Jesse Jackson Wraps up Visit to Cuba Without Seeing Alan Gross Reply

(EFE) The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday ended his visit to Havana without having been able to see Alan Gross, the U.S. government subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence here after being convicted of subversion.

Jackson told the foreign press that last Saturday he asked Cuban authorities to allow him to see Gross, but they told him they would need more notice to coordinate such a visit.
Nevertheless, the U.S. civil rights activist said that he spoke about the Gross case with Cuban officials.

In remarks made on Monday, Jackson expressed his hope that Gross’s release can be secured and he declared that there are “open channels” between Havana and Washington to deal with this matter and that of the four Cuban espionage agents imprisoned in the United States.

Gross, 64, traveled to Cuba on behalf of a Maryland company that won a contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to expand Internet access and the flow of information on the Communist-ruled island.

He was arrested in Cuba in December 2009 with satellite communications equipment in his possession. Havana said he was illegally aiding dissidents and inciting subversion. In August 2012, Cuba’s highest court upheld the 15-year jail sentence imposed on the American.

Cuba has hinted that it would release Gross in exchange for the return of the four members of the “Cuban Five” who remain jailed in the United States.

Washington dismisses talk of a possible swap and insists that Cuba free Gross immediately and without conditions.

Jesse Jackson Hopes to See Imprisoned American Alan Gross in Cuba, Meet with Religious Leaders Reply

By Peter Orsi, Associated Press

HAVANA – The Rev. Jesse Jackson travelled to Cuba Friday for talks with the island’s religious leaders and said he hopes to visit Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence in the Caribbean nation.

In brief comments outside a seaside Havana hotel, Jackson told reporters he intended to meet with local clergy about their concerns for the needs of the poor, and to discuss relations between Cuba, the United States and the rest of the Caribbean.

Asked whether he would meet with Gross, Jackson said: “I would like to.”

Gross was arrested in December 2009 after authorities caught him importing restricted communications equipment into the country.

He said he was only setting up Internet networks for island Jewish groups, but a court convicted him on a statute governing crimes against the state and sentenced him to 15 years.

The case threw already cool U.S.-Cuba relations into a deep freeze, although there have been signs of some thawing this year.

Jackson has travelled to Yugoslavia, Syria and Iraq in the past to help gain freedom for U.S. citizens jailed there.

In March 2011, shortly before Gross’ trial, he appealed to Cuba to release the man on humanitarian grounds and offered to help mediate.

Former President Jimmy Carter came to Havana later that month, but left without Gross.

In September 2011, the former governor of New Mexico and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, made a high profile visit to try to negotiate Gross’ release.

But the trip abruptly fell apart amid mutual recriminations as Richardson wasn’t even allowed to see Gross, and referred to him in public comments as a “hostage.”

Jackson has visited Cuba on several occasions and met with both former President Fidel Castro and current President Raul Castro. In 1984, he helped negotiate the release of 26 Cuban prisoners. Most of them went into exile.

On Friday, Jackson said he hopes to help continue healing the wounds of a five-decade divide between islanders and exiles.

“It’s good to be back to Cuba again,” Jackson said. “We’ve been here over the years. We have developed kinships with many Cuban-Americans trying to build Cuban-Cuban American family reunification.”

“We hope for the day we will have the walls down, the bridges built,” he said.

Maduro intento introducir a varios agentes cubanos ilegales en Estados Unidos 2

By Ludmila Vinogradoff, ABC.es Internacional

El presidente de Venezuela quiso «colar» al personal de La Habana en la Asamblea de la ONU. Pero, al final, renunció a participar en ese foro

El presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, intentó «colar» en Estados Unidos a varios agentes cubanos sin permiso de entrada en el país, pero a los que el mandatario intentó camuflar con pasaportes venezolanos, según supo ABC de fuentes cercanas a la delegación. Maduro quiso introducir a los cubanos durante su viaje a Nueva York con ocasión de la celebración de la Asamblea General de la ONU de esta semana. Pero, finalmente, el mandatario venezolano sorprendió a propios y ajenos con su repentino regreso a Caracas este miércoles.

