ShortwaveSchedule.com maintains this listen of reported High-Frequency (HF) radio broadcasts to Cuban agents in the field. Also known as “shortwave” or “ham radio,” HF broadcasts have proven themselves as a highly effective means of communications for decades. While such broadcasts can be intercepted, an abundance of low-cost encryption systems keep the sent message secure. For added security, Havana uses a standardized message format of 150 five-character groups. This technique prevents the listener from gaining insights based on the brevity or length of the broadcast.
Wayne Trujillo, Valley Voices
An apparently polite and perfunctory presidential encounter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial became more than a mere handshake. Not only did President Barack Obama shake Raul Castro’s hand, but he also shook the Beltway and blogosphere, ironically and metaphorically giving pause to those with sanitary concerns about casual and calculated handshakes. This one did indeed go viral. The handshake grabbed the synoptic attention spans that comprise the Internet, inciting gobs of Google returns and emotional comments.
While some pundits and politicians consider President Obama’s acknowledgement of Cuba’s leader either a pragmatic grasp of diplomacy or merely a funereal formality, others lambasted the palming as insouciance, if not actually a tacit high five, to tyranny and thuggery. While the presidential handshake may have meant nothing more than a spontaneous greeting without forethought or consequence, the possibility exists that the gesture subtly acknowledged that our Cuban policy, codified through ostracism and various legislative measures through the years, has likely delayed rather than hastened Cuban democracy.
One thing is certain. Cuba is changing.
Last month, I traveled to Cuba on the Chamber of the Americas Cuban Cultural/Educational mission trip. Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban native and doctoral candidate at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, guided the mission, introducing us to Cuban artists, musicians, academics, students, bloggers, activists, religious leaders and budding entrepreneurs. The introductions were more than an exchange of handshakes and pleasantries. We engaged in spirited and freewheeling discussions about socioeconomic and political challenges that would’ve been impossible even a decade ago. Actually, finding a budding entrepreneur in Cuba a decade ago would’ve been impossible. A recent New York Times article explored the Cuban government’s gradual and limited shifts and allowances, quoting our tour organizer, Lopez-Levy, on the intricacies the Cuban government and reformists navigate on the delicate dance to a destination even remotely considered a full-fledged free democracy. Cuba’s limited freedoms and private proprietorships appear more of an amateur dress rehearsal than the world premiere of a polished production on any stage of the global economy.
Feature continues here: Cuba is Changing
Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?
By Arturo Lopez-Levy
Nelson Mandela, even after his death, promoted peace and reconciliation among nations and civility between leaders. His funeral has brought about the refreshing image of Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, of Cuba and the U.S., greeting each other.
The struggle against apartheid was a cause that gathered many around the world. The African-American university student Barack Obama and the thousands of Cuban soldiers who went to Angola were among them. Mandela inspired them and thanked them all for their contribution. Barack Obama and Raul Castro were on the same side of the South African conflict, Mandela’s side. They had common adversaries like Senator Jesse Helms, author of the insignia law of the embargo against Cuba, and the loudest voice in the racist and reactionary resistance against American repudiation of apartheid.
A gesture says more than a thousand words. Obama behaved in accord with the dignity and protocol that comes with leading a democratic superpower. The handshake would not have been extraordinary without past deviations by the U.S. from all diplomatic norms in its policy towards Cuba. In Mexico in 2002, then-president George W. Bush put President Vicente Fox on the ropes by demanding that Mexico arrange the Monterrey summit in a way that he did not have to greet Fidel Castro. Fox asked Fidel Castro to speak, eat and leave before Bush arrived. When Fidel revealed their phone conversation, Fox’s decision to genuflect toward the North caused a crisis in the relations between Havana and Mexico City.
Article continues here: Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?
Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands
By John McAuliff
There has never been a more propitious moment in the spirit of Nelson Mandela for President Obama to make an historic change in U.S.-Cuba relations. As I wrote in a previous post, Judy and Alan Gross have given the White House the moral authorization, if not obligation, to negotiate with Cuba to achieve Alan’s release. Two-thirds of the Senate have given it the political space by signing a letter initiated by Senator Leahy.
Cuba has just reaffirmed in friendly language its readiness and the parameters for agreement (exact text here). The content is not new but in the current context is tantalizingly suggestive of the choice facing President Obama.
Cuban President Raul Castro has called for “civilized relations” with the United States, saying the two countries should respect their differences.
Article continues here: Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands
The Algemeiner.com (JNS.org) — The lead attorney for Alan Gross said the recent freedom attained by Jacob Ostreicher, who was held for more than two years in Bolivia, does not shed any light on Gross’s case.
Dec. 3 marked the fourth anniversary of the incarceration of Gross, who is serving a 15-year prison term for helping Cuba’s Jewish community access the Internet while he was a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development. “I think that each of these cases has its own set of facts, including the country that’s holding these people, and that really helps to determine what happens,” Gross’s attorney, Scott Gilbert of Gilbert LLP, told JNS.org. “The United States has a decades-long history of negotiating to obtain the release of Americans who’ve been held in foreign countries that we either have very good diplomatic relations with or very hostile relations with.”
