April 1, 1997
Gerardo Hernández was on his way to the checkout at his local North Miami Costco—he had finally gotten his membership card—with a new VCR in his cart when, unexpectedly, “one of the most despicable characters alive” crossed in front of him.
The man was Felix Rodrígruez, the Bay of Pigs veteran, ally of Posada and Bosch and, worst, ex-CIA agent—“or agent, I don’t know”—responsible for the death of Ché Guevera. Gerardo Hernández recognized him immediately from TV and newspaper pictures, but he knew he couldn’t let his disgust show. He continued to the checkout, paid for the VCR, bought an ice cream and took a seat in the food court opposite the cash registers.
“Thinking that he could have detected some sign of surprise on my face when we passed each other,” Hernández reported later, “I visibly placed the shopping cart and the VCR because, supposedly, if someone is there to observe him, they would buy something else as justification, but not something as expensive.”
A few minutes later, after Rodríguez left the store, Hernández followed discreetly, stopping at a pay phone near the entrance where he could observe Rodríguez get into his car, a late model metallic grey Mercedes with tinted windows, license number VJG-4512. After he put his purchases in the trunk, Rodríguez walked the cart to a corral a significant distance from his car “with no logical justification at all. He did it in such as a way that, on his way back, he had the entire panoramic view” of the shopping center and anyone who might have been attempting follow him. The man knew his counter-surveillance! Hernández only hoped his casual presence at the phone booth, talking with his beeper in his hand, apparently responding to a page, would not attract attention.
It had been a disconcerting encounter. “You can imagine,” he told the CP in his report, “what it feels like to have… such an S.O.B. and who owes us such a big debt… so close by.”
The good news was that he’d managed to get his license number and a description of his vehicle for those back at HQ who kept track of such information.
He’d also managed to get a good VCR for just $189. The VCR was a gift—“from all the comrades”—to mark René and Olga’s 14th wedding anniversary, their first together in seven years! And, of course, so Irmita could watch those educational Spanish-language children’s programs Hernández had recommended.