Was Baseball Star Aroldis Chapman a Cuban Spy? 2

Those are the blockbuster allegations in this suit pending before Judge Altonaga. Chapman, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, is accused of some pretty outrageous things. According to the complaint, as summarized by Judge Altonaga:

Plaintiffs allege Chapman is liable for Curbelo Garcia and Perdomo’s prolonged arbitrary detentions and torture, not because Chapman was personally involved in detaining or torturing Plaintiffs, but because he provided the Cuban government with the false accusations in the first instance. This furnishing of false accusations, Plaintiffs allege, was part of a conspiracy between Chapman and the Cuban government that Chapman entered into on the day he met Raul Castro. (See id. ¶¶ 301–10). When Chapman agreed to the conspiracy, he became part of a pervasive “snitch network of athletes.” (Id. ¶ 216). This network included “athletes in every team in Cuba,” and was so widespread that “[t]here was a special unit of security officials that were in charge of connecting directly with the athletes to seek out reliable informants.” (Aff. of Gregorio Miguel Calleiro (“Calleiro Aff.”) ¶¶ 8–9 [ECF No. 48-5]). Athletes who voluntarily became government informants reported “suspicious” behavior to their individual handlers in the Department of State Security (“DCSE”). (Id. ¶¶ 10–12; see Am. Compl. ¶ 216). In return for providing “actionable information for the state,” the informants received benefits from the Cuban government, such as the ability to travel with a national team. (Calleiro Aff. ¶ 14). Chapman sought the opportunity to travel with the National Baseball Team as a means of defecting. (See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 218, 221).

The Court denied the motion to dismiss and the case is proceeding. Chapman is represented locally by Manny Garcia-Linares of Richman Greer.

Posted by South Florida Lawyers at 10:26 AM

American Man Marking 3 Years in Prison in Cuba, Wife Wants His Story to be Better Known Reply

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Almost three years after her husband was arrested and jailed in Cuba, Judy Gross still talks to Americans who haven’t heard his story. Now she is speaking more openly than in the past, hoping to make her husband’s case as well-known as those of other Americans who won freedom after being jailed overseas. Alan Gross, a Maryland native and 63-year-old father of two, was working as a U.S. government subcontractor in Cuba when he was arrested nearly three years ago.

He was there setting up Internet access for Cuba’s Jewish community, and a U.S. official said this week he is in prison for no reason. But Cuban officials say he hid the fact he was working for the U.S. government and also illegally brought sophisticated communication equipment into the country. He was sentenced in 2011 to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state. Judy Gross said her husband’s imprisonment hasn’t generated the interest level given to other jailed Americans. That includes three hikers jailed in Iran and two American journalists held in North Korea and later freed during a visit by former President Bill Clinton. Like Gross, all were arrested in 2009.

Alan Gross’ story is better known in Cuba and Latin America, but his wife said it has gotten somewhat lost in the U.S., possibly overshadowed by the presidential race and economy. Weekly rallies urging his freedom outside the Cuban Interests Section, Cuba’s presence in Washington, draw just a handful of dedicated supporters. “I’m constantly educating people,” Gross told The Associated Press on Thursday night at her home in Washington. Gross has had some high-profile attention, but it hasn’t brought him home. Former president Jimmy Carter met him during a 2011 visit to the country and discussed his case with Cuban officials. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, visited Cuba several months later and hoped to secure Gross’ release. But Gross stayed put.

Part of the reason Gross’ case isn’t better-known has to do with strategy. For two years after he was arrested, Judy Gross and her then-lawyer tried working quietly through diplomatic channels. They talked to reporters, but appearances were limited. Earlier this year, Gross changed lawyers and began more publicly agitating for her husband’s release. In September, for example, 44 senators signed a letter to Cuba’s president calling for his release. A new lawyer, Jared Genser, wrote a letter to the United Nations’ anti-torture expert complaining about Gross’ medical care. On Friday, Gross spoke about her husband’s case to a room full of approximately three dozen journalists at The National Press Club in Washington. “The quiet, diplomatic way wasn’t working,” Gross said during Thursday’s interview.

