An imaginative baseball fan from Miami has succeeded where generations of CIA agents, with their exploding cigars, fungus-filled diving suits and other elaborate spy gadgets have unceremoniously failed, by managing to penetrate the security cordon surrounding Fidel Castro and his family.
Posing as a 27-year-old Colombian sports journalist called Claudia, Luis Dominguez enjoyed an eight-month cyber romance with the Cuban dictator’s son, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle.
“Guess where I am, and I will make love to you without stopping,” reads a message Castro Jr is said to have sent Claudia during a diplomatic visit to Russia with his uncle Raul. “I have a desire to kiss you,” he wrote in another missive. “I want to kiss you, love you, and make love to you.”
The amorous emails were made public at the weekend by Florida’s AmericaTeVe TV channel. Mr Dominguez, who was born in Cuba, said his sting operation had been designed to “shatter the myth of an impenetrable” security network around the country’s first family.
In more than 20 online chats, Antonio Castro shared his home phone number and address in Havana with Claudia, who described herself as a slim brunette with blonde highlights. He also revealed that he had no bodyguards, and gave advance warning of a trip he was planning to Mexico.
No state secrets were shared during their flirtatious conversations, but the contents of the emails are nonetheless damaging to the Communist regime’s public image.
They reveal Castro’s son – whose mother is Dalia Soto del Valle, a former trade union employee who began romancing Fidel in the early 1960s and married him in 1980 – to be a globe-trotting playboy.
He has a penchant for designer clothing (sporting Lacoste polo shirts and belts), and expensive electronic gadgets. The impoverished inhabitants of Cuba have little or no access to the internet, and are banned from cyber-cafes used by tourists. But Antonio Castro, an orthopedic surgeon in his thirties, owns an Apple computer and a Blackberry, which he used to send Claudia photos from the Beijing Olympics.
His affection for capitalist technology appears to be behind the latest embarrassment. Mr Dominguez – who works for a security company that specialises in tracking Cuba’s armed forces – was able to orchestrate the prank after getting hold of Castro’s email address.
The TV channel which broke the news of the sting was given access to computer files on which Mr Dominguez stored emails and video-recorded messages from Castro Jr, and claims to have independently verified them. Some messages last just a few minutes; the longest is five hours. In the later messages, the friendly tone becomes increasingly lecherous.
“You know something? I want something more with you,” begins a message in which the dictator’s son stops making polite chit-chat and informs Claudia that he’s keen for their relationship to move into the realm of cyber-sex.
Antonio’s love life has a habit of embarrassing his father. In 2002, a Florida TV channel broadcast a series called The Secret Life of Fidel Castro, based on home videos stolen by one of his spurned girlfriends, Dashiell Torralba.
Mr Dominguez told reporters that the idea for his prank was born out of a 2006 visit to an international baseball tournament in Cartagena, Columbia. Castro’s son was at the event in his capacity as team physician to the Cuban national side. “Antonio was like a rock star, everyone asking to take photos with him, especially beautiful women,” Mr Dominguez told the Miami Herald. “That’s where I got the idea that we could get close to him by posing as one of those women.”
Drawing on photos of Castro Jr’s current and former girlfriends for inspiration, he designed Claudia, who also shared the Cuban’s interest in baseball, football and technology. Last summer, Claudia emailed Castro Jr saying they’d met in Cartagena. They became “friends” on a social networking site and their online conversations began in October. Castro’s son was emailed a fake photo of Claudia but never got to see live images of his cyber girlfriend, who regretfully informed him that her computer’s webcam was broken. Their conversations petered out in March, and Mr Dominguez contacted the TV station about the prank shortly after.
After learning he had been deceived, Castro Jr appears to have changed his email address and stopped taking international calls on the phone number he shared with Claudia.