Miami Herald Ignores Abundant Spy Ties in Coverage of “Cuba Conference” 10

Yesterday’s Herald featured the innocent sounding article, Supporters of Stronger US Relations With Cuba Stage Rare Gathering in Miami. The author, longtime Cuba-watcher Juan Tamayo, wrote “A rare conference of supporters of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations heard calls Saturday for the Obama administration to allow more travel to the island and remove it from a list of supporters of terrorism.”

The career journalist noted that over 100 people attended the one-day event that offered panelists such as “Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban foreign policy expert at the University of Denver, and Antonio Zamora, a Miami lawyer and member of the Brigade 2506 that invaded Cuba in 1961. He now favors normalizing bilateral relations.”

Conference promoter Hugo Cancio, however, lamented that Washington denied a visa to “invited panelist, retired Havana diplomat Jesus Arboleya, and denied permission to attend the conference to two Cuban diplomats in Washington – First Secretary Juan Lamigueiro and General Counsel Llanio Gonzalez.” Tamayo also spoke with Collin Laverty, a U.S. citizen who works with U.S. visitors to the island, who told him about 90 percent of Americans visiting Cuba are funneled through the Cuban government’s Havanatour agency. (Note: The actual name is Havanatur).

Alarmingly, you could fill volumes with all the intelligence service connections the Herald conveniently omitted. A few of these key facts would include:

Arturo Lopez-Levyin his own book – admitted to having been a spy with Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Likewise, the Herald failed to note the seven-year PhD candidate’s close family ties to Raul Castro’s son-in-law, MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

• The banned panelist, Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by intelligence service defector Jesus Perez Mendez in 1983. Years later, Arboleya’s intelligence service was further corroborated by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez.

Arboleya served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section. During his US tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was inspired by the DGI, (then) Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

• The Havanatur office in Miami surveilled Cuban-Americans seeking to visit the island and recruited agents from among them, according to 1981 Congressional testimony. Subsequently, the US Treasury Department identified Havanatur and CIMEX (among others) as Cuban front companies. In the intelligence arena, a “Front Company” is any entity created, controlled, or heavily influenced by a spy service to fulfill espionage missions without its actions being attributed to the host intelligence service.

In March 2004, the US Treasury identified Havanatur as a CIMEX subsidiary. Public records reveal CIMEX’s involvement in everything from weapons purchases for leftist guerillas in the 1980s to more genteel import/export endeavors.

Havanatur, as well as the remainder of Cuba’s tourism sector, is run as a joint venture by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). For almost 20 years, credible defectors and émigrés have reported that part of the earnings from tourism are channeled back into the operating budgets of these two agencies. As a result, US tourists are actively funding Cuban repression and espionage.

• The entry point for the much heralded “people-to-people” tours is the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). DGI officer Jesus Raul Perez Mendez was the ICAP director before his defection. So well known is ICAP’s collaboration that in 1983, the New York Times cited a State Department spokesman who said ICAP was suspected of having an intelligence collection mission in support of the DGI.

More recently, former DI officer Juan Manuel Reyes-Alonso reportedly that ICAP is not a DI entity per se, but that it was overwhelmingly influenced by the intelligence service. He further claimed ICAP was penetrated by a small cadre of bona fide DI officers, aided by a large staff of agents (i.e., collaborators). As a result, roughly 90% of ICAP was thought to be DI-affiliated.

So the question of the day remains: why is the Miami Herald so adamant about ignoring, suppressing, minimizing or discrediting news on Havana’s spy services?

Editor’s Note: A copy of this post was sent to the Miami Herald as a “Letter to the Editor.”

