Cuban Officer Held At Detention Centre Classed As Refugee Reply

Major Ortelio Abrahantes

Major Ortelio Abrahantes

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter, Tribune 242 (Bahamas)

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

THE CUBAN military officer being held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre has been classified as a refugee by the United Nations, according to legal counsel for the detainee yesterday.

Lawyer David Alvarez confirmed to The Tribune that he is also in talks with a US federal agency, which has requested the approval of the Bahamas government to interview his client Mayor (Major) Ortelio Abrahantes.

After more than five months at the detention centre, Mr Alvarez said his client was optimistic for a possible resolution to the “political tug of war” over his life.

“It has been very frustrating,” he said, “it seems like he’s in a political tug-of-war, and he’s caught in the cross fire of what I’m trying to do, which is save his life, and the Cuban officials. He has a lot of information, sensitive information that may be of interest.” Mr Alvarez said: “the Bahamian government is in the middle of this, I know they have a relationship with both American and Cuban officials.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell said yesterday that he had “no comment on the matter.”

Mr Abrahantes is said to be an officer of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, who has defected with sensitive information involving operations conducted by the Cuban government.

According to reports, Mr Abrahantes was taken to the Bahamas on March 27 after a sail boat he was aboard was intercepted by the US Coast Guard.

Requests for assistance from the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) have been successful, according to Mr Alvarez, who said the agency has submitted their recommendations to the Bahamas government.

“(UNHCR) said my client classifies as a refugee and should not be sent back to Cuba for his own safety and in compliance with international law. They are also going to start asylum proceedings.”

Calls placed to UNHCR representative for the Bahamas, Katie Tobin, were not returned up to press time.

Feature continues here: Major Abrahantes

 

Arnaldo Ochoa — a Problem For Castro Brothers 25 Years Ago 4

Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989 (Courtesy: Miami Herald Archives)

Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989 (Courtesy: Miami Herald Archives)

Castro’s fears led to a revolutionary hero’s execution and drunken binges by his brother Raúl, according to a former security officer.

By Juan O. Tamayo

JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Fidel Castro was so afraid of a revolt in Cuba’s most elite paramilitary unit that he ordered his motorcade to avoid driving past its base, his top bodyguard at the time says. Raúl Castro was so depressed that he was going on drunken benders and soiling his pants.

Cuba’s top military hero, Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, had been executed by firing squad for drug smuggling. And a longtime member of Fidel’s innermost circle, Interior Minister José Abrantes, was in jail awaiting trial for failing to stop the trafficking.

That summer 25 years ago posed one of the toughest challenges ever for the Castro brothers — to show that their top deputies had trafficked drugs without their consent, and to avert a backlash from other soldiers who believed the Castros were lying.

“That was the drop that overflowed my glass,” said Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, 65, who served 17 years on Fidel’s personal security detail and now lives in Miami. “That he would send to the firing squad a man who was a true hero.”

Ochoa, 59, was Cuba’s top military icon. He was a veteran of campaigns in Angola, Venezuela, Ethiopia and Nicaragua, had won the country’s highest honor, Hero of the Revolution, and sat on the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Nevertheless, he was executed on July 13, 1989, along with three senior officers of the Ministry of the Armed Forces and Ministry of the Interior (MININT), after a military court convicted them of drug smuggling and treason.

Ochoa was not plotting to overthrow Fidel, as was rumored at the time, said Sánchez, who in 1989 stood at Fidel’s elbow as keeper of the diary of the Cuban leader’s daily activities. Ochoa did not have the troops or the means to carry out a coup, he added.

But evidence presented at their trial showed that Ochoa and the three others who were executed — Antonio de la Guardia, Jorge Martinez and Amado Bruno Padron — had arranged cocaine shipments through Cuba and to the United States for Colombia’s Medellin cartel.

Abrantes, one of Fidel’s oldest and closest aides, a former head of his security detail and a general, was arrested later with six other MININT officers for failing to stop the drug traffic and corruption. He died of a heart attack in 1991 while serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Fidel had approved Abrantes’ involvement in drug trafficking, Sánchez alleged. And Raúl, then minister of defense, had approved Ochoa’s involvement. Military Counter-Intelligence (CIM), which reported directly to Raúl, had to have known of Ochoa’s activities, yet no CIM agent turned up at either trial as defendant or witness.

 Feature continues here: General Arnaldo Ochoa

Cuba Says it Arrested Four Miami Men Plotting a ‘Terrorist’ Attack 3

Headquarters of Cuba's dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT) [Photo -- Havana Times]

Headquarters of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) [Photo -- Havana Times]

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Three militant Cuban exiles in South Florida on Wednesday denied a Havana allegation that they ordered four men arrested in Cuba to attack military installations — the first such violent plot reported in more than a decade.

