Cuba’s “Free The 5” Campaign Falters As Support Plummets 4

Convicted Spy Rene Gonzalez:  the poster child for the regime's "Free the 5" program

Convicted Spy Rene Gonzalez: the poster child for the regime’s “Free the 5″ program

By Chris Simmons

The headline in CubaSi proclaims “Tsunami of Messages for the Cuban Five Flood the White House.” However, all is not as it seems and even the false enthusiasm of Havana’s spinmeisters can no longer hide the truth. The “Cuban 5” campaign is dying.

A key facet of the “Cuban 5” propaganda operation has been to “flood” the White House with the letters and emails of support on the 5th day of every month. But a drought of supporters has reduced the “tsunami” to a small creek. Just a few thousand messages demanding the release of the three remaining Wasp Network spies arrived at the White House last Friday reported CubaSi.

Almost any well organized and motivated special interest group can generate hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of letters, postcards, and emails at the drop of a hat. In contrast, a Cuba-led program allegedly involving participants from over 40 nations only generates a few thousand emails and letters once a month. The men and women of the Directorate of Intelligence’s “Active Measures” Department (M-IX) should be rightfully embarrassed.

Editor’s Note:  Active Measures are the use of disinformation, threats, and/or violence to discredit opponents or otherwise manipulate the behavior of an individual or group. Disinformation is false or inaccurate information deliberately spread with the goal of rendering genuine information useless. 

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.

US Sent Latin Youth Undercover in Anti-Cuba Ploy Reply

In this July 9, 2014, photo, Fernando Murillo, a founder of the human rights group Fundacion Operacion Gaya Internacional, talks with The Associated Press in San Jose, Costa Rica. Murillo had been contracted by Creative Associates to turn Cuba’s politically apathetic young people into "change agents." Six days after Cuban police arrested American contractor Alan Gross, the U.S. government agency that had paid for his trip signed up Murillo for another secret U.S. mission to the island. When he first arrived in Cuba, however, Murillo advocated a seemingly non-political agenda, which included collaborating with Cuban organizations on youth volunteerism and the cultivation of coconut paper, bananas and Cuba’s national flower, the mariposa blanca. Esteban Felix / AP Photo

In this July 9, 2014, photo, Fernando Murillo, a founder of the human rights group Fundacion Operacion Gaya Internacional, talks with The Associated Press in San Jose, Costa Rica. Murillo had been contracted by Creative Associates to turn Cuba’s politically apathetic young people into “change agents.” Six days after Cuban police arrested American contractor Alan Gross, the U.S. government agency that had paid for his trip signed up Murillo for another secret U.S. mission to the island. When he first arrived in Cuba, however, Murillo advocated a seemingly non-political agenda, which included collaborating with Cuban organizations on youth volunteerism and the cultivation of coconut paper, bananas and Cuba’s national flower, the mariposa blanca. Esteban Felix / AP Photo

By Desmond Butler, Jack Gillum, Alberto Arce, and Andrea Rodriquez (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — An Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change, a clandestine operation that put those foreigners in danger even after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.

Beginning as early as October 2009, a project overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development sent Venezuelan, Costa Rican and Peruvian young people to Cuba in hopes of ginning up rebellion. The travelers worked undercover, often posing as tourists, and traveled around the island scouting for people they could turn into political activists.

In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called “the perfect excuse” for the program’s political goals — a gambit that could undermine America’s efforts to improve health globally.

But their efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk, an Associated Press investigation found: Cuban authorities questioned who was bankrolling the travelers. The young workers nearly blew their mission to “identify potential social-change actors.” One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.

“Although there is never total certainty, trust that the authorities will not try to harm you physically, only frighten you,” read a memo obtained by the AP. “Remember that the Cuban government prefers to avoid negative media reports abroad, so a beaten foreigner is not convenient for them.”

In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba, for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.

The AP found USAID and its contractor, Creative Associates International, continued the program even as U.S. officials privately told their government contractors to consider suspending travel to Cuba after the arrest of contractor Alan Gross, who remains imprisoned after smuggling in sensitive technology.

“We value your safety,” one senior USAID official said in an email. “The guidance applies to ALL travelers to the island, not just American citizens,” another official said.

The revelations of the USAID program come as the White House faces questions about the once-secret “Cuban Twitter” project, known as ZunZuneo. That program, launched by USAID in 2009 and uncovered by the AP in April, established a primitive social media network under the noses of Cuban officials. USAID’s inspector general is investigating that program, which ended in September, 2012.

Officials said USAID launched “discreet” programs like ZunZuneo to increase the flow of information in a country that heavily restricts it. But the AP’s earlier investigation found ZunZuneo was political in nature and drew in subscribers unaware that the service was paid for by the U.S. government.

“USAID and the Obama administration are committed to supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future,” the agency said in response to written questions from the AP. “USAID works with independent youth groups in Cuba on community service projects, public health, the arts and other opportunities to engage publicly, consistent with democracy programs worldwide.”

