Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal To Wait Longer For Ambassadorship; Castro Makes Pragmatic Move And Appoints Incumbent Diplomat As US Ambassador 1

A man waves the US and Cuban flags as he walks in front of the new Cuban Embassy shortly before it's official ceremonial opening July 20, 2015, in Washington, DC. Getty Images/PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP

A man waves the US and Cuban flags as he walks in front of the new Cuban Embassy shortly before it’s official ceremonial opening July 20, 2015, in Washington, DC. Getty Images/PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP

Who Is Jose Ramon Cabanas? Veteran Diplomat Is Cuba’s First Ambassador To US In Over 50 Years

By Avaneesh Pandey, International Business Times

Jose Ramon Cabanas Rodriguez — a veteran diplomat who ran Cuba’s de facto embassy or “Interests Section” in Washington since 2012 — has become the first Cuban ambassador to the United States in over 50 years. The move came just two months after the two countries ended half a century of mutual hostility, and agreed to formally restore diplomatic ties.

Cabanas, who became the charge d’affaires when relations were formally restored on July 20, presented his credentials to U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House Thursday, where the latter also received new diplomats from 15 other nations.

“The Cuban ambassador’s accreditation to the United States is a further step within the process to normalize relations between both countries,” the Cuban embassy reportedly said, in a statement released Thursday.

Washington is yet to name its ambassador to Cuba.

Cabanas, an alumnus of Havana’s Institute of International Relations Raul Roa García, has served as Cuba’s vice minister of foreign relations and the country’s envoy to Austria.

In 2013, during his stint as the chief of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, the career diplomat said — in an interview with the Chicago Policy Review — that as a result of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, American companies were losing opportunities to invest in the Latin American nation.

Feature continues here: Ambassador

Editor’s Note: Career Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal, expelled from the US in 2003, continues to serve under shallow cover as head of the North America portfolio in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). One of Havana’s premier experts in US affairs, she was seen as the likely pick for Cuba’s first ambassador. Raul Castro made a pragmatic and safe move in going with the incumbent. That said, Cabanas is three years into his assignment, so Vidal may get another chance in two years (shortly after the US presidential elections).




Cuba’s Mysterious ‘Numbers Station’ Is Still on the Air 5

Illustration: Shaye Anderson

Illustration: Shaye Anderson

by Joshua Kopstein, Motherboard

On August 18 at 22:00 UTC, I heard a government intelligence agency transferring encrypted messages to spies over the radio.

Or at least, that’s the most common explanation for what I heard.

I dialed to the correct frequency—17480 kHz—using an internet-connected radio tuner maintained by a university in the Netherlands. Suddenly, over waves of static, an eerily-robotic woman’s voice began speaking a series of five-digit number sequences in Spanish.

About three minutes later, the numbers repeated in the same order, but this time each sequence was followed by a digital bell-like tone and a harsh blast of noise, like a 56K modem trying to connect to AOL in the 90s. This continued for about 20 minutes, each sequence punctuated by the bizarre noise blasts.

Then, static.

This is HM01, sometimes called “Voce De La Chica,” a shortwave numbers station believed to be operated by the Cuban intelligence directorate, Dirección de Inteligencia (DI).

To the casual listener, numbers stations are mysterious broadcasts of voices speaking streams of numbers which, in at least some cases, are encrypted messages being sent to government spies.

They have long seemed like Cold War relics, born in a time when spying meant boots-on-the-ground and internet surveillance was impractical or irrelevant. And yet, HM01 continues to operate in what the NSA has called a “golden age” of internet-enabled signals intelligence, and despite historic progress in US-Cuba relations earlier this summer.

While evidence suggests HM01 is operated by the Cuban government, it’s virtually impossible to tell who it’s sending to, which is one of the main tactical advantages of numbers stations: You can easily see the intended recipient of an email, but you can’t prove someone listened to a radio broadcast unless you catch them in the act.

Shortwave radio listeners (or SWLs, as they are known) have followed stations like HM01 for decades. According to members of Priyom.org, an online community of radio enthusiasts that monitors numbers stations, HM01 is a close relative of “Atención,” a government station that has operated for decades and whose transmissions wereused as key evidence in a case that convicted five Cuban spies in the late 90s.

Article continues here: HM01






Did Cuba Target Senator Menendez? 3

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. (Record - file photo) U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. (Record – file photo)

Fed Agent Lied About Menendez Meeting, Lawyers Say

By ABBOTT KOLOFF, staff writer | The Record

EXTRACT: Menendez’s attorneys said in court papers filed Tuesday that they anticipate disclosing “classified information” at trial about a “foreign service” that planted allegations against the senator “to discredit him for his foreign policy and national security views.” Last year, The Washington Post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency provided the Justice Department with information that the tip could have been connected to the Cuban government. Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, has been a vocal critic of President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A federal agent gave false testimony to a grand jury to make it appear that meetings about a drug reimbursement policy were focused only on helping a wealthy Florida eye doctor win a multimillion-dollar Medicare billing dispute, attorneys for Sen. Bob Menendez said in court papers filed late Thursday.

The filing was made to bolster a request to have corruption charges dropped against the New Jersey Democrat and the doctor, Salomon Melgen, and came in response to prosecutors’ saying in papers filed more than a week ago that the senator is trying to rewrite history about his advocacy for Melgen, a longtime friend.