Freed Spy Rene Gonzalez in Paris to Thank Supporters 1

Convicted Spy Rene Gonzalez Thanking Supporters in France (Courtesy:  PRELA)

Convicted Spy Rene Gonzalez Thanking Supporters in France (Courtesy: PRELA)

Earlier today, Prensa Latina announced that convicted spy Rene Gonzalez was in France, where he thanked supporters of the “Cuban Five.” In a gathering held at the Cuban Embassy in Paris – the historical hub for Cuban spy operations in France, Gonzalez lamented the media’s disinterest in the “Cuban Five” story, but told those gathered “this silence could not prevent you (sic) declare your solidarity with us.” According to PRELA, attendees included “France Cuba, Cuba Si France, activists for the release of The Five, associations of Cuban residents, political leaders, intellectuals, and diplomats.”

In response to a question from PRELA, a media outlet long-known for its collaboration with Cuban Intelligence, Gonzalez recalled that “some of the first letters of support…” came from French citizens “Annie Arroyo and Jacqueline Roussie…” who wrote letters to President Obama every month demanding the release of Cuba’s spies.

Oblivious to his own hypocrisy, Gonzalez also recycled Havana’s time-worn criticism of the US for once paying journalists to write news stories against the Castro regime. Will someone please tell him who pays the staff at PRELA, ACN, Granma, etc?????

‘A Couple of Possibilities’ on Alan Gross Case, Kerry Tells Diaz-Balart Reply

By Progreso Weekly

Excerpt from John Kerry’s testimony Wednesday (March 12) to a House subcommittee on the federal budget. Asked about efforts to release USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, now held in Cuba, Kerry said:

“I have been meeting repeatedly, particularly in the last few months, on the Alan Gross issue. In fact, I met with his family just a couple of weeks ago and we — I am not going to go into it here, but I will tell you that we are very focused on a couple of possibilities on how we might try to approach that. We really want to get him back because obviously we don’t think he’s that well, and he’s wrongly in prison as far as we’re concerned, obviously. So, it’s a major priority for us, and the White House likewise. The White House has been very involved, we’re working together in initiatives to try to do this. We hit a stone wall in a couple but we’re continuing to try to do that. And I have a couple of ideas that I hope will work. So, we’ll see what happens.”

Venezuela: As Protests Grow More Violent, Should Neighbors Weigh In? Reply

Members of the Union of South American Nations meet today to discuss the crisis in Venezuela. With at least 21 dead amid antigovernment protests, will Venezuela get further regional backing?

By Sibylla Brodzinsky, Correspondent / Christian Science Monitor

(SAN CRISTÓBAL, VENEZUELA) As violence intensifies in Venezuela amid month-long antigovernment protests, concern over instability in the oil rich nation is demanding the attention of the region. But Venezuela’s neighbors, many of which have integrated economic or security interests with this South American country, are wary of angering Caracas, which has rejected any interference in its domestic unrest.

At least 21 people have died and hundreds more have been wounded in protests against the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Protesters say they are exercising a legitimate right to voice dissent while the government claims it is part of a US-backed plan to destabilize the country.

As clashes mount, and as reports of violent tactics by protesters, government forces, and third-party, pro-government militias increase, observers are asking if it is time for the international community to unite in encouraging concrete steps toward calm in Venezuela.

The handful of countries that have spoken out in recent weeks – calling for peace and talks – were met with Venezuelan reactions that ranged from cutting off all diplomatic ties (Panama) to kicking out embassy staff (the US) to stern warnings (Colombia and Chile).

Last week, the DC-based Organization of American States (OAS) convened at the behest of Panama to discuss the problem and issued a lukewarm statement supporting the Venezuelan government. Today, the foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have called an emergency meeting – encouraged by Venezuela – to address the growing conflict.

The meeting of only South American leaders, a forum initiated by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2008, is expected to release a statement of support for President Maduro.
Venezuela’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with Panama last week after it called for the OAS gathering sent a clear message to neighbors, says Julia Buxton, a Venezuela expert at the Central European University.

“It was a warning shot to other countries not to meddle in what Venezuela considers internal affairs,” Ms. Buxton says.

Article continues here: Venezuela: As protests grow more violent, should neighbors weigh in?