Gross also recently filed a $60 million lawsuit against the U.S. government and the Maryland-based government contractor her husband was working for at the time of his arrest. The company, Development Alternatives Inc., was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide in support of U.S. foreign policy. USAID spends millions of dollars on programs to promote democracy and political change in Cuba. Cuba sees USAID’s programs as a threat to its sovereignty, and Gross, who was on his fifth trip to the country for USAID when he was arrested, acknowledged in company reports that his work was “very risky business.”

Judy Gross said her husband should never have been sent to Cuba, and she believes it’s the government’s duty to bring him home as it would bring a soldier home from battle. She called on President Barack Obama to help. Right now, she said, her husband feels “totally deserted by his government.” Cuba expressed willingness to talk with U.S. officials about the case as recently as this week, according to a letter from the government obtained by the AP. But the letter also suggested Cuba won’t release Gross without a similar gesture by the U.S. The letter again raised the case of the so-called “Cuban Five,” a group of men convicted of participating in a Cuban spy ring. But U.S. officials have said Gross’ case is far different and have rejected the idea. For her part, Judy Gross said it’s not important to her what kind of deal is reached. “Bring him home,” she said. “I don’t care how they do it.”

Cuba Pours Cold Water on Gross Release Hopes 3

Claims Jewish Contractor in Good Health in ‘Announcement’

By Paul Berger

Cuba has poured cold water on hopes that Alan Gross will be released from a Cuban prison cell anytime soon. In a statement released November 28, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials insisted that Gross’s health — which has been a recent cause for growing concern according to his family — is normal. Gross, a Jewish American contractor jailed on spying charges, is 63. A lawyer representing Gross, Jared Genser, recently reported Cuba to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture claiming that Gross was being given insufficient medical attention and that if it continued, it could constitute torture.

Gross’s health has deteriorated since he was jailed three years ago. He has lost more than 100 pounds. Cuban doctors now say that is because he was previously obese, the ministry statement said. Gross has also developed a mass on his shoulder. His family say it could be cancerous and they would like an oncologist of their choosing to examine him.

But Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says its own doctors performed a biopsy on October 24 and they insist that the mass is not carcinogenic. “This test could not be performed before due to Mr. Gross’ refusal,” the statement said. The ministry said it had provided details of its medical tests to U.S. diplomats in Cuba and to Gross’s wife Judy and to State Department officials in the U.S. on November 26.

“The Cuban medical team likewise ratified that the general health condition of Mr. Gross is normal and that he is receiving the treatment required by his diseases, including the chronic illnesses that are typical of his age, which he had been suffering from even before his detention,” the statement said.

It continued: “Mr. Gross maintains a systematic physical exercises regime on a voluntary basis and eats a balanced diet that includes foods of his choice, which has allowed him to get rid of his former obese condition. “His body weight is normal. Mr. Gross keeps in touch with his wife and family by phone on a weekly basis and receives consular visits every month.”

The statement came after Cuba promised an important “announcement” about Gross. That alert came hours after a New York rabbi visited Gross at a military hospital in Havana and told the Associated Press that he appeared to be in relatively good health. Rabbi Elie Abadie, who is also a gastroenterologist, told the AP that he met with Gross for 2-1/2 hours and also received a lengthy briefing from a team of Cuban physicians. Abadie said a growth on Gross’s shoulder appeared to be non-cancerous and it does not pose a serious health risk. “Alan Gross does not have any cancerous growth at this time, at least based on the studies I was shown and based on the examination, and I think he understands that also,” Abadie told the AP.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger

U.S. Investigates Former Cuban Provincial Prisons Chief 1

Immigration authorities checking whether Crescencio Marino Rivero and his wife, now Miami residents, lied in their visa and residency applications

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

U.S. immigration authorities have launched a formal investigation into whether a former Cuba provincial prisons chief and his wife, now living in Miami, lied in their sworn applications for U.S. visas and residency, sources said Tuesday. Copies of the applications filed by Crescencio Marino Rivero and Juana Ferrer were obtained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to determine whether they revealed their service in Cuba’s Interior Ministry as well as Communist Party membership. Half a dozen former Cuban prisoners on the island and in the United States have accused Rivero of abusing them or ordering prison guards to abuse them when he was in charge of prisons in the central province of Villa Clara in the 1990s. But the formal investigation so far focuses only on whether Rivero and Ferrer lied in two sworn U.S. forms, said an official who has direct knowledge of the case wasn’t authorized to comment publicly.

