By Xiomara Alsina and Katia Monteagudo
Releases on the life and death of the state security agent, Alberto Delgado Delgado after thirty-nine years of his murder. Confessions and events told by Brig. General Luis Felipe Denis, ever filmed in El Hombre de Maisinicú (The man of Maisinicú) motion picture or any other documentary.
He probably never thought this would be his last interview, nor two years later a silent death would seize his body in a famous hospital of Havana, far from those mountains in central Cuba, where he constantly put his own life in peril dogging armed bandits. Perhaps, he may have envisaged having plenty of time to retell or to pen detailed stories and secrets on U.S.-breastfed gangs and G-2 agents, when in 1960, the Escambray turned to be the hotbed for the fiercest counterrevolution.
Or it was simply that Brig. General Luis Felipe Denis, that day of 1985, hopefully narrated some scattered memories and separate facts of a great struggle that he believed some day he himself would appropriately describe. Perhaps, on his advanced-age, he thought being able to tear off yet his memory to unveil the most incredible legends of a heavy war amid of the immense wildness of the Escambray mountain range , as well as of a brave man as Alberto Delgado Delgado, El Enano (the Midget).
“Whipping such bandits must be done as smart as it could be, using the least quantity of troopers and weapons. We always took into account that the Agent, the Active, as it was also known over those days, could likely play a key role in this war. While these anti-Cuban gangs seemed to be drawing to an avoidable end, we aimed at training one of our men to penetrate them and made them believe giving up weapons and fleeing to the United States was a reasonable end for that aimless fight, probably finished.
This all happened from late 1963 to early 1964, when a bunch of troopers of Carretero, Blas Tardío, Cheíto León… still operated in the Escambray; as Osvaldo Ramírez, Tomasito San Gil and Pedro González had been already captured…
“We proposed a person with strong ties in the area, and so we did, our choice: Alberto Delgado Delgado, eventually off-duty from the former Rebel Army due to a nervous collapse, with well-known relatives, the Tápanes, who, consequently came to be linked to counterrevolutionary individuals in Havana. Then, we agreed with the INRA to promote Delgado as administrator of the Maisinicú farm.
“His first mission aimed at becoming intimate with Benilde Díaz, Tomasito San Gil´s mother and relative of Maro Borges. Her house in Sancti Spíritus served as a conspiracy focus by that time. Alberto came to her with the idea of drawing Borges out of the country, what she first refused, but then both Maro and her accepted it under one condition that Alberto should accompany them.
“That was a kind of set up, but Alberto was a man of strong temper, brave, and of a natural intelligence able to stage successful plans. When Maro finally pushed him to follow him into Camagüey, on their way to that Cuban eastern province, Delgado made up a series of moves that put us to work quickly, but which saved his own life and its first Operation Trasbordo as well.
“ Maro behaved arrogantly and violently during our interrogation, he even called us cowards due to our not having been able to capture him in the wilderness. It was necessary to downgrade the prisoner’s moral structure, to reply him that when the story of bandits and this war was to be penned, he would be probably the most discredited one, because being a bandit chief was nabbed in an attempt to flee the island, leaving his dead behind.
“After that incident, he was more amenable to cooperate with us, and agreed to send a message to Carretero to gather the “scattered livestock” and put it all aboard a ship to the United States. He also eased to be pictured sipping a Coke inside a car, which served as proof for Carretero; in addition to revealing the accorded code for an expected radio transmission directed to these squads in the Escambray.
Maybe this time, General Luis Felipe Denis also missed a refrain that says, life is permanently in risk and death is always around. In a future someone else would seek for other clues of this story already told, viewed and imagined. He barely had an extra-time to retrace the footpaths of the Escambray…
“Carretero was upgraded chief of all gangs after the death of murderer Tomasito San Gil. He was seed of anti-Cuban armed bandits since he raised back in 1960. He boasted the prestige of having survived to the offensive, as they also denominated the LCB (Fight Against Bandits).Carretero had an enigmatic stare and a lot of influence on his subordinates.
“In second Operation Trasbordo, we left from the Hicacos peninsula aboard a ship. A carbon-copy of a U.S. Coast Guard boat. Some crew looked like and behaved like Americans and others even spoke English language. It was a top secret operation, our Coast Guard posts were only ordered ahead of time to communicate whether they spotted something unusual, although in Isabela, a pair of torpederas (Cuban Coast Guard armed boats) almost opened fire against us.
