Cuba Awards Medals to US “Cuban Five” Activists Reply

Alicia Jrapko and Bill Hackwell

Alicia Jrapko and Bill Hackwell

By Chris Simmons

Argentine-born activist Alicia Jrapko and her life partner, Bill Hackwell, were awarded the Cuban Friendship Medal by the Cuban State Council late last week. The dubious honor was initiated by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples of the World (ICAP). Both activists work for the International Committee for the Release of the Cuban Five. Jrapko later spoke at a press conference with reporters at ICAP, where she lavished praise on the incarcerated spies. ICAP’s role in these honorifics is undoubtedly tied to long-term collaboration with the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), which dates back over 30 years. That said, ICAP is not a DI entity per se, but is believed to be roughly 90% DI-affiliated due to a large pool of collaborators who serve the small team of ICAP-embedded DI officers.

Raúl Castro propuso a Obama un ‘canal de comunicación secreto’ 2

El famoso apretón de manos entre Barack Obama y Raúl Castro durante los funerales de Nelson Mandela en el FNB Stadium de Soweto, Sudáfrica, el 10 de diciembre del 2013.Uncredited/Associated Press

El famoso apretón de manos entre Barack Obama y Raúl Castro durante los funerales de Nelson Mandela en el FNB Stadium de Soweto, Sudáfrica, el 10 de diciembre del 2013.Uncredited/Associated Press

By Nora Gámez Torres, ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

La administración del presidente Barack Obama utilizó al embajador español Miguel Ángel Moratinos en el 2009 para hacer llegar un mensaje a Raúl Castro y pedir una acción que reciprocara su decisión de eliminar, tras llegar a la Casa Blanca, las restricciones a los viajes de los cubanoamericanos.

En el libro Back Channel to Cuba, The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, Peter Kornbluh y William LeoGrande reproducen el mensaje enviado a Castro: “Diga a la autoridades cubanas que entendemos que las cosas no pueden cambiar de la noche a la mañana, pero que a lo largo del camino, cuando miremos atrás, deberá quedar claro que este fue el momento en que las cosas comenzaron a cambiar”.

Raúl Castro envió de vuelta una propuesta de abrir un “canal de comunicación secreto”, pero la Casa Blanca replicó que cualquier conversación debía entablarse a través de los “canales establecidos”.

Los autores del libro, que recoge la historia de las negociaciones secretas entre Cuba y Estados Unidos en los últimos 55 años, señalan que aunque Obama ha reconocido que una política hostil es fútil, no ha tenido más voluntad que sus predecesores en romper este impasse. Las razones quizá están en las “lecciones” que los autores resumen casi al final del texto: “Estados Unidos se ha contentado con vivir en un ‘antagonismo perpetuo’ hacia Cuba porque los costos han sido relativamente bajos, y cambiar la política supone riesgos políticos domésticos que los sucesivos presidentes han juzgado como muy grandes”.

Pero Kornbluh aseguró a el Nuevo Herald que las “lecciones” tienen que ver con lo que ha sucedido en los últimos 55 años, y no con el contexto actual.

“La política doméstica sí es un gran impedimento desde el fin de la Guerra Fría pero hay cosas que están cambiando en términos de la opinión pública en Miami y Florida”, en parte como resultado de la propia política de Obama de permitir viajar más libremente a los cubanoamericanos a Cuba, señaló.

Otro factor mencionado por el autor es que Obama es un presidente demócrata en su segundo mandato, por lo que no está tan preocupado por las repercusiones de un cambio de política.

“Florida claramente no está siendo considerada por Hillary Clinton como un estado con un voto decisivo y ella ha hecho pública su posición de que el embargo es una mala idea para la política exterior estadounidense. Estados Unidos tiene también imperativos regionales para cambiar su política. Mira por ejemplo lo que ha pasado con la Cumbre de las Américas, en la que es Estados Unidos el que está aislado y no Cuba”, agregó.

Read more here: Back Channel

 

 

 

 

 

California Mayor Under Fire For Focusing On Cuban Spies Rather Than Local Residents Reply

Gayle McLaughlin -- Mayor of Richmond, California

Gayle McLaughlin — Mayor of Richmond, California

Richmond mayor faces heat for lobbying for Cuban Five in Washington D.C. instead of Hacienda residents

By Mike Aldax, Richmond [CA] Standard

In June, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin boarded a plane for Washington D.C. to lobby for the release of the Cuban Five, the five Cuban intelligence officers who were imprisoned more than a decade ago following espionage-related convictions in Miami.