Gilbert said there has been “virtually no serious engagement with the Cuban government to attempt to negotiate Alan’s release” since his imprisonment. “The Cuban government, at the highest levels, has made very clear to us both privately and publicly that they would sit down with the United States with no preconditions to discuss the conditions of Alan’s release and try to negotiate a resolution, and the United States has yet to sit down and do that,” he said.
by Netfa Freeman
René González is the only member of the Cuban Five to be released from prison since their arrest in 1998. His verdict on the U.S. criminal justice system: “The judges are stupid dogs. That’s what they are, most of them. They don’t have any sense of justice at all. And when a political guy ends up being a defendant, what falls on him is the whole hatred of a system that is unjust in itself.”
November 13th to 16th, 2013 was the 9th International Colloquium for the Freedom of the Five and Against Terrorism held in Holguín, Cuba, at the eastern end of the island, 85 miles west of Guantanamo. The goal of the Colloquium, organized by ICAP (The Cuban Friendship Institute), was to strengthen the unified international strategy to win the release of The Cuban 5; Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René González; men imprisoned in the US for the last fifteen years essentially for fighting terrorism orchestrated in the US. Due to the lack of response from the FBI to stop such attacks, Cuba sent the Cuban 5 to Miami to monitor the organizations perpetrating these acts of violence. The idea was to gather information about similar acts that were in the planning stages in order to derail them before they were carried out.
One of The Five, René González, was released on October 7, 2011, after serving his entire sentence. On April 22, 2013 René returned to Cuba for his father’s funeral and on May 11, Judge Lenard allowed him to stay there provided that he renounce his United States citizenship. That wasn’t a hard decision for René.
Soon to be released is Fernando Gonzalez in February. While millions worldwide look forward to this, it is not justice. Justice would be for all five men to have never gone to prison in the first place. The other brothers – Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, and Antonio Guerrero – have much too much longer sentences to go and should be freed unconditionally. We still have to work for that.
During my visit to Cuba, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing with René:
Netfa Freeman: I just want to ask you, brother, a few questions to help our listeners understand things more, hopefully be fortified with information. I want to say this is an honor and thank you for giving me this interview.
I’m reading Stephen Kimber’s book right now. First is, I understand that you were born in the US. Your family, your parents moved to the US before the Cuban revolution and then ended up moving back afterward. So the first question is really what knowledge and information might your parents have imparted to you or shared with you that gave you your political consciousness and your commitment to the Cuban Revolution? And particularly if you could share how that might have influenced your choice to fight in Angola. You were one of those who served in Angola against apartheid South Africa, to help Angola get its independence.
René González: I want to start by advising everybody to read Kimber’s book. In my opinion it’s the best thing that’s been written about the case. He did great research. He wrote a book which is tied to the facts, to the most elemental things. So it’s a good way to get acquainted with the case, which on the other side is a very complex case. Now you say my parents. They are working class Cubans who by different ways ended up in the States in the 50’s. They met there and I was born in 1956. Then in 1959 came the Cuban Revolution. Since the beginning of the revolution they felt sympathy for the goals and the purpose of the revolutionary process. So they decided to come home in 1961.
Article continues here: An Interview with René González, of the Cuban 5
Editor’s Note: Netfa Freeman is Events Coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.
By Michael Sneed, Chicago Sun-Times.com
Our man in Havana?
Former U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who fears his government has ignored his plea to be freed from a tortuous four-year stint in a Cuban jail cell, has a new champion.
To wit: Former Gov. George Ryan, who was the first U.S. governor in 40 years to lead a trade delegation to Cuba and was promised a Cuban memorial by then-Cuban leader Fidel Castro for doing so, is now petitioning for the release of Gross.
Sneed has learned that Ryan, who was released earlier this year after serving more than five years in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., after a conviction on corruption charges, met recently with Rodney A. Gonzalez Maestrey, a member of the Cuban Interests Section of the U.S. State Department, to petition for the release of Gross.
“Gross is elderly and sick, his mother and daughter now have cancer, and I agree with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the man’s release is a matter of grave urgency,” said Ryan, who lost his wife, Lura Lynn, to cancer while he was in prison. Ryan claims he met Maestrey (sic) over lunch recently at the Union League Club to discuss Gross, who was charged with selling contraband satellite equipment to Cuban dissidents.
Gross reportedly was working on a U.S. government-funded project setting up Internet connections in Cuba. His family claims he was working to help Jewish groups set up Web access. Just recently, Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, sent a personal letter to President Barack Obama on the fourth anniversary of his incarceration, expressing fear that his government had “abandoned” him.
Ryan said he took advantage of an invitation to lunch “with the Cuban ambassador” while he was in town on tourism business “with men who had helped us in Cuba.”
Ryan dined with Fidel Castro twice in the past. “It was Castro who set up my subsequent meeting with Nelson Mandela when I led a trade mission to South Africa in 2000,” Ryan said. “I just thought maybe I could help in some way by getting a message to the Castro government somehow.”
