November 26, 2011
Juan Tamayo, El Nuevo Herald
Want to know the home address of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro’s daughter? How about the home phone number for his No. 2, José Ramon Machado Ventura? Or the cell number for Minister of Communications Ramiro Valdés?
A Miami-based website is publishing those and myriad other details on the private lives of top Cuban officials, saying it wants to warn “the darlings of the dictatorship” that they will face a dark future if the government collapses.
Also obtained from inside Cuba are digital lists of the cell phone numbers for tens of thousands of security and intelligence officers, and the street addresses of virtually every single military base on the island, contributors to the site say.
The leak of such personal details, out of a communist-ruled country where secrecy has long been paramount, reflects the Castro government’s growing inability to control the flow of information in the age of the Internet.
“Technology is going to destroy them,” said one post on the website CubaalDescubierto — Cuba Uncovered — where the details are being posted by FUEGO, or “fire,” a group that claims to be made up of Cubans in Cuba and on the outside.
The site already has published what it says are the home addresses, phone numbers and other personal information of more than 20 top Cubans since it started posting those kinds of details about six weeks ago.
They include Machado Ventura, Castro’s No. 2 in the ruling Council of State and the Communist Party; former Defense Minister Julio Casas, who died Sept. 3; and Valdés, a former Interior Minister, widely viewed as one of Cuba’s most powerful officials.
It also published the address and home phone of Castro’s daughter Deborah and her husband, Luis Alberto Rodriguez López Callejas, an army colonel who runs military-owned businesses that account for an estimated 60 percent of the island’s economy.
The addresses and phone numbers for Angela and Agustina Castro Ruz, sisters to Raúl and Fidel Castro, and for Sonia and Jose Alejandro Espin, sister and brother of Raúl Castro’s late wife, Vilma Espin, also appeared on the page.
El Nuevo Herald could not confirm all of the details published, but its calls to eight of the phone numbers confirmed that five were correct. One was confirmed by a female relative and two by housemaids. Three others did not answer, including Valdes’ purported cell.
Percy Alvarado, identified by the Cuban government in the late 1990s as one of its intelligence operatives, told El Nuevo Herald that he received a threatening call on his cellular phone earlier this month from people who identified themselves as members of FUEGO.
He called the publication of the addresses and phone numbers a “flagrant violation of the right to privacy and international laws.”
Miami blogger Aldo Rosado Tuero, a member of FUEGO and publisher of the blog Nuevo Acción, said publishing the details about the Cuban officials and relatives was designed to “send some of them the message that they are known, that we know where they live.”
“We also want to try to push these people to ease the repression [against dissidents] in Cuba, and we believe there should be some record for the future, so that crimes do not go unpunished,” Rosado added. “We’re talking about justice, not vengeance.”
CubaalDescubierto’s postings are the latest effort by some government critics to shine a spotlight on Cubans who actively work for the island’s totalitarian government, in hopes of persuading them to temper their activities.
The Web site and Twitter account CubaRepresorID publishes the names and photos of people it describes as State Security agents, “snitches” who collaborate with them and Cubans who repeatedly join government-organized mobs that harass dissidents.
Part of the information posted on CubaRepresorID and CubaalDescubierto has come from FUEGO, the Spanish acronym for the United Front of Exiles and Organized Groups, which describes itself as being dedicated to “damaging the tyranny and helping the internal opposition.”
Other details have come from digital lists that have been making the rounds among Cuba watchers this year — including one list of more than 60,000 unlisted phone numbers for sensitive sectors such as State Security and senior government officials.
The blog Penultimos Dias — Penultimate Days — recently noted that if it hears of a crackdown on dissent in eastern Santiago de Cuba, for example, it can send text messages to every single State Security agent in the province saying, “stop the repression.”
Some Cubans say that list was accidentally posted on the website of the island’s telephone company, the Cuban Telecommunications Company SA, or ETECSA, and was quickly taken down. Others say it was leaked on purpose by a government opponent.
The Armed Forces Ministry recently banned the use of portable memories, such as flash drives, CDs and DVDs, as well as personal computers for ministry work, according to Penultimos Dias.
Another digital ETECSA list included a home phone for Juan Pablo Roque, one of the Havana spies linked to Cuba’s 1996 shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue airplanes in which four South Florida men were killed. The listing was later removed.
Making public such details is the flip side of the “acts of repudiation” staged by government supporters to harass and intimidate dissidents, argued Luis Dominguez, part of a group within FUEGO that calls itself the Cuban Cyber Commandos.
“No one can imagine the amount of information that reaches us from Cuba through the CCCs,” Dominguez told El Nuevo Herald. Government officials “should start thinking that they can never again be anonymous.”
Asked if publishing the private information for Cuban officials was not a way of threatening them, Dominguez replied, “I don’t threaten anyone. Each person can decide what to do with this type of information.”
Dominguez, 48, a Miami security company administrator, has been involved in several previous digital jabs at the Cuban government, and sometimes jokes about starting a website for leaks about Cuba called “WikiCuba.”
In 2009, he passed himself off online as Claudia, a Colombian woman, and maintained an eight-month exchange of salacious emails with Fidel Castro’s oldest son, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle.
Dominguez says FUEGO and CCC have plenty more details that will be published slowly on Cuba al Descubierto.
On Wednesday, the website posted the Havana street address and two telephone numbers for the recently created Special National Brigade of the National Revolutionary Police — an elite unit trained in crowd control and SWAT tactics.
A man who answered the phone confirmed it was the home of the Special National Brigade, known in Cuba as “the little roosters” because their shoulder patches feature a black fighting cock on a red, white and blue background.
“Today we already know where each one of Fidel Castro’s bodyguards lives, and each one of Fidel’s neighbors,” he told El Nuevo Herald. Castro’s house in western Havana has long been marked on some of Google Earth’s satellite photos.
“But that’s not the worst for them,” Dominguez added. “What is really going to hurt them is when we publish precise information about [the location of] ALL the units” of the armed forces and the Interior Ministry, in charge of domestic security.”