Guillermo Nova and Isaac Risco
HAVANA TIMES — Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a man hitherto unknown to the world became news last week after the United States and Cuba reached a historical agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations, DPA reported.
Is Sarraff, a former Cuban Intelligence Department (DI) agent, the CIA agent released by Raul Castro’s government on Wednesday as part of Cuba’s agreement with Washington? Is he also “one of the most important intelligence agents the United States has ever had in Cuba”, as US President Barack Obama referred to him in his address?
Everything seems to indicate that he is. The US media seems to be certain of it, even though the White House hasn’t yet declassified the information. On the island, the parents of Saraff, who was in prison for nearly 20 years, have been unaware of his whereabouts for more than a week.
According to his father, Sarraff failed to make his habitual phone call last Tuesday. Twenty-four hours later, the day Obama and Castro made their announcements, he and his wife went to the Villa Marista maximum security prison in Diez de Octubre, Havana, to make some inquiries.
Officials at the prison located near the city center tried to reassure the two, saying only that their son was now in a “better situation”, Saraff’s 80-year-old father told DPA.
“The only thing I want is for him to be okay and I hope to be able to see him,” he added.
A week following Sarraff’s apparent release, “neither of the governments involved have informed the relatives about it, as they should have,” protested activist Elizardo Sanchez, whose Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission (CCDHRN) follows the situation of political prisoners on the island.
According to the information made available to date, 51-year-old Sarraff was a CIA double agent. He was a first lieutenant whose task consisted in encrypting communications with Cuban spies abroad.
In September of 1995, he was arrested in Havana. According to US intelligence services, the information he acquired working as a “mole” on the island allowed the United States to deal Cuba’s espionage network a series of significant blows, and to uncover double agents in the US.
“He provided the information that led to the identification and conviction of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) senior analyst Ana Belen Montes; former Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers and his spouse Gwendolyn Myers; and members of the Red Avispa network, or “Wasp Network,” in Florida, which included members of the so-called “Cuban Five,” Brian P. Hale, Director of National Intelligence declared on Wednesday.
Saraff’s father claims he was unaware of his son’s activities. He was “very discrete in his work, he didn’t talk about it at home,” Saraff’s elderly father, a retired lieutenant colonel who also worked as a journalist for Cuba’s Prensa Latina, says.
Sarraff Trujillo is divorced and has a son. In addition to his parents in Cuba, he has two sisters (Vilma and Katia) living in Spain.
The former DI agent and US contractor Alan Gross, imprisoned since 2009, were released in exchange for the three remaining spies of the “Five” who were serving sentences in the United States.
The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and convicted two years later in the United States on charges of criminal conspiracy and illegal association, among others.
Havana and Washington have a long history of mutual espionage and counter-espionage in their more than fifty years of confrontation. According to the CCDHRN, there are at least four such individuals still in prison for “crimes against the State” in Cuba. Cuban authorities refuse to review data or offer information about political prisoners.
There were “three military officials and two civilians”, Sanchez estimates. According to the activist, the latter are Miguel Alvarez, a former advisor to ex-foreign minister, and former chair of parliament Ricardo Alarcon and his wife.
The CCDHRN reports that, in addition to Sarraff, whose whereabouts are officially unknown at the moment, the other two military officers were detained in 1996 and 1999 and convicted to 30 years in prison. According to Obama, the four may be released as part of a group of 53 political prisoners that the Cuban government has declared it is willing to free.