Venezuela Says Police Killed Government Agent in Bungled Arrest of Protester Reply

By Daniel Wallis, Caracas

CARACAS, March 10 (Reuters) – Venezuelan prosecutors accused a policeman on Monday of shooting dead a young female intelligence agent that he mistook for a kidnapper after her plainclothes team forced a suspected protester into their car.

The incident took place on Friday in a wealthy eastern part of Caracas, in an area where hooded opposition demonstrators clash nightly with riot police. At least 21 people have died in the country’s worst unrest for a decade.

With various state security agencies operating in the capital’s opposition-governed Chacao district, many residents had feared a confrontation between them and the separate police force that works for the municipality and its mayor.

In grainy security camera footage, members of national intelligence agency SEBIN were seen grappling with a young man who was apparently carrying home groceries, before pushing him into the back of an unmarked car.

Chacao police says its officers on motorcycles pursued the SEBIN vehicle onto a nearby highway, believing they were going to rescue a kidnap victim.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres says they caught up with the car in traffic and opened fire several times without warning, killing a 25-year-old female SEBIN agent.

“There’s no doubt they committed a homicide … they broke all the rules of a police force and must go to prison,” Torres told the Caracas-based television network Telesur.

“This was no kidnapping. It was a detention,” he said, adding the 20-year-old man was captured by SEBIN after being identified from videos of protesters engaged in “violent acts.”

Venezuela’s state prosecutor said in communique that one Chacao police officer was detained on suspicion of murder, while two others alleged to have been involved were given bail.

The country suffers from one of the worst crime rates in the world, and murders, robberies and kidnappings are common.

Residents in neighborhoods where protesters have blocked roads and clash with police complain that the city’s many gun-toting thugs are profiting from the chaos by committing crimes, including abductions, with even more impunity than normal. (Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Editor’s Note: SEBIN, the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (“Bolivarian National Intelligence Service”) is the premier intelligence agency in Venezuela. It is the successor to DISIP, the Dirección Nacional de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevención (“National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services”).

UN Human Rights Commissioner Meets Cuban Spy 4

"Former" DI officer Adriana Perez

“Former” DI officer Adriana Perez

Radio Cadena Agramonte has reported that UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri, met in Geneva with “former” Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Adriana Pérez. She is the wife of Gerardo Hernández, the Military Intelligence officer “loaned” to the DI to run the Wasp Network. It was under his supervision that the massive spy network conducted Operation Scorpion. This mission supported the Cuban Air Force’s murder of four search and rescue crewmen flying with Brothers to the Rescue.

During yesterday’s meeting, the “former” spy asked the UN to urge Washington to release Havana’s three remaining jailed spies. She also told the UN official that her husband and the others, physically and mentally, are not doing well in prison. Speaking for myself, that’s probably something they should have considered before they spied against the US and engaged in a conspiracy to commit murder.

Editor’s Note: Hernández’s wife, Adriana Pérez O’Connor, was still in training as a Directorate of Intelligence (DI) asset when the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa) was brought down in September 1998. She and her children were deported and permanently banned re-entry visas. Her mission had been to courier messages and material between Havana and Miami.

Time for a New Puerto Rican Independence Movement 2

By Frank Worley-Lopez, The Canal [Blog of the PanAm Post]

My conversion from pro-statehood to pro-Puerto Rican independence has been a tough one. I’ve always considered myself more US American than Puerto Rican, always been pro-United States, and always been (and still am) a strong supporter of the idea of a constitutional republic with a bill of rights — and oh yeah, I’m a capitalist. My vision of independence for Puerto Rico is vastly different from the vision promoted by the Puerto Rico Independence Party.

It is not surprising then that I don’t have so many supporters.

Puerto Ricans in New York City celebrate their heritage. Source: NYC Parade Life.

This week my disdain for the current Puerto Rico independence movement received yet another boost when semi-retired PIP President Rubén Berríos Martínez proved once again to be the most important figure preventing any chance of independence. Berríos publicly supported the Venezuelan government in their fight against the evil fascist students who are demanding such horrid things as honest elections and freedom (perish the thought!).

