He Now Hunts Cuban Human-Rights Abusers In The U.S. Was He Once An Offender Himself? 3

Juan Antonio Blanco, director ejecutivo de la Fundación por los Derechos Humanos en Cuba. (Courtesy: Miami Herald)

By Nora Gámez Torres, ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com 

Juan Antonio Blanco — the academic, activist, and executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba — recently announced an initiative to unmask and deport Cuban human-rights abusers now living in the United States. He declared that the drive was not “a witch hunt” against people just because of their political beliefs or affiliations with political organizations on the island.

What Blanco didn’t say: He once belonged to the Rapid Response Brigades, which were created by Fidel Castro in the 1990s to repress dissidents and contain popular unrest.

“I myself am a member of the Rapid Response Brigades in my building,” Blanco said during a conference in the United States in 1993, after he had broken with the Cuban government.

The brigades were organized along paramilitary lines and have been frequently deployed by the government to repress the dissident Ladies in White and other opposition groups. In 1994, Brigade members, along with police and military members dressed in civilian clothes and armed with clubs and steel rods, cracked down on a large Havana protest known as El Maleconazo, which gave way to the mass departures of the Balsero Crisis.

“It’s true that there have been cases where such encounters have gotten out of hand. I joined the brigade precisely because I think it is important to make sure that there will be no excesses or abuses,” Blanco added in 1993, according to the book “Talking About Revolution,” which was written by activist Medea Benjamin and based on conferences that Blanco held in several U.S. universities at the time.

Twenty-five years later, Blanco still finds it difficult to explain his statements.

“I did not belong to a Rapid Response Brigades unit,” he initially told el Nuevo Herald during a telephone interview. “The most that I recall participating in was one time when there was a protest against a neighbor in my building, and what I did was precisely to block any abuses against that person. What I did was to break up the activity.”

“I say there [at a 1993 conference] that I am a member because I belonged, not because I signed anything or was involved in anything,” Blanco said. “Sadly, the way that I was talking about that at that time, well, you evidently seize on that now and you take it out of context, and that doesn’t help.”

Feature continues here:  Devoted Spy to Human Rights Champion?




  1. In my opinion anyone that belonged to the MININT or the Cuban DI and lied in their inmigration form I-485 should be deported to Cuba. There are cases where these people were DI agents, they weren’t directly involved in the repressing of the Cuban dissidence but they are still a threat to the security of the United States and should be deported.

  2. Dear Mr. Simmons:

    Thanks for your valuable service to our country. The blog is very nice and informative.

    This said, I have a disagreement with the article published by The Miami Herald with the authorship of Nora Gamez Torres.

    Her article was published a about a week after the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba disclosed the identities of
    two Human Rights violators living in Florida. They were members of the security forces of the Cuban regime
    therefore they committed perjury when filling the ICE form after applying for residence or citizenship. They were also accused
    by some of their victims with notarized sworn statements. All this information was submitted by us, at the victim’s request, to the proper authorities. Mr. Blanco did not lied to the US authorities and disclosed his full history when he came here and then was subjected to a heavy background investigation before becoming a US citizen.

    I work with Mr. Blanco at FHRC and although most of his background described in the article are true, he never participated
    in actos de repudio or described Jorge Mas Canosa as a “Clown”. He is also very anticommunist and despises the cuban government and their corrupt system.

    My critique to the blog is that you basically copy and pasted the Herald article without any research, almost simultaneously with the cuban government media, with the hope by them of committing a character assassination of Mr. Blanco. The disclosure of these to repressors living in Florida have upset the Cuban government very much….( something we know for a fact.) You, as an expert in counterintelligence, know that many more of these subjects are living among us, although it’s unknown if they are still in contact with Cuban intelligence to perform a particular mission against the U.S.

    Thanks again for your service and may God bless the USA.

    Pedro L. Rodriguez (Not Gonzalez as it appeared in the article)

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