Today in Havana: Career Spy to Moderate Discussion of Professor LeoGrande’s New Book, “Back Channel to Cuba” 2

American University professor, Dr. William M. Leogrande

American University professor, Dr. William M. Leogrande

By Chris Simmons

Today in Havana, the new book by William M. Leogrande and Peter Komubluh, ¨Back Channel to Cuba. The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana,¨ will be presented at the Villena room of the Cuban Association of Writers and Artists (UNEAC). Also being discussed is the expanded second edition of a book on Cuba-US relations by a pair of Cuban authors. According to Cubarte, the session is being moderated by Ramón Sánchez Parodi.

Ramón Sánchez Parodi Montoto was the first chief at the Cuban Interests Section when Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic mission on September 1, 1977. This career spy served in Washington for 12 consecutive years. During this assignment, Sánchez Parodi was exposed as an intelligence officer during the Senate testimony of Dr Daniel James of the Congressional Research Service. James said Sánchez Parodi, whom he cited as either Directorate of Intelligence (DI) or America Department (DA), targeted the Congressional Black Caucus to foment opposition to existing US policies towards Cuba. According to the New York Times, Sánchez Parodi was extremely well connected to the US academic, civic, cultural, and business communities. He was promoted to Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately following his US tour. His portfolio was the Western Hemisphere.

During the latter half of the 1990s, Sánchez Parodi was Cuba’s Ambassador to Brazil. Following this tour, he returned to Havana to head the Department of International Relations for Cuban Customs.

Cuban Diplomat Requests Asylum in USA 2

Daciel Alfonso (left), Deputy Chief of Cuba’s Diplomatic Mission in Germany, next to his wife, Consul Sonia Franco.  (Courtesy:  Facebook)

Daciel Alfonso (left), Deputy Chief of Cuba’s Diplomatic Mission in Germany, next to his wife, Consul Sonia Franco. (Courtesy: Facebook)

By Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Cafe Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban journalist and diplomat Sonia Franco Cervera has abandoned her post as consul at the Cuban Embassy in Germany and is currently in Miami, after having requested political asylum from US authorities.

Sources told CafeFuerte that the 31-year-old Franco arrived in the United States in July this year, accompanied by her 3-year-old son Franco, after travelling from Berlin to Mexico and crossing the US border to invoke the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA).

Apparently, Franco’s decision was prompted by the unexpected trip and subsequent arrest in Havana of her husband Daciel Alfonso Guzman, who was the deputy chief of Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Germany.

“We don’t know much about what happened, but it is confirmed that Daciel [Alfonso] was called to a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) in Havana and that he suspected something was wrong,” a source involved in the case stated in Berlin. “They made the decision that she go to the United States with the kid.”

Erased from the Official Site

According to another testimony, Franco’s first move was to request aid from the US Embassy in Berlin. Her request didn’t yield any results and she decided to use her diplomatic passport to travel to Mexico. She is currently staying in the home of some friends in Miami.

CafeFuerte tried to contact Franco in Miami, but desisted after several unsuccessful attempts. A person involved in this situation said that the former diplomat is going through a very tense moment and does not wish to make any declarations about what happened.

For the time being, Alfonso’s name has been removed from the webpage of the Cuban Embassy in Germany and a blank space has been left under the heading of Deputy Chief, with an email left as reference. Belkis Rodriguez Hidalgo appears as the First Secretary in the Consular Section page.

“We’ve heard versions of the story here that Daciel was called to give a full accounting following complaints about the performance of his duties, but nothing concrete has been leaked and people suspect there is something more serious behind this,” a source linked to MINREX said in Havana.

Feature continues here: Diplomat Defects

 

 

Castro Apologists Feel Victorious As “Over 125 People” Attend Meeting on Cuban 5 5

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

Meeting in DC marks 16 years in int’l fight to free Cuban 5

By Ned Measel, The Militant

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 125 people attended a meeting here Sept. 13 to demand freedom for the Cuban Five. “Tonight’s event is part of activities taking place all over the world” to mark the 16th anniversary of their arrest on frame-up charges by the FBI, said Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. (See box below.)

The meeting, sponsored by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and held at the headquarters of the Service Employees International Union, featured the first U.S. showing of 16 new prison paintings by Antonio Guerrero, titled “Absolved by Solidarity.”

The watercolors tell the story of the Miami frame-up trial — from the denial of 11 motions for a change of venue to the long sentences and the sending of the revolutionaries to five distant prisons. The event included music, poetry, a short video, and a panel of speakers.

“It is an impossible task to show the entire trial through just 16 images,” Guerrero said in a statement displayed along with the exhibit. “We knew that we could not receive a fair trial. But nevertheless in that place, we achieved an invaluable victory and that was to denounce terrorism against our people in its own lair.”

