The Associated Press continued spreading its myth that a single, US-government run Twitter account could somehow destabilize the apartheid police state of Cuba. In today’s version of events, it cited former Directorate of Intelligence officer Arturo Lopez-Levy as claiming he could be victimized by the Castro regime for his own (alleged) efforts to bring technology to Cuba. Seriously? Spy-turned-propaganda spokesman Lopez-Levy afraid of his own in-laws? Just another example of how truly pathetic Cuba’s influence operations have become — and how uninformed and lazy many US journalists CHOOSE to be.
Earlier today, Prensa Latina announced that convicted spy Rene Gonzalez was in France, where he thanked supporters of the “Cuban Five.” In a gathering held at the Cuban Embassy in Paris – the historical hub for Cuban spy operations in France, Gonzalez lamented the media’s disinterest in the “Cuban Five” story, but told those gathered “this silence could not prevent you (sic) declare your solidarity with us.” According to PRELA, attendees included “France Cuba, Cuba Si France, activists for the release of The Five, associations of Cuban residents, political leaders, intellectuals, and diplomats.”
In response to a question from PRELA, a media outlet long-known for its collaboration with Cuban Intelligence, Gonzalez recalled that “some of the first letters of support…” came from French citizens “Annie Arroyo and Jacqueline Roussie…” who wrote letters to President Obama every month demanding the release of Cuba’s spies.
Oblivious to his own hypocrisy, Gonzalez also recycled Havana’s time-worn criticism of the US for once paying journalists to write news stories against the Castro regime. Will someone please tell him who pays the staff at PRELA, ACN, Granma, etc?????
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wayne Trujillo, Valley Voices
An apparently polite and perfunctory presidential encounter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial became more than a mere handshake. Not only did President Barack Obama shake Raul Castro’s hand, but he also shook the Beltway and blogosphere, ironically and metaphorically giving pause to those with sanitary concerns about casual and calculated handshakes. This one did indeed go viral. The handshake grabbed the synoptic attention spans that comprise the Internet, inciting gobs of Google returns and emotional comments.
While some pundits and politicians consider President Obama’s acknowledgement of Cuba’s leader either a pragmatic grasp of diplomacy or merely a funereal formality, others lambasted the palming as insouciance, if not actually a tacit high five, to tyranny and thuggery. While the presidential handshake may have meant nothing more than a spontaneous greeting without forethought or consequence, the possibility exists that the gesture subtly acknowledged that our Cuban policy, codified through ostracism and various legislative measures through the years, has likely delayed rather than hastened Cuban democracy.
One thing is certain. Cuba is changing.
Last month, I traveled to Cuba on the Chamber of the Americas Cuban Cultural/Educational mission trip. Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban native and doctoral candidate at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, guided the mission, introducing us to Cuban artists, musicians, academics, students, bloggers, activists, religious leaders and budding entrepreneurs. The introductions were more than an exchange of handshakes and pleasantries. We engaged in spirited and freewheeling discussions about socioeconomic and political challenges that would’ve been impossible even a decade ago. Actually, finding a budding entrepreneur in Cuba a decade ago would’ve been impossible. A recent New York Times article explored the Cuban government’s gradual and limited shifts and allowances, quoting our tour organizer, Lopez-Levy, on the intricacies the Cuban government and reformists navigate on the delicate dance to a destination even remotely considered a full-fledged free democracy. Cuba’s limited freedoms and private proprietorships appear more of an amateur dress rehearsal than the world premiere of a polished production on any stage of the global economy.
Feature continues here: Cuba is Changing
Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?
By Arturo Lopez-Levy
Nelson Mandela, even after his death, promoted peace and reconciliation among nations and civility between leaders. His funeral has brought about the refreshing image of Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, of Cuba and the U.S., greeting each other.
The struggle against apartheid was a cause that gathered many around the world. The African-American university student Barack Obama and the thousands of Cuban soldiers who went to Angola were among them. Mandela inspired them and thanked them all for their contribution. Barack Obama and Raul Castro were on the same side of the South African conflict, Mandela’s side. They had common adversaries like Senator Jesse Helms, author of the insignia law of the embargo against Cuba, and the loudest voice in the racist and reactionary resistance against American repudiation of apartheid.
A gesture says more than a thousand words. Obama behaved in accord with the dignity and protocol that comes with leading a democratic superpower. The handshake would not have been extraordinary without past deviations by the U.S. from all diplomatic norms in its policy towards Cuba. In Mexico in 2002, then-president George W. Bush put President Vicente Fox on the ropes by demanding that Mexico arrange the Monterrey summit in a way that he did not have to greet Fidel Castro. Fox asked Fidel Castro to speak, eat and leave before Bush arrived. When Fidel revealed their phone conversation, Fox’s decision to genuflect toward the North caused a crisis in the relations between Havana and Mexico City.
Article continues here: Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?
Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands
By John McAuliff
There has never been a more propitious moment in the spirit of Nelson Mandela for President Obama to make an historic change in U.S.-Cuba relations. As I wrote in a previous post, Judy and Alan Gross have given the White House the moral authorization, if not obligation, to negotiate with Cuba to achieve Alan’s release. Two-thirds of the Senate have given it the political space by signing a letter initiated by Senator Leahy.
Cuba has just reaffirmed in friendly language its readiness and the parameters for agreement (exact text here). The content is not new but in the current context is tantalizingly suggestive of the choice facing President Obama.
Cuban President Raul Castro has called for “civilized relations” with the United States, saying the two countries should respect their differences.
Article continues here: Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands
Irma Gonzalez, daughter of Rene Gonzalez, advocates for her father’s imprisoned spy-partners.