Are Cuban Special Forces Shooting at Venezuelan Protesters? 2

By Alice Speri, VICE News

Eduardo Barreto isn’t sure if the armed guards that have been shooting at him were even Venezuelan.

Since joining his country’s protests earlier this month, the 20-year-old economics student from Valencia has been tear-gassed and chased by officers on motorcycles. He has watched his friends get shot in the back as they fled, and he was marching on the same street where student and beauty queen Génesis Carmona was killed last week.

He has little love for the National Guard, which the government has unleashed on protesters, but if he’s going to get shot, he’d like it at least to be done by a countryman.

“We know there are Cuban officers within our National Guard,” said Barreto, repeating widespread but unconfirmed reports that president Nicolás Maduro’s government might have tapped its island neighbor for help in protecting its Bolivarian revolution. “Can you imagine Russian officers joining the US National Guard to shoot at American citizens there? That’s unacceptable.”

Barreto says he has no doubt that at least some of the officers he has come across are Cuban. Early on in the protests—before guards started shooting at him—he brought them water bottles to cool off while they watched over demonstrators.

“They were in the streets standing in the sun all day, and I wanted to be friendly,” Barreto said. “One of them, when he thanked me, had a Cuban accent. I know a Cuban accent; I have uncles there.”

Read complete article here: Are Cuban Special Forces Shooting at Venezuelan Protesters?

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Dr. Brian Latell – The Venezuelan Crisis: Implications for Cuba; Options for the U.S. 1

MODERATOR: Jaime Suchlicki, is the Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor of History and Director of The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. He also directs the Cuba Transition Project, and is the Editor of the Cuban Affairs Journal. His best-known books are Cuba: From Columbus to Castro, now in its fifth edition, and editor with lrving L. Horowitz of Cuban Communism, now in its eleventh edition. He is also the author of Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of the PAN and Breve Historia de Cuba

PANELISTS: Dr. Brian Latell, is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS). He was a Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University. Dr. Latell served as National Intelligence Officer for Latin America from 1990-1994. His work as a Latin America specialist for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Intelligence Council began in the 1960s. He was awarded the CIA’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal. Latell has published extensively on Cuba, Mexico, other Latin America subjects, and on foreign intelligence issues. Dr. Latell is the author of After Fidel: Raul Castro and the Future of Cuba’s Revolution and of Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, the CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Pedro Roig, Esq. is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, historian, attorney and author of the book “The Death of a Dream: A History of Cuba.” He is a veteran of the Brigade 2506.

Dr. Jose Azel is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS), University of Miami. He was one of the founders of Pediatrix Medical Group, the nation’s leading provider of pediatric specialty services. Dr. Azel was an Adjunct Professor of International Business at the School of Business Administration, Department of Management, University of Miami. He is the author of Mañana in Cuba.

Dr. Susan Kaufman Purcell, Director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami. Prior to assuming her current position, Dr. Purcell was Vice President of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society in New York, and from 1980-1981 she was a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff. She has written extensively on Latin America and on U.S. Policy.

Russian Spy Ship Docked in Havana 1

A Soviet-made Lada limousine passes by Russian Vishnya (also known as Meridian) class warship CCB-175 Viktor Leonov, docked, on February 26, 2014, at Havana harbor

(AFP) A Russian warship was docked in Havana Wednesday, without explanation from Communist Cuba or its state media.

The Viktor Leonov CCB-175 boat, measuring 91.5 meters (300 feet) long and 14.5 meters wide, was docked at the port of Havana’s cruise ship area, near the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

The Vishnya, or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, Russian media sources said.

Neither Cuban authorities nor state media have mentioned the ship’s visit, unlike on previous tours by Russian warships.

The former Soviet Union was Cuba’s sponsor state through three decades of Cold War. After a period of some distancing under former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, the countries renewed their political, economic and military cooperation.

The ship is reportedly armed with 30mm guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Its visit comes as isolated Havana’s current economic and political patron, Venezuela, is facing unprecedented violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Cuban President Raul Castro’s Communist government is the Americas’ only one-party regime.