Un cambio de planes que justificó por su «intenso programa» de actividades callejeras. Anunció el presidente en su cuenta de Twitter:«Haciendo escala y siguiendo el camino a nuestra patria, el miércoles tenemos agenda intensa en la calle». «Trabajo y más trabajo para seguir teniendo Patria, vamos a nuestra Venezuela. Ahora más tarde nos vemos», añadió.
Para hacer más provocadora su visita, Maduro intentó viajar desde China (donde cursaba visita oficial) a Nueva York en un avión de Cubana de Aviación. El pasado martes, el presidente intentó cambiar de avión para quitar hierro al conflicto. Pero ya era tarde. El mandatario bolivariano no pudo estrenarse en el podio donde tanta fama ganó su antecesor, Hugo Chávez, cuando declaró que que olía «a azufre» tras el discurso del expresidente estadounidense George W. Bush.

Retenido en Canada

Durante la jornada del martes, el avión de Nicolás Maduro, con su voluminosa delegación de 120 personas, estuvo retenido en Canadá desde las diez y media de la mañana hasta las cuatro de la tarde. «Estuvieron esperando más de cinco horas dentro del avión, incluido Maduro, porque Canadá rehusaba venderles gasolina ya que el avión era cubano. La empresa Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) envío con urgencia dos aviones Falcón para que pudieran llegar a Nueva York. Pero Maduro tenía tal rabieta que se volvió para Caracas», afirman fuentes conocedoras del caso. Los mensajes de twitter, en los que anunciaba su regreso, los envió desde Canadá.

La numerosa delegación con la que viajó Maduro era de lo más pintoresca. Aparte de doce agentes de seguridad y médicos cubanos, en el cortejo viajaban un «técnico en explosivos»; un «experto en seguridad alimentaria»; un «epidemiólogo»; el hijo del presidente y la seguridad del hijo del presidente; el hijo, la nuera, los nietos, dos amigas y el estilista y peluquero de «la primera comandante» (la mujer de Maduro, Cilia Flores), así como un nutrido grupo de personal de «seguridad médica». La lista de pasajeros debió ser enviada a la ONU y al Departamento de Estado de EE.UU.

Pese a las amenazas de tomar «medidas drásticas» lanzadas por Maduro si les negaban los visados de entrada a los miembros de su delegación, la Administración norteamericana le habría negado el permiso al general Wilmer Barrientos, nuevo ministro del Despacho de la Presidencia y ex jefe del Comando Estratégico Operacional de la Fuerza Armada Bolivariana (Ceofanb) que custodiaba las elecciones.

Lista de cubanos

Entre los miembros cubanos de la delegación oficial que viajaron a China y después intentaron llegar a Nueva York, con carné de identidad extranjero y pasaporte venezolano, figuran Leonardo Nuñez Zamora, Rosendo Julián Zacuta, Julio Marino Domínguez, Mary Monteiga Rodríguez. Como miembros de «seguridad interna» aparecían Giovanny Remond Mederas y Alberto Herrera Socarrás. Como personal de «seguridad médica», Néstor Azcano Gonzalez, Carlos Guilveaux Cala, Danay Herrera Vallejera, Heriberto Rodríguez y Eduardo García Castillo. Además del piloto cubano Guillermo Díaz.

Los servicios de seguridad de las Naciones Unidas pidieron limitar la «caravana venezolana» a sólo cuatro vehículos. Pero la avanzada de seguridad de la comitiva, que viajó la semana pasada a Nueva York, fue de 47 funcionarios y dobló en cantidad el número de vehículos permitidos, según contó el periodista Nelson Bocaranda en su columna «Runrunes».