A Cuban Interior Ministry statement said Miami residents Raibel Pacheco Santos, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Félix Monzón Álvarez and José Ortega Amador were arrested April 26 but gave few other details.

The four men “admitted that they planned to attack military installations with the objective of promoting violent activities,” the statement said, adding that three of them had traveled to Cuba in 2013 to study and plan their attack.

Cuba’s announcement may be linked to its inclusion last week in a U.S. list of countries that support international terrorism, the three Havana spies in U.S. prisons and perhaps even the desperation of an elderly exile, analysts in Miami said.

Pacheco, 31, a Hialeah resident, registered a “Cuban Liberation Force Inc.” with the Florida Department of State in 2009 and listed its purpose as helping “the people in Cuba to win back their democracy and their lost liberties.”

The only post on its blog says the organization was “founded at the request of members of the armed forces who are inside Cuba, as well as members of organizations and the people” with its only goal being “the toppling of the regime.”

Rodriguez and Monzón attended some meetings of exile militants in Miami six or seven years ago but were not well known in the community and were not known to be members of any particular anti-Castro organization, said Miami radio host Hector Fabian.

The Interior Ministry statement late Tuesday said the four men detained in Cuba confessed that their plans for “terrorist actions” have been “organized under the direction” of Miami exiles Santiago Álvarez Fernández, Osvaldo Mitat and Manuel Alzugaray.

“This, I did not do,” said Alvarez, 72, a long-time militant exile and wealthy real estate developer imprisoned from 2005 to 2009 for illegal possession of firearms allegedly stockpiled for raids on Cuba.

Feature continues here:  Cuba Arrests Four

No One Walks Off The Island 2

Two years ago, Yasiel Puig fled Cuba in the hands of black-market smugglers. This is the story of how the cost of the defection journey – in money and human lives – shadows him still.

by Scott Eden, ESPN The Magazine

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout during a game against the San Francisco Giants. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig watches from the dugout during a game against the San Francisco Giants. Photograph: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Chapter 1

The Escape

Just before dawn one day in late April 2012, four young Cubans stood on an otherwise deserted beach, peering hard into the Caribbean darkness. They were trying to escape their native country, and they were waiting for the boat that would take them away. Thirty minutes passed, then 60. Still no boat. Three men and one woman, the group had arrived at the designated spot close to the appointed hour: 3.a.m. By design, the rendezvous point was located on one of the most isolated coastal stretches in a country famous for nothing if not isolation — so remote it could be reached only by foot.

They had spent the previous 30 hours hiking there, without sleep, and had reached varying levels of emotional distress; the stakes were high. Covert interests in Miami and Cancun had made the arrangements from afar. Their goal was to extract from Cuba a baseball player of extraordinary talent and propitious youth. Just 21 years old at the time, Yasiel Puig already was well-known to both Cuba’s millions of fervid baseball fans as well as officials high in the hierarchy of the Cuban state-security apparatus.

With Puig was Yunior Despaigne, then 24. A former national-level Cuban boxer and a friend of Puig’s from their teens, Despaigne had spent the previous year recruiting Puig to defect, under the direction of a Cuban-born resident of Miami named Raul Pacheco. If caught and found out as an aider and abettor, Despaigne would inevitably face serious prison time. He and Puig had together made four failed attempts to escape the island over the previous year. The authorities were almost certainly wise to their machinations. They needed this trip to work.

According to Despaigne, in the escape party were Puig’s girlfriend and a man who, Despaigne says, served as a padrino, or spirit guide, a kind of lower cleric in the Afro-Catholic religion of Santeria. Sometime before this latest escape attempt, Puig and his girlfriend had sought out the padrino; a vatic ritual had revealed that their voyage would end in good fortune, Despaigne says. The couple decided to take the padrino along so as to improve their chances for safe passage.

