Talking to Efraim Kier is similar to turning the pages of an intriguing international thriller, his stories are filled with clandestine meetings, world leaders and daring escape plans to new countries and that’s just scratching the surface.

Efraim Kier was born in Cuba, the product of parents who in 1924 escaped the pogroms of Europe in search of a better life. Cuba proved to be a safe haven for many Jewish families. Kier and his brother, Ralph grew up in Havana, where he studied civil engineering at Havana University.

Life is filled with surprises; little did Efraim Kier know how one of his friend’s actions was going to throw him into aworld of covert operations against the country he called home.

The friend of Efraim Kier was Fidel Castro. He grinned, “Castro used to take me home in his car. He was a rich kid with a car, and we lived four blocks away from one an- other. I never knew he was a communist, we were friends at the beginning.”

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Kier, who did not believe in Castro’s ideas, was obvious en

ough about his feelings that he was recruited by the American embassy in Havana to do intelligence work and help recruit people to join the Cuban underground during the Bay of Pigs era.

“I worked with the CIA- when I was in the underground. At the time the American embassy was still there, and people approached me. The last year when I was in Cuba, I had construction work in Santiago and in Havana which was 1000 km away- so I was able to move freely around the Island and get people to join us in the underground.”

Kier’s job was to assist American Intelligence with vital strategic information.

“One of my jobs was to see if the Cuban govern- ment were really putting missiles in Cuba. The CIA assigned me a radio telegraphy- so we com- municated with the USA every night. As you know in 1961- no satellites or computers existed. We only had a few seconds to transmit a message- to encrypt it and have it sent in a few seconds.”

Kier risked his life for standing up to his former friend, Castro and was eventually caught and thrown in jail.

“I was working in intelligence, I got put in jail but I had so many friends in the Cuban govern- ment who could not believe I was against Castro. After two days they let me go, but they started to search my home.”

Kier knew it was a matter of time before his free- dom might be completely taken away so he con- cocted a plan to leave Cuba.

“I was already a suspect- I did not have a choice but to leave- the Cuban government would not let me do it legally- so I had to do it illegally.”

He took matters into his own hands and devised a way to leave. “I was a stowaway in a Cuban air- line, the whole crew knew about me and helped me get to NYC, where I spent four or five days and then I went to Miami. The economy was bad there, but Puerto Rico was booming.”

While he left Cuba to start a new life, his parents could only leave a couple of years later.

“They had to leave everything- and were not even allowed to take an additional pair of pants- Nothing.”

While his parents had a difficult time leaving Cuba, it was not for the same reasons Jewish people have been forced to leave countries in the past.

Kier explained, ““Castro is not anti-Semitic, Jewish people left the country, like others be- cause it was becoming a communist country.”

Kier came to Puerto Rico with nothing but a good attitude, ideas and ambition. He started working small jobs for other people. Soon after he gathered a group of investors and created a construction company. Hard work, determina- tion, dedication and with the capable Leon Rubin, created Atlantic Quality Construction which employed about 500 people.

“I arrived in Puerto Rico in this strong eco- nomic environment and because I was an engi- neer and with my knowledge of development from Cuba I began to develop high rise projects, at the beginning with the help of some in- vestors.” The momentum built as did Kier’s business, it delved into building condominium developments, and over time his company be- came one of the top general contractors in Puerto Rico.

Kier explained, “In the sixties when I arrived to Puerto Rico, it was like Cuba 20 years earlier. The economy was booming, there was a federal law granting federal tax exemptions to any entity that established itself in Puerto Rico. This ex- emption covered not only Puerto Rico but also in the United States.”

Factories were established all over the Puerto Rico; in the garment industry, shoe factories and mainly pharmaceuticals. Puerto Rico became one of the biggest locations which manufactured pharmaceuticals in the world.

While his business grew, it also helped his per- sonal life grow as well, Kier married Sarah, a vi- vacious Israeli woman who he met through a work project. Today he has a household filled with children and grandchildren. The Jewish community is near to his heart, he was the President of Puerto Rico’s UJA for seven years. During this period he traveled to Israel on Prime Minister Mission’s where he met pivotal Israeli leaders such as Moshe Dayan, Chaim Bar Lev, Mota Gur and Arik Sharon.

However, while the future was barreling for- ward, he never forgot his roots back in Havana. After thirty years he had a chance to revisit his former home on a VIP trip to Cuba, where he reconnected with childhood friends, who also happened to be ministers in the government.

Kier recounted his experience, “One minister was the man who took me out of jail; he sarcas- tically said to me, “You know many of your friends in Cuba belonged to the CIA!”

He also reconnected and renewed a strong bond with a high ranking government official he had not seen in decades. They had an emotional re- union in Paris and are still in touch.

“From then on- whenever I am in Cuba I get the royal treatment- my friend takes care of every- thing. Every time I visit- I also go to the Jewish community and try to help them too.” He ex- plained, “Poverty in Cuba is fantastic- the Cuban government has a lane where everything is beautiful- all for the tourists- if you go two blocks to the left you see complete poverty.

Kier’s life is filled with fascinating stories, but he does not feel his adventures were so out of the ordinary. He explained, “My life was exciting - full of danger - but it was the same as for many Cuban people.”

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Efraim and Sarah Kier