The Spy's Retirement / 14ymedio, Boris Gonzalez Arenas
14ymedio, Boris Gonzalez Arenas, Havana, 11 August 2016 — My friend
Adriana Gutierrez suggested I write this, only asking that, out of
respect for her father, I change the names. She has lived in Spain since
2007, when she went to do a degree that also offered the occasion to
stay and live outside of Cuba. Her father and mother remained in Cuba.
Let's call her dad Anibal Ochoa to use the last name of his great friend
Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, the general executed or murdered, or both as it
appears, in 1989. Adriana and her father don't have the same last name
because he wasn't her biological father, but the man who took on caring
for her and did it in the best way he knew how, considering that she was
also his only daughter.
Anibal spent his whole life as an official in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and his specialty was to plant spies in Spain to travel around
the rest of Europe or, to continue with the language of farming, to
harvest them when they were totally worn out and return them to Cuba
with false identities and all kinds o technical intricacies.
He was also a racist who despised his daughter's black lovers, when she
had them, and was macho enough not to rest until his wife, Adriana's mom
– let's call her Leonor – left her job as a nurse to devote herself to
being a housewife. She was a woman who spoke in a measured way and
smiled more with her eyes than with her mouth. A beautiful smile that
she passed down to Adriana.
Even after retirement, Anibal went to the Foreign Ministry to advise new
diplomats in the art of shaking hands without giving away the knives up
their sleeves and smiling discretely so as not to show their fangs. But,
as his era coincided with the aggressive years of the Cold War, a time
when a Cuba financed by the Soviets lacked the intelligence to
profitably manufacture a pencil, although it played at being a military
power, Anibal's advice seemed more like funny anecdotes than plausible
directions. Anibal, who was no fool, quickly understood and, as he had
his pride, he ended up distancing himself from Cuba's Foreign Ministry.
Almost simultaneously his wife died and his two grandchildren were born
in Seville. Retirement did not suit him and slowly he slipped into the
old age of an ordinary Cuban, making him a man dependent on help from
Shortly after being widowed he returned to Spain for the first time
after two decades. He feared being denied a visa, something that his
former enemies were in charge of and that emphasized his current
impotence. But none of this happened and he got the visa. He was there
three months and when he returned we talked a lot. He was happy, and in
addition, as expected, he had slimmed down and his skin cleared up. Then
there was a second visit and he stayed a year, and eventually he stayed
Two months ago Anibal died of a heart attack at 79 and took his secrets
to his grave, some of which he regretted and so decided not to share
with anyone, even after so much time and distance from his career as an
official, a diplomat and a spy.
Adriana said that Anibal once commented he had been used. Perhaps he
also thought about Arnaldo Ochoa and concluded that he had had better
luck than his deceased friend. At the death of the Cuban general, Anibal
was out of work for some time, understanding nothing and unable to
pretend that he did. They say that something happened to Raul Castro at
this time that only aggravated his alcoholism. Later, Anibal recovered
and took up his previous duties, which would never be the same, because
the death of the Cuban general coincided with the end of Soviet
socialism and, still unable to produce a pencil, the Cuban state sank
too deeply into misery to support any James Bonds.
In Spain, Hannibal used to be welcome to sit in outdoor cages, which he
also did in the 70s and 80s, but he was too self-absorbed and
distrustful to enjoy anything.
Hannibal had a peaceful death, surrounded by his daughter and
grandchildren as he always wanted, in the country he treated throughout
his working life as an enemy and where he settled, in retirement, as a home.
Source: The Spy's Retirement / 14ymedio, Boris Gonzalez Arenas –
Translating Cuba -