Lawyers for American Imprisoned in Cuba Appeal Ruling Dismissing Case Against US Government 2

By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, May 31, 4:54 PM

WASHINGTON — An American imprisoned in Cuba is appealing a judge’s ruling dismissing a lawsuit he brought against the U.S. government, for whom he was working when he was arrested. A federal judge in Washington dismissed Alan Gross’ case against the government Tuesday, saying federal law bars lawsuits against the government based on injuries suffered in foreign countries. Lawyers for Gross filed a notice they would appeal Friday.

Gross was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development and its contractor Development Alternatives Inc. when he was arrested in Cuba in 2009. He was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison for his work helping Jewish groups with internet access. The lawsuit said he wasn’t prepared for his job’s risks. Gross settled with Maryland-based DAI for an undisclosed amount earlier this month.

State Department: Havana Provides Safe Haven to US Fugitives 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuba is harboring and supporting U.S. fugitives but may be trying to distance itself from two dozen members of a Basque terrorist group who live on the island, according to the State Department’s annual Country Report on Terrorism released Thursday.

The report for 2012 is totally separate from the department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, which now includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan and subjects those nations to a special set of U.S. economic and other sanctions.

Advocates of keeping or removing Cuba from the list awaited the 2012 report with special interest because of media reports earlier this year, flatly denied by the State Department, that Secretary of State John Kerry would take Havana off the list.

The Cuba section of the 2012 report appeared to be similar to the section in 2011, with both noting that Havana authorities are continuing to harbor fugitives wanted in the United States and supporting them with housing, ration books and medical care.

One such fugitive is Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorist” list since 2005. A Black Panther who was convicted in the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper, she escaped from prison in 1979 and turned up in Havana in 1984. The FBI hiked the reward offered for her capture to $2 million in April.

“There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups,” the 2012 report said, in wording almost exactly the same as in the 2011 report.

Both reports also noted “suggestions” that Havana has tried to distance itself from members of Spain’s Basque Homeland and Liberty (ETA), classified by Washington as a terrorist group, who live in Cuba by “not providing services, including travel documents, to some of them.”

The 2012 version adds that two dozen ETA members are living in Cuba.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also classified as a terror group, received refuge in Cuba in past years, according to the latest version. The 2011 report noted that FARC members had received medical assistance. The FARC and Colombian government are currently holding peace talks in Havana.

Both reports also noted that the U.S. Financial Actions Task Force has identified Cuba as having “strategic … deficiencies” in the fight against terrorism financing and money laundering. The latest report adds that Cuba has now joined a regional body designed for that purpose.

Cuba has been on the separate U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982. Havana also is on a separate U.S. government list, with Venezuela and others, of countries that are not “cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts.”

To remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors, the White House is required to notify the U.S. Congress that Cuba has not engaged in terrorism for some time and promised not to do so again.

Cuban Dissident Says Security Forces are Studying Vladimir Putin’s Rule 2

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuban security officers are studying post-communist changes in Russia — and being nicer to dissidents — in preparation for a possible transition away from the island’s totalitarian system, leading opposition activist Guillermo Fariñas said Tuesday.

Some of the officers fear a sudden collapse of the communist system and “don’t want to suffer the same fate as the followers of (Moamar) Kaddafi” in Libya, Fariñas said during a lengthy visit Tuesday to El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald.

They favor a slow transition that would allow them to seize ownership of state enterprises, he added, like the massive grab for public assets that the Sandinistas staged in Nicaragua as they left power in 1990 and became known as the “Piñata.”

Fariñas said he has friendly contacts with a half-dozen lieutenant colonels or colonels because they studied together in military high schools. He also served one year in Angola with a commando unit and spent three years at a military academy in the Soviet Union.

Some of the military officers told him they have been attending weekly lectures on the transitions in Russia and Belarus that they refer to as “Putinismo,” he said, in an apparent reference to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian yet capitalist rule.

They also told him that some of ruler Raúl Castro’s advisers have suggested that 15 to 25 dissidents should be allowed into the national parliament, Fariñas added. Castro replied that he agreed, but that brother Fidel would never allow it.

Some of the Interior Ministry officers in charge of monitoring and repressing dissidents also are “taking care not to get blood on the hands,” the activist said, to avoid punishments later in case Cuba shifts significantly toward democracy at some point.

