Aleida de las Mercedes Godinez
HAVANA, Cuba (AP)—During her decade inside Cuba’s opposition, Aleida de las Mercedes Godinez was so trusted that a dissident shared her e-mail password and exile groups in the United States sent her money.
As government agent code named “Vilma,” Godinez had access to extensive information about the many opposition groups in the island’s largest dissident coalition, as well as the individual dissidents rounded up in March and tried weeks later.
Speaking with The Associated Press in her first interview with international media, Godinez provided a rare glimpse inside Castro’s intelligence network and demonstrated just how deeply loyal his agents were. Like many other agents who infiltrated the opposition, she came from a communist family long trusted by Castro.
“The opposition is finished, it has ended, it will never lift its head again,” Godinez declared. “The opposition will never flourish again—never!”
Monday’s interview with Godinez was the first in a series of government-organized interviews the agents are giving to the international media.
The families of some of the 75 dissidents who were quickly convicted and sentenced to prison earlier this month acknowledged the severe damage caused by the undercover agents, particularly Godinez.
She was a key leader of a coalition called the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society and had allied with the dissidents since 1994, sometimes working even as an independent journalist.
The dissidents were convicted of working with U.S. diplomats to subvert Fidel Castro’s government and were given sentences ranging from six to 28 years. The dissidents and the United States have denied the accusations.
“Everything was always very well directed by Cuban intelligence,” she said.
‘I could never be friends with a counterrevolutionary’
Dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque’s family said Godinez’s surprise testimony was key to her conviction and 20-year prison sentence. Godinez said Roque even gave her the logon and password to access her e-mails.
Godinez said she never felt any remorse or sorrow for her work even though she worked with some dissidents for years. “Marta Beatriz was an objective of my mission,” she said. “I could never be friends with a counterrevolutionary.”
Godinez said Roque, also a leading member of the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society, handled as much as $5,000 every month from various groups in the United States that were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The USAID Cuba program has given more than $20 million to U.S. groups working with the opposition on the communist-run island since 1996 to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy.
Godinez, a former math teacher, said she received about $700 a month from U.S. organizations as head of the National Independent Workers Union of Cuba.
The bespectacled 49-year-old, with a crown of short brown curls, proudly showed off her new Pentium 4 laptop computer—sent to her last year by a Cuban-American organization in Miami and delivered by a U.S. Interests Section official.
The agents’ superiors evidently allowed them all to keep the money and equipment they received from U.S. groups.
Godinez would not say what she will do next.
“That’s secret,” she said with a smile. “But I can say that I will keep working for the revolution.”
Activist: ‘The dissident movement will grow’
Other agents were just as loyal. Dr. Pedro Luis Veliz Martinez, a 39-year-old internist and a member of a long-trusted communist family, told the AP in a separate interview Monday that he was first approached by an Interior Ministry official while doing late-night hospital rounds in 1996.
“I never had any doubts,” Veliz said. “I am a revolutionary. I am Marxist-Leninist. I believe in communism.”
After gaining the confidence of government opponents in the Liberal Party—and the organizations in Miami that support them, Veliz founded the Independent Medical College, a professional organization for dissident physicians, in 1999.
The agents were prohibited from telling anyone, even their families, about their missions. Veliz said his father, a longtime Communist Party official, was particularly upset to think his son was involved in groups that Fidel Castro’s government calls “counterrevolutionary.”
“I’m sure that it really hurt my dad,” Veliz said.
But he said his father was especially pleased when he saw that his son was among the agents unmasked by the government after the trials.
The few leading government opponents still free have said they would try to regain their strength. The dissidents deny the charges they were convicted of.
“The dissident movement will grow because the source of dissent is inside Cuba and because the socio-economic situation is getting more difficult,” veteran rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said.