How Not to Appease a Dictatorship 1

Posted By José R. Cárdenas on Monday, December 31, 2012 – 10:16 AM, Foreign Policy Blog

Do we really need another lesson on the folly of attempting to appease dictators?

Apparently, Foreign Affairs thinks so — albeit inadvertently. They recently posted a piece, “Our Man in Havana,” about the heroic efforts of some Obama administration officials to give the Castro regime everything it wanted for the release of jailed development worker Alan Gross. Specifically, this meant gutting the official U.S. democracy program for Cuba that Gross was operating under. In the end, however, they just could not overcome the intransigence of — not the Castro regime — but the “Cuban-American Lobby” in Congress.

Indeed, not only did they not wind up with the long-suffering Gross’s freedom, but, to boot, former Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela was forced to sit through a humiliating meeting with Cuban officials ranting about all the dictatorship’s grievances against the United States. As the article puts it, “The Cubans were far less flexible than the Americans expected.” (One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.)

The central figure in this drama of high diplomacy is one Fulton Armstrong, a controversial former CIA analyst who began a second career as a staffer for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA). (Today, he is affiliated with American University.) Armstrong was such an unabashed promoter of U.S.-Cuba normalization in the inter-agency process that he was shipped off to Europe during the Bush 43 administration, although not before playing a role in trying to scuttle John Bolton’s nomination to serve as U.S. representative to the United Nations.

Apparently, Armstrong was enlisted by the administration to serve as a go-between with the Castro regime, no doubt due to the fact that he was a “friendly face” in the eyes of the Cubans. His mission: convince the Castro regime that the Obama administration agrees with them that USAID’s Cuba democracy programs “are stupid” and that, in the words of Armstrong, “we’re cleaning them up. Just give us time, because politically we can’t kill them.”

The article also includes other Armstrong-sourced inanities meant to further discredit the USAID program: that he was told by a “State Department official” that Gross’s mission was “classified” and by another that Gross “likely worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Apparently, Armstrong needs new sources, because such assertions are nonsense and known to be by anyone remotely associated with the program (as I was during my time with the Bush administration).

The ever-resourceful, man-on-a-mission Armstrong even enlisted his former boss, Senator Kerry, in the appeasement effort, arranging for him to meet with Cuban officials in New York. The article reports, “there was no quid pro quo, but the meeting seemed to reassure the Cubans that the democracy programs would change, and the Cubans expressed confidence that Gross would receive a humanitarian release shortly after his trial.” (That was in March 2011).

Enter the villain: Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the nefarious “Cuban American Lobby.” He supposedly called Denis McDonough, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, to say basically hands off the Cuba program. According to a former government official, “McDonough was boxed in.” Now, there’s a tough call: side either with a lawless dictatorship or with an influential U.S. senator from your own party.

In the end, the effort to appease the Castro regime ended predictably: no freedom for Alan Gross and only utter contempt from Castro regime lackeys. Indeed, is there any mystery why Gross continues to languish in a Cuban jail cell when, according to Armstrong, unnamed administration officials signal to the Cubans that they think the democracy program is “stupid” as well? Moreover, offering to gut a democracy program because a dictatorship opposes it sends a terrible message to authoritarian regimes around the globe.

As I have written several times before, the best approach to securing Alan Gross’s freedom is not giving in to the demands of an illegitimate regime, but by denying it things it wants and needs, such as U.S. tourists spending hard currency under currently licensed travel programs. Let’s hope this Fulton Armstrong-led fiasco puts an end to any more appeasement attempts and the issue is placed in the hands of those with a more sober understanding of the nature of the Castro regime.