State Security officials used to boast in the 1990s that the island’s communist system would never change. But now they tell him that they are only following orders, said Fariñas, who has staged more than 20 hunger strikes during his 21years as a dissident.

One State Security agent now politely asks Fariñas’ mother to put together the dissident’s daily medicines before taking him for questioning from his home in the central city of Santa Clara, the dissident said.

And one of the harshest State Security officers in the city, a 28-year-old who turned out to be the son of a bus driver at Farinas’ military school, now tells the dissident when other government opponents confront him, the activist said.

Fariñas said the officer tells him that he is sometimes forced to get tough when dissidents spit at him, swear at him and his mother or jeer him as “nalgón” – big butt.

Those and other Fariñas comments could not be independently confirmed, but other dissidents in Cuba, including human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, have previously said that he does have access to old friends in the security forces.

Fariñas said that he in fact ran into Miguel Diaz Canel — a fellow Santa Clara native and classmate in the military high school — six weeks before his promotion to First Vice President of the Council of State, No. 2 behind Raúl Castro.

Fariñas said he was walking by the home of Diaz Canel’s parents on Jan. 4 when he spotted the old friend parking his car, one of the Chinese-made Geely vehicles used by high government officials.

Diaz Canel shook his hand warmly and asked about his health as they spoke for about 15 minutes, the dissident said, largely about the 135-day hunger strike in 2010 that put him in the hospital several times.

The vice president noted in the chat that Fariñas refused to speak to several government envoys during the strike, the dissident said, and asked if Farinas would talk to him in case of another hunger strike.

Fariñas said he told Diaz Canel that they could indeed speak, and the government official replied that “he would keep that in mind.” But he added that he would have to report the conversation to his superiors in Havana.

Fariñas also said he would oppose an unconditional lifting of the U.S. embargo and added that while he respects the Catholic Church and its bishops, he has been “disappointed” with Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

If the Cuban government ever agrees to talks with the opposition, he added, Ortega should not be part of the negotiations.

Fariñas said he expects to go to Puerto Rico and later to Belgium, to pick up the $60,000 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience awarded to him by the European Parliament in 2010, before he returns to Havana around mid-July.

Pace University’s “Left Forum” to Host Panel on The Cuban Five 1

Havana — (Prensa Latina) — The event is part of activities of the Left Forum, to be held on June 7-8, expected to be attended by thousands of people, said the National Free the Five Committee.

According to the solidarity group, the invitation was made in New York to all supporters of Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez, internationally known as The Cuban Five.

Famous lawyer Martin Garbus, a member of The Cuban Five’s legal team; Stephen Kimber, a professor of the University of King’s College; Peter Roman, a professor in Hostos Community College; Keith Bolender, a professor in the Toronto University and Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the Committee, will be among the panellists.

The communiqué adds that besides the demand for the immediate release of these Cuban heroes, the panellists will examine the hostile US policy of blockade imposed on Cuba for over fifty years by successive US administrations.

The case of the Cuban Five is “an example of the US intransigence,” said the Committee.

Left Forum is a yearly conference that gathers in New York wide range left wing, progressive intellectuals, activists, scholars, organizations and public in general to discuss and share ideas about the current world situation.

Editor’s Note: Summary of the forthcoming Cuban Five session: http://www.leftforum.org/content/changing-cuba-stagnant-america-strategy-and-continuing-plight-cuban-five

American Held in Cuba: Suit Against US Dismissed 1

By Jessica Gresko, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by an American imprisoned in Cuba against the U.S. government, for whom he was working when he was arrested. Judge James Boasberg wrote Tuesday in an opinion dismissing the case that federal law bars lawsuits against the government based on injuries suffered in foreign countries. The lawsuit was filed last year by Alan Gross. He was working for the U.S. Agency for International Development and its contractor Development Alternatives Inc. when he was arrested in 2009.

Gross had been working to bring internet access to the Communist island and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his work. The lawsuit said he wasn’t prepared for his job’s risks. Gross settled with Bethesda, Md.-based DAI for an undisclosed amount earlier this month.