Gastos millonarios

El diputado opositor Carlos Berrizbeitia calculó para ABC los gastos de Maduro en este viaje a China, que incluyen los de Nueva York, ya tenidos en cuenta por la empresa Citgo, subsidiaria de Petróleos de Venezuela. «En China y Nueva York alquilaron dos pisos de los hoteles más caros (el Hyatt Grand Central en Nueva York), con un gasto de más de 800.000 dólares en hoteles para toda la comitiva. El viaje al final superará los 2,5 millones de dólares», precisa el diputado venezolano.«Maduro, desde que llegó a Miraflores, el 19 de abril, ha gastado más de 8,5 millones de dólares… y eso que es un presidente obrero. Sus viajes al extranjero superan los 85.000 dólares diarios». añade Berrizbeitia.

Cuban Spy Marta Rita Velázquez Revisited: Repost of a Great Summary by Tracey Eaton 1

Indictment Details Spy Accusations

By Tracey Eaton, Along the Malecon

Friday, April 26, 2013

The U.S. government’s case against Marta Rita Velázquez is a tale of intrigue and clandestine travel, false passports and secret meetings.

Prosecutors say Velázquez introduced Ana Belén Montes to Cuban agents in 1984 and later helped Montes land a job with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Montes went on to become one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history, authorities say. She was arrested in 2001, convicted in 2002 and sent to prison.

In 2003, a grand jury charged Velázquez with one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. The indictment was filed on Feb. 5, 2004, but remained under court seal until Thursday. It’s unclear why U.S. authorities unsealed it now, more than nine years after the indictment. Velázquez is thought to be living in Stockholm, Sweden. I called what I believe to be her mobile phone number. I heard a message in a language I do not understand, and left a message.

A Swedish reporter also called Velázquez‘s number and said that a woman answered, irritated, and said, “What? Who is it? Oh, OK,” and then hung up. The Swedish TT news agency reported that Velázquez is now a Swedish citizen.

The Washington Post reported that U.S. authorities in December 2011 told Velázquez “she was under suspicion.” The U.S. extradition treaty with Sweden does not include espionage in crimes requiring extradition.

The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden, reported Friday that Velázquez‘s husband was an official in Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The paper did not name the husband, but said: The acts of espionage were carried out while the two were married.

Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Charlotta Ozaki Macías confirmed that the ministry had been aware of the case for years. “The Foreign Ministry official with a connection to the case is not guilty of criminal activity,” she told the TT news agency. The Swedish man remains in service at the ministry. Sweden has not received any requests to extradite the woman to the US, according to Per Claréus, press secretary to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask. He told TT that if the US was to send an extradition request, it would be refused.

The indictment alleges that Velázquez carried out the following overt acts:

• September 1983: Traveled secretly to Mexico City, intending to meet Cuban agents, but they evidently did not show up.
• Spring of 1984: Took Montes to dinner and told her she “had friends who could help Montes in Montes‘ expressed wish to assist the people of Nicaragua.”
• July 31, 1984: Wrote Montes a letter stating, “It has been a great satisfaction for me to have had you as a friend and comrade (compañera) during this time we’ve spent as students. I hope our relationship continues outside the academic sphere.”
• Fall of 1984: Invited Montes to travel with her from Washington, D.C., to New York “ostensibly to meet a friend who could provide Montes with an opportunity to assist the Nicaraguan people.”
• Dec. 16, 1984: Went with Montes by train to New York and met with a Cuban intelligence official who worked at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and was identified in the indictment only as “M.” Velázquez later told Montes that “M” told Velázquez that Montes “would be one of the best.”
• Early 1985: Gave Montes and (sic) typewriter and instructed her to write a detailed biography, including a description of the Justice Department job she had at the time. The two again traveled to New York to meet with “M.”

Story continues here: Indictment Details Spy Accusations

Spanish Judge Throws Out Payá Family Lawsuit 6

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A Spanish judge has rejected a lawsuit against Cuban security officials filed by relatives of the late Havana dissident Oswaldo Payá, arguing that Spanish politician Angel Carromero already has declared himself responsible for the death of the democracy activist.

Judge Eloy Velasco also ruled that the death of Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, in a car crash last summer did not amount to a crime against humanity, and that the Spanish government also had already accepted that the crash was an accident.