Feature continues here:  No One Walks Off The Island

Las Relaciones Desmedidas Reply

Una mujer con la cara pintada de la bandera cubana frente a la embajada de Cuba en Venezuela. / Juan Barreto (AFP)

Una mujer con la cara pintada de la bandera cubana frente a la embajada de Cuba en Venezuela. / Juan Barreto (AFP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Todo empezó con 29 agentes que llegaron en 1997 a ayudar a Hugo Chávez
  • Ahora miles de cubanos trabajan y controlan la Administración pública venezolana
  • Prohibo tener amigos venezolanos

By Cristina Marcano, El Pais Internacional

Cuando el doctor Janoi González aterrizó en el aeropuerto internacional Simón Bolívar, de Venezuela se sintió como si no hubiera salido de Cuba. “No había un solo venezolano, la estructura estaba dirigida por cubanos”, afirma refiriéndose a una parte de la zona bajo control militar conocida como Rampa 4, de exclusivo uso oficial. El experto en radiodiagnóstico, natural de Pinar del Río, entró al país un mediodía de diciembre de 2012 sin que sus documentos fueran revisados por autoridad venezolana alguna. “No hay chequeo de migración. Unos funcionarios cubanos te dan unas palabras de bienvenida, vivas a Chávez y a la revolución, y te ponen un cuño [sello] en el pasaporte”. Ese sello dice: “Válido solo Cuba Venezuela.”

Janoi González es uno de los miles de cooperantes enviados por La Habana a Venezuela y, como muchos de ellos, se vio sometido a unas pésimas condiciones de trabajo y a una vigilancia aún más estrecha que la que normalmente sufre en su país natal. “Se cobraba una basura: 1.200 bolívares [entonces 200 euros según el cambio oficial y 50 en el mercado negro]“. Carecía de libertad de movimientos y vivía hacinado. Al principio tuvo que compartir con seis personas una habitación de 20 metros cuadrados en un motel de Guanare, la capital agrícola de Venezuela. Luego, en la cercana Acarigua, eran “17 en cinco habitaciones, con un solo baño”, detalla por teléfono desde Estados Unidos, adonde escapó en 2013.

Si se observa detenidamente el mapa de América, Cuba luce como una pequeña lengua, un jirón de tierra que pareciera flotar a la deriva. Nada más lejos de la realidad. Anclada en una vieja dictadura comunista, la isla ha tenido claro dónde encontrar dólares para mantenerse a flote. En los últimos 15 años, esa lengua de 108.000 kilómetros cuadrados, con una de las economías más atrasadas, ha logrado saciar su apetito en Venezuela, un país nueve veces más grande, tres veces más poblado y con enormes recursos; entre ellos, las mayores reservas de crudo del mundo.

La Habana recibe diariamente de Caracas más de 100.000 barriles de petróleo en condiciones preferentes, que paga con trabajadores de la salud. Además, obtiene inversiones directas, créditos blandos, subsidios y millonarios contratos como intermediario de importaciones venezolanas de alimentos, bienes y equipos a terceros países.

http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/03/28/actualidad/1396026665_272257.html

Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection 3

Key Figures at the Head of the Oppressive Alliance

By Pedro Roig, The Canal [Blog of the PanAm Post]

The rebellion of the Venezuelan youth, demanding the end of Nicolás Maduro’s presidency, has brought into the forefront the nature of a regime that can be defined as a highly corrupt narco-terrorist state supported by Cuban military forces and Colombian drug cartels.

Venezuela, a country of 29 million people, is blessed with a good climate, rich land, the largest oil reserve in the world and access to major industrial markets. It has every expectation of prospering and becoming a modern, wealthy state. Yet the ruling oligarchy, led by the late-Hugo Chávez and now Nicolás Maduro, understood their revolutionary goal as a right to pillage the national wealth, turning the country into a decrepit caricature of Cuba’s Marxist failure and a secure route for Colombia’s narco-guerrilla to smuggle cocaine to the international markets.

The Cuban Connection

First and foremost, the Maduro government hold to power depends to a large extent on Cuba’s special forces of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) estimated at over 7,000. This is not counting medical and other support personnel (over 30,000) deployed throughout Venezuela.

In addition, Cubans helped train several thousand trusted Chavistas. Called collectivos, these motorcycle gangs can be seen in the videos and pictures helping the National Guard repress peaceful protests and shooting unarmed students (presently, more than 25 students have been murdered and over 300 hundred wounded).

Currently, General Raul Castro has several high ranking officers providing tactical and strategic advice to the Venezuelans, including General Leonardo Ramón Andollo, second chief of the general staff of the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR), Comandante Ramiro Valdés, former head of Cuba’s MININT, and General Carlos Fernández Gondin, second in command of the Ministry of Interior. The first two have spent extended periods of time in Venezuela organizing Cuba’s support for Venezuela’s repressive apparatus:

“Comandante Histórico” Ramiro Valdés was trained by the efficient and brutal East-German intelligence agency (STASI). Valdes was the first chief of Cuba’s repressive intelligence force (G-2). He is now Vice President of the Council of State and member of Cuba’s Communist Party Politburo. Valdes has remained in Venezuela for extended periods analyzing intelligence information on Venezuelan military, active and potential opposition officers and retaliatory tactics to be enforced.

