Obama names career diplomat as US ambassador to Cuba 1

Jeffrey DeLaurentis WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has tapped a career diplomat to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years.

The White House announced Tuesday that Obama plans to nominate Jeffrey DeLaurentis to the post. DeLaurentis currently is the top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Senate confirmation is required but could be tough to win before Obama’s term ends in January. Some Republican senators who oppose Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba have promised to block any ambassador nomination.

Obama says DeLaurentis’ leadership was vital throughout the normalization process. He says nominating an ambassador is a “common-sense” step toward more normal and productive relations between the two countries.

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Washington Post Conceals Truth Regarding Letelier Assassination 1

LEFT: Ronni Moffitt, who was a development associate at the Institute for Policy Studies at the time of her death in the 1976 car bombing. (Family photo) MIDDLE: Isabel Letelier, right, and Michael Moffitt embrace after placing roses at the site where Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt were killed in 1976. (UPI) RIGHT: Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., is pictured in April 1975. (Associated Press/AS)

LEFT: Ronni Moffitt, who was a development associate at the Institute for Policy Studies at the time of her death in the 1976 car bombing. (Family photo) MIDDLE: Isabel Letelier, right, and Michael Moffitt embrace after placing roses at the site where Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt were killed in 1976. (UPI) RIGHT: Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., is pictured in April 1975. (Associated Press/AS)

Washington Post:  This Was Not an Accident. This Was a Bomb

On a muggy autumn morning four decades ago, a car exploded in Washington. It had motored along Massachusetts Avenue NW, rounding the bend at Sheridan Circle, when a remote-controlled bomb taped beneath the vehicle was triggered.

A driver in a car nearby would later describe the fiery impact of the blast: “I saw an automobile actually coming down out of the air.”

The smoldering wreck lurched to a halt in front of the Romanian Embassy, its windows blown open and entire floor panel gone. A police officer who arrived on the scene remembered welling up with nausea. There was blood and debris everywhere and a human foot in the roadway. A fatally wounded man lay on the pavement; his legs were missing from above the knees.

This was Orlando Letelier, a 44-year-old former Chilean diplomat who had been driving to work at a D.C. think tank along with his colleague, Ronni Moffitt, 25, and her husband, Michael.

Letelier died within minutes. Shrapnel had pierced Ronni Moffitt’s throat, and she drowned in her own blood a half-hour later. Michael, who had been sitting in the back seat, tumbled out largely unscathed. He was beside himself in grief and shock.

“Assassins, fascists!” he exclaimed amid the carnage.

They were victims of a brazen, perhaps unprecedented plot, the target of a foreign regime that had sent agents into the United States to kill Letelier. Here was a case of state-sponsored terrorism in the heart of the American capital. Only in this instance, the state was a close Washington ally in the Cold War.

Letelier was a prominent opponent of the military rule of Chile’s Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who rose to power in a 1973 army coup that ousted and led to the death of the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. Letelier had served as Chile’s ambassador to the United States in Allende’s socialist government, which the CIA spent millions of dollars undermining through covert operations. On the day of the coup, Letelier was arrested and sent, with other ministers of Allende’s government, to a string of concentration camps. For months, he was kept at Dawson Island in the extreme south of Chile near the South Pole. He was released only after concerted international diplomatic pressure.

A trained economist, Letelier eventually won residency in Washington and a post at the left-wing Institute for Policy Studies. He became the most prominent Chilean exile living in the United States — and a magnet for dissent and criticism of both Pinochet’s abuses and the missteps of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

Article continues here:  Washington Post 

 

