Cuban Defector’s Archives Uncover Castro Spy Operations: Dr James Lockhart

New Cuban Cold War-era intelligence information came to light after the discovery of official documents belonging to a Cuban government official who had defected to the U.S., Dr .James Lockhart, assistant professor of History at the American University in Dubai, said during a talk on January 29 at AUD.

 “A friend of mine was going through the archives at Stanford, and he found papers of Major Juan Rodriguez, who had defected from the Cuban intelligence service to the U.S. in 1987,” Dr. Lockhart said. “In the papers that he left to Stanford, there’s a box of seven folders of very detailed papers, probably everything he told the U.S. government in his debriefings.”

Rodriguez was a member of Fidel Castro’s intelligence organization, the G2, Dr. Lockhart said. Fidel Castro’s aim with G2 was originally primary counter-intelligence; to penetrate the Batista regime and identify informers. After Castro’s rise to power in 1959, the agency became the equivalent of the Secret Service in the U.S.

“It stayed that way until March 1960…there was an explosion in Havana Harbor, a French merchant ship called La Coubre, carrying Belgian arms destined for the Cubans blew up,” Dr. Lockhart said.

“Castro blamed the C.I.A., Washington denies it…he used it to form a new branch of G2, which he called Section L, tasked with countering C.I.A. operations exclusively,” Dr Lockhart said. Castro created a division dedicated to training and supporting guerrilla insurgencies in the Caribbean, Central America and in Africa — “exporting revolution.”

The lecture was followed by a question and answer session with students, professors and members of the U.S. embassy.

“Considering that the resources are so limited, it’s a great way to have access to information from someone that was part of the intelligence organization,” said Melanie Zeini, a senior international relations student in the American University in Dubai. “It’s interesting to be able to see how they formed the structure of the intelligence, and to see the perspectives of people from the Global South, rather than the U.S. and British perspectives on things.”

“[The talk] was insightful, especially because it covers an area which is largely unexplored,” said Omar Bortolazzi, Professor of International Studies at the American University in Dubai. “It was using, as Dr. Lockhart said, not an Anglo perspective, but a local perspective.”

Considering that Cuba continues to be run by a Communist government “operating in Cold War mode, they’ve never declassified papers and certainly aren’t opening up their archives for people to come in,” said Dr. Lockhart. Historians have been working around it for the past 15 years or so…what we may learn later may change what we think right now.”

 Dr. Lockhart has a Ph.D. in the United States and the World with minors in World and Comparative History and Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona. He also earned an M.A. and a B.A. in Latin American studies. Prior to joining AUD, he taught at the University of Arizona and the Embry-Riddle College of Security and Intelligence.
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