Rivero, 71, who retired from the Interior Ministry in 1996, moved to Miami with his wife about two years ago and they became residents under the Cuban Adjustment Act. He did not reply to El Nuevo Herald calls to his cell phone. The two key immigration documents that Rivero and Ferrer had to sign under oath were an Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, and an I-485 form, titled Application to Register Residence or Adjust Status. The I-485 form asks applicants if they have ever been a member of a Communist Party or served in “a prison, jail, prison camp, detention facility, labor camp or any other situation that involved detaining persons.” It also asks if they ever received weapons training or served in a “military unit, paramilitary unit (or) police unit.” Replying affirmatively to those questions might have sparked further inquiries by U.S. authorities and complicated or delayed the processing of the applications by Rivero and his wife, Miami migration lawyer Santiago Alpizar said. Most Interior Ministry members have military ranks, wear uniforms and receive weapons training. Rivero held the rank of colonel and Ferrer has been variously described as having been a captain or colonel in the ministry. Foreigners who lie in sworn U.S. forms can be charged with perjury, and if convicted, may be subject to deportation proceedings. Havana, however, does not accept most Cubans ordered deported from the United States.

Speaking to journalists shortly after El Nuevo Herald first reported his presence in Miami, Rivero denied the allegations of abuses but appeared to acknowledge that he had not told U.S. officials about his service in the Interior Ministry. The visa applications submitted to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana “were done for us by a person in Santa Clara who does paperwork. At that time I had been out of the Interior Ministry 14 years, so I didn’t think it was important,” Rivero said. As for the I-485 application, he added, “I was never asked that either. The documents for applying for the residency were filled out by an agency that does that sort of work.” It is not known whether Rivero and his wife were also interviewed in person by U.S. immigration officials in South Florida when they filed their I-485 forms, whether they were asked key questions at that interview and whether they answered truthfully. In an email to El Nuevo last month, Rivero said he would be willing to testify “before prosecutors, immigration or the courts, if they so request, about the legal way in which I entered this country and now reside in it.”

AP Exclusive: US Rabbi Visits Jailed American, Reports He Is In Good Health 3

By Associated Press,AP Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 9:58 PM

HAVANA — A prominent New York rabbi and physician visited an American subcontractor serving a long jail term in Cuba and said the man is in good health, despite his family’s concerns about a growth on his right shoulder. Rabbi Elie Abadie, who is also a gastroenterologist, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview following Tuesday’s 2 1/2-hour visit at a military hospital in Havana that he personally examined Alan Gross and received a lengthy briefing from a team of Cuban physicians who have attended him.

He said the 1 1/2- inch growth on Gross’s shoulder appeared to be a non-cancerous hematoma that should clear up by itself, adding that the American no longer wants Cuban doctors to conduct a biopsy. “Alan Gross does not have any cancerous growth at this time, at least based on the studies I was shown and based on the examination, and I think he understands that also,” Abadie said. Abadie said the hematoma, basically internal bleeding linked to the rupture of muscle fiber, was likely caused by exercise Gross does in jail. He said the growth ought to eventually disappear on its own.

Gross’s plight has put already chilly relations between Cuba and the United States in a deep freeze. The Maryland native was arrested in December 2009 while on a USAID-funded democracy building program and later sentenced to 15 years in jail for crimes against the state. He claims he was only trying to help the island’s small Jewish community gain Internet access. Gross’s health has been an ongoing issue during his incarceration. The 63-year-old, who was obese when arrested, has lost more than 100 pounds while in jail.