Editor’s Note:  The Letelier Assassination

Following Pinochet’s coup, the military government imprisoned former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. Later released, he went into exile in the US where the former Ambassador to the US landed a job as head of the Transnational Institute within the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a left-of-center think tank. (Anderson & Whitten, Washington Post, 12-20-76, p. C7; Irvine, AIM Report, Oct 80, p. 1) An FBI wiretap of December 4, 1975 revealed Letelier had contacted DGI officer Torres Rizo on a recent conference in Mexico. Letelier advised his handler the conference had been productive and the Cubans in attendance had made excellent contributions. Torres Rizo told Letelier he would be in Washington DC in mid-December and he wanted to meet with him and his IPS colleagues. (Irvine, AIM Report, Oct 80, p. 4) In 1977, columnist Jack Anderson identified Cuban Mission to the United Nations (CMUN) officer Julian Torres Rizo as the chief of Havana’s US-based intelligence operations. (Anderson & Whitten, Washington Post, 6-9-77, p. VA 25).

On December 17, Letelier arranged to meet Torres Rizo in New York City two days later to receive some packages. FBI wiretaps and Letelier’s own diary showed five contacts between Letelier and Torres Rizo that month. In contrast, Letelier’s diary revealed only one contact with senior intelligence officer Teofilo Acosta Rodriguez during 1975. (Irvine, AIM Report, Oct 80, p. 4). The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) later identified Teofilo Acosta as a senior Cuban intelligence officer. (Valeriani, NBC, 9-1-77). In 1982, DGI defector Gerardo Peraza re-affirmed Acosta’s DGI affiliation (US Senate, 2-26-82)

On September 21, 1976, Letelier died when a bomb placed in his car detonated as he entered Washington D.C.’s Sheridan Circle. Investigators subsequently salvaged Letelier’s attaché case from the debris. (Anderson & Whitten, Washington Post, 12-20-76, p. C7; Irvine, AIM Report, Oct 80, p. 1) Secret documents found in the case provided additional details of Letelier’s direct contact with CMUN 1st Secretaries Torres Rizo and Acosta. In this correspondence, Letelier warned his Cuban connections to keep their relations secret, lest it undermine his influence in the US. (Irvine, New York Times, 10-11-80, p. 22; Library of Congress’ 1971 Cuban Dip list, p. 61). In a letter from Beatrice Allende dated May 8, 1975, she told Letelier he would receive a onetime payment of $5000, followed by monthly payments of $1000. She told him the money came from the Chilean Socialist Party in exile. At the time, the exiled party maintained offices in Rome, East Berlin and Havana. US Intelligence sources told investigators Letelier could not have been provided the money without Havana’s approval. After her letter was made public, Beatrice Allende refused to comment to US media inquiries. (Anderson & Whitten, Washington Post, 12-20-76, p. C7) After her father’s death, Beatriz Allende had fled Chile and moved to Cuba with her husband. Four years later, apparently suffering from severe depression, she committed suicide. (Andrew, Our Way, p. 516)

On the day of his death, Letelier also carried correspondence from Cuban agent [now Chilean Ambassador to the US] Juan Gabriel Valdes. The September 1976 letter from Valdes to America Department (DA) Officer Emilio Brito thanked him for documents he (Valdes) received from Torres Rizo. Valdes said the documents had been exceptionally useful and he hoped to send Brito some items he had collected. Valdes also told Brito he hoped to travel to Cuba in early 1977. Brito’s assignment at the time was DA subversive operations in the US, including Puerto Rico. (Anderson & Whitten, Washington Post, 12-20-76, p. C7; Irvine, AIM Report, Oct 80, p. 1)

Letelier probably carried these documents to prevent the CIA from stealing them. (Anderson & Whitten, Washington Post, 12-20-76, p. C7) His concern was well founded. From 1971-early 1972, six separate burglaries occurred at Chile’s lesser diplomatic facilities in the US. Then, in mid-May 1972, the Chilean Embassy itself was burglarized. The intruders made no effort to conceal their misdeed: Letelier’s office was extensively ransacked, as were those of other senior officials. A subsequent Senate investigation confirmed the US government’s role and revealed the FBI had placed wiretaps on the Chilean Embassy from 1971-1973 at the CIA’s request. (Davis, pp. 93-95) It is unclear who ordered the 1975 wiretaps.