During the trip, McLaughlin said she met with the state department regarding the jailed Cubans, who she said were “always in my heart.”

But some community members say the mayor has failed to keep in her heart the plight of Richmond’s most vulnerable residents.

The mayor did not use her D.C. trip as an opportunity to lobby for Richmond’s public housing tenants, despite February media reports exposing squalid conditions under an allegedly mismanaged and corrupt Richmond Housing Authority (RHA).

“What about pushing and advocating for Richmond?” outspoken resident Antoin Cloird said in a June 17 opinion piece on the community website Radio Free Richmond, adding, “the mayor ordered the immediate evacuation of the Hacienda, but she walked away as soon as the television cameras were off.”

Insect and rodent infestations, water leaks, mold and safety concerns were among the problems at Richmond’s public housing developments, particularly the Hacienda. The problems led RHA Executive Director Tim Jones to call the Hacienda “uninhabitable,” a declaration that moved City Council to vote to relocate its residents.

At the time, the mayor demanded swift action and stated she was “taking responsibility for assuring things continue to move forward without delay on all levels of review and action in regard to these Housing Authority issues.”

A half-year following that statement, however, the mayor has done little to urge swift action from the feds, and the Hacienda remains inhabited.

Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay says he was unaware of any meeting between McLaughlin and federally-elected officials such as Congressman George Miller on the housing issues. He was also unaware if the mayor had requested any such meeting, although he added he does not monitor her schedule.

The mayor and her political group, Richmond Progressive Alliance, have also neglected to campaign for the plight of RHA residents through their highly active website and social media networks.

Lindsay said the mayor did at one point sit in on a meeting held in Richmond that included an HUD regional director and members of Richmond’s city council, as she was part of an ad-hoc committee created after the problems were exposed.

Rather than seeking assistance from elected federal officials, the mayor has done more to insult them. In an interview with KQED, the mayor blamed President Barack Obama for Richmond’s poor public housing, saying the president has instead sunk “money into war” and “bailed the banks to the tune of $29 trillion.”

The quote comes at about the 6 minutes mark:

Video and remainder of story can be found here: Mayor McLaughlin

Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen; Cuban 5 Protest in Havana Draws…………Thousands 1

Cuban 5 Rally

Cuban 5 Rally

By Chris Simmons

Telesur English reported a protest in Havana earlier this week drew “thousands” demanding the release of the three remaining Wasp Network spies serving prison sentences in the United States. The demonstrators (largely students) rallied under the marketing savvy theme, “I am Cuba.” The dismal protest followed Havana’s disappointing hemispheric call for Cuban 5 support, which was answered by just 32 Latin American parliamentarians from 14 nations.

It wasn’t so long ago that the Castro regime could produce a carefully-choreographed “spontaneous” protest of 100,000 people in an hour. Now it’s a struggle to get a few thousand demonstrators to show support for one of Havana’s major propaganda themes. Another sign of the slow, steady decline of the government’s influence……

See the original story here: Telesur

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright Sends Letter to President Obama Supporting Jailed Cuban Spies 3

Ann Wright

Ann Wright

Retired Col. Ann Wright spent 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. She was a diplomat in the State Department for 16 years, serving in the U.S. embassies of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua. She resigned in 2003 in protest of the then-impending invasion of Iraq. In 2009, she co-authored, Dissent, Voices of Conscience.(Source:  National Network on Cuba)

 

October 5, 2014

 

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC  20500

 

Dear President Obama,

I am a 29-year veteran of the U.S. Army and retired as a Colonel. I was also a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq. Since my resignation eleven years ago, I have spoken and written frequently about my deep concern about policies and decisions taken by the United States government.

I am writing to you with my concerns about the cases of the Cuban Five. I suspect you have been briefed on the history of the decision of the Clinton Administration to prosecute the five Cuban citizens who were residing in the United States for their unarmed, non-violent monitoring of Miami-based terrorist organizations to prevent further attacks against the people of Cuba who have suffered more than 3,478 deaths and 2,099 injuries from terrorist acts from U.S.-based criminals.

I would like to bring to your attention that in 2005, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, concluded that, based on the facts and the circumstances in which their trial was held, the nature of the charges and the severity of the convictions, the imprisonment of the Cuban Five violated Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Liberties, to which the United States is a signatory. This was the first time the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had denounced a conviction in a case in the United States because of the violations committed during the legal process.