“That was an unforgettable ordeal. I just lost the count of how many times I vomited myself, I could no longer speak out a word, no way. The movie El Hombre de Maisinicú overlooked the sequence when one of our airplanes firstly flew over the boat as it pretended to be looking for us. Aboard one of our fast boats we sent comrades Pairé, Villa and De la Torre to pick up Carretero´s squad, hidden inland on a key.
“ Amid of the operation, Villa, stepped on the edge, leaned himself facing the sea and in a sudden fell down, he didn´t know how to swim, nor speak English language. Fortunately, Pairé sees him in the water, and in his poor English, shouts repeatedly De la Torre: Hey, mister, he’s drowning, he’s drowning! Few seconds later Villa was rescued, he forgets that he should remain in silent and however, he comments: Cojoyo, I almost got drowned!. That exact moment we believed this operation was screwed up, but then a bandit says: Coño, these Puerto Ricans are unpredictable carajo!…
“The boat cook was a black guy, who received clear orders not to show up himself, but he was down there in the kitchen, and could no longer hold back his vomits, so took his head out through a scuttle for some fresh, when the row of bandits went upstairs, so one of them placed his foot on it
“We gave a whisky, a sandwich and an American-brand box of cigarettes to bandits aboard. An English-language radio station was listened as the whole crew looked like U.S. natives. I was downstairs in the cellar, along with a boy dubbed Cuqui.
The first bandit chief who went down to our place was Benito Pedraja Amador. I spoke to him in English language, but as I knew before hand that he didn’t know a single word in English, then I told him: te has puesto flaco en el Escambray (you’ve got thinner in the Escambray) and suddenly neutralized him and kept him in the cellar. Shortly after they came down one by one …
“On the moment Carretero approached me, I told him: Mister Carretero, the Commander of all bandits …! – he replied – Yes, I am. I´m now heading for the United States to get trained and return…! And as soon as he raised his beard for I could check it out, we jumped on him and seized his guns. At the end, when I finally came on deck, in my military suit, he greets me and then told me with so much hatred and anger – I congratulate you.”
Maybe life was merely that: a small space, a minuscule season for men´s greatest feats. Probably the war wasn´t so long, but the pain for its deads feels deep in his chest.
“On Alberto’s murder no document has been published. He is an extraordinary hero, and there is no reason then to say he made some mistakes. As in most undercover works, one accidentally unveils some vital issues that the enemy benefits itself, and it is believed that Alberto during one of his several contacts with counterrevolutionary individuals in Havana, may have appeared suspicious, even more by his broad braveness that made him once commented to a close relative: whether he wanted to see a huge shipping of bandits, he should just sit down on a bench in the main park of Trinidad, because he was going to be crossing through it on a full-truck.
“I don’t know yet why the movie reveals Cheíto as Alberto´s murderer. It seems to me that the filmmakers came up with the idea of creating a character embodying the most abominable values, but who actually murdered him was Rubén Cordovés’ gang , and to be myself more exact, the one who started the entire bloodshed was Benito Pedraja Amador’s son, an ousted land proprietor of the Escambray area. This boy, half-abnormal, amid a discussion hit Delgado´s head with his a rifle recoil, and from that moment on the situation got to be real complicated …
“The day we found him, I´d got odd feelings about something unpleasant had happened to Alberto. His wife saw him leaving their home. We left to look for him and when we have just passed the bridge on the Guarabo river, a young boy told us to have seen a dead man hanging from a tree .
“We moved closer to the roadside till we spotted the tree, and there he remained hanged half-naked, and a stream of blood dripped from all over the body up to his foot. I was in shock then. Alberto and I have been working together for a lot of time, we respected each other. Although I stared for a while at his bloody corpse entirely messed up, I could only say: that one is the administrator of Maisinicú Farm, this seems to me a heavy clash among bandits, then I turned around and left. It was April 28, 1964.
“He was buried in Trinidad and his true identity was released three years later. He was an extraordinary person. He abandoned his amenities and also dragged his own family to play the most secret game in the middle of nowhere…”
Notice: Brig. General Luis Felipe Denis agreed to release never-before-published issues to his interviewer Luis Adrián Betancourt, journalist of the Moncada magazine, in 1985. The Escambray weekly specially acknowledges its author as well as researcher Maydelí Espinosa Miranda to have facilitated so valuable testimony.