A Chat with a Cuban Spy Back from Miami 1

by Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — On September 12, 1998, the FBI dismantled a network of Cuban spies who had been monitoring anti-Castro groups based in Miami. A number of these spies negotiated with the prosecution to have their sentences reduced, but five refused to do so. Their convictions, which included life sentences, were the most severe.

One of these five Cuban men was pilot Rene Gonzalez, recently released from a US prison, following nearly 13 years of incarceration and another nearly two years on parole. Now back living in Cuba, he agreed to talk to me about his life as an agent, his activities in the United States and his time in prison.

Why did you agree to go the United States and act as a spy there?

I am part of a generation of Cubans who grew up under the threat of terrorist actions against the country. I’ve never forgotten the hijacking of Cuban fishing vessels and the murder of their crews, which were often perpetrated by terrorist groups based in Miami. I was one of the millions of people who attended the massive gathering held in honor of those who were killed off the coast of Barbados, in the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airliner. So, when I was asked to do this, I didn’t hesitate. I felt it was my duty as a patriot.

Is it ethical to spy on another country?

I believe it is ethical to defend yourself when you are being attacked and that was what I set out to do. The most powerful nation in the world has attacked us for many years and we have the right to defend ourselves, provided we do no harm to the American people. At no point was it our intention to do anyone any harm, we merely exercised our right to defend ourselves.

When you lead that kind of double-life, you probably also meet good people along the way. Did you feel you were betraying those people at any point?

The human element can complicate things. In all of these groups, you find good people who actually believe in what they’re doing, or people who are manipulated or harbor prejudices. You learn to recognize them, to identify those who are good people and those who are not. You realize that many of these people would have stayed on board (with the Revolution) under different circumstances and you begin to treat them with the kindness that they deserve.

I don’t want to mention any names, so as not to cause anyone any trouble over there, but I met people who had been officials in Batista’s army, elderly people, and I’m still like a son to them, just as they are like parents to me.

What kind of information were you after? It’s my understanding some of you were operating in a military base.

One of us was at a military base. He was divulging public information, he never had access to anything classified and never looked for it. His job was to compile as much publicly available information about the Cayo Hueso base as he could, because the base is a place where you can pick up signs of a possible terrorist attack against Cuba.

What did the others do?

Gerardo was in charge of coordinating the network’s activities. I had infiltrated several organizations: Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate), Democracy (Democracia), United Liberation Command (Comando de Liberación Unido) and others. I went through quite a number of different groups, because anyone who needs a small plane for their operations also needs a pilot and I was available.

Read the full story here: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=93682

State Department Meets With Expelled Spy to Discuss Alan Gross Reply

Castro Regime Official Visits Washington, D.C.

(Capitol Hill Cubans) The State Department has confirmed that Josefina Vidal, a senior Cuban Foreign Ministry official, was in Washington D.C. this week. During her visit, Vidal met with U.S. State Department officials, reportedly including the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson. Among the issues discussed was the arbitrary detention of American development worker, Alan Gross, whose release the U.S. has officially stated remains a top priority.

We commend the State Department for prioritizing efforts to release Mr. Gross. Mr. Gross has been held hostage by the Castro regime since 2009 for helping the island’s Jewish community connect to the Internet. He should be immediately and unconditionally released. However, we also hope the State Department included in its agenda the fundamental right of the Cuban people to live in freedom and the increased repression against them by the Castro dictatorship. Moreover, that any bilateral talks between the U.S. Government and the Castro dictatorship be publicly disclosed.

We make this last point, as yesterday, State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell seemed a bit coy during the Daily Press Briefing.

When asked about the meeting between Vidal and Jacobson, Ventrell answered: “I’m not sure if it’s happened. We always raise the issue of Alan Gross and we make our case very clearly and consistently to the Cubans on Alan Gross. But I’ll have to check about details of that meeting.”

Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal left the US in May 2003 in conjunction with the expulsion of 14 Cuban spies serving under diplomatic cover.

Venezuela Talk-Show Host Who Revealed Infighting Among Chavistas Takes ‘Leave of Absence’ in Cuba 1

A popular pro-Venezuelan government television talk show host took leave of absence alleging ‘medical reasons’ for a few days following the release on Monday of a recording where he can be heard talking with a Cuban intelligence officer about the ‘sea of shit’ which is drowning Chavismo because of internal infighting and corruption.

