Cuban Influence Falls Short – Study Finds Venezuelan Public Favors Washington Over Havana Reply

PRC-LogoDespite rocky diplomatic relations, Venezuelan public prefers U.S. to Cuba

By Kat Devlin, Pew Research Center

Venezuela has had a rough year. With inflation topping 60% in May, new talk of raising the country’s incredibly low gas prices and shortages of goods ranging from coffee to toilet paper, the socialist government is reaching out to allies in an effort to alleviate the country’s pervasive economic problems. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan public has very different views about two of the nation’s most important trade partners: the United States and Cuba.

Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro is no fan of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean Venezuelans take the same view. According to Pew Research Center’s Spring 2014 global survey, Venezuelans have generally positive attitudes concerning the U.S. At a rate of two-to-one, the Venezuelan public holds a more favorable (62%) than unfavorable (31%) view of their biggest trade partner. This represents a nine point uptick in support since 2013, when 53% shared positive feelings toward the U.S. Younger Venezuelans are especially likely to view the U.S. favorably – 66% of those ages 18-29 express a positive opinion. Still, a majority of those ages 50 and older (56%) also perceive the U.S. favorably.

The biggest disagreements about the U.S. break along ideological lines. Venezuelans who lean to the right of the political spectrum see the U.S. in an overwhelmingly positive light (84%), while only 12% have a negative opinion. Venezuela’s political left, which aligns with President Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, tends to be more critical of the U.S. (62% unfavorable v. 34% favorable). This is none too surprising given the tumultuous relationship between Maduro and the U.S. in recent months and the many years of tension between Washington and Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Chávez, who blamed the U.S. for organizing a coup against him in 2002, often stoked anti-American sentiment with colorful quips, including claims that the U.S. “invented technology to spread cancer” to South American leaders and referring to then-President George W. Bush as “the devil,” “a donkey” and “a drunkard.” Despite this, a majority of moderates (63%) see America favorably.

Findings continue here:  Venezuelans prefers U.S.

 

Former DGI Officer Identifies 17 Castro Spies 3

DGI officer and Ambassador, René Ceballo Prats

DGI officer and Ambassador, René Ceballo Prats

Cubans Involved In Peru-Based Espionage Operations During The 1970s & 1980s

By Chris Simmons

General Juan Velasco Alvarado came to power as part of a junta that overthrew the Peruvian government in October 1968. In July 1973, Velasco’s leftist government established diplomatic relations with Cuba. A declassified Cuban government cable later identified the General as one of its intelligence agents. Velasco remained in power until late August 1975 when he was deposed by General Francisco Morales Bermudez, his prime minister.

Former Dirección General De Inteligencia (DGI) officer Enrique García Diaz served on the “Peru Desk” at DGI headquarters during this period. During an interview, he explained that three other officers also worked the “desk:” Eulalia Sardain (codenamed “Mayra”), René Ceballo Prats (“Ibrahim”) and Ismael Cruz Arce (“Jose Luis”). Two additional DGI officers who worked with García Diaz on Peru issues were Juan Pedro Gonzalez (“Giraldo”) and Jose Francisco Molina Mauri (“Ivan”).

According to media reports, René Ceballo Prats later led Cuba’s Embassy in Nicaragua as chargé d’affaires starting in 2009. He now serves as Cuban Ambassador to Lebanon.

The CIA’s 1983 global directory of Cuban officials provides the names and positions of 21 Cubans posted to Havana’s Embassy in Peru.  In a review of these personnel, García Diaz identified the following nine diplomats as Cuban intelligence officers or collaborators.

Counselor Jorge Pollo Garcia (“Osvaldo”). DGI Centro chief. According to Garcia Diaz, Pollo’s espionage career began in 1961 with the Illegal Department. Pollo reportedly served briefly in Japan in 1970 before his reassignment to Chile as the Deputy Centro Chief. Following his subsequent tour in Peru, Pollo became chief of the Southern Cone “desk,” overseeing this region’s spy operations. Several years later, he led the upgrade of Cuban intelligence operations in India from a one-man “pointe” to a full-blown Centro. He may have later served in Bolivia before becoming chief of staff for Jorge Valdés-Saldaña Risquet, a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Media reports later cited Pollo as a Cuban diplomat in Guatemala in the early 2000s.

