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Cryptonym: ECSIGIL-1

Definition:
Mario Cardenas. According to former CIA officer, Philip Agee, ECSIGIL-1 was Mario Cardenas and ECSIGIL-2 was Luis Vargas. They were allegedly members of the PCE in Ecuador and were apparently close associates of Rafael Echeverria Flores.
Status:
Speculative
Discussion:
A cable in February of 1962 stated that Rafael Echevarria Flores was the Quito Communist Leader, and had recently returned from a visit to Cuba.
Sources:

Inside the Company, CIA Diary (1975) by Philip Agee: Pages 93-94: ...". https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-DAzR701tP2dL_DNu/inside-the-company-cia-diary-philip-agee_djvu.txt

This is our most important penetration operation against the Communist Party of Ecuador and consists of two agents who are members of the PCE and close associates of Rafael Echeverria Flores, principal PCE leader in the sierra. The agents are Mario Cardenas, whose cryptonym is ECSIGIL-1, and Luis Vargas, who is ECSIGIL-2. They have been reporting for about four years since their recruitment as 'walk-ins' after their disillusionment with the PCE. Although the agents are close friends and originally came to the station together, they have since been discouraged from associating too closely, so that if one is ever blown, the other will not be contaminated. The separation is also designed to prevent their collaborating over what they report. Cardenas is directed through a cutout, Mario Cabeza de Vaca a Quito milk producer who became a US citizen through military service in World War II but returned to Ecuador afterwards. He is married to an American who runs the food and liquor commissary of the US Embassy. Vargas is directed through another cutout, Miguel Burbano de Lara, who is the Quito airport manager of Pan American-Grace Airways. The cutouts are not supposed to know each other's identity, although each knows that Vargas and Cardenas are reporting, and they meet separately with the station Reports Officer, John Bacon, who handles this operation. Although neither of these agents holds important PCE elective positions, they are extremely close to Echeverria and the decision-making process in Quito. They receive information on practically all matters of importance, and the ECSIGIL project accounts for an average of about five or six disseminated intelligence reports in Washington each week..."

104-10162-10010: CABLE - ALFERYEV IN CLOSE CONTACT CUBAN DIPLOMATS AND LOCAL COMMUNIST LEADERS (REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITIES).

02/19/62: Cable from Quito to Director: REF DIR 42255 (OUT 52143)* "1. ECSIGIL-1 reports intense revolutionary planning-organization by Rafael Echeverria Flores, QUIT Communist leader following latter's return from Cuba mid-February (see QUIT 4360) (IN 29758). Echeverria said Cubans ready help PCE prepare for insurrection Ecuador. Echeverria intimated arms available from Cuba. (Intel report follows). 2. Atahualpa Basante, commie military expert has just given 10 day sabotage-guerilla warfare training course Guayaquil using Cuban material. Similar courses scheduled other provincial capitals. (Intel report follows). 3. Ivan Alferyev, suspect his posing as Pravada correspondent, in close contact Cuban diplomats and local Communist leaders during recent visit QUIT (Handwritten note: Jeanette showed me). Activities included casing ODACID (U.S. State Department) building QUIT, in company Cuban diplomat. ECACTOR reported his residence cased by persons in Cuban Embassy vehicle during same period. 4. 5 Chinese Communists posing as journalists presently in Quito in close contact commie, labor and campesino leaders. GAYA press reported they received by minister education. Chinese refused give local press purpose visit. 5. All other evidence previously reported including clear cut mail intercept evidence Cuban training Ecuadoreans in sabotage, guerilla warfare etc. C/S Comment: *HQs reported current information available on Sino-Soviet Bloc subversive efforts and successes in Latin America."

Inside the Company, CIA Diary (1975) by Philip Agee: Page 228: https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-DAzR701tP2dL_DNu/inside-the-company-cia-diary-philip-agee_djvu.txt

..."Quito 12 April 1963: A report is just in from Mario Cardenas, one of our best PCE penetration agents and a close but not intimate associate of Echeverria. Cardenas reported that Jose Maria Roura, Echeverria's principal lieutenant in Quito, has left for Communist China where he expects to get payments started that will enable the Echeverria group finally to begin armed action. Echeverria has told Cardenas to stand by for travel to Colombia at a moment's notice, so that he can receive money and documents that Roura, who is very well-known, should not bring into the country himself..."

Inside the Company, CIA Diary (1975) by Philip Agee: Pages 237-238: https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-DAzR701tP2dL_DNu/inside-the-company-cia-diary-philip-agee_djvu.txt

..."Quito 24 May 1963...John Bacon, the Station Reports Officer, and I suggested to Dean that we prepare an incriminating document to be used against Antonio Flores Benitez — to be planted on Flores when he arrives at the airport. There's a chance, of course, that he'll come overland from Colombia or that he'll arrive in Guayaquil, but Dean likes the plan and asked us to go ahead. The document will appear to be Flores's and Echeverria's own report to the Cubans on the status of their organization and on their plans for armed action. We are describing what we know about the organization, filling in with imagination where necessary, on the basis of the information from the ECWHEAT telephone tap and reports from Cardenas and Vargas, our two best penetrations of the Echeverria group. We are emphasizing (for propaganda afterwards) Flores's penetration agents in the Ministry of Defense, Army communications, the presidential bodyguard and the presidential archives. We are also planning to mention relations with Araujo's group and Gonzalo Sono Mogro, who seems to be training a separate organization in explosives and weapons. Quito 26 May 1963: It has been a busy week-end. Bacon and I finished the 'Flores Report' yesterday and he took it out to Mike Burbano to put in final form, correct Spanish and proper commie jargon. He knows this usage best because he's the cutout for Cardenas and Vargas. No question but that we've got a really sensational and damaging document..."

Inside the Company, CIA Diary (1975) by Philip Agee: Pages 242-243: https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-DAzR701tP2dL_DNu/inside-the-company-cia-diary-philip-agee_djvu.txt

..."Quito 6 June 1963...Our ploy against del Hierro worked liked a charm. This morning about ten o'clock Cordova called me from the Embassy receptionist's desk and when I went own he took me out back to del Hierro who was waiting in his car. He said he urgently needed back the Flores document because the press had somehow got a copy and he would have to release the original later today I rushed up for the document, returned it to del Hierro and told Dean who whooped for joy Then I called Rodrigo Rivadeneira to alert his brother Jorge that the Ministry of Government would release the document later today It may not be printed in today's evening newspapers but already the whole town is buzzing about it. Today the Council of State formally rejected Roura's case against del Hierro and Sevilla, which wasn't unexpected. Roura will be on ice for a long time and now Flores's chances of getting off are nil. Tomorrow, Sevilla's formal statement to the Council of State will be published in the newspapers — a full page which we're paying for and which includes PCE data like membership figures and recruitment priorities that I passed to Sevilla for documentation. Both Mario Cardenas and Luis Vargas report that Echeverria has been crushed psychologically by this blow. He fears that with the Roura arrest and now Flores he'll surely be reprimanded by the Saad leadership, possibly even expelled from the PCE. He has now gone into hiding and the agents are trying to find out where..."

Contributors:
Philip Agee • Gavin McDonald

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