The attorneys alleged that prosecutors gave grand jurors bad instructions about what constitutes corruption, failed to screen them for bias, leaked information that compromised the defense, and were “preoccupied with sex” by focusing on issues related to Melgen’s girlfriends and an investigation of underage prostitutes that turned out to be groundless.

Prosecutors have said they may call Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, to testify about a meeting they had with Menendez.

According to Menendez’s attorneys, Sebelius has said Reid and Menendez spoke to her during the meeting about how a drug reimbursement policy “was unfair to health providers.” According to court documents, a health official told the FBI that the senators were “not there to talk about a particular case; they were there to talk about policy.”

Article continues here: Did Cuba Target Menendez?


The Face of Cuban Propaganda Under “Normalization” 2

Expelled Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officers Josefina Vidal and Gustavo Machin led the Cuban delegation in yesterday’s normalization tallk in Havana. Photo: MINREX

Expelled Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officers Josefina Vidal and Gustavo Machin were center stage as they headed the Cuban delegation in yesterday’s normalization tallks in Havana. Photo: MINREX

PPPFocus.com reports Havana is adamant that “normalization would not happen as long as the economic blockade against Cuba stays on, as long as the US maintains its naval base in Guantanamo and as long as Cuba is not compensated for the economic damage caused by decades of hostility.”

Reuters reports Cuba is aggressively pushing a claim for more than $300 billion in economic damages because it understands “President Barack Obama is attempting to advance normalization as much as possible before his second and final term ends in January 2017.”  

Meanwhile, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) continues its unfettered loathing of Cuban exiles in features like “Miami Anti-Cuban Mafia Rejects Reopening of Cuban Embassy in the U.S.”

“We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.” — Gerardo Hernandez, Cuban spy who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court for the murder conspiracy of Americans, thereafter commuted and released by President Obama as part of his one-sided deal with Raul Castro [Courtesy: Capitol Hill Cubans]

Officials Met With Expelled Spy-Diplomat in Havana, Asking Cuba to Open a Consulate-Spy Base in St. Petersburg 3

Two weeks after a U.S. Embassy opened in Havana, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spent last weekend there meeting with a host of government officials

Two weeks after a U.S. Embassy opened in Havana, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spent last weekend there meeting with a host of government officials

By Chris Simmons

Last weekend, Mayor Rick Kriseman met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) officials to ask them to choose St. Petersburg as the home of the first Cuban Consulate on US soil in 54 years. Expelled Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Gustavo Machin Gomez, serving under the shallowest of “covers” as the MINREX Deputy Director for American Affairs, met with the mayor for about 90 minutes. The son of a revolutionary “hero,” Gustavo Machin was declared Persona Non Grata and expelled from the US in November 2002 in retaliation for the Ana Belen Montes spy case.

Tampa philanthropist David Straz Jr., part of the mayor’s delegation, told the Tampa Tribune the trip was an “absolute success.” Straz serves on Tampa’s Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation, the pro-normalization group sponsoring the trip. “St. Petersburg City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Chief of Staff Kevin King” also made the trip to Cuba.

Local officials seek to use a consulate, in part, to profit from the global coverage of our evolving US-Cuban relations. Overlooked by city officials is the intelligence threat posed by such a consulate. Tampa, just 20 minutes from St Pete, is home to the Middle East-focused US Central Command as well as US Special Operations Command — both major targets for Cuban spies. The region’s Cuban-American population, third largest in the US, is also targeted. Allowing Havana to post spy-diplomats in the area will actually drive down the cost of its spying against the US – a key concern given the regime’s service as intelligence trafficker to the world. Cuba’s targeting of US political, economic, and military secrets occurs not for defensive purposes, but because these secrets are viewed as a precious commodity to be sold or bartered globally. According to defectors and émigrés, American information is now reportedly among Havana’s top five revenue streams. Weapons shipments from China, oil from Venezuela, cash from Russia and pro-Cuba votes at the United Nations are among the rewards harvested from its espionage. As such, its time our elected officials started taking this espionage threat seriously and stopped pandering to the apartheid dictatorship in Cuba.



Why do Cuba “experts” Ann Louise Bardach and Wayne Smith so often and so lovingly source Cuban “defector” Domingo Amachustegui? Reply

by Humberto Fontova

(Below)  On left with “Cuba expert” Ann Louise Bardach   &  on right with “Cuba expert” Wayne Smith.   








There has been a sibling tug of war between Raúl and Fidel since childhood,” Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban intelligence officer, tells me over lunch this summer at Versailles…Domingo and I had originally met not long after his defection in the 1990s, and I’ve learned over more than two decades of covering Cuba that he has uncommon insights into the Caribbean island that has bedeviled every American president since Dwight Eisenhower. Indeed, he is that rare breed of defector who somehow manages to regularly visit his homeland.” (Ana Louise Bardach in Politico)

“A thoughtful Cuban defector,”(says Wayne Smith of Domingo Amuchastegui.)




Cuban “intelligence defector” Domingo Amuchastegui ( who somehow retains all the professional positions to his left–in Stalinist Cuba, from where he travels back and forth at leisure!)



Feature continues here: Faux Defector?

Editor’s Note:  In her book “Cuba Confidential,” Ann Louise Bardach admits to receiving a recruitment “pitch” from an intelligence officer assigned to the Cuban Interests Section (now Embassy) in Washington DC.