(MercoPress) The fact that Mario Silva has decided to be absent from the talk show and has flown to Cuba, “is clear indication that the recording, despite official rejection of its contents, is true”, said Venezuelan political analyst Carlos Romero. Silva and his talk show ‘La Hojilla’ which was one of the favorites of the deceased Chavez who usually would participate making official announcements said as a first reaction that the recording was a ‘drag’ but later announced he had a “vesicle sac complication’ to be treated in Cuba and thus would be absent for ‘several days.’

“Silva’s exit means he has to hide, following the release of a recording which has him involved with Cuban intelligence with non-polite words towards the current situation in the Chavista government”, added Romero. “There is no doubt it is his voice in the audio” said Romero although what he revealed and commented to the Cuban intelligence officer Aramis Palacio is nothing new, it’s an open secret in Venezuela.”

Romero said that following the death of Chavez, the government and the ruling party has been lost as to where they are heading “so there is an accumulation of problems, rivalries, and lack of unity which was evident from the aired recording.” “This is also regrettable because it exposed how low the political debate in this country has fallen”, added the political analyst.

The recording was presented by the Venezuelan opposition and the officer to whom Silva is talking is an advisor to the Military House of the Executive and recognized as head of the Cuban intelligence services in Venezuela. The 50 minutes recording that can be seen and heard in different internet sites contains a long list of complaints about the “sea of shit” in which Chavismo is submerged because of corruption and the furious battle for control of government by several of its leaders, according to Silva.

Silva, a radical supporter of the Chavez legacy said he was at disposal of the government and “if I must immolate myself, I will do so.” The talk show host who had conducted the program for the last nine years said he willingly will hand the space to the government and if “I must face trial, I will willingly.” Diosdado Cabello, a former military officer and president of the National Assembly, repeatedly named in the recording as a ‘conspirator’ disputing power from President Maduro, and allegedly involved in foreign currency trafficking, described the tape as ‘fascist plot’ and an attempt by the organized opposition to bring down the government of Maduro.

FONTOVA: Protecting A Sponsor of Terrorism 1

State keeps Castro kin safer than U.S. diplomats overseas

By Humberto Fontova, Washington Times

Protecting U.S. diplomats from terrorists on foreign soil is one thing. Protecting terrorism-sponsoring diplomats on U.S. soil quite another. The U.S. State Department is under heavy fire for failing at the job abroad.

A diplomat from a nation that the United States officially classifies as a state sponsor of terrorism, however, has no complaints against the State Department’s security services. This diplomat and her entourage, under a heavy State Department security detail, safely sashayed through New York and Philadelphia for almost two weeks this month without being subjected to so much as a frown from a bystander. When she stopped for Sunday brunch in Philadelphia’s Old City, one thing that caught the eye of the local paper was “heavy security” surrounding Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela and her Cuban cohorts.

For the second time in about a year, Ms. Castro, an official of her father and uncle’s terrorism-sponsoring regime, was granted a U.S. visa. The purpose of her visit to the nation that her uncle and father craved to attack with nuclear weapons and helped the Black Panthers and the Weathermen get terrorism training, and that millions of her hapless compatriots crave as refuge from the horrors her family inflicts, was to lecture Americans on human rights while receiving honors for her own contributions to human rights.

The forum and her award were courtesy of the Philadelphia-based homosexual-rights group Equality Forum, which also honored former Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat. The faithful communist apparatchik of a regime that incarcerated political prisoners at a higher rate than Josef Stalin during the Great Terror, slaughtered more Cubans than Adolf Hitler killed Germans during the Night of Long Knives and in the process converted a nation with a higher per-capita income than half of Europe into one that repulses Haitians, is on record as favoring homosexual marriage. Hence the human-rights honors and awards for Ms. Castro.

To Mr. Frank’s credit, he seemed to find the award to the communist official from his partners in homosexual activism slightly disturbing. While sharing a panel with Ms. Castro and mildly praising her work, Mr. Frank forthrightly called her father and uncle “among the great betrayers of liberalism and human rights.”