‘Chavez Death Plot Agent’ Deported 4

(Belfast Telegraph)  Venezuela has deported a man they described as a French intelligence agent who was jailed for alleged involvement in a plot to assassinate President Hugo Chavez. The minister of prisons, Iris Varela, announced the expulsion of Frederic Laurent Bouquet in a Twitter message. Ms Varela said Mr Bouquet was arrested on June 18 2009, and confessed that he came to Venezuela to assassinate Mr Chavez. She said he was caught with weapons. She offered no other details on the case. It was unclear if the man was ever formally charged. Ms Varela did not say where Mr Bouquet was being sent. She said only that he was being deported under a law that allows the government to expel anyone who threatens Venezuela’s security. A photo that accompanied Ms Varela’s tweet showed a handcuffed man wearing a bullet-proof vest and being escorted by police.

Hunger Striker Demands Immediate Release of Alan Gross & Eduardo Arocena 1

/ Gualdo Hidalgo, Latin Heritage Foundation Executive Director and former Cuban political prisoner, starts a hunger strike demanding from United States and Cuba governments the immediate release of Eduardo Arocena and Alan Gross.

Alan Phillip Gross is an American international development expert who was working in Cuba as a U.S. government subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) when he was arrested and ultimately convicted for acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.

He was prosecuted in 2011 after being accused of crimes against the Cuban state. Gross alleges he was bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community. It was claimed Gross’s objective involved setting up Cuban dissidents with satellite communication systems that would work through satellite phones and laptops. He is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba.

Eduardo Arocena was convicted of serious crimes against federal laws of the United States through the use of violence, including the assassination of Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia Rodriguez. However, nearly thirty years in prison met by Eduardo Arocena, according to international standards of detention, including Cuba, are considered sufficient for the release of a convict. Since 1959, Cuba has imprisoned many of the anti-Castro fighters for acts considered by Cuba as terrorists with actions that caused death of civilians. Virtually all those convicted has been freed by Cuba after serving a prison term shorter than the one served by Eduardo Arocena.

The U.S. government should take into consideration the long prison terms served by Eduardo Arocena and order his release immediate.

Cuba’s government should order the immediate release of Alan Gross for reunification with his wife, daughters and other family, while restoring his health problems.

The circumstances of the contemporary world should prevail in both governments, both of Washington such as Havana, and help alleviate the suffering of the prisoners and their families.

Gualdo Hidalgo, former Cuban political prisoner and Latin Heritage Foundation publisher, will keep the hunger strike until both governments agree to release Eduardo Arocena y Alan Gross.

Gualdo Hidalgo
Latin Heritage Foundation

Getting Serious About Alan Gross 3

(Huffington Post – Latino Voices)  Earlier this month, USAID subcontractor Alan Gross began his fourth year in a Cuban prison. Ever since his incarceration, a debate has raged over whether the United States should halt further efforts to engage with the Cuban people until the Cuban government releases Gross. Both Alan and his wife Judy have repeatedly called on the U.S. and Cuba to engage in a dialogue without preconditions. Sadly, like all things Cuba-related, the debate over Gross’ incarceration has since devolved into an ideological three-ring circus where finding a solution has become a secondary objective behind not appearing to be making concessions to the enemy.

The Washington Post perfectly captured the tone deafness of the current debate in a recent editorial: “better relations between Cuba and the United States must be conditioned on real steps toward democratization by Havana. But until Mr.Gross is released, they ought to get worse.” This position reflects exactly the sort of stale, inside-the-box thinking that has long plagued the discourse over U.S.-Cuba policy.

For years we’ve known that the Cuban government is incredibly adept at manipulating U.S. policy choices. Time and again, any attempt by the U.S. to increase its engagement with the Cuban people has been met with confrontation and repression by Cuban officials, which in turn emboldens hardliners in the U.S. to call for the tightening economic sanctions. This pattern has become all too predictable, and the Gross case is its latest example: arrested in Havana for bringing communication devices to the island less than three months after President Obama relaxed family travel and remittance restrictions in 2009 and only two weeks after the U.S. House held hearings on lifting the Cuba travel ban for all Americans. In response to Gross’ arrest, U.S. hardliners blocked any further normalization efforts in Congress, though they weren’t able to stop the Obama Administration from further loosening restrictions on people-to-people travel and remittances in January, 2011. Shortly thereafter, Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once said “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years.” If we believe this to be the case, then why don’t we use this insight to steer our efforts in securing the release of Alan Gross?