In a statement late Sunday, USAID said the HIV workshop had a dual purpose: It “enabled support for Cuban civil society while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desire Cubans expressed for information and training about HIV prevention.”

Creative Associates declined to comment, referring questions to USAID.

In response to the AP’s report, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said USAID’s programs were important for human rights in Cuba. “We must continue to pressure the Castro regime and support the Cuban people, who are oppressed on a daily basis,” said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban native and vocal supporter of pro-democracy programs there.

Both ZunZuneo and the travelers program were part of a larger, multimillion-dollar effort by USAID to effect change in politically volatile countries, government data show. But the programs reviewed by the AP didn’t appear to achieve their goals and operated under an agency known more for its international-aid work than stealthy operations. The CIA recently pledged to stop using vaccine programs to gather intelligence, such as one in Pakistan that targeted Osama bin Laden.

Read more here: Undercover Youth

 

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)

NPR Interviews Cuban “Official” Josefina Vidal – Fails to Acknowledge Her Spy Employment 2

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Officer Josefina Vidal

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Officer Josefina Vidal

 Cuba Maintains U.S. Embargo Is Harsh Financial Persecution

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

An NPR team spent last week in Cuba. This week, we are in Miami. It has given us a glimpse of both sides of one of the most enduring diplomatic standoffs. While in Cuba, we met up with the veteran diplomat who is Havana’s point person in that standoff. Her name is Josephina Vidal. She’s director of U.S. relations for the Cuban government. [emphasis added] We were brought into a small sitting room just off the lobby in the Foreign Ministry to chat. And I began by asking Vidal about President Obama and Raul Castro greeting each other at Nelson Mandela’s funeral back in December. Was it more than just a handshake?

JOSEPHINA VIDAL: This is what educated civilized people normally do, even though we haven’t had diplomatic trade and normal relations for more than 50 years now.

GREENE: As far as we know, the two governments aren’t even communicating about two cases that are really important to them. An American named Alan Gross was in Cuba as a USAID contractor. He was arrested for bringing communications equipment into the country, and now he’s in a Cuban prison serving a 15-year sentence. Meanwhile, three Cuban agents convicted of spying in the United States are also serving long sentences in a American prisons. They’re part of the so-called Cuban Five who are seen as heroes in Cuba. The U.S. government views these cases as fundamentally different, but Josephina Vidal says she sees the potential for some kind of deal.

VIDAL: This is what we have been saying to the United States for almost two years now. It is important to understand that Alan Gross came to Cuba, not because we invited him to come, he came to Cuba to implement a program of the United States government. That’s the reason why we tell the United States government that we need to sit down in order to talk about both our cases.

GREENE: And have any conversations started over those two cases at all?

VIDAL: Feeling responsible for our people and trying to look together for the best solution acceptable for both of us and that respond to our concerns. This is what I can say now.

Feature continues here:  Interview With Spy Josefina Vidal

Editor’s Note:  As longtime readers of Cuba Confidential are aware, Vidal was thrown out of the US in 2003 as part of a massive expulsion of Cuban diplomat spies. She was subsequently appointed to “official” duties as head of US relations within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

NPR’s handling of this interview begs the question, if a CIA officer were expelled from Cuba and the US then appointed her as head of the State Department’s Office of Cuban Affairs, would the media be so forgiving of her spy employment?  I think not……

Cuba Overhypes Literary Nomination of Castro Apologist Reply

Stephen Kimber

Stephen Kimber

By Chris Simmons

The headline of Prensa Latina’s press release is impressive:  Book About The Cuban Five is Finalist for Literary Award in Canada.”

While technically true, it’s the best lie of omission I’ve read in a long time.  Yes, Castro propagandist Stephen Kimber’s latest book was nominated for the Evelyn Richardson Award to the Best Non Fiction Book. However, this annual award is limited to writers on the tiny island of Nova Scotia, on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. The winner receives a 2000 dollar cash prize. Additionally, competition for the local award isn’t exactly fierce, given the province’s population of just 940,000 inhabitants.

While this Canadian island has been blessed with some amazing writers, Kimber is not one of them – nor for that matter can his writings be seriously considered non-fiction.

Editor’s Note: To our PRELA colleagues, your propaganda efforts would be enhanced by improved Quality Control efforts — a lot of errors in that press release. You may want to consider hiring a better translator and proofreader…..immediately.

Burned Spy Denies Cuban Role in Human Trafficking 1

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Officer Josefina Vidal

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) Officer Josefina Vidal

On Friday, the State Department released its annual report on human trafficking, placing Cuba on a blacklist of 23 “human trafficking countries.” In response, Josefina Vidal, director-general of the US department with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responded “The Cuban government rejects categorically as unfounded this unilateral move offending our people,” noted the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “Cuba has not requested the US assessment, nor needed recommendations from the US, a country with the gravest problem of trafficking children and women in the world,” Vidal went on to claim.

According to Xinhua, the regime newspaper – Granma – categorized the US report as “manipulative” and “politically motivated.”