Sources Used

Anderson, Jack & Les Whitten.  “The Unseen Side of Fidel Castro,” Washington Post, June 9, 1977, p. VA 25.

_________.  “Letelier’s “Havana Connection,” Washington Post, December 20, 1976, p. C7.

Andrew, Christopher M. & Vasili Mitrokhin. The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2005

Davis, Nathaniel. The Last Two Years of Salvador Allende, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Irvine, Reed (Editor).  “The Cuban Connection of Orlando Letelier,” New York Times, October 11, 1980, p. 22.

_________.  “AIM Report: F.B.I. Files Expose Letelier,” Accuracy in Media (AIM) Report, October 1980, p. 1.

United States Senate – Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism — Committee on the Judiciary, “The Role of Cuba in International Terrorism and Subversion:  Intelligence Activities of the DGI,” February 26, 1982.

Valeriani, Richard.  “U.S./Cuban Relations: Embassies Reopen,” National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Evening News. September 1, 1977, Vanderbilt University television News Archive, http://openweb.tvnews. vanderbilt.edu/1977-9/1977-09-01-CBS-5.html

Organizations

America Department (DA): The name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s. The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).

Directorate of Intelligence (DI):  The foreign intelligence wing of the Ministry of the Interior.  Prior to 1989, this service was known as the Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI).

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba’s Tourism Thaw With the U.S. Has Been Great News for Its Military 2

passengersAndrea Rodriguez, Associated Press

At the height of Cuba’s post-Soviet economic crisis, a man with the obscure title of city historian began transforming Havana’s crumbling historic center block by block, polishing stone facades, replacing broken stained glass and repairing potholed streets.

Over a quarter century, Eusebio Leal turned Old Havana into a painstakingly restored colonial jewel, a tourist draw that brings in more than $170 million a year, according to the most recent available figures. His office became a center of power with unprecedented budgetary freedom from the island’s communist central government.

That independence is gone. Last month, the Cuban military took over the business operations of Leal’s City Historian’s Office, absorbing them into a business empire that has grown dramatically since the declaration of détente between the U.S. and Cuba on Dec. 17, 2014.

The military’s long-standing business wing, GAESA, assumed a higher profile after Gen. Raul Castro became president in 2008, positioning the armed forces as perhaps the prime beneficiary of a post-detente boom in tourism. Gaviota, the military’s tourism arm, is in the midst of a hotel building spree that outpaces projects under control of nominally civilian agencies like the Ministry of Tourism. The military-run Mariel port west of Havana has seen double-digit growth fueled largely by demand in the tourism sector. The armed forces this year took over the bank that does business with foreign companies, assuming control of most of Cuba’s day-to-day international financial transactions, according to a bank official.

“GAESA is wisely investing in the more international — and more lucrative — segments of the Cuban economy. This gives the military technocrats a strong stake in a more outwardly oriented and internationally competitive Cuba deeply integrated into global markets,” said Richard Feinberg, author of “Open for Business: The New Cuban Economy.”

Castro has never publicly explained his reasoning for giving so much economic power to the military, but the armed forces are widely seen in Cuba as efficient, fast-moving and relatively unscathed by the low-level payoffs and pilferage that plague so much of the government. Economic disruption also is viewed as a crucial national security issue while the government slowly loosens its once-total hold on economic activity and renews ties with its former Cold War enemy 90 miles to the north.

While U.S. President Barack Obama has said détente was meant partly to help ordinary Cubans develop economic independence from a centrally planned government that employs most of the island’s workers, the Cuban government says the U.S. should expect no change in Cuba because of normalization with the U.S.

The takeover of Old Havana shows how the Cuban government is, so far, successfully steering much of the peace dividend into military coffers.