Ramón Andollo is a highly trusted link between Colombia’s narco-guerilla FARC and Venezuela’s Armed Forces officers. For over 15 years, General Andollo has been the principal liaison between the Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels. He has spent extended periods of time in Venezuela. It is reported by MININT defectors that General Andollo has met with Colombian guerrilla leaders in safe areas controlled by the Venezuelan Cartel de los Soles.

Second in Command of Cuba’s Ministry of Interior (MININT), General Fernández Gondin and his staff officers are in overall command of MININT’s Special Forces (over 7,000) deployed in Venezuela.

Feature continues here:  Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection

Castro Son-In-Law Promoted to General 4

Newly appointed Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas

Newly appointed Brigadier General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas appears to remain a powerful figure despite reports that he has fought with the family.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A powerful son-in-law of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro, in charge of the military enterprises that dominate the island’s economy, has been promoted to general despite recurring reports of tensions with his wife and brother-in-law.

Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, in his mid-50s and long identified as a colonel in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), was identified as a brigadier general in a Jan. 29 report in the Web pages of Cubadefensa, a FAR publication.

Rodriguez heads the Enterprise Administration Group (GAESA), the FAR’s business arm — the military controls 80 percent of the Cuban economy, including hotels, factories, restaurants and airlines — and sits on the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

He also is spearheading the $1 billion development project for the Port of Mariel west of Havana, Cuba’s strategic bet for reinserting itself into the global economy with the help of $800 million in financing from Brazil.

Military promotions in secretive Cuba are seldom announced, but Cubadefensa revealed his new rank in a brief report saying he attended a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the military-run Almacenes Universales S.A.

Rodriguez, married to Castro’s oldest daughter, Deborah Castro Espín, is widely viewed as one of the most powerful and ambitious men in Cuba — smart, arrogant, frugal and a highly effective administrator of GAESA.

His promotion to general supported speculation that he might succeed Castro eventually because he holds a high military rank, knows the economy, comes from a good family and married into an even more important one. His father, Maj. Gen. Guillermo Rodríguez del Pozo, was one of the Fidel Castro guerrillas who seized power in 1959.

“This means that he remains in contention, despite what people have been saying about his troubles,” said Luis Dominguez, a Miami exile who first reported Rodriguez’s promotion in his blog, Cuba al Descubierto — Cuba Uncovered.

Retired CIA analyst Brian Latell, who authored two books on Cuba, said the new rank is commensurate with the general’s responsibilities at the very profitable GAESA. “I would say he earned his star fair and square,” he said.

But Rodriguez also has been reported to have clashed often with Deborah and her brother, Alejandro Castro Espín, 48, an Interior Ministry colonel who is Castro’s chief intelligence advisor and runs a tough anti-corruption campaign.

Read more here: Castro Son-In-Law Promoted to General

Castro Son-In-Law Promoted to General

Espías cubanos todavía dependen de tecnología anticuada como la onda corta y clave Morse 3

Juan O. Tamayo, elNuevoHerald.com

No importa si usted no es un espía cubano. Usted podría recibir mensajes secretos enviados por La Habana a sus agentes en Miami, Washington y otras partes del mundo.

Cada semana, una estación de onda corta en Cuba transmite 97 mensajes codificados en tonos que parecen de fax. Un programa de computadora fácilmente disponible al público cambia los tonos en números, y entonces los espías cubanos decodifican los números en palabras.

Una segunda estación espía transmite 16 mensajes por semana en los puntos y rayas del código Morse, de 175 años de antigüedad, mensajes secretos para aquellos espías de La Habana de más edad o menos conocimientos tecnológicos.

Dieciséis años después de los arrestos en Miami de cinco espías cubanos que recibían sus órdenes secretas por transmisiones de onda corta, La Habana continúa usando un sistema que ha caído en desuso en el mundo del espionaje desde el fin de la Guerra Fría.

Hay muchas maneras más modernas y eficientes de comunicar secretos usando satélites, transmisiones por ráfagas, correos electrónicos únicos, etc., dijo Chris Simmons, oficial retirado de inteligencia del Pentágono especializado en asuntos cubanos.

“Pero estas transmisiones cubanas podrían ser para viejos espías, dinosaurios que llevan mucho tiempo escuchando (onda corta), agentes a largo plazo, que se sienten cómodos así y no quieren ni necesitan cambios”, añadió Simmons.

La estación cubana más ocupada en estos tiempos, y la única estación espía del mundo entero que usa los tonos de tipo fax, ha sido bautizada como HM01 por radioescuchas aficionados que tienen websites tales como Spooks List, Spynumbers, ShortwaveSchedule y Enigma2000.