The Cubans have often stated that they are willing to swap Gross for five Cuban spies who were arrested in Florida in 1998 for infiltrating a U.S. Navy base and several anti-Castro groups in Miami. The U.S. has refused to accept the swap, and the negotiations have remained stalled for almost three years.

So what can be done? There are three opportunities for securing Gross’ release that could also help improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba:

1. Introduce alternative terms to the negotiation. The Cubans have dictated the terms of the negotiation from day one, and hardliners in the U.S. government have seemingly been too happy to play along. However, just because the U.S. won’t agree to the spy swap doesn’t mean negotiations should stop there. U.S. sanctions on Cuba remain a decades-old morass of congressional actions, presidential directives and executive orders, resulting in an entrenched and inflexible foreign policy that is as incoherent as it is ineffective. There are plenty of outdated sanctions on the books that the United States could repeal or amend in exchange for Gross’ release.

2. Pursue Gross’ release and economic engagement concurrently. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced a shift in the focus of U.S.-Cuba policy toward empowering civil society and supporting independent economic activity. If Cuba’s burgeoning private sector is to grow into a viable alternative to the Island’s top-down economic system, it will need a deeper economic relationship with the American private sector. By conditioning all further efforts to engage with the Cuban people on Gross’ release, we are playing by the rules of those who benefit from the prolonged confrontation and mutual isolation between the two countries. Denying these private individuals an economic relationship with the United States only serves to further delay the kind of changes that policies like Helms-Burton were ill-designed to accelerate.

3. Look to the Angel Carromero case as a model. We don’t know what deal the Spanish government struck with the Cubans to secure the release of Angel Carromero, the Popular Party’s pro-democracy activist who was charged with the negligent homicide of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero and will now serve his sentence in Spain. What is clear is that through direct diplomacy, the Spanish have been far more successful at liberating political prisoners, democracy advocates, and businessmen from Cuban jails than any other country, all while promoting democracy inside the island through direct support to pro-democracy groups. On the other hand, our confrontational approach has only perpetuated the conflict without any progress to show for it.

The United Nations recently condemned Cuba’s arbitrary detention of Alan Gross for the first time and the U.S. Embargo on Cuba for the 21st year in a row. By pivoting negotiations for Gross’s release away from a spy-swap and toward win-win alternatives, both the United States and Cuba stand to gain credibility within the international community. The United States could finally pave the road to a future where it can lead an effective multilateral policy toward Cuba focused on the advancement of human rights and helping the Cuban people. Just as importantly, Alan would finally come home.

Ricardo Herrero is Deputy Executive Director of the Cuba Study Group. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Today in History: Cuba Announced Unification of Nicaragua’s Sandinistas Reply

December 26, 1978:  Havana announced the unification of the three factions within the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN). In January 1979, the Sandinistas announced that they would increase their efforts against Somoza, specifically by increasing military operations against the National Guard and seek to occupy major towns. Subsequent negotiations between Castro, America Department (DA) officers, and FSLN factional leaders resulted in the formation of the FSLN’s National Directorate.

Editor’s Note: The America Department (DA) was the name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s. The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).

Cuba Scholar Catches Miami Herald Lying 2

[Dr Tony de la Cova’s latest email to the Miami Herald]

To Whom It May Concern:

Please note that in the curriculum vitae of Professor María Felicia “Marifeli” Pérez-Stable posted on the FIU website

She promotes herself as:  “2004- Editorial Contributor. The Miami Herald. Biweekly column on Latin American topics.” The professor does not include the date that she stopped being an “Editorial Contributor” for the Miami Herald. She appeared on the Herald’s website during 2004-2009 as a member of the newspaper’s “Board of Contributors.” I am sure that you will have her correct her “false assertion.”


Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D.