Another “Cuban 5” Spy Released From US Prison After More Than 15 years; Will Be Deported 1

By Curt Anderson, Associated Press

MIAMI — A second member of the “Cuban Five” — the spy ring whose arrests and convictions have caused repeated tensions between Washington and Havana — was released Thursday from a U.S. prison after spending more than 15 years behind bars.

Fifty-year-old Fernando Gonzalez, known to U.S. authorities by the alias Ruben Campa, completed his sentence at 4 a.m. local time a prison in Safford, Ariz., Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.

Now the Five, as they are sometimes called, are down to three.

Gonzalez was turned over immediately to the custody of immigration officials, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. For security reasons, she said she could not disclose exactly where he was being held or when he would be returned to Cuba, but a deportation order has already been issued.

The five men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. They were known as part of the “Wasp Network” sent by Cuba’s then-President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida.

Trial testimony showed they sought to infiltrate military bases, including the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command and installations in the Florida Keys. They also kept tabs on Cuban exiles opposed to the communist government in Havana and sought to place operatives inside campaigns of U.S. politicians opposed to that government, prosecutors said.

Havana maintains that the agents posed no threat to U.S. sovereignty and were only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terrorist attacks in Cuba, the best known of which was a series of bombings of Havana hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997. Cuban leaders regularly call for the men to be released.

Cuba announced a concert Saturday night at the University of Havana in honor of the five men, though it was not immediately clear whether Gonzalez would be in Cuba by then.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma published interviews Thursday with two of Gonzalez’s friends back home. Rafael Hojas said the two knew each other as young students and crossed paths on international missions in Africa.

“I hope he spends as little time as possible in an immigration jail and can enjoy as soon as possible his mother, his wife, his family, and we’ll see when we might be able to meet,” Hojas was quoted as saying.

Gonzalez‘s mother, Magali Llort, told The Associated Press that she sometimes thinks her son’s release is a dream “but luckily it’s a great reality. But we can’t feel satisfied with Fernando arriving and Rene having come. We have to keep up the fight so that the rest, their brothers, are here,” she said.

The Cuban Five have sometimes been linked to the case of American Alan Gross, who has spent four years in a Cuban prison after he was arrested while working covertly to set up Internet access for the island’s Jewish community. He was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which Cuba considers bent on undermining its government.

Cuba has suggested it might swap Gross for the Cuban Five, but Washington has rejected any such deal.

Gonzalez was originally sentenced to 19 years but had his prison term reduced after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said he was wrongly labeled a supervisor of other spies for certain activities. Two others also had their prison sentences reduced by that same court order, including 55-year-old Antonio Guerrero, who is set for release in September 2017.

Rene Gonzalez, who is not related to Fernando Gonzalez, finished his prison sentence in 2011 but spent more than a year on probation in the U.S. until a judge allowed him to return to Cuba. Rene Gonzalez, a Chicago native, had dual U.S.-Cuban citizenship, and he renounced his U.S. citizenship after returning to Havana.

One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, is serving a life prison sentence for murder conspiracy for his role in the 1996 killings of four “Brothers to the Rescue” pilots whose planes were shot down by Cuban fighter jets. The organization dropped pro-democracy leaflets over Cuba and assisted Cuban migrants trying to reach the U.S.

Hilda Cardenas, a 47-year-old Cuban civil engineer, said people on the island follow the case closely and Fernando Gonzalez‘s release marks another step forward.

“What we the people of Cuba want is for all of them to be here. They deserve it,” she said.

Venezuela Arrests Five Intelligence Agents in Protest Killings 1

(AFP) Venezuelan authorities said Wednesday they had arrested five intelligence agents for suspected ties to killings during protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

On Monday, nine people were arrested in the same case including three SEBIN intelligence service members, and the rest police.

“The prosecutor’s office has detained five SEBIN officials for their alleged connections to the deaths of demonstrators Bassil Da Costa and Juan Montoya,” it said in a statement, noting that brought to 14 the number of arrests in the case.

Da Costa was a student involved in the protests against Maduro’s government, while Montoya was part of a pro-government organization.

