counterrevolutionary groups. "One of these people who says she's an "independent" journalist only passed 9th grade and barely knows how to speak. Do you think she's going to know how to write? But you read the cables and they say: ‘So-and-so, independent journalist’ and sometimes they aren't even the slightest bit cultured.
"Me myself, I wasn't a journalist but you can look for my name on the Internet, I recommend that you take Gravinol in case you feel sick and you'll see hundreds of thousands of pieces of work that were written during this period."
HOW TO RUN A PRESS "AGENCY"
"Now I'd like to tell you how, without being a journalist, I ran a press "agency". I was an official in a Miami-based trade union organization, the Federation of Cuban Electric, Gas and Water Plant Workers in Exile (FSPEGA). These FSPEGA representatives left for Miami at the beginning of the Revolution. When these old dinosaurs of anti-Cuba policy saw that this type of patriotism would be profitable for them, they hired premises and even constructed a replica of the Cubaneleco Club in Miramar, and from there they started to organize activities, lunches, and get rich on this type of business. When they had received a bit of promotion and the USAID program started giving them money, they realized they had to get this organization started inside Cuba. And so in 1997, the federation was founded on the island, and they handed the leadership to a person who was secretly planning to leave the country.
"I was the head of an organization of called the Cuban Opposition National Foundation and the first thing I did to promote it was to collect signatures. Whilst doing this, I met this man who saw my work, my possibilities and that I was respected in the opposition media and asked me to begin writing for the press agency. I consulted with State Security and they agreed. We knew that the leader of the federation had to be the director of the organization's press "agency", Lux Infopress.
"Four months later the man told me he was leaving and that he wanted me to take charge of the "agency". Although I was desperate to accept, I told him ‘no,’ so as not to arouse his suspicions. When he was about to leave the country, I hotfooted it from there, I was never going back there again so as not to show excessive interest. I carried on doing what I was doing, writing and publishing articles. Then, one day he went to the USIS and had an interview with Victor Vockerodt, who at that time and until 2002, was head of the political and economic section.
"The US official wanted to know who would be the new head of the "agency", and the man gave him the name of an individual that the official did not approve of. Then he mentioned my name and Victor told him: ‘Well, that name is a different matter altogether, this one seems fine to us.’ Think about that detail, the Americans approving who was to head a press agency that was supposedly independent and Cuban. It was logical, if they were the ones paying them, they had to appoint their directors.
"When he left the meeting, the man called me immediately and although I wanted to take charge of the agency, so as not to arouse suspicions I met with him the next day and he told me that they needed me to take up the position because I had been approved by the Americans. And that I should remember that whoever was in charge at the agency would also be on the executive of the economic institute for socio-labor research and the Federation. I knew this as well, but I played dumb. It was all a business, the institute for example, the institute was me. Later they started with the incentives and holding congresses, until one day word was sent to Cuba that we should create a federation because by doing that there would be more money and therefore a better life for everyone involved. I met with three or four people and created the federation, fulfilling the mandate of US government intermediaries."
This simple woman rubbed shoulders with the enemy on equal terms. She passed through their filters, won their trust, and was respected by them. She was introduced into their murky and immoral labyrinths. She learned how to repress her impulses, played their game and as a result, the hunters became the hunted.