Editor’s Note:  See the associated Cuba Confidential post of December 22nd, “Miami Herald Continues to Minimize Columnist’s Ties to Cuban Intelligence,”

John Kerry’s Nomination as Secretary of State Raises Hopes, Fears 1

John Kerry’s nomination as secretary of state raises hopes, fears over Cuba policy

Sen. John Kerry has questioned U.S. pro-democracy spending in Cuba, and endorsed the embargo but favors liberal travel to the island.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald,com

Both hopes for and fears of significant changes in Cuba policies during President Barack Obama’s second term heightened Friday with the nomination of Sen. John Kerry as the next U.S. Secretary of State. The Massachusetts Democrat in the past has endorsed the embargo but proposed allowing all travel to the island, including tourist trips, and criticized both Radio/TV Marti and the U.S. government’s pro-democracy programs in Cuba. His nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton is expected to sail through Senate confirmation because Kerry has served in the Senate since 1984 and chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Kerry’s long-telegraphed move to the State Department won applause from backers of the Obama administration’s policy of expanding ties and assistance to the Cuban people while waiting for the government to move toward democracy and human rights. “The president’s positions on Cuba are clear, and he (Kerry) is a good pick to implement them,” said Joe Garcia, a Miami Democrat elected to Congress last month. “He’s a thoughtful, experienced foreign policy expert.” New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat who is likely to succeed Kerry as chairman of the foreign relations committee, favors strong sanctions on Cuba. He praised Kerry for his knowledge of foreign policy but did not mention his stands on Cuba. “The high-level relationships that he has built with world leaders will allow him to step seamlessly into the position and to ensure that there is no decline in U.S. leadership on important global issues during a transition,” Menendez said. Even Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the pro-sanctions U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, described Kerry as “reasonable and willing to listen to all sides.”

During his first term Obama lifted almost all limits on Cuban-American travel and remittances to the island and reopened educational “people-to-people” visits by all U.S. residents, although tourism remains banned. Further openings were stalled by Cuba’s detention of Alan Gross, a Maryland man serving a15-year sentence in Havana on charges Washington views as spurious. But Kerry’s impending move to the State Department also sparked fears among some Cuban-Americans that he will be too willing to seek accommodations with Havana and other repressive governments around the world. “He comes from a mentality that can tolerate a dictatorship like Cuba’s but cannot tolerate that a (U.S.) person can’t travel to Cuba” because the U.S. government wants to deny tourist dollars to Havana, said Miami radio commentator Ninoska Perez Castellón.

Kerry backed the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, a 2009 bill that would have allowed unrestricted travel to Cuba, arguing that U.S. authorities should not limit the right of private citizens to travel anywhere. The bill was never voted on. The senator also has been critical of the millions of dollars spent on the U.S. government’s Radio/TV Martí, complaining that the stations are badly run and that their biased programming has little or no impact on the island. “After 18 years TV Martí still has no significant audience in Cuba. U.S. civil society programs may have noble objectives, but we need to examine whether we’re achieving them,” he wrote in a 2009 column on Cuba printed in the Tampa Bay Times.
Read more here:

Fulton Armstrong’s Unwitting Revelation 2

Source:  Capitol Hill   Cubans   

The new edition of Foreign   Affairs magazine has an article entitled “Our Man in Havana”   about the Castro regime’s imprisonment of American development worker Alan   Gross and U.S. efforts to free him.

Sadly, the article is more akin to a novel (or ego-trip) narrated by former   CIA analyst and Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer Fulton Armstrong,   transcribed and edited by Daily Beast editor R. M. Schneiderman.

The plot-line is quintessential Fulton Armstrong:

Alan Gross is not a victim of the repressive Cuban dictatorship, which has   unjustly imprisoned him for over three years, but of the democratically-elected   Cuban-American Members of the U.S. Congress, whom he refers to as “the   Cuban lobby.”