Abadie, a rabbi at New York’s Edmund J. Safra Synagogue, said Gross’s weight is appropriate for a man his age and height. Photos that Abadie and a colleague provided to AP of Tuesday’s meeting with Gross showed him looking thin, but generally appearing to be in good spirits. In one photo, Gross holds up a handwritten note that says “Hi Mom.” Gross’s family has repeatedly appealed for his release on humanitarian grounds, noting his health problems and the fact that his adult daughter and elderly mother have both been battling cancer.

Gross and his wife recently filed a $60 million lawsuit against his former Maryland employer and the United States government, saying they didn’t adequately train him or disclose risks he was undertaking by doing development work on the Communist-run island. They filed another lawsuit against an insurance company they say has reneged on commitments to pay compensation in case of his wrongful detention. Separately, a lawyer for Gross has written the United Nations’ anti-torture expert, saying Cuban officials’ treatment of his client “will surely amount to torture” if he continues to be denied medical care.

Rumors have been swirling in U.S. media that Cuba might soon release Gross as a gesture of good will or in the hopes of winning concessions from the administration of President Barack Obama, but Abadie said that those reports appeared to be false. “As far as I know there is no truth to it,” he said. Abadie said he met with senior Cuban officials who expressed their desire to resolve the case “as quickly as possible,” but would not say specifically who he spoke with or what they offered. “They claim that they are more than willing to sit at the table,” he said.

Cuban officials have strongly implied they hope to trade Gross for five Cuban agents sentenced to long jail terms in the United States, one of whom is already free on bail. Abadie said Gross made clear that he does not want his case linked to that of the agents, known in Cuba as “The Five Heroes,” because he does not believe he is guilty of espionage. But Abadie said Gross is hoping for a “constructive and productive” dialogue between U.S. and Cuban officials to resolve his case.

Cuba Plans ‘Announcement’ on Alan Gross Reply

Expert Suggests Pardon Possible for Jailed Jewish American

By Paul Berger

Cuban officials have put U.S. media on alert that an announcement is imminent on the plight of Alan Gross, a Jewish contractor held in a Cuban jail for almost three years. The announcement is expected to be made the morning of November 28, the officials said.

The warning came one day after Cuba expert Jaime Suchlicki, of Miami University, published an article in the Miami Herald hinting that Cuba is considering a pardon for Gross. Suchlicki, director of the university’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, told the Forward that his source is a former Cuban intelligence official living in Miami. An ardent critic of the Castro regime, Suchlicki said he hoped that the Obama Administration would make no concessions if Gross was freed. Cuban officials said they did not know if such a pardon has even been granted. Alan’s wife, Judy Gross, did not return a call for comment.

The developments follow several weeks of intense pressure on the Cuban and American governments to resolve Gross’s case. Gross was arrested in Havana, in December 2009, while working as an independent subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development. He claimed to have been trying to help improve internet access for the island’s Jewish community, but he was accused of working to subvert the Cuban government. When Gross was arrested, he was found in possession of high-tech satellite equipment commonly used by the Defense Department.

In recent weeks, Gross’s wife Judy and a human rights lawyer, Jared Genser, have embarked on a campaign to draw greater attention to the case and to increase pressure on the Cuban regime. Gross’ supporters saw the time as ripe, coming soon after Barack Obama’s re-election to a second term. The Gross campaign strategy included reporting Cuba to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture claiming that an insufficient amount of medical attention was being given to Alan and that it constituted torture.

Gross’s health has deteriorated rapidly since he was jailed. He has lost more than 100 pounds and he has developed a mass on his shoulder, which Cuba insists is not life-threatening but that his family says could be cancerous. On November 16, Alan and Judy Gross filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and Development Alternatives Inc, the contractor that sent Gross to Cuba, claiming that they failed to adequately train him or warn him of the risks of working in Cuba.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger

Case Closed On Wells Fargo Robbery; Except For Missing $7 Million And Top Fugitive 2

By Edmund H. Mahony, emahony@courant.com, The Hartford Courant

When Norberto Gonzalez Claudio was sentenced to prison this month — older, grayer and as devoted as ever to Puerto Rico’s independence — it effectively closed the book on Connecticut’s greatest political crime, so far as a case can be closed when $7 million and the guy who stole it are missing. Gonzalez, now 67, was a leader of the doctrinaire young Puerto Rican militants called Los Macheteros who, in 1983 carried off what was then the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history. They stole the $7 million from a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford and declared that they would use it to wage a war for independence against their colonial oppressor, the United States.