Consul General Ricardo Cruz Fernandez. DGI.

1st Secretary Maria Consuelo Ramiriz de Martinez. DGI.

Attaché Angel Moriaga Diaz. DGI Code Clerk.

Commercial Attaché Fidel Diez Tornes. García Diaz characterized this former colleague as the best DGI Case Officer (i.e., spy handler) in Peru.

Prensa Latina (PRELA) Correspondent Ruban Alayon Sanchez (“Lorenzo”). DGI.

Prensa Latina (PRELA) Correspondent Gustavo Carballosa (“Gaston”). DGI. According to García Diaz, Carballosa wrote the daily intelligence report for the Peruvian President.

Prensa Latina (PRELA) Correspondent Manuel Robles Sosa. America Department (DA). Europa Publications’ South America, Central America, and the Caribbean 2003 listed him as the PRELA representative in La Paz, Bolivia. Subsequent PRELA coverage seems to show him active at least through late September 2012.

Prensa Latina (PRELA) Correspondent Gerardo Torres. DGI Collaborator.

García Diaz recalled three additional intelligence officers not on the CIA list. They were:

  • Manuel Martinez Galan (“Manolo”), the husband of Maria Consuelo Ramiriz. García Diaz cited Martinez as the first DGI Centro Chief in Lima.
  • Eduardo Torres Ravelo. DGI. Open source publications referenced Torres Ravelo as a Cuban diplomat in Chile during the Allende years.
  • Prensa Latina (PRELA) Correspondent Sergio Medina (“Sergito”). DGI. García Diaz noted that Medina also served in Colombia at one point. The CIA’s 1983 roster listed Medina as one of several PRELA correspondents in Venezuela.

Enrique García Diaz defected in March 1989 while based in Ecuador. According to a March 2, 1994 feature by the Canadian Press (news agency), García Diaz had served with the DGI since 1978, handling Cuban agents in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. (Note: The Canadian Press article is available via Lexis/Nexis).

An intelligence-affiliated “diplomat” – understandably not identified by García Diaz because he served outside the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) – would be the Cuban Military Attaché, Colonel Manuel Bravo Yanez. While not every military attaché is a Case Officer (i.e., spy-handler), they are – at a minimum – overt intelligence collectors reporting to the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR).

Author’s Note: Given my knowledge of Mr. García Diaz, I have no reason to doubt the reliability of his information on this topic. In addition:

  • The status of DGI code clerk Angel Moriaga Diaz was confirmed by another highly reliable former DGI officer.
  • Declassified US government reports substantiated the DGI service of Luis Ismael Cruz Arce. This officer first served at the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City around August 1966 before being transferred to the one-diplomat Consulate in Tampico by 1970.
  • A declassified CIA report from Oct 17, 1969 identified Manuel Martinez Galan as a DGI officer. Author Jonathan Haslam also characterized Martinez as DGI, attributing his information to a London-based Cuban defector. In contrast, in 1972, internationally known newspaper columnist Jack Anderson identified Martinez, then a 1st Secretary in Santiago, as head of the DA’s Chile-based operations. A decade later, the CIA listed Martinez as a 1st Secretary at the Cuban Embassy in Moscow.

 

Los Angeles Production Team Launches Indiegogo for Cuban Spy Film Reply

Dr. J. Anthony del Marmol,

Dr. J. Anthony del Marmol

Based On Real Events, a Thriller of a 13 Year Old Spy’s Ordeals

Los Angeles, CA — (ReleaseWire) — 08/20/2014 — In Los Angeles, a man seeks to clear his name. Charged with counterfeiting, this man, who has adopted the United States as his country must now prove he was working with U.S. intelligence at the time. Due to the sensitive nature of the evidence, the records are sealed and as he makes attempts to have them declassified to clear his name, the agencies who were embarrassed by the case seek to hide what happened and who made it happen even more. Based on the true life events in the life of Dr. J. Anthony del Marmol, The Zipper I: Conception of Conspiracy is a film four decades in the making and now a talented production team has come together and launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funding to take the film into production and beyond.