It’d be interesting to know whether Armstrong and Scheinederman similarly   refer to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) or other Jewish Members of Congress   as the “Jewish lobby” or former U.S. Senator and now President   Barack Obama as the “black lobby.”

Such labels are insulting and reveal ethnic biases, as former U.S. Senator   Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is currently being reprimanded for.

In the case of Armstrong, it may be due to his blinding ideological bias.

Armstrong has long history of   internally working against U.S. policy towards Cuba. During his time at the   CIA, Armstrong authored, together with his former colleague at the Defense   Intelligence Agency, Ana Belen Montes, an oft-cited 1998 report that argued   that Cuba no longer posed a security threat to the United States. Ironically,   just three years later (in 2001), Montes was identified as a Cuban spy,   arrested, convicted and is now serving life in a federal prison.

He has fervently opposed any endeavor that promotes freedom for the Cuban   people, whether its USAID’s democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti, or a   simple Senate resolution calling for the release of political prisoners. If   the Castro regime dislikes it, so does Fulton Armstrong.

Moreover, Armstrong is particularly insulted by the concept of “regime   change” in Cuba. Perhaps he finds the alternative — “regime   preservation” — to be more appropriate.

During his three-year stint as a staffer to Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) at the   Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Armstrong often forgot who was the   elected Senator (obviously not him) and led a mostly unauthorized assault on   all-things Cuba policy under the Senator’s name. This led to Armstrong’s   retirement in 2011.

However, in Armstrong’s zeal to promote unconditional dialogue with the   Castro dictatorship and to demonize elected Members of the U.S. Congress, the   article contains an important Freudian slip:

[T]he Cuban government adopted an attitude of wait and see. By fall,   there had been little talk about easing the U.S. embargo or taking Cuba off   the list of terrorist states — two top priorities for Raúl Castro, who was   by then in charge.”

Easing the embargo is a priority for Raul Castro?

How could this be?

Cuba “experts” have assured us that Castro really doesn’t want the   embargo eased, for it gives him an “excuse” for his failures.

Of course, anyone who has witnessed first-hand how hard the Castro regime   lobbies to have the embargo unilaterally lifted in Washington D.C. knows just   how important it is for Raul.

This reality is reinforced by a second “slip” about former U.S.   President Jimmy Carter’s visit to Cuba last year:

Both Carter and Castro tried to minimize expectations; they made it   clear this was still part of a trust-building dialogue. And to build that   trust, Carter called for an end to the embargo.”

In other words, to get in Castro’s good graces, one has to lobby against the   embargo for him.

Clearly, the unilateral ending of the U.S. embargo is Raul’s end-game.

So much so, that he’s even willing to take an American hostage.

And Armstrong unwittingly confirms this.

Miami Herald Continues to Minimize Columnist’s Ties to Cuban Intelligence Reply

Editor’s Note:  A  very interesting exchange between University of South Carolina professor, Dr. Tony de la Cova, and the Miami Herald.  For those unfamiliar with Dr. de la Cova’s work, his website ( is a Must-Read, especially the Cuba section.



Sent: Saturday, December 22, 2012 2:34 PM

To: Myriam Marquez

Cc: Juan Tamayo ; David Landsberg ; Manny ; Jay ; Michael Sallah ; ; Edward Schumacher-Matos


Subject: Re: Selective journalism


Dear Ms. Marquez,

Thank you for your prompt response.

Professor Marifeli Pérez-Stable for years appeared on the Miami Herald website as a member of the Board of Contributors to the Miami Herald. The Miami Herald to this day has avoided fully investigating the various accusations against her of being controlled for more than a decade by the Cuban Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI). The accusation was first made by DGI defector Capt. Jesús Pérez Méndez in an FBI debriefing in 1983. A copy of the document appears here:

I have been a university professor for two decades with a lengthy and award-winning academic publication record that is found here

In contrast, while you offer so-called “Cubanologists” access to the Herald’s Opinion page, you personally denied me the same right of rebuttal that you gave Prof. Pérez-Stable in November 2009, in response to the Herald ombudsman´s article “Charges against columnist don’t add up.” Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos mentioned me eight times in seven paragraphs with a total of 356 words. Instead, you chose to limit me to a 330-word “Letter to the Editor” rather than the same 700-word op-ed piece afforded Pérez-Stable. To refresh your memory, please read our exchange of emails on my academic website here

I use that correspondence as a teaching tool to let my students judge for themselves if the Miami Herald denied me the appropriate right of rebuttal and if the newspaper uses selective journalism. You are invited to attend my class to present the Herald’s viewpoint when we again discuss this issue next semester.