Payá’s brother Carlos, a Madrid doctor, said Monday that he could not comment on the ruling until he consulted with the family lawyer. Velasco’s decision was published in several Madrid news outlets, apparently before lawyer Francisco Andujar Ramírez received a copy.

The lawsuit alleges that a Cuban State Security vehicle rammed a car driven by Carromero and forced it to crash, killing Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig suffered minor injuries.

A Cuban court found Carromero was speeding, lost control of his rented car and crashed on his own. He was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to four years in prison, but was freed in December to serve the rest of his sentence in Spain.

Velasco ruled that Carromero accepted the Cuban version in a pre-trial video and during his one-day trial, and that the Spanish government had “explicitly recognized” the verdict as part of the bilateral agreement that allowed Carromero to fly home.

The allegation that the crash was caused by State Security “cannot be verified,” the judge wrote, adding that Carromero’s driving record was full of infractions and noting that Modig, who claimed to have been asleep before the crash, was not “alerted or woken up … even though (Carromero) claims they were being chased.”

The lawsuit argued that the Spanish court had jurisdiction over Payá’s death because he was a Spanish citizen and his death was a crime against humanity, due to its political overtones, but Velasco ruled the case did not meet any of the requirements for a crime against humanity.

Trying Payá’s death again before a Spanish court would amount to a kind of double jeopardy, the judge wrote in his ruling, and to having a Spanish court “review” the Cuban court’s sentence just because Payá had Spanish citizenship.

The lawsuit was filed by Payá’s widow and daughter and specifically named State Security Lt. Col. José Águilas, chief investigator for crimes against the security of the state, and a Col. Llanes, identified as the officer in charge of monitoring Payá’s dissident activities.

Velasco’s ruling closely paralleled the recommendations sent to the judge Sept. 13 by prosecutor Teresa Sandoval, who argued that the lawsuit should be spiked because both Carromero and the Spanish government had already accepted that the death was accidental.

Carromero, a Madrid leader of the youth branch of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, went to Cuba with Modig, head of the youth branch of Sweden’s Christian Democratic Party, to deliver 8,000 Euros to democracy activists on the island on behalf of a Swedish foundation.

Deadly Serious, the Cuban Spy Game Lives on in the Americas 2

By Jerry Brewer

If rhetoric alone was the official doctrine of world political institutions, both of the Cuban brothers that have dominated Cuban misery with iron fisted rule for 54 years, with influence and persuasion, would be kings.

As well, besides the deception and the smoke and mirrors, their spy network is the more sinister and most powerful tool in their ill-conceived repertoire and bag of tricks.

There are those who continue to insist and argue that Cuba is old news, a benign cold war relic that poses no threat to anyone. Yet the oppressed people that continue to suffer ever increasing human rights violations, by beatings, incarceration and other atrocities, valiantly try to get the word out daily to those that will pay attention.

Cuba’s authoritarian regime, and its vicious state security services, severely and perpetually restrict fundamental freedoms, repress political opponents, and aggressively violate human rights in this tired and archaic one-party communist system.

So today, one must ask, why not free the citizens of Cuba in this modern era and allow a quality of life, liberty and happiness to which they have a fundamental right?

Pressure by the world media, and never ending questions posed to Cuba’s government calling for immediate attention to human rights issues, always seem to get their attention – and the unleashing of the usual diatribes.

Marino Murillo, vice president of the Cuban Council of Ministers, an economist and former military officer, is a Politburo member and known as a reform czar. He recently stepped up to the world microphone and spewed, that during “the rest of this year and through the next the state would enact and carry through the next phase of its privatization and austerity measures, creating the most profound transformations.”

As the well informed and astute focus their eyes and ears on and through the nebulous screen of polluted political dialogue of this totalitarian dictatorship, the physical power behind the throne must be exposed once again.

Cuba’s intelligence and spy apparatus has been described as a “contingency of very well-trained, organized and financed agents.” Even the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, adopted the previous Soviet-styled Cuban intelligence service (DGI) as his model for Venezuela’s security service, known as SEBIN and G2.