In the days after the robbery, Connecticut was transfixed by its audacity. An unremarkable Wells Fargo employee from Hartford named Victor Gerena had injected two co-workers with a substance intended to subdue them, stuffed $7 million in used bills into a rented Buick and disappeared into the night. Over the decades leading to Gonzalez’s capture last year in the Puerto Rican mountains, the U.S. listed Los Macheteros as a terrorist organization and blamed it and a related group for more death and destruction than any other terror network operating in the U.S. until al Qaeda struck New York in 1994 and 2001. The Macheteros killed two U.S. sailors, blew up eight National Guard jets and attacked two federal courthouses with Cuban supplied rockets, all in Puerto Rico. The related Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by the initials FALN, launched a bombing campaign against mainland targets, including Mobil Oil and the Fraunces Tavern in New York.

The Macheteros led the FBI on a chase around the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Mexico, Panama and Cuba, as the organization met to negotiate a division of the money and more guns with the government of their principal supporter and supplier, Cuban President Fidel Castro. The robbery confirmed a belief long held by FBI agents in the Caribbean that Castro had been training and supplying the militant wing of the independence movement since the 1960s.

The FBI was so alarmed by the robbery and related violence that the bureau sent a team to San Juan to end it. When the agents helped draft the first Wells Fargo indictment in 1985, they argued —unsuccessfully — to name senior Cuban government figures as conspirators. Although there was a sense of finality in the courtroom when Gonzalez was sentenced to five years in prison on Nov. 14, analysts say forces more powerful than the FBI had begun years earlier to push the violent, clandestine movement for Puerto Rico’s independence into the past. “I think the sentencing put a period at the end of things,” said Marlene Hunter, who was part of the FBI team that cracked the Wells Fargo robbery and who later retired as the head of the FBI’s San Juan division.

Puerto Rico is saturated by culture and commerce from the north, where more Puerto Ricans now live than on the island. An influential independence party exists and politicians who support the island’s current, territorial relationship with the U.S. swept the election earlier this month. But in an historic, if contentious, Election Day plebiscite, majorities of Puerto Ricans voted displeasure with their territorial status and support for becoming a state.

Story continues here:  http://articles.courant.com/2012-11-24/news/hc-macheteros-cuba-20121124_1_los-macheteros-fbi-s-san-juan-fbi-agents

Cuba Hoping to Benefit From Possible Gross Release 2

By Jaime Suchlicki, suchlicki@miami.edu

Gen. Raúl Castro’s regime is considering a pardon for Alan Gross, the American USAID subcontractor arrested in Cuba in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in jail for distributing computers to the Jewish community in the island. This calculated olive branch to the just-reelected Obama administration has two objectives. First, to obtain U.S. concessions in the area of travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba. Second, to obtain the release of four Cuban spies, serving sentences in U.S. jails for espionage activities on behalf of the Castro government.

Some within the Castro regime are arguing that the Obama administration will be pushed to offer major concessions if Cuba frees Gross. The reasons: there is a pent-up demand for travel to Cuba; American tourists will bring much needed dollars; and Cuba’s efficient security apparatus could control American tourists, primarily interested in visiting Cuban beaches and less concerned about subverting the Communist regime.

Most argue that American tourists will have little impact, other than economic. They point out that over the past several years hundreds of thousands of Canadian, Europeans and Latin American tourists have visited the island. There have been no major political changes. Money from tourists, furthermore, has been flowing into businesses owned by the Castro government and the Cuban military, thus strengthening state enterprises.

