Mexican Spy Has No Regrets

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Thu Apr 6 12:45:23 PDT 2000

(The Guardian)

Mexican Spy Has No Regrets

Thursday April 6, 2000 8:10 pm

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Tall, white-haired

and friendly, Gilberto Lopez y Rivas is a

noted anthropologist and prominent

congressman, a member of a commission

trying to end the Zapatista rebellion in

southern Mexico.

But for the last 22 years he has guarded a

secret: Lopez spied on the United States

for Soviet military intelligence, passing on

secrets for a decade until the FBI caught

up with him and quietly forced him back to


Now that a new book has uncovered that

past, Lopez freely admits he was a spy,

but says that he did it for convictions, not


``We don't regret anything in that

historical moment in which we lived. It

was an option of struggle. We did nothing

of which we would be ashamed,'' Lopez

told The Associated Press.

David Wise, author of the newly published

book ``Cassidy's Run,'' said Lopez was

one of at least 10 Soviet agents exposed

by U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Cassidy, who

spent more than 20 years as a double

agent for the FBI.

Tipped by Cassidy, FBI agents

photographed Lopez acting as a courier

for miniaturized documents left by the

double agent. They began a close watch

on his life as a graduate student in Utah

and Texas and later as an assistant

professor at the University of Minnesota.

Lopez was fortunate.

When the FBI confronted him in June

1978, he confessed and was left him

alone briefly with his wife and children

after they promised not to commit suicide.

He assumed he would be sent to jail.

``It was a very painful scene,'' Lopez said.

``Only scruples of U.S. democracy, which

are to be admired, blocked our


Wise said concern about the legality of

the surveillance used to trap the Lopezes,

which included cameras planted in their

home, led the Justice Department to

decide it could not prosecute them.

``At that moment we thought it was a trap

setting us free,'' Lopez said. ``We thought

what they are going to do is make an

attempt on our lives.''

Lopez, his wife and children fled to

Mexico and began a new, more public life.

In 1997 he was elected to Mexico's

congress for the leftist Democratic

Revolution Party. His term ends this year.

The revelation in Wise's book was

reported Tuesday in the Mexico City

newspaper El Universal - not that it

seemed to bother many in a country

where the United States is an

often-troublesome neighbor and where

many politicians dabbled in the radical

fringes of politics as youths.

Lopez said four or five people

congratulated him after seeing the article.

According to ``Cassidy's Run,'' published

in March, FBI agent Aurelio Flores

befriended Lopez and even baby-sat for

his children. But Lopez denies claims he

tried to recruit Flores for Soviet


Lopez, who declined to speak with Wise

before the book was published, said his

activity included observation and

intelligence tasks. He didn't describe

them in depth.

Lopez complained that the book

exaggerated how much money he

received for his work and that it wrongly

portrays him as having a ``fanatical

hatred'' of Americans. ``That is absolutely

false... We had excellent friends in our

stay in the United States.''

Lopez, born in 1943, came of age as the

Cuban Revolution triumphed. He said he

had ``a very fundamental conviction that

socialism was possible in Latin America.''

As a youth, he joined an abortive armed

group, was stunned by the death of

Ernesto ``Che'' Guevara in a failed Bolivian

revolt and said he was at Tlatelolco plaza

in Mexico City in 1968 when the Mexican

army massacred student demonstrators.

``I think that times have changed, and it is

hard to understand what it was to speak

of anti-imperialism,'' he said. ``It was a

very black-and-white time, really. There

was no room for subtleties. We did not

know all of what was going on in the

Soviet Union.''

Lopez said that in December 1968, he

made the first of several trips to Moscow,

where he was trained by Soviet military

intelligence, the GRU.

He returned to Mexico, where he did a

master's degree thesis on Chicanos and

later earned a doctorate at the University

of Utah. But the principal work, he said,

was always intelligence.

While in Utah he attracted FBI attention

that never flagged. Wise said Flores even

followed him from Utah to the University of


After returning for a brief time to Mexico,

he went to Minnesota, where two FBI

agents died in a plane crash trying to

follow his car on a trip to Canada.

After he was caught and forced to return

to Mexico, he was named director of the

National School of Anthropology and

History and spent time in Nicaragua,

becoming an adviser to the leftist

Sandinista government.

He described the Soviet model of

repressive socialism as ``a failure'' and

said he wants peaceful change: ``I think

we should convince, not conquer.'' But he

remains convinced that capitalism creates

``blood, pain, tears.''

As a congressman, Lopez is on a

commission mediating between the

government and the Zapatista rebels, led

by the ski-masked Subcomandante


Now that his past is public, Lopez

laughed about the next conversation he

might have with Marcos.

``I will tell him that I too had a mask,'' he


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