Cuban Spies Jubilant with Their Fancy New Base in Washington D.C. 1

New Cuban EmbassyHumberto Fontova, TownHall.com

Granted, Obama administration spokespersons and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) describe this week’s event differently than does this column title. Something about a “Cuban embassy” formally “opening?” in “Washington, D.C. ?” If I read these things correctly?

Nonetheless, the people actually in-the-know about these matters are cutting to the heart of the issue:

“All Cuban personnel now working in the [U.S] Interests Section [in Havana] work for Cuban State Security,” said high-ranking Cuban intelligence defector Pedro Riera Escalante. “All housing for [U.S.] officials may have microphones and other devices installed.”

“Virtually every member of Cuba’s U.N mission is an intelligence agent,” revealed Alcibiades Hidalgo, who defected to the U.S. in 2002 after serving as Raul Castro’s Chief of Staff and himself as Cuba’s ambassador to the U.N.

So you can just imagine what’s going on in Cuban Intelligence’s plush new Washington D.C. station, speaking of which:

“It (the Cuban embassy opening) is going to be a celebration on our part,” gushed Gustavo Machin, deputy director for U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry. “Many Americans who have supported the Cuban Revolution will be among the 500 celebrants at the new Embassy.”

Despite the innocuous professional title the mainstream media insists on using for Gustavo Machin, he’s actually a KGB-trained Cuban spy who was burnt and booted from the U.S. back in 2003 shortly before the invasion of Iraq. He was among 14 other Cuban spies suspected of trafficking in U.S. military secrets (more on this shortly.)

The currently elated Machin was an accomplice of Castro’s master-spy Ana Belen Montes, who today serves a 25 year prison sentence after conviction in 2002 for the deepest and most damaging penetration of the U.S. Defense Department in modern history. Machin was neck deep in the same spying as his accomplice Montes, but enjoyed “diplomatic immunity,” which saved him from prison or the electric chair.

Now he’ll probably be visiting Washington D.C. often “on business.” In fact it was Machin who conducted the recent “negotiations” with Obama’s team of crackerjack “negotiators” which led to this “diplomatic breakthrough” with Cuba. So who can blame him for celebrating?

Feature continues here: Cuban Embassy Spy Base

 

Will New Embassies Tamp Down Or Ramp Up The U.S.-Cuba Spy Game? 3

The Cuban flag was raised in Washington D.C. on Monday for the first time in 54 years. Andrew Harnik AP

The Cuban flag was raised in Washington D.C. on Monday for the first time in 54 years.
Andrew Harnik AP

By Tim Padgett, WLRN-FM

When Cuba opened its  Washington D.C.  embassy yesterday, the moment wasn’t just historic. It also felt really ironic. Historic, of course, because Cuba was raising its flag over the U.S. capital for the first time in 54 years. When the U.S. inaugurates its embassy in Havana on August 14, it will be the crowning moment in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two Cold War enemies. But this might be a déja vu moment, too, because a big reason the U.S. and Cuba severed ties in 1961 was…embassies.

In 1960, Cuban leader Fidel Castro feared the U.S. mission in Havana was a nest of spies scheming to overthrow his communist revolution. “No [foreign] embassy rules our people!” he told the U.N. then. The U.S. was just as spooked about spies inside the Cuban embassy in Washington – especially their close ties to Russian spies. A half century later the U.S. and Cuba are finally mending fences. But what ultimately opened the door to normalizing relations? Trading spies.

SPY SWAP

As President Obama informed us on December 17 when he announced the normalization breakthrough, a U.S.-Cuban spy swap all but sealed the deal. It was a reminder that espionage is a central feature of U.S.-Cuba relations. “The United States has always been very concerned about Cuban intelligence and Cuban counterintelligence,” says Frank Mora, who heads the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University and is the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere. “And for the Cubans, the number one intelligence concern is the United States.” By the same token, Mora adds, “The principal goal of the new policy is to address all that mistrust that’s built up over 50 years.”

So the question is: Will the new rapprochement finally build bilateral trust – or will opening embassies, as many security analysts fear, simply give the U.S. and Cuba more opportunities to spy on each other? “It just allows the intelligence services to take their espionage to another level,” says Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence at the Stratfor intelligence consulting firm in Austin, Texas, and a former special agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service. “There’s just a new playground now that has been opened.” Up to now, the U.S. and Cuba have only had “interests sections” in each other’s countries – small, tightly restricted diplomatic missions. Full-fledged embassies will probably mean a big increase in diplomatic personnel – and a much broader range of diplomatic activity and travel.

Feature continues here: Spy Game

 

 

The Nation’s “Meet The Spies” Tour 3

by Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations

Travel to Cuba is a new fad, helped by the changes the Obama administration has made in U.S. policy. It’s easy now for almost any group to go there, under the guise of some educational program or purpose.

But travel to Cuba has long been a practice for American leftists, who have seen the Castro regime not as a brutal oppressor of human rights but as a beacon of light in the Hemisphere. No democracy, free expression, freedom of the press, free trade unions? Who cares, after all? The thrill of visiting the communist island has been too much to resist.

