Cat-And-Mouse Secrecy Game Plays Out Daily in Cuba 5

FILE--Frank Calzon, a Cuban-American who smuggles items like bibles and televisions into Cuba, displays merchandise in his Washington Freedom House office in this June 12, 1996 file photo.  CHUCK KENNEDY / KRT

FILE–Frank Calzon, a Cuban-American who smuggles items like bibles and televisions into Cuba, displays merchandise in his Washington Freedom House office in this June 12, 1996 file photo. CHUCK KENNEDY / KRT

By Juan O. Tamayo,

Cuban dissident Berta Soler says she and other members of the Ladies in White were handing out toys to children at Trillo Park in Havana when a State Security officer detained them and seized the 60 to 70 toys.

Soler said she protested that the women bought the toys legally in Havana with money received legally from supporters abroad. But the agent told her, “Berta, don’t play the fool, because you know those toys come from Miami, the terrorists.”

The March 15 incident reflected the cat-and-mouse game played almost daily by dissidents, supporters abroad who send them assistance and the security agents of a communist government that views most such aid — even toys — as “subversive.”

That’s why, several of the foreign supporters argue, they must use a measure of discretion when sending aid to democracy, human rights or Internet freedom activists in Cuba — enough to ensure it reaches the right people on the island but not so much that it raises suspicions of major illegalities.

“When State Security seizes laptops or even copies of the [U.N.’s] International Declaration of Human Rights, you have to use some discretion,” said Frank Calzon, head of the Center for Cuban Democracy in Washington.

The issue of secrecy in efforts to help Cuba’s civil society hit front pages last week when The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development had created a “covert” Twitter-like platform for Cubans. USAID said the program was not covert, only “discreet” because of the “nonpermissive environment” on the island.

Calzon said he did not mind talking about the precautions he takes in helping Cubans because his center no longer receives U.S. government grants for Cuba programs, and suspects that Havana knows them anyhow.

He stopped keeping important documents in his office after three break-ins in which thieves rifled through files but took no valuables, Calzon said. He keeps four shredders in his office and has it swept occasionally for eavesdropping devices.

Over the years he used foreigners visiting Cuba and other ways to deliver tens of thousands of shortwave radios, books and human rights declarations, Calzon said, “all things that would not be a problem in any normal society.”

But he never revealed the names of the travelers to USAID before they had left the island, Calzon added. And if he sent cash, he would ask one activist to distribute the money to others in need, but he never provided a full list of recipients.

Read more here: Cat-And-Mouse Secrecy Game Plays Out Daily in Cuba




  1. Frank Calzon had once the idea of dissidents flying 8 kites at the Malecon, each one with a letter in order to form the word LIBERTAD. He was lost in context. The winds at Malecon turn extremely difficult to align the kites. Out of touch with reality seems to be a feature of the agencies obsessed with opposing Castro by sending information to Cuba, while Castro keeps on sending Cubans to the U.S:

  2. The Cuban dissidence needs support from people who care.Supporters need to know that a simple newspaper signify a lot in a country that their repressive regime has sealed to the world and its people are relying in their Government own media and their State own newspaper agencies like the Granma newspaper,Juventud Rebelde and trabajadores newspaper.The world has change decades ago the battle was with conventional weapons,now a days is a media war to bring the truth to the people that are suffering from the Castro tyranny.I remembered as a kid growing there how much my family valued any newspaper from the US or other free country,a radio receiver was of extreme value,we listened to the BBC at early hour of the morning when the Cuban State police and informants were less active.

    • Cubans are not misinformed at all. There is no newspaper that can bring better information about them more than their daily life itself.

  3. The Clinton Administration legalized the Mariel boatlift by allowing 20,000 Cuban visas annually. 20,000 X 20 years = 400,000 economic immigrants who return to visit relatives after one year and send billions of dollars to prop up the dictatorship.

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