Oil-rich but deeply divided Venezuela has been swept by student-led protests since February 4, posing the greatest challenge yet to Maduro’s government just under a year since he took office.

Maduro has sought to deepen the socialist, anti-American policies of his charismatic predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez.

But public anger over shortages of food and other basic goods, soaring inflation and rampant crime has served as kindling for street violence.

Maduro has responded to the street protests with force, arresting scores of demonstrators as well as prominent opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Judge Rejects Lawsuit Over Cuba’s 1996 Shoot-Down Reply

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

The brother of one of the South Florida pilots shot down and killed by Cuban MiGs 18 years ago says he will pursue his lawsuit demanding that U.S. prosecutors submit evidence of murder against Fidel and Raúl Castro to a grand jury.

“I don’t understand what these prosecutors have been doing all this time,” said Nelson Morales, 66, whose brother Pablo was killed in the Feb. 24, 1996 shootdown along with Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Peña.

Morales filed suit last year to force U.S. prosecutors in Miami to present to a grand jury any evidence of the Castro brothers’ guilt in the deaths, including recordings and interviews in which they accept responsibility for downing the planes.

The federal prosecutors filed murder charges against Gen. Ruben Martinez Puente, who commanded Cuba’s air defense in 1996, and brothers Lorenzo Alberto and Francisco Pérez Pérez, who piloted the MiGs. But they did not indict the Castro brothers.

U.S. Judge Donald H. Graham rejected Morales’ suit last month, ruling that the petitioner sought to encroach on prosecutorial discretions and that Morales had not met one of the technical requirements of the law.

Attorney Juan Carlos Zorrilla, who represents Morales, has filed a notice of appeal to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta. He argues that the lawsuit seeks only to force the prosecutors to present the evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury and prosecutors can then decline to pursue the case, the attorney added.
Zorrilla said Morales will separately attempt to resolve the technical issue by seeking a meeting with the federal prosecutors in Miami to personally turn over the evidence against the Castro brothers and ask that it be presented to the grand jury.

Former U.S. Attorney Kendall B. Coffey and Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto presented much of the evidence to the prosecutors in 2008, but Graham ruled the law required that Morales himself present the evidence.

“We will go to Atlanta, we will do anything and everything necessary for this case,” Morales said. “I don’t understand why a federal judge and federal prosecutors are protecting these murderers.”

Zorrilla filed the “writ of mandamus” — a request for a court order requiring the government to take action — in July to force prosecutors to submit any evidence implicating Fidel and Raúl Castro in the deaths. Prosecutors also should inform the grand jury that it can vote to pursue an inquiry on its own, the lawsuit added.

Editor’s Note: Fidel Castro personally approved Directorate of Intelligence (DI) activities supporting the shoot-down of “Brothers to the Rescue” aircraft. The spy service’s codename for the mission was “Operation Scorpion.”

Extract From Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 2/21/2014 1

Q: This is about Cuban American prisoners that I emailed you about. Our National Press Club group had a session at the Cuban Interest Section the other night, on the 19th. I ask (sic) the chief or the ambassador, José Cabañas, what it would take to free Alan Gross from a Cuban prison. Whether he is guilty or innocent, that’s irrelevant. Later he said to me, what about the three remaining prisoners in U.S. jails? Now, he said, he’d like to talk to somebody in the White House about this situation. He calls it a human rights situation. He doesn’t want to call it a prisoner swap or a prisoner exchange. He doesn’t appear to want to go through the Swiss. So my question is, are there any direct talks going on to try to resolve this human rights situation? Would the U.S. be willing to have —

MR. CARNEY: Well, we are very concerned about Alan Gross. We’ve expressed very clearly that he ought to be released immediately and we’ve made that view clear to the Cuban government. And we work on this issue all the time. I don’t have any conversations to read out to you, but it remains a concern of ours that we are focused on.

Q: But will the U.S. change policy and talk directly to Cuba about this?

MR. CARNEY: Again, we have conversations all the time that make very clear our views on this matter and I don’t think it is a mystery at all to the Cubans that we believe he ought to be released immediately.

