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Castro requested Soviet missiles in 1981, book says
The late Chilean President Salvador Allende received help from the Soviet intelligence agency KGB, according to newly released records.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Nineteen years after the Cuban missile crisis nearly sparked a nuclear war, Fidel Castro asked the Soviet Union to redeploy atomic weapons to his island, says a new book based on reports by Moscow's KGB intelligence agency.
The book, based on documents revealed by KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin when he defected in 1992, makes other bombshell allegations as it tracks KGB operations around the Third World in the 1960s and '70s:
• The KGB documents record actual and proposed payments to Chile's Salvador Allende totaling $420,000 both before and after his election as president in 1970.
• Costa Rica's José ''Pepe'' Figueres received $300,000 from the KGB for his 1970 presidential campaign and $10,000 afterward.
• Carlos Fonseca, founder of Nicaragua's Sandinista National Liberation Front, was ''a trusted KGB agent'' code-named GIDROLOG.
• Nicaraguan Manuel Andara y Ubeda was a KGB agent who led a group of Sandinistas tasked by Moscow in the late 1960s to scope out the U.S. border with Mexico for possible targets for KGB sabotage teams.
• The KGB ''trained and financed'' the Sandinistas who seized the National Palace in Managua and dozens of hostages in 1978. A senior KGB official was briefed on the plan on the eve of the raid, led by Edén Pastora, also known as Commander Zero.
Pastora could not be reached for comment. The book does not refer to him as a KGB agent. All the agents identified by name in the book are now dead.
Mitrokhin and respected British historian Christopher Andrew first collaborated on a 1999 book about KGB operations against the United States and Europe. That book is now regarded by intelligence experts as the definitive work on the topic.
Their new book, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, covers KGB operations in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa -- the Third World that Moscow believed it could come to dominate after Cuban President Castro embraced communism and became a beacon for leftists worldwide.
Its most startling revelation about Cuba is that Castro, concerned that President Ronald Reagan was planning to attack Cuba in 1981, urged a senior Soviet army general visiting Havana to counter the deployment of U.S. cruise missiles to Europe.
''Castro made the extraordinary proposal that, if the deployment went ahead, Moscow should seriously reconsider reestablishing the nuclear missile bases in Cuba dismantled after the missile crisis 19 years earlier,'' it says. The book does not elaborate or record the Soviet reaction.
''Classic Castro,'' said Brian Latell, a retired CIA analyst on Cuba. ``Always seize the initiative. Always go on the offensive to surprise the enemy -- never mind that the Soviets were never ever going to consider that.''
But not surprising, Latell added, because Fidel's brother Raúl has said publicly that in the early 1980s, Moscow told Havana that it would not protect Cuba in case of hostilities with the United States.
Mitrokhin's archives show that the KGB provided virtually no support to Castro before his guerrillas seized power in 1959. But just three months later, it gave Cuba the code name AVANPOST -- bridgehead -- and cemented better relations with Havana than the Soviet diplomats stationed there had.
Even then, the KGB never stopped snooping. Besides its official presence in Havana, it ran a secret branch to spy on Cuba that in 1974 alone sent 269 reports to Moscow, the book adds.
Other KGB reports describe Raúl Castro, on a 1960 arms-buying trip to Czechoslovakia, as `` sleeping with his boots on and demanding the services of blonde prostitutes.''
The book describes Allende as ''by far the most important of the KGB's confidential contacts in South America,'' because he was a democratically elected Marxist and Castro's ally. In KGB lexicon, a confidential contact is more like a friendly source, not an agent.
But Allende's KGB file says the agency maintained ''systematic contact'' with him since 1961, the book adds. One report says, ``He stated his willingness to cooperate on a confidential basis . . . since he considered himself a friend of the Soviet Union.''
So while the Nixon administration and CIA were working diligently to prevent his election in 1970, and to oust him afterward, the KGB also was working hard to put him and keep him in power, the book says.
Mitrokhin and Andrew also wrote that while president, Allende offered a KGB officer to send his trusted aides around the region to investigate and report on issues to the KGB. Allende died in the 1973 coup that toppled him.
Only about 130 of the book's 677 pages are devoted to Latin America -- from more innocent KGB contacts with other Latin American leaders to previously known Soviet weapons shipments to Salvadoran guerrillas.
On Costa Rica's Pepe Figueres, the book says that after his election he met regularly with the KGB chief in San José, rather than the Soviet ambassador, and agreed to a deal involving a small newspaper he ran.
A 1974 KGB report to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev said this: ``In view of the fact that Figueres has agreed to publish materials advantageous to the KGB, he has been given 10,000 U.S. dollars under the guise of stock purchases in his newspaper.''
Although the book does not say explicitly whether Allende and Figueres knew that their money was coming from the KGB, Andrew argued in an e-mail to The Herald that they surely knew.
''Allende knew well before he became president, and Figueres by 1970 at the latest, that they were dealing with a KGB officer rather than someone they assumed to be a Soviet diplomat or journalist,'' Andrew wrote in the e-mail.
``Allende's KGB case officer, Svyatoslav Kuznetsov, reported to Moscow that Allende reacted positively to his suggestions for reorganizing Chilean intelligence and establishing liaison with the KGB. Figueres took elaborate precautions to preserve the secrecy of his regular meetings with the KGB resident.''
Posted on Mon, Sep. 19, 2005