THURSDAY, MARCH 6 5 p.m. Stephen Kimber, author of ‘What Lies Across the Water: the Real Story of the Cuban Five,’ reads at Harbourfront Library. Cuban Ambassador to Canada Julio Garmendia Pena will accompany Kimber. Open to the public. - See more at: Nanaimo Daily News (British Columbia)
Tomorrow evening, the Jesuit-founded Seattle University will screen Saul Landau’s masterpiece of misinformation “Will the real terrorist please stand up?” Hosted by the University’s Center for the Study of Justice in Society, the event will be held Friday, February 21st, from 6:30-8:30pm in Bannon 102. Associate Professor Pamela Taylor (206-296-2678), listed on the University’s calendar as the event’s contact person, could not be reached for comment.
On what was clearly a slow news day in Havana, the government-run news service Prensa Latina, a long-term collaborator with Cuba’s intelligence services, announced that freed Wasp Network spy Rene Gonzalez now has a Twitter account. Gonzalez will use his new social media access to conduct “influence operations” on behalf of the Cuban Five.
An “Influence Operation” is an intelligence mission which uses agents, collaborators, sympathizers, and the media to promote a nation’s objectives in ways either un-attributable or marginally attributable to that power. In this scenario, regime supporters around the world can follow “rene4the5” without having to confront the reality of Gonzalez’s continued intelligence affiliation.
Unapologetic regarding his propaganda mission, Gonzalez told the Cuban website CUBADEBATE, “I want to talk about the case of the Cuban Five…” to help reshape US public opinion. PRELA also noted that the failed spy will be in London next month “to take part in an international meeting, with the purpose to attract parliamentaries (sic) of the entire world, to create an international commission to get the release of his comrades.”
Competition in Cuba
By Julia Sweig, Huffington Post
Two weeks ago on a trip to Cuba the buzz was about this week’s CELAC summit, and more specifically about Brazil. President Dilma has now inaugurated the Port of Mariel, a $1 billion BNDS-backed Odebrecht investment. Brazilian capital is playing the long game there also in cane, soy, corn, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. For Brazil and Cuba, business is business, but shared history and the wink of solidarity doesn’t hurt.
Yet even as Havana was gearing up to host a few dozen heads of state, their spouses, and entourages and the press corp, I also heard a clear and explicitly stated interest in cooperation with the United States, between governments, business and society. It is already happening in a low-key way, but not through large-scale, Brazil-type investment. At least not yet. Instead, Cubans living in the United States are sending over $1 billion a year to families, who in turn are investing in new small businesses, some turning a profit, some not. There is no travel ban for Cuban-Americans, and I am guessing that the recently-opened residential real estate market is booming in part because of capital from Miami. (It is only a matter of time before the borders disappear, and Cuban capital palpably helps boost the South Florida economy).
Americans without family on the island still must ask our government for special licenses to travel to Cuba legally. And the government is fickle in granting them, mainly because the ever-self-protecting bureaucracy tends to follow the political zeitgeist: just say “no” to anything that might help the Castros, even if the American national interest suggests otherwise. But even that equation is now changing.
President Obama does not have a nuclear crisis or a genocidal civil war or a sectarian conflict compelling him to finally and substantially overhaul Washington’s tired and embarrassing Cuba policy. But he does have a consensus to do so from American public and editorial opinion, and from the business, cultural, artistic, athletic, religious and you-name-it communities in the United States. All he has to do is lead, and this consensus will make itself manifest in a heartbeat.
Other than the competitive juices that might have started to flow during this week’s showcasing of Brazil’s presence in Cuba, there is one geopolitical event that could compel Obama to finally marginalize the tiny minority within his own party that prefers to keep Cuba policy on ice. In 13 months, March 2015, Obama will make his final presidential appearance at the Summit of the Americas, the Inter-American system’s marquee event where Washington still has a voice. Last year in Cartagena, the message was unanimous: Cuba next time, or no Summit. Obama can again dismiss this message and lose even more influence in the Americas. But the stars are aligning for Obama to make a big legacy move by 2015. Mark my word and start your clocks.
The Twin Cities Daily Planet reports that the Minnesota Cuba Committee has partnered with a local art gallery for a month long exhibit of paintings by convicted spy Antonio Guerrero. The show’s overhyped title — “I will die the way I lived,” is reflective of a number of the propaganda themes used by the Castro brothers thus far in their 55-year reign. Last September, the same Cuba Committee joined with Obsidian Arts in south Minneapolis for a showing to mark the 15th year of incarceration for the Cuban spies.
Yesterday’s New York Times featured this highly disappointing article by foreign correspondent Damien Cave: Former Exit Port for a Wave of Cubans Hopes to Attract Global Shipping
One of the sources widely used by Cave and the New York Times was Arturo Lopez-Levy, who it erroneously cited as “a former Cuban official who studies Cuba’s economy and politics” and someone “who also works with a group of Cuban-Americans favoring engagement with Cuba.” No mention was made to how – in his own book – Lopez-Levy admitted to having been a spy with Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Likewise, the Times failed to note the PhD candidate’s close family ties to Raul Castro’s son-in-law, MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.