Through Fidel Castro, his much admired mentor, Chavez closely relied on Cuban intelligence counterparts and advisors of the Cuban security service. The decaying and failing Cuban Revolution became Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution, and he imported the misery, violence, and human rights violations to Venezuela while holding on for dear life until death overcame him — in Cuba, as many believe.

Cuba has consistently maintained a well-organized and callous intelligence presence in Mexico, as have the Russians. Much of their activities have involved U.S. interests, including the recruiting of disloyal U.S. military, government, and private sector “specialists.” They continue this enthusiastically, on U.S. soil as well, evidenced in the Ana Belen Montes case — along with her recruiter, Marta Rita Velazquez, a graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Montes would go on to lead a distinguished career at the Defense Intelligence Agency as a top Cuban analyst, winning awards, briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and helping to soften U.S. policy toward Cuba until her capture.

Up until the end of 2012 there were an estimated 210,000 Cubans in Venezuela “as part of an alliance established by Hugo Chavez.” A number of agreements enabled Cubans to take part in a wide range of government plans that included national intelligence and security.

Retired Venezuelan army Major General Antonio Rivero, who was once a close advisor to Hugo Chavez, disclosed the in-depth meddling of Cuban advisors in security and defense matters in Venezuela.

In an interview with the daily newspaper El Universal, shortly before his detention, Rivero explained that he retrieved the entirety of information about Cuban meddling in Venezuela from garrisons throughout the country until 2010, when he was discharged.

And what does Cuban meddling continue to mean within this hemisphere, in itself besides the anti-democratic values?

Vociferous critics of the U.S., such as presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, are a concern as they offer little to no support to their neighbors or the United States in drug and terrorism interdiction efforts.

This author has frequently spoken with Pedro Riera Escalante, who served the Castro regime in Mexico City (under the guise of a diplomat from 1986-1991), when then at least it was a major hub for espionage against the U.S. Riera was the Group Chief of Section Q-1, in charge of operations against the CIA.*

However, he eventually denounced the Fidel Castro dictatorship and was imprisoned. He called for a shift towards respect for human rights and democracy, before, during and after his sentence to prison in Cuba. His revelations of his orders from Cuba, and his actions in the secret war that has pitted Cuba versus the U.S. for decades in intelligence and espionage tradecraft, reveal a continuing process of Cuban subversion in this hemisphere.

* MexiData.info note: Pedro Riera Escalante, who had fallen under suspicion by Cuban officials, returned to Mexico using false papers. Forcibly deported by Mexican authorities in 2000, he was subsequently tried and convicted in Cuba on the false papers charges. Released after serving a three-year prison sentence, yet confined to the island, Riera was finally able to leave Cuba for Spain in December 2011.

Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at http://www.cjiausa.org/.

Cuba Studies ‘Putinismo’ for Survival Tips 2

If Havana uses a Russian recipe for clinging to power, investors beware.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal, O’Grady@wsj.com

Vladimir Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times wasn’t a big hit with Americans. But the Russian president does have admirers elsewhere. Some are in the Cuban military, which is rumored to be studying “putinismo.” Would-be foreign investors, take note.

Ever since Fidel Castro’s glorious revolution triumphed in 1959, Cuba has been in need of a benefactor. The Soviet Union played that role until it collapsed in the early 1990s. Cuba got another lifeline when Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, elected in 1998, began a state policy of providing it with cheap oil.

Even so, Cubans still live lives of privation. Venezuela’s own fiscal woes are on the rise, which means that the oil subsidies are in jeopardy.

Revolutionary poverty is nothing new. But regime bigwigs in Havana fear that Raúl Castro, who is now in charge, could face serious social unrest when the ailing 87-year-old Fidel passes on. Their challenge is to find ways to feed the island without letting go of power, which might prove fatal for some of them.

The Putin model offers a way out. It permits nominal elections in which the opposition gets some seats in the parliament. On the economic front, Mr. Putin has created a loyal cadre of oligarchs who do business with foreigners.

The former KGB operative can say that Russia is no longer shaped by communist ideology. But behind the scenes, putinismo blends authoritarian political control and crony capitalism to produce a lock on power.