Still, there was usually a pretense that the visitors were not there to celebrate the regime. But not in the coming visit organized by The Nation, the old leftist magazine. Its September trip includes many of the staples, according to The Nation’s invitation letters. The trip will feature:

museum tours with eminent art and cultural historians; seminars and lectures featuring renowned Cuban economists, government officials, community activists, physicians, and urban planners; exclusive concerts with popular jazz artists, troubadours, and folk musicians; performances by students of Cuba’s internationally acclaimed ballet institutes; visits to artist’s colonies and studios; guided tours of Old Havana, the Latin American Medical School, and the University of Havana; and visits to many other inspiring locales and events.

No surprises there. But actually I left out a key clause in that paragraph. The trip will also include:

a meeting and discussion with the Cuban Five, the intelligence agents considered national heroes after spending many years imprisoned in US jails.

This is pretty remarkable. The Nation describes the tour as “a particularly inspiring and extraordinary time to experience the people, politics, culture, and history of Cuba in a way few ever have before.” In a way few Americans ever have before? Now, that’s true enough: how many American get to meet with and celebrate people who spied against our country and were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder? How many Americans want to?  Due to their actions four Americans died, in a Brothers to the Rescue plane shot down in international airspace. But the frisson of meeting people who actually—the Cuban government has admitted this—were intelligence agents and were convicted of spying on the United States is so wonderful that it is worth the $5,550 per person fees for the tour.

Feature continues here: The Nation’s Spy Tour

 

Spy-Diplomat Gustavo Machin Delighted With Opening of Cuban Embassy 7

A worker removes the Cuban Interests Section sign in Washington, D.C., on July 15, 2015, just days prior to the building being accredited as the Cuban Embassy. (Bill Gorman / AP)

A worker removes the Cuban Interests Section sign in Washington, D.C., on July 15, 2015, just days prior to the building being accredited as the Cuban Embassy.
(Bill Gorman / AP)

“It is going to be a celebration on our part,” said Gustavo Machin, deputy director for U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry (Chicago Tribune). The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) spy – thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Montes spy case, told reporters many Americans who have supported the Cuban Revolution will be among the 500 celebrants at the new Embassy. From Machin’s perspective, it would certainly be a Cuban spy-handler’s dream – hundreds of media, politicians, academics and Castro apologists all in one place at the same time. The DI staff embedded within the Interests Section/Embassy will certainly be working overtime – I expect they also brought in temporary help within the “30-member delegation of diplomatic, cultural and other leaders” that arrived for the Embassy opening.

Al Jazeera Interview With Cuban Spy: ‘I will do it again if I have to’ 3

After spending 16 years in US prisons, Gerardo Hernandez shares his remarkable story behind his liberation.

Cuban intelligence officer Gerardo Hernandez was a central character in the frosty relations between Cuba and the United States.

His return to Cuban soil on December 17, 2014 marked a dramatic new beginning for both countries.

After 16 years in US prisons, he was given a hero’s welcome, and remains defiant and loyal to his government.

In 2001 he was convicted by a Miami court and handed down two life sentences for sending intelligence back home to Cuba.

The court said his actions assisted in the murder of Cuban exiles – in the shooting down of two planes – who were attempting to overthrow the Castro government.

He was a spy, but Hernandez, and the other members of the so-called “Cuban Five” spies captured on US soil and now released, have been declared national heroes by Fidel Castro and were decorated by Cuban president Raul Castro earlier this year.

All this time he had been separated from his wife Adriana Perez, yet, to the surprise of many she was nine months pregnant when he returned to Cuba in 2015. What hadn’t been revealed was that in an unusual diplomatic gesture of good will, officials on both sides had worked to send Hernandez’s sperm to Panama, so that the couple could have a child through artificial insemination.

Hernandez’s surprise release, and the story involving his wife and their baby, which may never have been born, was a key ingredient in secret negotiations leading to a historic agreement to end more than half a century of hostilities between the US and Cuba.G

Now, for the first time, Hernandez and his wife share the story of his imprisonment and release, Perez‘s experiences, how Hernandez posed as a Puerto Rican graphic artist in the US before his capture and how their child was conceived in a diplomatic move, as they talk to Al Jazeera in Havana, Cuba.

Wanted Terrorist Seen as Symbol for U.S.-Cuban Differences 1

It was a murder on the New Jersey Turnpike – stunning violence near the New Brunswick exit. Now, decades after Black Liberation Army leader Joanne Chesimard was sentenced for the 1973 killing of a state trooper, escaped prison, and surfaced in Cuba in 1984, she is first and foremost among the estimated 70 American fugitives harbored there whose apparent flouting of U.S. law is fuel for critics of recent efforts to restore U.S.-Cuba relations.

In December, 54 years after America severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, Presidents Obama and Raul Castro proposed a renewal of ties. “We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring [Chesimard] back,” said New Jersey State Police Col. Rick Fuentes, “and stand by the reward” for her capture.