Editor’s Note:  Vidal left the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban diplomat-spies. Despite her departure, she continues to insist she is not a career staffer with Havana’s primary foreign intelligence service, the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

Internet Foils Disinformation Operation Regarding Funeral For Mother of Alan Gross 5

Spy vs spyBy Chris Simmons

Cuba’s once world-class propaganda operations suffered another self-inflicted blow late yesterday, this time by expelled Spy Josefina Vidal, who continues to serve undercover as director of the US Division within Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vidal issued a press release claiming Havana is unable to award Gross a humanitarian visa for the funeral because “…neither the Cuban penitentiary system nor the US penitentiary system provide the possibility for inmates to travel abroad, no matter the reason…”

Before crafting this poorly conceived propaganda piece, Mrs. Vidal and her DI brethren should have searched the internet, where they would have found this Associated Press story on convicted Wasp Network spy Rene Gonzalez from April 12, 2013:  Judge approves Cuban spy visit home.

Is it really possible that the DI can’t even pull off a simple disinformation mission anymore without tripping over itself? Unbelievable! Ironically, readers will also note that the AP story is proudly displayed on the website by the National Committee to Free the Five.

Cuban Spy is Now ICAP Vice President 1

icapSPECIAL by Arnaldo M. Fernandez

Fernando González-Llort has been just appointed as Vice President of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, better known by its Spanish acronym ICAP. Although it is not subordinate to the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), ICAP is an intelligence front with a long history since its creation in 1960, with a large pool of collaborators at the service overseen by a small team of ICAP-embedded DI officers.

After graduating in the Higher Institute of International Relations (1987), González-Llort took part (1987-89) at the Cuban military campaign in Angola. Back in Cuba, he was trained to carry out spying operations in the U.S. and was part of the so-called Wasp Network dismantled by the FBI in 1998. He was sentenced to 19 years of imprisonment in 2001 and re-sentenced to 17 years, 9 months in 2009.

González-Llort was released on February 27, 2014, and immediately engaged with René Gonzalez (released October 7, 2011) in the agitprop campaigns for the freedom of the three members of the spy ring still in prison.

On March 29, 2014, González-Llort spoke before the Cuban National Assembly, praising the efforts and constant support of the Cuban government and the Communist Party. He also lauded the agitprop campaigns undertaken by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Five and ICAP.

[Alleged] Cuban Double Agent Reveals CIA Machinations in Cuba 4

Enemigo by Raúl Capote, Editorial Jose Marti.

Enemigo by Raúl Capote, Editorial Jose Marti.

Review by Raidel López

In Enemigo (enemy), Cuban writer and university professor of history, Raúl Capote, reveals his life as a double agent; agent Pablo for the CIA, and agent Daniel for Cuban intelligence. This is not a work of fiction or a classic spy novel. It is the real experience narrated by the protagonist about plans by the CIA and its allies to destroy the Cuban Revolution. His story reveals one of the many facets of the US war against Cuba. For over half a century plans of espionage, sabotage, terrorist attacks, assassination, subversion, military, economic and political aggression, have been made and executed from the US. Most of these plans have failed, thanks to the work and sacrifice of men like Capote.

Capote does not consider himself to be anything but an ordinary Cuban. In the 1980s Capote was vice-director of the cultural association Hermanos Saiz, in Cienfuegos province. This organisation brings together artists, musicians, writers and others in the cultural field. Capote had published literature, which was known outside Cuba and was considered to be critical of Cuban society, even though it had been published by Cuban state publishers. This had caught the attention of the US Interests Section (USIS), a substitute for an embassy, in Havana. By the late 1980s, US officials had approached Capote offering him the chance to earn a lot of money by publishing ‘critical’ literature. Capote began working at the University Enrique José Barona in Havana as a history professor. CIA officials were interested in this work which allowed Capote to influence students. In the 1990s, USIS officials visited Capote with increasing frequency.

In May 2004, Capote was invited to dine at the home of Francisco Saen, a USIS official. The dinner was attended by diplomats and functionaries from several countries. There Capote met USIS officials Louis John Nigro Jr, Deputy Chief between June 2001 and June 2004, and Kelly Ann Keiderling, First Secretary of Press and Culture between July 2003 and June 2005. Keiderling befriended Capote and attempted to influence him and his family, inviting them to private dinners, giving them presents, promising them a prosperous future in the US, inculcating them with US ‘values’ and generally trying to influence their thinking. Keiderling was trying to recruit Capote to the CIA as part of a comprehensive plan to convert young Cuban intellectuals into enemies of the Revolution.

In 2005, the CIA concluded its studies and tests of Capote and he was officially recruited by Rene Greenwald, who used the pseudo name ‘El Gran Amigo’ (the great friend). Greenwald is a CIA veteran who participated in undercover actions against Cuba in the 1960s and worked in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, in dirty war operations to assist military dictatorships allied to the US government (p75). Meanwhile, Capote had signed up to work for Cuban intelligence, reflecting where his real loyalties lay. Capote recalls that the CIA tests never stopped, including putting him in threatening situations to see whether he would break. He never did.

Feature continues here:  Double Agent