I once interviewed Ruben in his then-Senate office, where he proudly talked of visiting Cuba and hugging Fidel Castro. While they swear they are not communists, but social democrats, the PIP has steadfastly supported the Cuban communist regime and the transition to communism by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

That really is not surprising when anecdotal (and historical) evidence suggests that the Puerto Rico nationalist movement and independence movement were actually organized with the help of the Cuban equivalent of the CIA. Nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, who led the Macheteros (machete wielders) terrorist group was recruited by the Cuban Intelligence Service in 1961. If ever I had a fear in having switched sides from pro-statehood to pro-independence, it was that somehow I would be lumped in with the communist movement.

Read more here: Time for a New Puerto Rican Independence Movement

Cuban Ambassador Accompanies Castro Apologist Stephen Kimber on Book Tour Reply

THURSDAY, MARCH 6 5 p.m. Stephen Kimber, author of ‘What Lies Across the Water: the Real Story of the Cuban Five,’ reads at Harbourfront Library. Cuban Ambassador to Canada Julio Garmendia Pena will accompany Kimber. Open to the public. – See more at: Nanaimo Daily News (British Columbia)

Sen. Rubio: Alan Gross Is Being Held As A ‘Hostage’ In Cuba 1

(JP Updates) In a floor speech on the situation in Cuba, that the national media had described as his comeback moment for the 2016 presidential election, Florida Marco Rubio noted that the Jewish American contractor, Alan Gross, is being held up a a “hostage” in Cuba for handing out satellite radios to Jewish Cubans.

The blistering speech came in response to a speech given by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), returning from a visit in Cuba, where he praised the Cuban government for their hospitality and for what he called their advanced health care system and socialized education system.

“We heard about Mr. Gross, who is not in jail. He’s not a prisoner. He is a hostage. He is a hostage,” said Sen. Rubio. “And in the speech I heard a moment ago, I heard allusions to the idea that maybe we should — he didn’t say it, but I know the language, I know the code in this — that maybe there should be a spy swap. Here’s the problem: Mr. Gross was not a spy. You know what his crime was, if that’s what you can call it? He went to Cuba to hand out satellite radios to the Jewish community.”

“But, we’re glad to hear that the Cubans are so nice to him that they let him walk 10,000 steps a day and do pull-ups and they let him build a necklace out of bottle cap tops. Very nice of them to allow him to do those things. How generous,” he added.

Watch Rubio’s floor speech below:

Rubio Delivers Floor Speech On Crisis In Venezuela

Britain Denies Visa For Cuban Spy Freed By US 1

(AFP) Havana — One of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents convicted by the US of spying has been denied a British visa to attend a London symposium, Cuban media said Wednesday.

Rene Gonzalez, who served 13 years in US prison before his release in 2011, had been invited to a two-day conference put on by “Voice for the Five,” an organization that fights “for freedom and justice for the Cuban Five.”

The men were convicted in a 2001 US spy case that made them heroes in Havana. Three of the men are still in prison in the United States.

Cuba has acknowledged that they were its agents but says they were spying on exiles to prevent terror attacks in Cuba.

The Cuban state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Gonzales (sic), 55, received notice that he had been denied a visa a few hours before he was to depart from Havana for the March 7-8 event.

It added that British law prohibits entry of a person sentenced to more than four years in prison and that the British government “doesn’t consider Gonzalez‘s attendance at the international commission sufficient to justify his visa.”

Gonzalez is the principal witness for the event,” Juventud Rebelde said.

The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and tried as part of a ring linked to the shoot-down of two private aircraft belonging to an exile group called Brothers to the Rescue. Four people were killed in the incident.

Gonzalez, who was to serve three years of parole in the United States after being released in October 2011, returned to Cuba in April 2013 to visit his family.

From there, he renounced his US citizenship, effectively ending his sentence in a move accepted by Washington.

A second member of the Five, Fernando Gonzalez, was released last Thursday from a maximum-security prison in the US state of Arizona and then deported to Cuba, after spending more than 15 years behind bars.

The other three agents are serving life sentences in the United States.