Q: What about releasing Cuban prisoners?

MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get involved in a negotiation with another country from the podium. What I can tell you is our view is unequivocal.

Courtesy: NewsRoomAmerica.com

Jesuit College to Screen Discredited Saul Landau Film 1

Tomorrow evening, the Jesuit-founded Seattle University will screen Saul Landau’s masterpiece of misinformation “Will the real terrorist please stand up?” Hosted by the University’s Center for the Study of Justice in Society, the event will be held Friday, February 21st, from 6:30-8:30pm in Bannon 102. Associate Professor Pamela Taylor (206-296-2678), listed on the University’s calendar as the event’s contact person, could not be reached for comment.

Cuba: Rene Gonzalez Eyes Fellow Agent’s US Release 2

HAVANA (AP) — When Fernando Gonzalez walks out of an Arizona prison next week, the “Cuban Five” will be down to three.

Intelligence agents in the employ of Fidel Castro’s Cuba, they were arrested in the United States in 1998 and given terms ranging from 15 years to consecutive life sentences on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents. A federal appeals court upheld their convictions but voided three of their sentences, including Gonzalez’s, after finding they had gathered no “top secret” information.

Rene Gonzalez, no relation, was the first of the Cuban Five to go free in 2011. He was ordered to remain in the United States for more than a year after release. But U.S. officials say Fernando Gonzalez will be immediately handed to immigration authorities upon his release for the start of deportation proceedings.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rene Gonzalez said he hopes his comrade will soon join him in his new role as the public face of Cuba’s campaign to demand the other agents’ release. “I don’t know how he will feel when he comes. Probably he’ll need some rest, but I hope to see him at my side in this battle,” Gonzalez said on a recent morning in Havana, clad in a smart striped shirt and black pants. “I think he will be a good reinforcement.”

Rene Gonzalez was an unknown young pilot in 1990 when he pretended to steal a crop duster and flew to Florida, using cover as a Cuban defector to spy on targets in the United States. Rene and Fernando Gonzalez, along with the others, were convicted in 2001 of being part of a ring known as the “Wasp Network,” given the job by Cuba’s government of spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida, Cuban exile groups and politicians opposed to Castro’s government.

Havana maintains the agents posed no threat to U.S. sovereignty and were only monitoring militant exiles to prevent terror attacks in Cuba, the best known of which was a series of bombings of Havana hotels that killed an Italian tourist in 1997.

In 2013, Rene Gonzalez finally returned to his country of allegiance, if not birth, when a U.S. judge allowed him to renounce his American citizenship and cut short three years’ supervised release.

He is no longer just an anonymous husband and father of two. His and the other agents’ faces grace billboards across Cuba, where they are lionized as heroes for their clandestine monitoring of militant anti-Castro exiles.

“Now everyone recognizes me in the street,” Gonzalez said.

He has spent the last nine months or so living a relatively quiet existence, readjusting to family life with his wife, Olga Salanueva, and their teenage daughter, Ivette, in a small apartment in central Havana. Their other daughter, Irma, has grown up, married and has a child of her own.

But at a Latin American and Caribbean regional summit last month, Gonzalez was firmly in the spotlight talking to visiting foreign media and arguing Cuba’s case to “free the Five.”

Feature continues here: Cuba: Rene Gonzalez Eyes Fellow Agent’s US Release

Editor’s Note: This AP report contains numerous errors, to include the Havana-created myth that the Wasp Network was limited to “spying on U.S. military installations in South Florida, Cuban exile groups and politicians opposed to Castro’s government.” In reality, the Wasp Network was led by a Military Intelligence officer on loan to the Directorate of Intelligence. As such, it targeted US military facilities from the Florida Keys, north through Florida, and then west along the Gulf of Mexico until it reached Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (home to B-52 long-range bombers).

The Wasp Network also directed several spies against the FBI, the local Chamber of Commerce, and most importantly – was a key participant in “Operation Scorpion,” – the 1996 murder of four Americans flying a Search & Rescue mission in international airspace.