In addition to her forum and honors in Philadelphia, Ms. Castro also was honored with ovations at an International Action Center forum in New York. Under the protection of a State Department security detail and on U.S. taxpayers’ dime, Ms. Castro denounced the justice system of the nation that was feting and protecting her. In particular, the crowd thanked the Cuban official for harboring U.S. cop-killer fugitive Assata Shakur, who was put on the FBI’s most-wanted list as a domestic terrorist two weeks earlier. Raul Castro’s daughter also denounced the U.S. convictions of the terrorists known as “the Cuban Five,” four of whom are serving sentences for conspiracy to murder, manslaughter and spying against America.

Obviously, no “stand-down” order came down when our State Department was tasked with protecting this terrorism-sponsoring official. The perceived threat to Ms. Castro’s security apparently came from right-wing Cuban-Americans. Many of them are Republicans, and some are even Tea Partyers. Were they really more of a danger than the vicious, cunning and bloodthirsty terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi, Libya?

Ms. Castro did all her U.S. bashing in New York while standing under a huge poster of Che Guevara, who, during his lifetime, denounced the United States as “the great enemy of mankind” and Americans as “hyenas fit only for extermination.”

While in Philadelphia, Ms. Castro was given a tour of the Liberty Bell, which her father, uncle and godfather, Guevara, planned to blow up in partnership with the Black Liberation Front in 1965. The plot also called for blowing up the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument. The Black Liberation Front hatched the plan with the help of Guevara, whom they visited in Cuba in August 1964. The details were buttoned down during Guevara’s visit to New York in December 1964 while the Cuban official was feted like a rock star by Manhattan’s elite. Only in America.

Humberto Fontova is author of “Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant” (Regnery, 2005).

Venezuela TV Host Goes Off Air After Opposition Links Him to Supposed Cuban Intelligence Agent Reply

CARACAS, Venezuela — (Associated Press) A prominent Venezuelan talk show host has gone off the air after allegedly being caught on tape discussing politics inside Venezuela’s ruling party with a Cuban intelligence official. Mario Silva, whose show on state TV features verbal attacks against the socialist government’s opponents, said that he would go on sick leave for “several days.” The announcement on his program “La Hojilla” (The Razor Blade) late Monday came hours after opposition lawmaker Ismael Garcia released a recording in which Silva purportedly is heard discussing divisions in the government following the death of President Hugo Chavez.

Garcia said Silva was talking to a Cuban intelligence official he identified as Lt. Col. Aramis Palacios. Garcia didn’t say when the conversation was recorded or how he obtained it. Silva said the recording was “absolutely fake” and suggested it had been put together by editing clips from his show, which has been on the air for nine years. “I’m going to be off the air for a few days,” Silva said on the late-night show. “But let me tell you something: I insist I don’t owe anyone an apology, because I haven’t done anything that isn’t revolutionary.” He said that he had previously received medical treatment in Cuba, and that he was hospitalized over the weekend for “complications” related to his gallbladder.

The opposition has long accused Cuban leaders of wielding influence behind the scenes in guiding Venezuelan government decisions. The government, meanwhile, accuses opposition leader Henrique Capriles of being a puppet of the U.S.

During his 14-year reign as president, Chavez forged close ties with Cuba, where he was treated for the cancer that killed him March 5. Venezuela has shipped billions of dollars’ worth of oil to Cuba on preferential terms.

In the recording, a man identified as Silva says he worries that parliament leader Diosdado Cabello, a former army officer, is conspiring against President Nicolas Maduro, who narrowly defeated Capriles in an April 14 election. At one point, the voice says Maduro’s opponents in the party want to remove Defense Minister Diego Molero. “Why do they want to remove him, Palacios? To be able to take the armed forces and put pressure on Maduro or to behave as they please or to pull a coup d’etat,” the man says.

Silva dismissed the recording on Twitter as a “montage” and suggested U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies were behind it. Cabello also dismissed the recording, calling on the opposition to present real evidence, “not a show.” Cuban authorities did not respond to a request for reaction or information about Palacios.

The recording added to the political tension in Venezuela, where lawmakers met Tuesday for the first time since a brawl inside the National Assembly chamber three weeks ago that injured several members of the opposition. In a speech broadcast Monday on state TV, Maduro called for an end to “intrigues” against his administration and the armed forces but didn’t specifically mention the recording.