Writing from Russia in April 2012, development economist Deepak Lal described this mix of profits for the politically correct and repression for everybody else. His essay, in the Indian daily Business Standard, explained that “ordinary profit making has been criminalized.” Citing the work of Russian lawyer Vladimir Radchenko, Mr. Lal wrote that “there are three million small and medium-scale business entrepreneurs in jail for economic crimes.”

Mr. Putin is reportedly planning on forming his own personal national guard, Mr. Lal wrote. The Federal Security Service is more interested in running businesses than putting down dissidents and the hoodlums hired to do the job are unreliable. Mr. Lal also briefly described the state’s renewed alliance with the Orthodox Church.

I was reminded of the parallels between Mr. Putin’s Russia and Castro’s promises of reform when former Cuban political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez visited the Journal’s New York offices this month. The 48-year-old Cuban, who spent 17 years in Castro’s jails, calls claims of political and economic reform there “fraud.”

Mr. Antúnez describes opposition to the regime as widespread and growing. It is not more visible, he says, because the “culture of fear” remains intense. Independent reports from the island say that detentions and violent assaults on opposition groups have been increasing.

As in Russia, Cuba can no longer rely on the armed forces to control government critics. They are busy running lucrative businesses in tourism, retail, cigar manufacturing and air travel. The Castros also seem to have a Putin-style relationship with the Church. Pope Benedict met with the Castros during his 2012 visit to the island while dissidents were carted off to jail for asking to see the pontiff.

Mr. Antúnez says that allowing Cubans to run microenterprises isn’t reducing poverty. Perhaps that’s because when entrepreneurs have succeeded during prior so-called liberalization periods, the regime has accused them of the crime of illicit enrichment.

Foreign investors sometimes don’t seem to fare much better. In an Aug. 13 letter to the Economist magazine, British businessman Stephen Purvis, a former business partner of the regime, described the circumstances surrounding his incarceration in a Cuban jail for 15 months between 2011 and 2012.

Mr. Purvis says he was “accused of many things, starting with revelations of state secrets” but was eventually sentenced for “breaches of financial regulations,” even though Cuba’s central bank had “specifically approved the transactions in question for 12 years.”

He was in prison with “a handful” of other foreign businessmen and says “there are many more in the system than is widely known.” A few are charged with corruption, he wrote, but many face charges of “sabotage, damage to the economy, tax avoidance and illegal economic activity.”

What he didn’t see in prison were his island business peers from Brazil, Venezuela and China. Mr. Purvis asks: “Why is the representative of Ericsson in jail for exactly the same activities as [its] Chinese competitor who is not?” Foreigners doing business in Russia have described a similarly risky playing field.

In May, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who claims to have contact with a number of Cuban military officers from his high school days, told the Miami Herald that they are studying “putinismo” in order to prepare for a transition. “They don’t want to suffer the same fate as the followers of [Libya’s] Kaddafi,” he said.

The Putin model may be the way to avoid that fate. But it’s a far cry from a plan to liberate the nation.

17 Years After Cuba Shootdown, Miami Man Seeks Justice For Brother 2

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Seventeen years after Cuban MiG warplanes killed his brother and three other South Florida men, Nelson Morales says he still wants to punish the two people responsible.

“We are still searching for justice, to prosecute the two principal murderers, Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro,” said Morales, whose brother Pablo died in the shootdown of two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue airplanes.

So the Miami maintenance worker has filed a legal demand that U.S. federal prosecutors submit evidence to a special grand jury in South Florida showing the Castro brothers’ guilt in the 1996 shootdown.

“I don’t know why they haven’t done this before. I can’t speculate. But it is the right thing to do. Let the grand jury decide whether to indict the Castros,” said lawyer Juan Zorrilla, who is handling the Morales suit.

Zorrilla filed the “writ of mandamus” — a request that a court compel a government entity to take action on a public issue — on July 1 demanding that the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami submit evidence “implicating Fidel and Raúl Castro in the murders.”