Read entire feature here:  Philadelphia Inquirer

 

 

Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal Sits in on Republican’s Meeting With Cuban Leaders Reply

Senior Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Senior Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

US Senators Meet Cuban Vice President, Foreign Minister

By Zee News

Havana: A delegation of United States’ Republican senators met with Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and discussed bilateral relations and other issues.

Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Pat Roberts met with Diaz-Canel at the Palace of the Revolution on Saturday and discussed the “progress made in the modernisation of Cuba`s economic and social model”, current bilateral relations and the “need to end the embargo”, state-run National Information Agency (AIN) reported.

Cuban foreign ministry`s Director General for the US, Josefina Vidal, who heads the Cuban team in negotiations with Washington, attended both meetings.

The delegation – which arrived in Cuba on Friday – is the first ever made up entirely of the Republicans since Washington and Havana announced last December 17 the decision to renew diplomatic relations.

The new policy of US President Barack Obama toward Cuba has met with strong opposition from some sections of the Republican Party, in whose ranks, however, there are lawmakers like Jeff Flake that support bilateral understanding.

Senator Flake of Arizona is the chief promoter of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, introduced in the US Congress last January as a move toward ending legal restrictions on US citizens traveling to the island nation.

Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, first traveled to Cuba last November along with Democrat Tom Udall to visit imprisoned US contractor Alan Gross, who was freed following the announcement of the thaw in US-Cuban relations.

Editor’s Note:  Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal was thrown out of the United States for espionage in 2003. She is likely to become the first Cuban Ambassador to the US under the Castro regime.

Cuba Not Off Hook, Despite Removal From US Terror List Reply

FILE - The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

FILE – The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

Pamela Dockins, Voice of America

STATE DEPARTMENT— The United States has dropped Cuba from its State Sponsor of Terrorism list but the removal does not clear Havana of all U.S. embargoes and statutory restrictions. The State Department announced Friday that Cuba had been removed from the blacklist – a designation that it shared with Iran, Syria and Sudan.

In an April statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said “circumstances have changed since 1982,” when Cuba was put on the list because of its “efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America.”

But Cuba still faces U.S. restrictions on transactions such as exports and foreign trade because of other punitive measures that remain in place.

“In addition to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, there is a web of restrictions and sanctions that have been applied over the years and some of them are unrelated to the State Sponsor of Terrorism designation,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

Among them, is the Helms-Burton Act, which includes an embargo and other financial restrictions.  

Mixed Views on significance of Cuba’s removal

Cuba’s removal from the list is largely symbolic, said William LeoGrande, a Latin American politics professor at American University.   “It is more symbolic than it is practical in the sense that most of the sanctions that fall upon a country that is on the terrorism list already apply to Cuba because of the broader embargo,” he said.   But he said the removal was very important to Cuba, as Washington and Havana work to normalize relations.

Feature continues here: Cuba Off State Sponsor List

 

 

 

FILE – The Cuban flag flies in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, May 22, 2015.

Congressman Seeks Answers on Cuban Crime Rings 2

By Megan O’Matz and Sally Kestin, Sun-Sentinel

Cuban criminals are exploiting America’s generosity and must be brought to justice, a South Florida congressman told the new U.S. attorney general.

In a letter to Loretta Lynch, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch said a U.S. law meant to help Cubans fleeing communism is instead being used by crooks “to evade arrest, avoid prosecution and deliver money stolen from American businesses and taxpayers back to Cuba.”

He cited a January Sun Sentinel investigation that found criminals taking advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act to come to the U.S. and steal more than $2 billion over two decades.

The 1966 act gives Cubans extraordinary benefits unavailable to other immigrant groups: even Cubans arriving without permission can stay and become legal residents in just a year.

That makes it easier for the organized rings to rob Medicare, cheat credit card companies, and rip off auto insurers in schemes that can yield large sums with little risk of significant jail time, the newspaper found. Thieves and illicit money flow between Florida and its communist neighbor, aided by a law enacted as a gesture of good will a half century ago.

The law was adopted to help Cubans escape the Castro government, not “create a pipeline for sophisticated financial fraud,” Deutch wrote. “Yet crime rings in South Florida are using our humanitarian policy to successfully send cash and criminals back to the island without fear that the Cuban regime will extradite these fugitives.”

He urged the Justice Department to consider the issue in its negotiations with Cuba on reestablishing diplomatic relations. “Given the extent of the criminal activity described by the Sun Sentinel, I hope you agree that the issue of fugitives must be addressed during talks underway between the United States and Cuba.”

Deutch asked Lynch to update him “on this critical issue.” She took office in April, replacing Eric Holder, who resigned.

Diplomats from the U.S. and Cuba are scheduled to meet Thursday in Washington to continue discussions on establishing formal embassies in the two countries and creating greater avenues for cooperation. This historic move to restore diplomatic relations was announced by President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro five months ago.

Feature continues here:  Cuban Criminals