Enjoy the holidays.

Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D.



From: Myriam Marquez

Sent: Saturday, December 22, 2012 1:44 PM


Cc: Juan Tamayo ; David Landsberg ; Manny ; Jay ; Michael Sallah ; ;


Subject: Re: Selective journalism

Dear Mr. de la Cova,

Please correct your false assertion about Prof. Perez-Stable’s links to TMH. The professor wrote two columns monthly for The Miami Herald. She was never a member of the editorial board and certainly never guided editorial positions. We offer an array of opinions on our pages, prominently including Cubanologists Carlos-Alberto Montaner, Jose Azel, Jaime Suchlicki, Pedro Roig, and many others every week.

Wishing you a happy new year,

Myriam Marquez

On Dec 22, 2012, at 12:42 PM, <> wrote:

Juan Tamayo

Miami Herald


Dear Juan:

I read your article “Ricardo Alarcón will leave his post as president of the Cuban legislature,” published in the Herald on December 20, where you again mention Cuban intelligence operative Mercedes Arce and that “Former FIU professor Carlos Alvarez, convicted of spying for Cuba, identified Arce as one of his handlers in the 1980s and 1990s.”

However, the Herald once again omits mention that Professor Alvarez, in page 489 of his FBI interrogation, that appears here stated that when Arce visited Miami, she stayed in the home of accused Castro agent, former Miami Herald Editorial Board member and FIU Professor Marifeli Pérez-Stable, whose background appears here

I indicated this to you in my email of June 7, 2012, and your terse response was: “thanks for reminding me of the arce-marifeli connex.” I wrote back the same day: “There is a pattern at the Herald of omitting any information linking their columnist Marifeli Perez-Stable to Cuban spies, such as Mercedes Arce, who stayed at her residence.”

I first brought this issue to the Herald’s attention in the exchange of emails on October-November 2009 that I sent you, Miami Herald Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos and Herald Editorial Page Editor Miriam Marquez, that I copied other Herald editors and posted on my academic website at

My email on November 5, 2009, to Ms. Marquez concluded by indicating: “Hopefully, what people will remember is that Perez-Stable and her intimate friend Mercedes Arce are spies and the Herald suppressed the truth.”

Three years have passed since that exchange of emails and the Herald is still using biased and selective journalism on this story. The Herald continues neglecting to investigate or mention the decade-long links between Professor Perez-Stable and Cuban intelligence agents such as Arce.

In consequence, I have used my posted email exchanges with the Herald as a teaching tool for my history students as an example of the Herald’s duplicity, manipulation and yellow journalism.


Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D.

Cuban Jewish Leaders Bring Jailed American Alan Gross Latkes, Prayers to Celebrate Hanukkah Reply

HAVANA — (Associated Press) An American man imprisoned in Cuba for crimes against the state has received another visit from Jewish leaders on the island. Adela Dworin is president of the Jewish Community of Cuba. She said Thursday that she met with Maryland resident Alan Gross for an hour and a half Monday to mark Hanukkah. They prayed, lit candles and shared latkes, a potato-pancake dish traditionally eaten during Hanukkah.

A photo showed a slender-looking Gross with Dworin and Community vice president David Prinstein. He held a hand-lettered sign in Spanish that read “I (heart) Judy” — a reference to Gross’ wife. Gross was sentenced to 15 years for his work on a USAID democracy-building program in Cuba.