About Cuban Lightning Enterprises

Cuban Lightning Enterprises was formed by Dr. del Marmol to tell his tale of rising from his origins in 1959 as the Little Commander in Castro’s army to his transformation through the 1960s into the Little Spy, working with the Freedom Fighters and passing secrets to the US directly from Castro and Guevara’s briefcases undetected for 10 years. In 1971, his cover is blown, and he has to flee for his life through jungles, swamps, and minefields, culminating in snorkeling for 12 hours to get into the US Navy base at Guantanamo. He currently has three published novels in the marketplace (Cuba: Russian Roulette of America, The Zipper, and Cuba: Russian Roulette of the World). All written materials are ready to make available for whatever production company may acquire the project.

A project of this magnitude cannot be accomplished as a short film or low budget studio feature, but rather requires a name cast a production crew, which requires funding on a larger scale and thus why the company chose to work with an Indiegogo campaign. Rewards offered are more than receipt of a signed DVD and movie premiere tickets – some rewards allow background work as an actor on the film, time with the cast, insider information about the film from the production set as well as IMDB credible credits on the film. The higher-end packages even include an actual spy device used by intelligence forces. For more information, visit The Zipper I – Conception of Conspiracy Project

Ros-Lehtinen Blasts State Dept For Giving Visas to Expelled Spy; Castro Relatives 3

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Calls Out State Department for Castro Visas

By Kevin Derby | Sunshine State News

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, came out swinging at the Obama administration on Tuesday for giving three Cubans with close ties to the Castro regime — Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro, Josefina Vidal  and Antonio Castro, the son of Fidel Castro — visas to enter the United States. Ros-Lehtinen wrote to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the matter.

“I’ve written to Secretary Kerry to express my opposition and concern over the State Department’s recent decision to grant these three high-ranking Castro regime officials entry to the United States,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday. “This is a misguided decision that gives the appearance of normalcy in relations with this murderous regime and sends the wrong message to the 11 million Cuban people suffering under its oppressive rule. It is an affront to the principles of freedom and democracy, and I would urge the administration to reverse its decision and instead push for greater reforms on the island.”

Editor’s Note:  Directorate of Intelligence officer Josefina Vidal left the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban spy-diplomats.

Former Spy Arturo Lopez-Levy See Precedent in First “No” Vote By a Cuban Parliamentarian 4

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy

By Chris Simmons

The Associated Press shredded what little remaining credibility it still held by breathlessly announcing “Yet another revolutionary tradition has been broken in Cuba: A lawmaker voted “no” in parliament.” It’s fawning non-news story went on to report that Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, voted “no” on a labor bill she felt failed to provide adequate protection to HIV patients and members of the LGBT community.

Equally eager to obliterate his integrity, former Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Arturo Lopez-Levy, opined that Mariela Castro’s symbolic vote might “open doors for other important initiatives.”

In contrast, Cuban historian Carlos Alzugaray noted simply that the event marked the first “no” vote in the history of revolutionary Cuba’s National Assembly.

Cuban Defector Says He Has Information About Payá’s Death 1

DTI identity document (Courtesy America TeVe)

DTI identity document (Courtesy America TeVe)

By Juan O. Tamayo, Miami Herald

An officer in Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior who claims to be related to former MININT chief Jose Abrantes and to have valuable information has defected and is being held in a migrant detention center in the Bahamas.

Ortelio Abrahantes Bacallao, 42, claims that fellow counterintelligence agents told him that dissident Osvaldo Payá was killed when intelligence agents rammed his car in an attempt to stop and search it, and not in a one-car accident as the Cuban government claims.

None of the claims could be independently confirmed. But he has documents identifying him as a member of MININT’s Technical Investigations Directorate, a police-like unit that investigates common crimes, and a graduate of MININT’s law school.

Abrahantes Bacallao told El Nuevo Herald he held the rank of major in MININT’s Directorate of Counterintelligence (DCI) and was last in charge of all the ministry’s land and sea transportation operations in the province of Ciego de Avila, in central Cuba. The powerful ministry is in overall charge of the island nation’s domestic security.