The paper then compounded this sourcing error by citing Phil Peters, a senior member of the long discredited Lexington Institute. A self-professed “think tank,” this group was exposed as a fraud years ago for writing flattering news stories on its corporate sponsors in the defense sector. Coverage on their money-for-stories approach can be found here: Analyst’s switch stirs tanker talk, and in the Babalu Blog feature,
“Sherritt, Cuba, and the Cubanologist.”
OAS head at Cuba Summit in Unusual Encounter
By Associated Press
HAVANA — The secretary-general of the Organization of American States arrived in Cuba on Monday to attend a regional summit, in an unusual encounter 52 years after Cuba was kicked out of the regional bloc.
Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean, was attending as an observer, so there was no official access to his arrival as was the case with visiting foreign ministers and heads of state. But Cuban officials confirmed his presence on the island to The Associated Press.
Hugo Zela, Insulza’s chief of staff, said the OAS, which was formed in 1948, has no record of a secretary-general visiting Cuba.
Tensions between Cuba and the OAS began shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, when Washington put pressure on Fidel Castro’s nascent Communist government through the organization.
Cuba was suspended from the bloc in 1962 at the height of the Cold War and many other nations turned their backs on Havana, with Mexico a notable exception.
By the dawn of the 21st century and with the Cold War nearly two decades in the rear-view mirror, some countries — particularly Venezuela under the late President Hugo Chavez, who called Castro a friend and mentor — began pushing for Cuba’s reintegration into the hemispheric community.
In 2009 the OAS ended Cuba’s suspension with the consent of Washington, which had been hesitant at first. But Havana balked at rejoining the bloc it sees as obeying U.S. interests.
“Cuba’s position toward the OAS remains the same: We will not return,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at the summit. “It has negative historical baggage as an instrument of domination by the United States that cannot be resolved through any reform.”
Nonetheless, Rodriguez said inviting Insulza to the CELAC summit was done out of “courtesy.”
The CELAC was formed in 2011 and includes all the Western Hemisphere’s nations except Canada and the United States.
“It should replace within a short time the OAS, that institution that did so much harm to integration,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Roberto Patino said Monday.
Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba analyst and lecturer at the University of Denver, said the CELAC’s creation puts pressure on the OAS to remain relevant.
“The problems of the OAS are due to the fact that inter-American multilateralism has not been updated in respect to the changes in politics and balance of power that have taken place in (the region) and beyond as part of the rise of the global south,” Lopez-Levy said. “The second summit of the CELAC in Havana pours salt on that wound,” he added.
For decades the argument for excluding Cuba from the OAS was its closed, single-party system. Havana has little tolerance for internal opposition and routinely harasses dissidents whom it officially labels treasonous “mercenaries.”
Insulza has come under criticism particularly from the Cuban exile community for not scheduling meetings with island dissidents during the trip, in order to avoid making the summit hosts uncomfortable.
“It’s startling,” said Elizardo Sanchez, a nongovernmental human rights monitor in Cuba. “It’s a little surprising because the OAS usually recognizes the human rights NGOs.”
Cuban dissidents have complained about increased harassment and detentions in the days leading up to and during the summit. Some said they were prevented from holding an alternative forum, while others claimed to be under effective house arrest.
Editor’s Note: 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. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is a long-term doctoral student in Denver.
A few days ago, Havana Times published a story about the December 2013 robbery of foreign tourist “Emma Scopes.” In the feature, HT quoted Scopes as saying:
“The efficiency of the police was also truly astounding“
“…the police were able to catch the man who took my bag and return my possessions. By the time the police returned with the perpetrator in hand cuffs…”
“So a huge ‘thank you’ to the police…”
Such are the simple joys of a tourist visiting a national security state.
Read the entire propaganda piece here: My Experience Being Robbed in Cuba
InSerbia Independent News reports that senior MINREX official Josefina Vidal Ferreiro is pleased with the latest migration talks, declaring, “The talks have taken place in a pleasant and respectful environment.” The Belgrade-based news agency noted that Vidal Ferreiro again called for the US to release the Cuban Five, to which Edward Alex Lee, the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs,told reporters, the US delegation “took note.” Lee was also cited as claiming President Obama is “open to seeking a new relationship with Havana.”
In a feature worthy of Granma or Russia’s Pravda, the AFP reported that Cuban dissidents now travel freely, but their on-island influence has diminished. Curiously, the AFP conceded that Cuba’s apartheid regime censors dissident messages, but failed to report that foreign travel is allowed only when approved by Havana’s pervasive security and intelligence services. Likewise, it omitted State Security’s long-term, repressive targeting of the internationally-known Ladies in White and less famous protesters.
The piece then quoted “former” Cuban spy Arturo Lopez-Levy as saying dissidents do not provide “viable alternatives to the country’s main problems.” In reality, 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. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is in his eighth year as a doctoral student in Denver.