The recent migration law enacted by Cuba that eases travel for Cubans to visit the United States and other countries is also entering into Gen. Castro’s calculations. The liberalization of Cuban travel will put pressure on the Obama administration to allow Americans to travel to the island. From Cuba’s point of view it is a win/win situation. More Cubans will travel abroad, many staying in the host country or making their way to the U.S. More American tourists will travel to Cuba leaving their dollars in the island.

What should the United States do? Any major policy concession to Cuba will be out of proportion to the release of an unjustly imprisoned American. Gross is a hostage being used by the Cuban government to exact change from the U.S. The history of U.S-Cuba relations has been characterized by Cuba’s daring actions followed by major U.S. concessions (i.e. U.S.-Cuba migration accord allowing 20,000 Cubans to enter the United States following Mariel). The release of Gross should be seen as a humanitarian gesture requiring no action on the part of the United States. When Raúl Castro is willing to offer irreversible concessions, the administration should respond in kind. Ping-pong diplomacy worked with China. Tit for tat should with Cuba.

Jaime Suchlicki is director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.

Today in History: Cuban Intelligence Targeted Minnesota Business Leaders & Students 2

November 24-26, 1997:  Johanna Tablada and Felix Wilson, spy-diplomats assigned to the Cuban Interests Section, met with business executives and college students in Minnesota.  During their first night, the Cubans attended a dinner meeting with executives from 11 Minnesota companies, including several of the state’s biggest corporations. Hosted by Minneapolis lawyer Larry Koslow, the business dinner reviewed the economic situation in Cuba and nurtured non-binding business deals to commence after the embargo ends. During the following two days, Tablada spoke with students at the University of Minnesota.

Political Detentions in Cuba Top 5,000 1

Some await trial, while many are detained for shorter periods to disrupt their work as journalists or rights activists.

By Ivette Martínez- Latin America, Institute for War & Peace Reporting

More than 5,600 Cuban dissidents, journalists and rights activists were detained or arrested between January and the start of November, a leading human rights group reports.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, CCDHRN, recorded 520 detentions in October alone, bringing the total for the year to 5,625. The figures were “consistent with the high level of political repression in Cuba over recent years”, the group said.

The Hablemos Press Information Centre, CIHPRESS, gave a lower figure of 4,542 for the same ten-month period, although its records do not cover all of Cuba’s provinces.

The two groups targeted most were Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) – women campaigning for the release of relatives imprisoned in the “Black Spring” of 2003 – with 23 detentions in October; and the Patriotic Union of Cuba with 28.

CIHPRESS noted 22 cases where independent journalists and bloggers were detained in the same month.

One reason for the high number of detentions is the Cuban authorities’ tactic of using repeated short-term internment to harass anyone who criticises the system.

For example, Yoani Sánchez, perhaps Cuba’s most famous blogger, was arrested on October 4 en route to attend a trial, held for 30 hours and then released.

Sánchez had been following the trial of Spanish politician Ángel Carromero, who was charged in connection with the death of Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car crash in July. On October 15, Carromero was found guilty of manslaughter while driving, and sentenced to four years in prison.

Similarly, journalist Yosbel Ramos Suárez was detained twice in October, once to prevent him visiting human rights defender Vladimir Alejo, and again to stop him attending a church service.

But not all detentions end quickly. Four dissidents were convicted in October – Emilio Plana Robert and Rafael Matos Montes were given three-and-a half and two-and-a-half years respectively; Reinaldo Castillo Martínez was sentenced to a year and Alberto Ramos Prados to a year-and-a-half.

CCDHRN notes that six individuals arrested in September are still awaiting trial, including independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Árias. He is accused of “disrespecting” Cuba’s present and former leaders Raúl and Fidel Castro – a criminal offence that can carry a three-year sentence. (See Cuban Journalist Faces Charge of Insulting Castros on his case.)

A number of political prisoners were also released.

Damas de Blanco member Niurka Luque Álvarez and 17 others from the group were freed on October 5 after being held since March. And Amnesty International reported that Antonio Michel Lima was released on October 26, two years and a day after he and his brother were arrested for the crime of listening to hip hop music with lyrics criticising the lack of freedom of expression.

Ivette Martínez is an independent journalist in Mexico.