The defector said he launched his escape March 24 from a key off the northern coast of the province aboard a MININT-owned sailboat, but was picked up three days later by the U.S. Coast Guard and was taken to the Bahamas. He is being held at the Carmichael Road migrant detention center in Nassau.

Bahamian police and United Nations officials have interviewed him for his application for political asylum, Abrahantes Bacallao said. But he fears he will be murdered if the Nassau government repatriates him to Cuba before the application is processed.

“I know too much. They would love to have me in their hands,” Abrahantes Bacallao told El Nuevo Herald. His Miami lawyer, David Alvarez, said he “faces being executed if he returns to Cuba because he was involved in the military.”

The defector said his father was a cousin of Interior Minister Gen. José Abrantes, who was arrested in 1989 and charged with failing to stop the drug trafficking and corruption that led to the execution of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and three others that same year. He was serving a 20-year prison term when he died in 1991 in what friends described as mysterious circumstances.

Although Abrahantes Bacallao spells his surname differently from Jose Abrantes, he has claimed that his birth certificate spells it the same way and that the “h” was added when he joined the MININT. Official Cuban records often contain misspellings.

The defector said he heard details about the Payá case during a party with other DCI officers about one month after his death on July 22, 2012, in what Cuban officials portrayed as a one-car accident caused by his driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero. The Spaniard has insistently alleged that he was rammed from behind by another vehicle.

Feature continues here:  Did DCI Murder Payá?

 

Cuban Propaganda Effort Suffers Another Self-Inflicted Wound; Health Minister Decries Alleged US Use of “Medical Cover” For Spying 2

Minister of Public Health, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda

Minister of Public Health, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda

By Chris Simmons

In yet another indicator of the slow, inevitable decline of the Castro regime’s once-vaunted propaganda machine, CubaSi reported that Minister of Public Health, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, condemned the United States because the “Associated Press revealed this week details of a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that used young people from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to travel to the island and obtain intelligence information on the workshops against HIV.”

It would be far too easy to mock the Castro brothers for their sustained use of the discredited AP story, so we won’t go there. Instead, we’ll simply suggest that next time the spinmeisters use a Ministry that doesn’t have an established history as an intelligence front.

For example, Lexis/Nexis has a great BBC story from August 14, 2005 noting that Paraguay was investigating a large influx of Cubans. Asuncion officials suspected Cuban intelligence officers were entering the country in the guise of medical staff or tourists. Officials reported that several foreign nations provided the information which led to the investigation. At the time, roughly 200 Cubans were entering the nation monthly. The Police and Prosecutor’s Office seemed most concerned about the Cuban medical brigades in Paraguay’s interior, which operated free of any oversight.

Two months later, on the other side of the world, Gustavo Ricardo Machin Gomez, a member of Havana’s primary foreign intelligence service, the elite Directorate of Intelligence (DI), arrived in Pakistan. There he reportedly supervised the 2500 medical personnel Cuba sent to conduct humanitarian missions after the devastating October 2005 earthquake. The medical personnel served in Pakistan’s northern region, adjacent to Afghanistan, for roughly seven months. During this period, Havana established 32 field hospitals and two relief camps. Immediately thereafter, Cuba re-established its Embassy in Pakistan and promoted Machin to Ambassador.

The career spy previously served in the US from the summer of 1998 through early November 2002, when Washington declared him Persona Non Grata, along with three other spies under diplomatic cover. He was a First Secretary at the Cuban Interests Section when expelled. The PNG action against Machin and another Interests Section officer reportedly retaliated for the 16-year career of Cuban spy Ana Montes, who was sentenced in October 2002.

We could go on, but that would be overkill……..

AP Story Renews Focus on Fulton Armstrong; Former Confidant of Ana Montes 2

Fulton Armstrong

Fulton Armstrong

By Chris Simmons

Recent articles by the Washington Free Beacon and other media outlets have challenged the credibility of the Associated Press. A central figure in the newswire’s use of suspect sources is Fulton Armstrong, the one-time National Intelligence Officer for Latin America.

Following the conviction of career spy Ana Montes, several administration officials – including Otto Reich – sought the reassignment of NIO Fulton Armstrong, one of the government’s senior specialists on Cuba. The New York Times cited critical officials as describing Armstrong as overly “soft” on Cuba threats to U.S. interests. Behind the scenes, they were deeply concerned not only with Armstrong’s strong ties to Montes, but how closely his analytic conclusions mirrored or endorsed hers.