La misma transmite de 11 a 14 mensajes por día, un total de 96 por semana, en el mismo horario cada semana pero usando una docena de frecuencias de onda corta, dijo Chris Smolinski, de 41 años, ingeniero informático de Maryland cuyo hobby es vigilar las estaciones espía.

Cada mensaje tiene casi siempre 150 grupos de cinco dígitos, de modo que los radioescuchas no pueden medir la verdadera longitud del texto, y algunas de las transmisiones de 10 minutos son falsas, diseñadas para encubrir el verdadero número de espías que las reciben.

Cualquiera puede conectar un receptor de radio a una computadora, donde el programa DIGTRX —usado por muchos radioaficionados para enviar y recibir textos largos— convierte los tonos en números. Los espías usan entonces programas secretos para convertir los números en texto.

“HM01 es un sistema ideal porque no hay que enseñárselo a nadie. La computadora hace todo el trabajo”, dijo Smolinski.

Lea más aquí: Espías cubanos todavía dependen de tecnología anticuada como la onda corta y clave Morse

Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying 9

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A top aide to one of Cuba’s veteran political figures, Ricardo Alarcón, and the aide’s wife, have been convicted of spying and sentenced to 30 and 15 years in prison, according to persons close to the case.

Miguel Alvarez and Mercedes Arce, both former Cuban intelligence analysts in their 50s, were tried and convicted in December, the persons said, 22 months after they were detained in Havana for interrogation on March 3, 2012.

Alvarez was sentenced to 30 years on charges that he leaked secret information to Arce, according to the sources. Arce got the lesser sentence for allegedly using the information to write analytical reports on Cuba that she sold to private companies in Mexico.

Alvarez is the most senior Cuban official known to have been convicted of spying against the communist government in decades. At least three other Cubans are imprisoned on the island for spying, including two former Interior Ministry officials.

The Cuban government has repeatedly offered to swap U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, imprisoned in Havana since 2009, for four Havana spies held in U.S. prisons since 1998. But it has made no mention of the spies held in Cuban prisons.

The island’s state-controlled news media, which almost never reports on politically sensitive crimes, has published nothing on the Alvarez-Arce case. Relatives also have not commented publicly, hoping their silence will lead to better treatment for the couple.

There has been no indication of the seriousness of the breach of security allegedly created by Alvarez and Arce, but the Cuban government jealously guards even routine information such as sugar harvest figures and Fidel Castro’s home address.

Alvarez was a senior advisor to Alarcón on international and political affairs when Alarcón served as president of the legislative National Assembly of People’s Power, sitting in on many of his meetings with foreign dignitaries and journalists.

Alarcón, 77, a veteran specialist on U.S. relations, headed the National Assembly for 20 years but was replaced in February of last year, 11 months after the Alvarez and Arce arrests.

He is believed to remain a member of the powerful Political Bureau of the Communist Party. Alarcón is seen in public now mostly pushing the government campaign to free the four Cuban spies in U.S. prisons.

Former Florida International University professor Carlos Alvarez (no relation to the Alarcón aide), who was convicted of spying for Havana, described Arce in his confession as one of his Cuban intelligence handlers. He and his wife, Elsa Prieto, were sentenced in 2007 to five and three years in prison, respectively.

Read more here:
Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying

Cuban Authorities Harass Dissidents Before Havana Summit 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

The Cuban government has unleashed “a large wave of political repression” against dissidents, detaining or threatening at least 60 to keep them from tarnishing a meeting of hemispheric leaders in Havana, a human rights group reported Monday.

The II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on Tuesday and Wednesday will focus mostly on efforts at economic integration among the 33 member nations. CELAC excludes the United States and Canada.

Cuba also has proposed declaring the region as a “zone of peace” and other nations have proposed addressing issues such as poverty, climate change, the peace talks between Colombia and FARC rebels and the U.S. embargo against the Cuban government.

But attempts by the Cuban opposition to voice their complaints to the foreign visitors and grab part of their media spotlight by holding two small “parallel summits” have been met with tough measures by security officials on the island.

Police briefly detained at least 40 dissidents, threatened or harassed another 18 and ordered five more to stay home “until the end of the summit,” said a report Monday by the illegal Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Those numbers are preliminary because of government controls on communications within the island, but they already amount to “a large wave of political repression against peaceful dissidents,” the report said, to “muzzle” them during the two-day summit.

Other dissidents have reported nearly 150 brief detentions and blocks on the cell phones of several pro-democracy activists.

Read more here: Cuban authorities harass dissidents before Havana summit