A three judge panel at the Appellate level overturned the conviction of the Cuban Five. I strongly believe that due to intense political pressure from the powerful Cuban community in Miami, a full panel of the Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction.

Protest Letter continues here: Ann Wright

U.S. Must Raise Stakes to Get Hostage Alan Gross Returned by Cuba 1

Frank Calzon

Frank Calzon

By Frank Calzon, frank.calzon@cubacenter.org, Miami Herald OP/ED

Confronted with the barbaric beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the terrorists of the Islamic State, President Obama has rightly changed course and announced a new strategy.

After six lackluster and bewildering years, the president would do well to reappraise his strategy for dealing with Cuba and North Korea, as well. Cuba is still holding hostage a USAID contractor. Alan Gross is ill and has lost 100 pounds in harsh Cuban prisons.

Havana wants “to exchange” Gross for release of Cuban spies in U.S. prisons who have been convicted of “conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, destruction of aircraft, and murder.” They not only infiltrated Florida military bases, but also set up the killing of four Miami men, members of Brothers to the Rescue, who were flying unarmed civilian aircraft over the Florida Straits to spot fleeing Cubans aboard rafts in need of help.

Raúl Castro, now president of Cuba but then head of its military forces, personally gave the order to the pilots of the Cuban MiG aircraft that shot down the small planes. Today, Castro’s proposed deal to swap “prisoners” pits the desire of Gross’ loved ones to see him free and home against Cuban-American families in Miami who sought and got justice for their loved ones murdered in the Florida Straits.

Since his election President Obama has pursued a policy of extending a “hand of friendship” to Cuba and to North Korea, an equally brutal communist regime. Nothing’s changed for the better in Cuba or North Korea.

As Bloomberg News reported a year ago, North Korea even announced its military has been given “final authorization to attack the United States, possibly with nuclear weapons.” With U.S. troops still stationed on the border between North and South Korea that’s no idle threat.

Alan Gross committed no crime. He gave a laptop computer and satellite telephone to a group of Cuban Jews wanting to connect to the Internet and had boarded a plane to head home when he was taken hostage. For weeks after he was “arrested,” no charges were presented. Then a kangaroo court imposed a 15-year prison sentence, of which he’s served four years.

The draconian sentence can be explained only as another Cuban attempt to force U.S. leaders to comply. The Obama administration has bent over backward pleading for Gross’ release, to no avail.

In the past, Havana extorted ransom from the United States to free Cubans captured during the Bay of Pigs invasion; our government had trained and equipped the men. Havana subsequently engineered a series of refugee crises.

Feature continues here: Alan Gross   

Memorias inquietas: De cuando Fidel Castro mandó a vigilar a su amigo George McGovern 1

Fidel Castro maneja el jeep donde viaja el senador George McGovern durante una visita a Cuba en mayo de 1975.(Courtesy: cafefuerte)

Fidel Castro maneja el jeep donde viaja el senador George McGovern durante una visita a Cuba en mayo de 1975.(Courtesy: cafefuerte)

Por Juan Reynaldo Sánchez*

Tal vez el ex candidato presidencial demócrata George McGovern nunca lo supo, pero su visita de amistad en 1975, la primera de las ocho que realizaría a la isla, fue especialmente trabajada por la inteligencia cubana para penetrar su círculo íntimo.

McGovern había perdido la carrera por la Casa Blanca ante Richard Nixon en 1972, apostando en su agenda de política internacional por una normalización en las relaciones con el gobierno de Fidel Castro. En 1974, su rival tuvo que renunciar a la presidencia tras el escándalo de Watergate, que involucró a varios exiliados cubanos. Y un año después, McGovern decidió visitar Cuba en plan de acercamiento y fraternidad, en mayo de 1975.

Por esos días me encontraba preparándome para ingresar en la escolta personal de Fidel Castro y estaba cursando la Escuela de Especialistas en Seguridad Personal. A cuatro alumnos de la institución nos dieron la misión  de servir de escoltas a McGovern y otros colegas suyos del Senado de Estados Unidos que visitaban cuba con mucha discreción; nada de noticias en los medios oficiales cubanos.

Fue así que trabajando con esta delegación norteamericana presencié el intento de penetración de la inteligencia cubana a los amigables visitante.

