Posted on Sunday, 05.27.12
Some of Cuba's secrets are not so secret
Once-secret phone lists and other sensitive leaked information have been
linked to a contract IKEA had with Cuban prison factories.
By Juan O. Tamayo
How can the Cuban government, all but obsessive about its need for
secrecy, protect the privacy of the cellphone used by one of Fidel
Castro's best-known sons?
And how can it prevent embarrassing leaks when it needs to send a camera
crew into Havana prisons to shoot a film promoting the high quality of
its prison labor?
Both those questions may have been answered after a German newspaper
reported earlier this month that furniture giant IKEA had contracted for
Cuban prison labor to make thousands of sofas and tables in 1987.
The report lifted part of the veil of secrecy that the communist
government has long cast over information from economic data to the
details of the emergency surgery that led Castro to pass power to
brother Raúl in 2006.
Cuba's side of the IKEA deal was identified as EMIAT, an import-export
firm owned by the Interior Ministry, in charge of national security.
MININT runs two of Cuba's key spy agencies, the Directorates of
Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
EMIAT also is the owner of record of the cellphone number used by Fidel
Castro's son, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, in 2009, according to a
once-secret list of more than 70,000 telephone numbers for important
government officials and offices.
The list shows 1,543 numbers assigned to EMIAT. It does not list Antonio
Castro's name, but does include his cell number and the notation:
"Client Classification: Especial Services Defense."
Miami blogger Luis Dominguez obtained the number when he passed himself
off as a Colombian woman on the Internet and flirted for eight months
with Castro, a physician well known for his involvements with Cuba's
The cell numbers for two of Fidel Castro's less well-known sons were
also on the list, but without the secrecy. Alejandro Castro Soto del
Valle was listed under his own name, and Alex was listed as "Alex Castro
Soto del Valle MININT."
The list of sensitive numbers was briefly published, accidentally or on
purpose, on the Web pages of Cuba's state-run telephone monopoly,
ETECSA, a few years back. Dominguez and others made copies before it was
A man who answered Antonio Castro's cell number Thursday said "He's no
longer here" and hung up. There's been no indication that Castro had any
business dealings with EMIAT or IKEA. El Nuevo Herald calls to EMIAT
offices in Havana seeking comment were cut off when the caller
"The Cuban government tries to hide all the information, but in the age
of the Internet it can't do that well at all," said Dominguez, whose Web
page, Secretos de Cuba, publishes the private telephone numbers and
addresses of government officials.
An Internet report on the IKEA deal for Cuban prison labor also led a
defector from the film section of MININT's Counterintelligence
Directorate (DCI) now living in Florida to contact El Nuevo Herald last
His DCI bosses ordered him to shoot a 10-minute film showing the high
quality of the manufacturing shops at the Combinado del Este prison for
men and Manto Negro prison for women, both in Havana, in 1986 or 1987,
the defector said in an interview.
A DCI camera crew was put on the job because it could be trusted to keep
quiet about what it saw or heard in the prisons, he added. Cuba does not
allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit its
estimated 200 prisons.
"If they had sent in a regular government film crew, the word would have
been all over Cuba the next day," said the man, who provided evidence of
his MININT work but asked to remain anonymous for personal reasons.
The defector said his crew — two cameramen and one person who handled
lighting —shot for several days as male prisoners made furniture, like
stools with designs burned into the leather, and women inmates sewed
jeans and made tourist-type handicrafts.
Prison factories throughout the island are run by Provari, a firm also
owned by MININT that makes everything from clay and cement building
blocks to playpens and insecticides, El Nuevo reported earlier this month.