In Newsmax, Kenneth Timmermann wrote that Armstrong would minimize or trivialize everything “derogatory to Castro, Venezuela, or to the FARC.” Several former U.S. intelligence officers confirmed that Armstrong, aided by Janice O’Connell, Senator Christopher Dodd’s top staffer, went so far as to continuously defend Montes “in closed-door sessions with top policy-makers” long after her arrest.

Armstrong is well-known for consistently minimizing Cuba’s ability to threaten U.S. interests and its continued support to terrorists. In one interview, Scott Carmichael – the senior Counterintelligence investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency – said Montes was “on a first name basis” with the Armstrong. In fact, Montes and Armstrong confided in one another by phone into the final stages of her investigation.

Dr. Norman Bailey, who previously served as the Issue Manager on Cuba & Venezuela for the Director of National Intelligence noted, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Fulton Armstrong had something to do with Ana’s products not being pulled.”

In his book, Sabotage: America’s Enemies within the CIA, Rowan Scarborough recalled a meeting convened by Fred Fleitz, a CIA officer on an interagency tour with the State Department. Representatives from most of the Intelligence Community attended, including Fulton Armstrong. Citing the damage caused by Montes, Fleitz called for a review of all intelligence products on which she’d worked. He felt such a review might provide insights into disinformation and biases built into her analysis. Armstrong opposed any such review as wholly unnecessary. “He had worked on the same assessments as Montes and was sure she did not distort them,” wrote Scarborough.

Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was so repulsed by Armstrong’s openly biased stance that he banned him from his office. In a view shared by many, Noriega said: “I didn’t question his patriotism. I questioned his judgment.” Noriega went on to tell his assistant he “didn’t want to see a single scrap of paper he was involved in. I was not interested in a person with such a profound lack of judgment.”

In conclusion, a 2012 post by Capitol Hill Cubans reported the following:  “During his three-year stint as a staffer to Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Armstrong often forgot who was the elected Senator … and led a mostly unauthorized assault on all-things Cuba policy under the Senator’s name.  This led to Armstrong’s retirement in 2011.”

 

Critics Question Sources for AP Report on Cuba Democracy Program 1

AP

 

 

 

Say sources had political agenda to undermine U.S. policy

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

Critics are raising questions about the Associated Press’s recent report on a U.S. program to foster civil society in Cuba and have accused the news organization of cooperating with sources who have a political agenda against U.S. policy toward the island.

The AP recently reported on the program that sent Spanish-speaking youth to Cuba to help build health and civil society associations, which the news organization described as a “clandestine operation” with the goal of “ginning up rebellion.” Human rights groups involved in the program criticized the report and said it mischaracterized the nature of the civil society projects.

Defenders of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program say the AP has been less than forthright about the sources for its reporting. They also allege that the AP obtained information and documents from longstanding critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba’s communist government.

The anti-Castro website Capitol Hill Cubans alleged that the key source for the AP’s reporting on both the civil society program and a separate project, an attempt to develop a Twitter-like social media service for Cubans, was Fulton Armstrong. Armstrong is a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffer and senior intelligence analyst for Latin America.

Armstrong told the Washington Free Beacon in an email that although the AP contacted him, he was not the main source of information and documents. “The AP’s reports are pretty obviously based on documentary evidence provided by insiders concerned about the regime-change programs,” he said, adding that he was never fully briefed on what he called USAID’s “clandestine, covert operations.”

“Because the SFRC had investigated these scandalously run secret programs during my tenure on the Committee staff, and because my boss (Chairman [John] Kerry) was concerned enough to put a hold on the programs for a while, I was logically among the dozens of people to be called by the AP reporters,” he said.

Armstrong has long raised the ire of U.S. officials and activists advocating a tough line against the Castro regime. Foreign policy officials in the George W. Bush administration attempted to reassign Armstrong from Latin American intelligence after arguing that he was “soft” on threats from Cuba, according to a 2003 report by the New York Times.

Feature continues here:  Critics Question Credibility of AP Sources