The announcement nearly two years ago that the U.S. and Cuba were restoring diplomatic relations set off a tourism boom with Old Havana at its epicenter. The cobblestone streets are packed with tourists browsing souvenir stands, visiting museums and dining in trendy private restaurants. World figures and celebrities from Madonna to Mick Jagger to Pope Francis and Obama have all visited. Hotels are booked well through next year.

AP Story continues here:  US Tourists Finance Repression

 

The American Fugitives of Havana 2

Assata Shakur - the former Joanne Chesimard.

Assata Shakur – the former Joanne Chesimard.

By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker

When a cold war winds down, what happens to its spies and traitors? The British double agents Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean were able to see out their days in Moscow while it was still ruled by Communists, without fears that their hosts might betray them and send them back to an unforgiving Great Britain.

Other scenarios, such as that of the United States and Cuba, are more complicated. On December 17, 2014, the same day that the United States and Cuba announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, an exchange of long-imprisoned spies and double agents also took place. Three Cuban sleeper agents who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998 were released from U.S. federal prisons and flown home. Simultaneously, Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a C.I.A. double agent who had been held in a Cuban prison since 1995, was flown to the U.S., as was Alan Gross, a State Department contractor who was arrested in 2009 for smuggling Internet equipment onto the island for dissident groups.

But the fates of many fugitive citizens who were given refuge in the United States or Cuba remain in limbo. Among them are people sought back home for crimes including murder, kidnapping, bank robbery, and terrorism. Curious about such people, I recently asked an American official what prevented the U.S. government from arresting, and possibly extraditing, Luis Posada Carriles, an eighty-eight-year-old Cuban exile living in Florida, on terrorism charges.

Posada, a former C.I.A. operative who spent most of the past half century involved in efforts to violently destabilize the Castro government, has been on the top of Cuba’s most-wanted list for decades. I ticked off the long list of his alleged crimes—most notably, the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, in 1976, which killed all seventy-three passengers onboard, and a number of bombings and assassination attempts across the Western Hemisphere. As recently as 1997, Posada admitted to planning the bombing of a Havana hotel, which killed an Italian tourist.

The official listened calmly, nodding his head as I spoke. Eventually, he told me, “The complication is that Cuba is also harboring people that the United States would like to see face justice back home.” He mentioned Joanne Chesimard, who goes by the name Assata Shakur, the aunt of the late rapper Tupac Shakur and a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a short-lived offshoot of the Black Panther Party that was devoted to armed struggle.

Shakur, a native New Yorker, has been living in Cuba since 1984. She arrived there after several years on the lam, following her escape from a prison in New Jersey, where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a U.S. state trooper. (She was also tried for but not convicted of crimes including bank robbery, kidnapping, and other murders.) Shakur was granted political asylum in Cuba, where she was given a job and a home. She is now sixty-nine, remains on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted list, and is the undisputed doyenne of the estimated seventy-odd American fugitives living in Cuba. Her 1987 memoir, “Assata: An Autobiography,” whose cover features a photograph of her looking over her shoulder at the camera, can be found in many of Havana’s state-run bookstores, alongside books about Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Most of the American fugitives in Cuba are radicals of Shakur’s era. Charlie Hill, who is in his mid-sixties, was a member of a militant group called the Republic of New Afrika, which sought to create an independent black nation in the American South. Hill was accused, with two comrades, of killing a policeman in New Mexico in 1971. Several weeks later, the three men hijacked a passenger plane to Cuba, where they were granted asylum. Both of Hill’s comrades have died, but he remains in Havana. And there is the Columbia University graduate Cheri Dalton, who goes by Nehanda Abiodun, also a veteran of the Republic of New Afrika. Abiodun is sought for her involvement in the armed robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in New York in 1981, in which two policemen and a security guard were killed. She is also thought to have helped Shakur break out of prison. Abiodun, who either fled to Cuba with Shakur or followed shortly after, has reinvented herself there as a mentor to rap artists.

Feature continues here: Cuban Safe Haven