En el Hotel Tropicoco

McGovern y sus invitados habían solicitado al gobierno cubano hospedarse en un hotel alejado del centro de la ciudad de La Habana. Se escogió y se propuso el hotel Tropicoco en la playa Santa María del Mar, al este de la ciudad. Además, como medio de transporte se utilizó un ómnibus de turísmo con el objetivo de que durante los recorridos que los invitados realizarían por la isla estuvieran todos localizados en el mismo vehículo, pudiendo conversar unos con otros y brindarles a las comodidades a bordo de bar, servicios sanitarios y camareros.

Sin embargo, el objetivo fundamental de la inteligencia cubana, encabezada por el Coronel Ramírez y  el oficial Carlos (seudónimos utilizados) del Departamento América del Norte, ubicado en el edificio de Línea y A, en el Vedado, era que ambos, con fachada de funcionarios del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (MINREX), también pudieran intercambiar, oír y obtener información sobre los integrantes de esta delegación.

Nosotros, los oficiales de la seguridad personal, viajábamos en otro automóvil, un Ford negro y también con matrícula del MINREX, vestidos en ropa de civil.

Las habitaciones del segundo piso del Hotel Tropicoco, donde alojó la comitiva estadounidense, estaban totalmente cubiertas con micrófonos y equipos de grabación. Para ello se instaló un puesto de mando del KT (chequeo telefónico) en la oficina de la administración del hotel, a la cual solamente tenían acceso los oficiales de la inteligencia y los de la seguridad personal; ningún otro personal, ya fuera el administrador ni otro empleado tenía acceso a este local. De manera que todo lo que los senadores, así como sus secretarios y ayudantes conversaran en privado sería grabado.

La belleza inclina

Pero la actividad de inteligencia iba mucho más allá. Entre los cubanos que fueron designados para atender a la delegación visitante había una traductora cubana de cualidades muy especiales. Se trataba de una muchacha preciosa, con un cuerpo escultural y todos los atributos para cautivar las miradas masculinas, y el Coronel Ramírez no perdió tiempo para trazar una estrategia. Ideó proponer a sus superiores un trabajo de acercamiento de la bella traductora  a los senadores, y  si algunos de ellos mostraba interés en ella, pues entonces se desplegaría algo más que un trabajo de acercamiento y se implementaría una actividad  de  penetración si fuera posible.

Feature continues here: cafefuerte

 

Respected Defector Exposes Cuba’s Intelligence Presence in Cold War Ecuador 4

Legendary Cuban Spy-Master, Manuel Pineiro Losada

Legendary Cuban Spy-Master, Manuel Pineiro Losada

By Chris Simmons

Former Dirección General De Inteligencia (DGI) officer Enrique García Diaz reports that prior to the 1979 re-establishment of diplomatic ties, Cuban intelligence maintained three positions in Quito. DGI officer Boris Castillo Barroso held a position in the Latin America Energy Organization (OLADE), while Luis Enrique Benites Montero “Enrique” and Javier Buduen Martinez “Miguel Angel” served undercover with the Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para América Latina (CIESPAL).

When official ties between the two nations warmed, the Cuban Embassy was allowed to re-open on August 24, 1979. Thereafter, Castillo established the DGI Centro within the safety of Havana’s diplomatic facility. He would later be assisted by Commercial Attaché and fellow DGI officer Roberto Oliva, whom the CIA took note of in December 1981.

Oliva is a likely match for Roberto Oliva Ibarra, a Cuban official assigned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) who served as a representative to the United Nation’s Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during the latter half of the 1970s.

García Diaz said another spy assigned to the very small Embassy was Prensa Latina Correspondent and Departamento America (DA) asset Oscar Perdomo Marin, first posted to Ecuador in June 1974. Perdomo’s DA affiliation meant he worked targets and responsibilities outside the control of the DGI Centro. The Venezuelan asset was a friend of legendary Cuban spymaster Manuel Piñeiro Losada. During the early 1980s, Perdomo’s boss in Havana was the DA’s South America Section Chief, Jose Miguel Guerra Diaz, who also personally directed DA operations in Ecuador.

Relations between Quito and Havana were downgraded to a Chargé d’affaires in April 1981. A Chargé is the lowest rank of diplomatic representative recognized under international law. José Francisco Ross Paz arrived that July as the Chargé, only to be identified by the Washington Times as a DA officer on August 25, 1983.

The second DGI Centro Chief in Ecuador was Hermes Cachon Gacita noted García Diaz. He reportedly arrived in Quito in 1983 for a three year posting using a non-traditional cover assignment. Roughly concurrent with the change in Centro Chiefs was the return of Javier Buduen Martinez, this time as Commercial Attaché. Other newcomers included Buduen’s wife “Elvirita” and Luis Enrique Benites Montero, who took Castillo’s former position in OLADE.