Cheryl LaBash, an activist with the International Committee; Maria Naranjo, assistant district leader of SEIU Local 32BJ in Washington, D.C.; and Valarie Long, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union: made brief remarks to kick off the program.

José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, was the featured speaker. The U.S. government “called it a trial,” he said, “but we called it a political vendetta” aimed at punishing the Cuban Revolution. Cabañas took time to walk through and comment on Guerrero’s paintings.

Each of the watercolors were accompanied by an explanatory note from Guerrero.

Feature continues here: The Militant 

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……..

Expelled Spy Feigns Outrage at Claims of Alleged US Operations Against Havana 1

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Officer Josefina Vidal

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Officer Josefina Vidal

By Chris Simmons

Josefina de la C. Vidal, director for North America within the Cuban Foreign Ministry, yesterday denounced allegations of low-level intelligence operations by Washington.

Vidal’s criticism followed recent Associated Press claims that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Latin American youth to assist on-island dissidents. “These facts confirm that the U.S. government has not ceased its hostile and meddling plans against Cuba,” stated Vidal.

The AP assertions have already been discredited by USAID as “sensational” and “wrong,” as well as by Cuban dissidents cited in the AP story. Nonetheless, Vidal continued her laughable outrage, claiming “The U.S. government should end once and for all its subversive, illegal and undercover actions against Cuba, which violate our sovereignty and the will expressed by the Cuban people to perfect our economic and social model and to consolidate our democracy.”

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Vidal departed Washington in May 2003 after the US declared her husband — First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera — and 13 other Cuban spy-diplomats Persona Non Grata. First Secretary Vidal, also known to the US as a intelligence officer, “voluntarily” returned to Cuba. The husband-wife spy team was chosen for expulsion, in part, because Washington knew Havana historically withdraws the spouse of any expelled spy.

Sen. Robert Menendez Seeks Probe of Alleged Cuban Plot to Smear Him Reply

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol D. Leonnig

Sen. Robert Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In a letter sent to Justice Department officials, the senator’s attorney asserts that the plot was timed to derail the ­political rise of Menendez (D-N.J.), one of Washington’s most ardent critics of the Castro regime. At the time, Menendez was running for reelection and was preparing to assume the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.

The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI’s counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter.

The intelligence information indicated that operatives from Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence helped create a fake tipster using the name “Pete Williams,” according to the former official. The tipster told FBI agents and others he had information about Menendez participating in poolside sex parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing at the Dominican Republic home of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor, donor and friend of the senator.

Read more here:  Alleged Cuban Plot

 

 

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Obama May Free Cuban Spies And Terrorists 3

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

The Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC

By Cliff Kincaid, NewsWithViews.com

Just a few blocks from the White House, in the basement of a black Baptist church, the chief of the Cuban Interests Section plotted with former terrorists and members of the communist Workers World Party this past week to convince President Obama to release communist spies and terrorists from American prisons.

Coming in the wake of freed U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, in a trade for terrorists arranged by the Obama administration, these possible developments cannot be dismissed out of hand.

The conference dramatized how the far-left “progressives,” operating under the direction of Cuba, have calculated that Obama’s last two or so years in office represent the perfect opportunity for their comrades to leave prison with presidential pardons, clemencies, or commutations, and then return to the “struggle,” or “resistance,” in the streets.

The two-day event, the main focus of the “Five Days for the Cuban Five” campaign, was open to the press, enabling this columnist to attend and film the activities of the hard left as they operated under the watchful eyes of José Ramón Cabañas, Chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., and his agents. About 150 people attended the event.

The Cuban Interests Section functions as Castro’s embassy, in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, and operates as a front for the Cuban intelligence service, the DGI.

Even the Obama administration has conceded that the “Cuban Five” were members of a Castro spy network.

Before being appointed to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan was Obama’s solicitor general and submitted a legal brief in the case. She noted in the brief that members of the “Cuban five” were affiliated with the Cuban intelligence service and the “Wasp Network,” whose purpose included penetrating U.S. military facilities and transmitting information about the facilities’ operations and layout to Cuba, and infiltrating Cuban-American groups.

The brief noted that three Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) planes made a scheduled flight over the Florida Straits to search for rafters, and that the flight plans were transmitted to Cuba. “When the planes passed the boundary between Miami and Havana air traffic control, which lies in international airspace, they identified themselves to Havana,” it said. “Within minutes, Cuban fighter jets pursued two of the BTTR planes. The Cuban fighters shot down both planes, killing all four men aboard, three of whom were U.S. citizens. Both planes were in international airspace, heading away from Cuba, when they were shot down. Neither plane had entered Cuban airspace.”