Ryan now joins a bipartisan group of 66 U.S. senators seeking the release of Gross.
Durbin weighed in on the Gross case on the Senate floor last December, after a visit with the government contractor. “This man is not a threat to the sovereignty of the Cuban government, as they claim,” Durbin said then. “He’s a good man with good intentions, an honest man who just wants to come home to his family . . . Holding Alan Gross as a political hostage is the wrong way to solve any problem between our two countries.”
Editor’s Note: Rodney Amaury González Maestrey is a Third Secretary at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC.
Many thanks to Jorge L. Garcia Vazquez (STASI-MININT Connection) for reporting on the Cuban Ambassador in Berlin, René Mujica Cantelar. The former deep-cover spy has extensive experience in Europe, as noted in my Miami Herald feature, ”When Spies Become Diplomats,” written several years ago when he served as Havana’s ambassador to London.
Read the full STASI-MININT story here (in Spanish) La Embajada de Cuba en Alemania: Centro de Desinformación e Influencia .Agentes con fachada profunda?
Irma Gonzalez, daughter of Rene Gonzalez, advocates for her father’s imprisoned spy-partners.
His mom died in 1999, trying to get him to freedom in the U.S.
By Joseph Perkins / Orange County Register
Elizabeth Brotons Rodriguez died in vain. Fourteen years ago, she decided to flee communist Cuba with her 6-year-old son, Elian. She wanted the boy to grow up in the United States, a land of freedom and opportunity.
The day after leaving Cuba, the small boat ferrying Elizabeth, Elian and 12 other Cuban refugees capsized off the coast of Florida. Elian’s mom drowned. Her boy was rescued at sea by two Florida fishermen Nov. 25, 1999.
The U.S. government placed Elian in the custody of his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, a Miami resident who sought asylum for the boy. The request was challenged by Elian’s father back in Cuba, who parted ways with Elian’s mom when the boy was 3.
Elian’s great uncle warned that if the boy was returned to Cuba, he would be used as a propaganda tool by the Castro government and would be subjected to involuntary indoctrination in the tenets of communism.
Elian’s father, backed by the Castro regime, argued that his parental rights trumped any other consideration, including the wishes of Elian’s mother, who died trying to get her son away from Cuba.
In the end, the Clinton administration sided with the communists. And the fears of Lazaro Gonzalez have since been fully realized. Elian, now 20, is, indeed, a propaganda tool for the Castro government. And the young man has indeed been indoctrinated in the tenets of communism.
The prima facie evidence is Elian’s visit this week to Ecuador for the World Festival of Youth and Students, during which he said that Washington – not Havana – was responsible for his mom’s watery death.
“Just like her,” said Elian, “many others have died attempting to go the United States. But it’s the U.S. government’s fault. Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba.”
That’s exactly the kind of anti-American pronouncement to be expected from Elian, 14 years after his repatriation to Castro’s Cuba.
Upon his return to the island, he immediately became a Young Pioneer (the Cuban equivalent of Nazi Germany’s Hitler Youth). Then he “joined” the Young Communist Union. Then he “enlisted” in military school.
Now he’s a propagandist for the Castro government, invited to deliver a keynote in Quito, at what CNN describes as a “left-wing conference,” and at which more than 10,000 young Communists like Elian will “discuss global struggles against imperialism.”
Article continues here: Elian Gonzalez Now Just a Castro Mouthpiece
By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com
A Cuban pastor who has been harshly critical of the government says he was denied permission to travel abroad last month for a religious gathering even though his passport and visa were all in order. Bernardo de Quesada Salomón said he was checking in at the Havana airport Nov. 27 for a flight to the Dominican Republic when immigration officials told him his computer records showed he had a “limitation” and could not leave the island. Authorities never told him the reasons for the block, de Quesada said, but State Security officials in his hometown of Camagüey told neighbors that it was because he had illegally added a bathroom to a house he was turning into a church.
Cuba’s government lifted a widely hated requirement for an exit permit on Jan. 14, but retained the power to block any travel abroad for a blanket “national interest” that has never been detailed. Others blocked from traveling abroad have included another pastor in de Quesada’s Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics, Mario May Medina, and a dozen former political prisoners paroled before completing their long sentences.
The London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an organization that advocates religious freedom and human rights and was sponsoring the conference in the Dominican Republic, urged the Cuban government to lift the “limitation.” De Quesada’s participation in the conference “cannot seriously be considered a threat to national security,” Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement Thursday. “CSW is concerned that this may open the door to the Cuban government arbitrarily banning other religious leaders from traveling out of the country.”
De Quesada, 48, an Evangelical pastor, said he was arrested, harassed and blocked from traveling abroad several times from 2003 to this year because of his work with the Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics and the New Apostolic Reform in Cuba. He is not a dissident, he said, but his efforts to “preach the biblical truth have put me against this communist government,” he told El Nuevo Herald on Thursday in a phone interview from Camagüey. De Quesada said he made two trips abroad this year, the last one in October, but apparently angered State Security officials in Camagüey when scores of his supporters greeted him at the city’s airport on this last return.