Prosecutors also should inform the special grand jury that it can pursue an investigation on its own, force the U.S. attorney’s office to produce evidence implicating the Castros and request that federal charges be filed against the brothers, the complaint added.

Assistant U.S. attorney Eduardo I. Sanchez filed a reply last week asking U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno to throw out the demand because Morales does not have the legal standing to file such a complaint.

Morales’ complaint also failed to prove that he was personally harmed by his brother’s death, and showed that he had not exhausted all of the legal avenues available to him for seeking redress, Sanchez added. Moreno has not ruled.

Pablo Morales, Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Peña were killed Feb. 24, 1996, when Cuban MiG fighters shot down two single-engine Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) airplanes. Their bodies were never recovered.

“They killed him. They assassinated him. They pulverized him,” Nelson Morales said.

Cuba had complained that BTTR airplanes had dropped anti-Castro leaflets over Havana earlier in 1996, and that the two airplanes were shot down in Cuban airspace. An investigation by the U.N.’s aviation branch concluded that the planes were shot down far out in international airspace and in violation of established procedures.

Federal prosecutors in Miami filed murder charges in August of 2003 against Gen. Ruben Martinez Puente, who was head of Cuba’s air defense in 1996, and brothers Lorenzo Alberto and Francisco Pérez Pérez, the pilots of the two MiGs. But they did not indict either of the Castro brothers.

Zorrilla said he has been working for several years on the mandamus demand with the backing of the Juridical Rescue Foundation headed by Santiago Alvarez, a Miami developer and anti-Castro activist jailed for 30 months on an illegal weapons charge.

Former U.S. Attorney Kendall B. Coffey first urged the federal prosecutors to submit the evidence against the Castro brothers to a grand jury about five years ago, Alvarez said.

“They said, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ and they never did. We realized that the government was never going to facilitate this,” Alvarez said, adding that there should be some legal way to seek redress. “If not, this will be a very large stain on American justice.”

Zorrilla said the toughest part of the demand was that it could be filed only when a special federal grand jury, which usually investigates public integrity and national security cases, was active. But the very existence of grand juries is usually secret.

He eventually figured out that no such grand jury was active in South Florida, he added, although U.S. law requires that one always be impaneled in any court district of more than 4 million people. South Florida’s district has 6.3 million people.

On May 10 of this year, a special grand jury was created in the South Florida district, Zorrilla wrote in the demand. Seven weeks later, he filed the writ of mandamus on behalf of Nelson Morales.

Pablo Morales was 29 years old, trained as a cartographer in Cuba but working as a carpenter and delivery-truck driver in Miami, when he volunteered to join BTTR flights designed to spot rafters in the Straits of Florida and assist them if needed.

Nelson Morales, now 66, and their mother, Eva Barbas Arango, came to Miami from Havana soon after the 1996 shootdown on special humanitarian visas issued by the Clinton administration. Barbas died earlier this month at the age of 88.

The families of the three other victims sued Cuba and received $93 million in compensation, but the Morales family could not join that lawsuit because Pablo was not a U.S. citizen.

It rejected an offer of $3 million from the settlement, saying the family wanted only justice.

Fidel Castro declared that he took “responsibility for what took place” in a March 1996 interview with Time magazine. He surrendered power to his brother Raúl, who had been minister of defense since the early 1960s, after emergency surgery in 2006.

Raúl Castro is heard detailing how he planned and ordered the operation to shoot down the BTTR airplanes in a voice recording made public in 2006 by El Nuevo Herald.

The 11-minute, 32-second recording was reportedly made as Raúl Castro spoke off the record to journalists from the state-controlled Radio Rebelde on June 21, 1996, in the northeastern city of Holguín.

After El Nuevo published the recording, the families of the BTTR victims that sued Cuba said they had turned over the same recording to the FBI four years earlier — along with a 400-page archive on the shootdown that repeatedly mentioned the recording — as part of their own push for an indictment of Fidel and Raúl Castro.

An FBI spokesperson said the bureau never received the recording, according to an El Nuevo Herald report at the time.