Ambassadorial-level relations were re-established on January 24, 1984 and DGI Officer Carlos Rafael Zamora Rodriguez was immediately assigned as ambassador.  He was accompanied by his spy-wife, Maura Juan Perez. Shortly thereafter, Guerra Diaz, the former DA Section Chief for South America, arrived in Ecuador as the new First Secretary. Two years later, the DGI Centro welcomed Nelson Quesada (Carlos Alfonso) and Ricardo Cruz Fernandez (Max).

Ambassador Zamora and his wife remained in Ecuador until 1989. Public records show by the year 2000, he was Havana’s Ambassador to Panama and several years later became the regime’s Ambassador to Brazil, a position he held until 2013.

Canada Loves Its Lefties – Castro Apologist Stephen Kimber Wins Nova Scotia Book Award 2

Stephen Kimber

Stephen Kimber

Stephen Kimber Wins Prestigious Award for Cuban 5 Book

By The International Committee to Free The Cuban Five

Stephen Kimber’s book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, has won the 2014 Evelyn Richardson Award for Nonfiction at Canada’s East Coast Literary Awards.

The Five were members of a Cuban intelligence network sent to Florida in the 1990s to infiltrate Miami exile groups plotting terrorist attacks against Cuba. Though they helped prevent a number of terrorist attacks, the Five were arrested by the FBI in 1998, tried, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Three of the five are still in jail.

Although their case is still little known in the United States, international human rights organizations — including Amnesty International and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention — have criticized their treatment in the U.S. justice system, and a dozen Nobel laureates have written in their support.

In the citation, the judges described What Lies Across the Water as “a remarkable piece of investigative journalism. Kimber has unearthed a riveting story at the heart of why there is little hope of political reconciliation between Cuba and the United States — until there is justice for the Cuban Five.” The book was previously long-listed for the Libris Award as Nonfiction Book of the Year in Canada.

Accepting the award at a ceremony in Halifax, Kimber — a professor of journalism at the University of King’s College and the award-winning author of nine other books — explained he had stumbled upon the story accidentally as a journalist, but is now also an advocate for their freedom.

He dedicated the award to the three members of the Five still imprisoned in the United States.

“Former” Spy Arturo Lopez-Levy Markets Travel to Cuba in HuffPo 7

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy, now believed to be in his 8th year as a doctorate candidate.....

Former Spy Arturo López-Levy, now believed to be in his 8th year as a doctorate candidate…..

Hypocrisy and The Right to Travel to Cuba

By Arturo Lopez Levy

Political hypocrisy and cynicism are cancers on the body politics. Most people don’t realize the damage they are doing until it is too late. When elected officials set different standards for themselves while advocating policies that limit the constitutional rights of Americans, the credibility of the political system suffers and the political capital of democratic institutions erodes. The case of staffers for Senator Rubio and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen travelling to China on a trip hosted by the Chinese communist party-state is a painful example. For decades, Cuban-American legislators have fiercely opposed travel to Cuba and reprimanded any colleague who went to Cuba or sent staffers on a fact finding mission or to talk with the government. Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen made the issue of not traveling to communist countries and not giving a dime to the coffers of non-democratic regimes a test of fidelity to human rights. Rubio has often said on the Senate that every dollar spent on a trip to a communist country goes directly to fund repression; every dollar except those spent by his staff on their state-sponsored China junket.

It is at such times of exposed hypocrisy, when leaders must take sides and make clear what our democratic principles are. Integrity differentiates those who predicate their anti-Castro policies on violating Americans’ right to travel, while they travel to China, and those who believe that American travelers are-as Hillary Clinton put it- “walking advertisements” for the benefits of an open society and American democracy, in Cuba and in China.

Yet, when hypocrites like Senator Rubio and Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen aggressively questioned the morality and logic of the White House’s decisions to restore family travel and expand remittances to Cuba the Obama administration all too often reacted shyly or not at all. Obama’s officials seem to forget the president’s own discourse about the importance of engaging with Cuban civil society and updating a policy conceived before he was even born.

Many Cuban Americans who voted for President Obama twice are disappointed because the president gives too much to pro-embargo politicians and listens too little to those who defend his promises of a new policy based on dialogue and communication with Cuba. After his reelection in 2012, winning a majority of Cuban Americans who supported his travel reforms, Secretary Clinton advised President Obama to “take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America”. Has he done so?

Feature continues here: HuffPo