Featured speakers at the “Free the Cuban Five” conference included:

  • Linda Evans, a Weather Underground terrorist pardoned by President Clinton. Rafael Cancel Miranda, a Puerto Rican terrorist who opened fire on the House of Representatives in 1954, and was pardoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Cindy Sheehan, the former anti-Iraq War activist who just ran unsuccessfully for California governor on the “Peace and Freedom” party ticket.

Feature continues here:  Obana to Free Spies?

Extract From Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 2/21/2014 1

Q: This is about Cuban American prisoners that I emailed you about. Our National Press Club group had a session at the Cuban Interest Section the other night, on the 19th. I ask (sic) the chief or the ambassador, José Cabañas, what it would take to free Alan Gross from a Cuban prison. Whether he is guilty or innocent, that’s irrelevant. Later he said to me, what about the three remaining prisoners in U.S. jails? Now, he said, he’d like to talk to somebody in the White House about this situation. He calls it a human rights situation. He doesn’t want to call it a prisoner swap or a prisoner exchange. He doesn’t appear to want to go through the Swiss. So my question is, are there any direct talks going on to try to resolve this human rights situation? Would the U.S. be willing to have —

MR. CARNEY: Well, we are very concerned about Alan Gross. We’ve expressed very clearly that he ought to be released immediately and we’ve made that view clear to the Cuban government. And we work on this issue all the time. I don’t have any conversations to read out to you, but it remains a concern of ours that we are focused on.

Q: But will the U.S. change policy and talk directly to Cuba about this?

MR. CARNEY: Again, we have conversations all the time that make very clear our views on this matter and I don’t think it is a mystery at all to the Cubans that we believe he ought to be released immediately.

Q: What about releasing Cuban prisoners?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get involved in a negotiation with another country from the podium. What I can tell you is our view is unequivocal.

Courtesy: NewsRoomAmerica.com

Ex-Gov. George Ryan Seeks Release of American Held in Cuba 2

By Michael Sneed, Chicago Sun-Times.com

Our man in Havana?

Former U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who fears his government has ignored his plea to be freed from a tortuous four-year stint in a Cuban jail cell, has a new champion.

To wit: Former Gov. George Ryan, who was the first U.S. governor in 40 years to lead a trade delegation to Cuba and was promised a Cuban memorial by then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro for doing so, is now petitioning for the release of Gross.

Sneed has learned that Ryan, who was released earlier this year after serving more than five years in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., after a conviction on corruption charges, met recently with Rodney A. Gonzalez Maestrey, a member of the Cuban Interests Section of the U.S. State Department, to petition for the release of Gross.

“Gross is elderly and sick, his mother and daughter now have cancer, and I agree with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the man’s release is a matter of grave urgency,” said Ryan, who lost his wife, Lura Lynn, to cancer while he was in prison. Ryan claims he met Maestrey (sic) over lunch recently at the Union League Club to discuss Gross, who was charged with selling contraband satellite equipment to Cuban dissidents.

Gross reportedly was working on a U.S. government-funded project setting up Internet connections in Cuba. His family claims he was working to help Jewish groups set up Web access. Just recently, Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, sent a personal letter to President Barack Obama on the fourth anniversary of his incarceration, expressing fear that his government had “abandoned” him.

Ryan said he took advantage of an invitation to lunch “with the Cuban ambassador” while he was in town on tourism business “with men who had helped us in Cuba.”

Ryan dined with Fidel Castro twice in the past. “It was Castro who set up my subsequent meeting with Nelson Mandela when I led a trade mission to South Africa in 2000,” Ryan said. “I just thought maybe I could help in some way by getting a message to the Castro government somehow.”

Ryan now joins a bipartisan group of 66 U.S. senators seeking the release of Gross.

Durbin weighed in on the Gross case on the Senate floor last December, after a visit with the government contractor. “This man is not a threat to the sovereignty of the Cuban government, as they claim,” Durbin said then. “He’s a good man with good intentions, an honest man who just wants to come home to his family . . . Holding Alan Gross as a political hostage is the wrong way to solve any problem between our two countries.”

Stay tuned.

Editor’s Note: Rodney Amaury González Maestrey is a Third Secretary at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC.

New York Daily News Uses “Former” Cuban Spies as Unattributed Sources in “Handshake” Coverage 1

The recent article by Albor Ruiz “Obama-Castro Handshake More Than Just a Gesture” used former Cuban Intelligence Officers Jesús Arboleya and Arturo López-Levy as central sources in the feature. However, Ruiz failed to identify either man as a former spy, instead referencing Arboleya as a “Cuban writer and political analyst” and López-Levy as a “Cuba expert and Political Science professor at the University of Denver.”

Editor’s Note: Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by intelligence service defector Jesus Perez Mendez in 1983. Years later, Arboleya’s intelligence service was further corroborated by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez.

Arboleya served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section. During his US tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was inspired by the DGI, (then) Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

Arturo Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly.