Cuba’s Intelligence Masterstroke in Venezuela Reply

Poster of deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

By Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco, GeoPoliticalMonitor.com

Much has been said about the behavior of Venezuela’s Bolivarian regime, its evolving character, its dramatic economic mismanagement, and the impact it has projected throughout the American hemisphere, including its bilateral ties to Cuba.

At a first glance, it would seem that – based on classical international relations scholarship referents when it comes to assessing national power such as population, territory, natural resources, and sheer economic size – Venezuela is the senior partner. Yet a crucial factor is missing to examine how the balance of power truly works in the dynamic framework of said bilateral relation.

Beyond the evident ideological, political, and diplomatic affinities between the rulers of both countries, the crucial factor that has been overlooked even by most experts is the strong presence and operational intensity of Cuban intelligence agencies in Venezuela. A different picture – one that challenges conventional wisdom – might emerge when one considers this angle.

Such a topic is important considering its deep geopolitical implications. It also raises pertinent questions: What if Venezuela is not necessarily the senior partner after all? The fact that it has not been addressed is perhaps a result of the intrinsically covert nature of intelligence activities. Moreover, both regimes are not precisely known for their compliance with basic transparency standards. In practice, that means relevant and reliable information about it is notoriously scarce. Nevertheless, the analysis of what open sources provide is useful to elaborate a more or less accurate – yet broad – situational assessment.

Profile of Cuban Intelligence Services

According to conventional wisdom, effective foreign intelligence capabilities are usually associated with great powers. The American CIA, the British MI6, the Israeli Mossad, the Russian SVR and the like often come to mind whenever the term is mentioned. Of course, such perception is hardly unjustified. In contrast, Cuba is certainly far from being a great power, yet the reach of its intelligence services must not be underestimated.

The Cuban Intelligence Directorate – known as G2 – was initially trained by the Soviet KGB and the Stasi, the East German Ministry of State Security, the strongest intelligence agencies of the Socialist bloc during the Cold War. Moreover, the resilience that has played a key role in the survival of the Cuban communist regime for six decades can be at least partially attributed to its intelligence services’ abilities to monitor internal dissent, consolidate political rule, and keep at bay external rivals. It is even said that Fidel Castro himself was the target of hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts.

It is known that the Cuban intelligence community recruits promising college students, especially from social science programs. Its training and methods are based on the development of professionalism rather than improvisation, unlike other Latin American intelligence agencies. Furthermore, a heavy ideological ingredient promotes a strong morale.

Another aspect worth emphasizing is that Cuban intelligence has not just assumed a defensive position. Actually, it has been remarkably active abroad for decades. For instance, it supported several Marxist insurgencies in Central and South America during the Cold War. It has also managed to infiltrate US national security agencies and Cuban American political groups hostile to Havana’s socialist regime.

Last but not least, Cuban intelligence supported the military involvement of the country’s armed forces in extra-regional operational theatres such as Angola, Vietnam, and even the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.

In short, despite Cuba’s structural limitations – including its precarious economy – the country’s intelligence services represent a big asset in terms of power projection. In effect, they need to be understood as a substantial force multiplier.

Article continues here: Cubans in Venezuela

 

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City of Secrets: A Real Spy Is Never Who You Think They Are 1

DIA analyst Ana Belen Montes, 44, was arrested on Sept. 21, 2001 and charged with conspiracy to deliver U.S. national defense information to Cuba. (Courtesy FBI)

By J.J. Green | @JJGreenWTOP June 19, 2019 4:50 am

In WTOP’s three-part series “City of Secrets,” WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green talks to some of the best in the espionage game to find how spies have infiltrated Washington, D.C. and what can be done to catch them.

Nothing stood out about her.

She lived in a modest two-bedroom cooperative apartment on a quiet tree-lined street in D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood. She drove a red 2000 Toyota Echo. She banked at Riggs Bank in the District’s Friendship Heights section. She was bright, engaging, trusted and well-adjusted at work.

But she was also something else.

Ana Belen Montes, 44, was a spy — engaged in one of the most devastating espionage operations in the history of the United States.

She was arrested on Sept. 21, 2001, and charged with conspiracy to deliver U.S. national defense information to Cuba.

Her arrest dealt a blow to the U.S. government, because she was a senior-level analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Her cover worked perfectly until, according to FBI documents, “an astute DIA colleague — acting on a gut feeling — reported to a security official that he felt Montes might be under the influence of Cuban intelligence.”

Scott Carmichael, now a former senior security and counterintelligence investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency, was that “astute colleague.”

Another colleague who had suspicions was Chris Simmons, former chief of the Americas team with DIA’s counterintelligence research unit.

“There were gatherings in D.C. at various academic forums where Cuban intelligence officers would show up to do presentations, and she and other DIA employees went there. But they were warned by security to stop attending because ‘you’re at risk,’” Simmons said.

All the others stopped attending, he said, “but she refused.”

It wasn’t until she received an ultimatum, according to Simmons — “stop attending or get fired” — that she ceased going to the events.

Montes was so skilled at spying that during her years at DIA, even though security officials learned about her foreign policy views and were concerned about her access to sensitive information, they had no concrete reason to believe she was sharing secrets. Besides, she had passed a polygraph.

Feature continues here: Real Spies

 

 

 

Some 200 Cuban Intelligence Advisers Operate in Nicaragua Reply

Officials of the regime leaked that Cuban agents have been in charge of training police and state officials in repressive tactics, espionage and control of prisons and border posts. File photo: La Prensa

Cuban agents have been operating in Nicaragua since 2007, but in a more intense and numerous way since 2018, in the wake of the April 18 rebellion.

By Jose Adan Silva  (La Prensa)

HAVANA TIMES – Up to two hundred Cuban Intelligence advisers operate in Nicaragua on a regular basis, according to high-level sources linked to the Ortega-Murillo government.

According to the information, ratified by two sources linked to government structures, Cubans who operate as “advisers” in Nicaragua are members of the State Security Forces of that county, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior.

Cubans have been operating in Nicaragua since 2007, but in a more intense and numerous way since 2018, in the wake of the April 18 rebellion and since they have doubled their presence with training programs for Ortega’s Police, Migration and Immigration authorities, Customs and prison system officials.

According to one source, the Cubans arrive with an official and diplomatic passport.

Most are received by Protocol and attended in the special window at the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport.

On most occasions they are met by personnel and officers of the Cuban embassy, sometimes Nicaraguan officials arrive, such as from the Foreign Ministry, Interior (Ministry) and the Police; as well as retired military working as political operators of the regime.

They come directly from La Habana on flights of Conviasa, the Venezuelan Airlines, or from Venezuela making a stopover in Panama. However, most of advisers travel on Conviasa flights among ordinary Cuban migrants who come to the country as tourists [often to buy products for resale in Cuba] or to travel to the United States in search of asylum.

According to the information obtained under protective measures, some Cuban officials return to the island within two days, for which it is suspected that their mission was to follow or watch over Cuban tourists on their trip to Nicaragua, but most remain between two and four months providing training to local officials.

“The classes taught by the Cubans are about personal defense, shooting with small arms, subversive activities, operational psychology, criminalistics, document analysis, tactics and interview (read as interrogation) techniques, internal security measures (for the airports and migratory posts),” the source explained.

Some theoretical training is carried out in the offices of the Silvio Mayorga building, headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior. Other practical lessons are carried out on the grounds of the Jorge Navarro penitentiary system in Tipitapa; others in police headquarters such as Plaza El Sol, the Walter Mendoza Academy and the Institute of Criminalistics and Forensic Sciences.

In the same way, the practices are developed in the air, land and water terminals with national and Cuban instructors.

Feature continues here: Cuban Intelligence in Nicaragua

 

 

 

Report: Cuban Spy Documents Target Security at Miami’s Airport. MIA Says No Breach. Reply

A TSA checkpoint at Miami International Airport. A report says Cuban intelligence has sought information on security at MIA. Al Diaz ALDIAZ

By Douglas Hanks and Nora Gámez Torres

Miami International Airport on Monday downplayed documents reportedly leaked from Cuban intelligence services showing that informants in the county facility were passing on security codes and other confidential information.

The documents reported by the CiberCuba website depict clandestine memos of MIA’s internal passcodes and other details sent by an unnamed operative referred to as “El Gordo.” A Jan. 9, 2017, document, published by CiberCuba, has a message from an “Agent Charles” reportedly passing on airport passcodes to some restricted areas of MIA. The operation described in documents, spanning the years between 2015 and 2017, was dubbed “Programa Recolector.”

“I’m sending here two PIN from MIA security,” one of the memos reproduced on the website says. “Access to secure areas. Miami International Airport.”

Lester Sola, Miami-Dade County’s aviation director, said the information in the allegedly leaked documents was not credible. For instance, he said, the colors of the airport’s security protocols were not as described in the documents.

“We don’t believe the information in the documents is credible,” Sola told the Miami Herald. “We believe nothing in the report poses a credible security threat. But we didn’t ignore the information. Out of an abundance of caution, we have shared it with our federal partners. The FBI is looking into it.”

The documents appear to have blacked-out passcodes, and an alleged copy of a Department of Transportation ID for an aviation mechanic.

Sola’s predecessor at MIA, Emilio Gonzalez, reviewed some of the documents for CiberCuba and said they raised concerns if authentic. “These codes give direct access to any part of the airport,” Gonzalez told the website. “That the Cuban government has people inside the facility with that level of accessibility is really worrying.”

Gonzalez, a retired colonel who once worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and now serves as Miami’s city manager, declined to comment Monday afternoon. The documents published by CiberCuba were dated between 2015 and 2017, overlapping with Gonzalez’s tenure as MIA director from 2013 to late 2017.

Jose Abreu, the county’s aviation director before Gonzalez, also called the report troubling. “If the report is accurate, it’s worrisome,” said Abreu, an engineer who is now a senior vice president at the Gannett Fleming consulting firm. “Because there are security sensitive areas in the airport. There’s no question about that.”