“Although they claimed responsibility over 17 years ago for ordering the murders of the four BTTR men, Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro have never been indicted or otherwise held accountable in a U.S. federal court for those crimes,” Nelson Morales’ complaint said.

Was The Miami Trial Of The Cuban Five Fair? 1

By Elaine Chen

On a special edition of The Florida Roundup, we discuss the controversial case of the Cuban Five, Cuban agents who were convicted in 2001 of espionage along with other charges.

In Cuba, they are called heroes, their faces on billboards across the island country. In the U.S., they are relatively unknown spies.

One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for helping Cuba in 1996 to shoot down two planes operated by Brothers to the Rescue, a Cuban exile group. Tried in Miami, Hernandez received life in prison while the other four were sentenced to lesser prison terms.

Join host Tom Hudson with our guests WLRN’s Americas Correspondent Tim Padgett; Stephen Kimber, whose book, What Lies Across the Water, questions the fairness of the Miami trial; and David Buckner, one of the prosecutors in the case.

Listen to the broadcast here: Was The Miami Trial Of The Cuban Five Fair?

WLRN Apologizes and Re-invites Cuba Book Author 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

WLRN radio station has apologized for canceling an interview with the author of a book that criticizes the Miami trial of five Cuban spies, and has re-invited him to appear on a news show to answer “our own hard questions about his claims.”

“We want to apologize to our South Florida listeners for the decision made this week by Joseph Cooper, the host of WLRN’s Topical Currents show, to cancel an interview” with author Stephen Kimber, said a statement issued by General Manager John Labonia.

An initial email sent by a WLRN staffer to Kimber’s publicist said Cooper had decided that the book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, was “incendiary” and canceled an interview scheduled for Tuesday.

That was “a judgment that I and the rest of WLRN’s management strongly disagree with,” Labonia said. “Mr. Cooper’s decision, in fact, was made without our knowledge, and it in no way reflects — in fact, it blatantly contradicts — who we are and what we do as South Florida’s source for public radio news and discussion.”

The case of the five spies, convicted in a Miami trial in 2001, “remains a highly sensitive matter in Miami, especially within the Cuban-American community,” said Labonia, whose station is the Miami affiliate of National Public Radio.

“But we also realize that the local conversation about Cuba has evolved and become more broad-minded over the past decade — and that it can accommodate opinions today that might have been too uncomfortable to engage a generation ago,” he added.

“WLRN has always prided itself on being South Florida’s communal roundtable — a place where the news and issues that most concern us can be discussed and debated in an intelligent and above all tolerant forum,” Labonia said. “That’s especially true when it comes to the controversial issue of Cuba.”

“We want to do more than express a mea culpa, however. We want to make this right,” he added.

WLRN’s news division plans to interview Kimber, a journalism professor at the University of King’s College in Halifax, on Friday on its weekly Florida Roundup show, according to the statement.

“We will accord Mr. Kimber his say, but we will also ask him our own hard questions about his claims,” Labonia said. “Just as important, joining the show will be an expert to rebut those claims — and that person will also be asked hard questions about the Cuban Five episode.

“WLRN values the trust of its listeners above all else, and we promise to work even harder after this week’s controversy to deserve it,” the general manager concluded.

Cooper told El Nuevo Herald Tuesday that Kimber “was presupposing the innocence of the Cuban Five” in his book, which was published last month.

“In my fiduciary capacity I have a responsibility to the community and [WLRN] and I made the decision after very careful consideration,” he said. “For this community, it just seemed a little too much.”

Kimber argues in his book that the legal process against the five was flawed in several ways and that the trial should have been moved out of Miami because of its heavy Cuban population.

The Cuban government has confirmed the five were spies but demanded their release, saying they were spying only on exiles who might be planning terror attacks on the island. Evidence presented at their trial showed they spied on exiles as well as U.S. military bases in the Florida Keys and Tampa and tried to infiltrate the Pentagon’s Southern Command in Doral.

Convicted spy Rene Gonzalez completed his sentence and returned to Havana in May. The others — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and Antonio Guerrero — are serving longer sentences. Their appeals have been denied