Obama names career diplomat as US ambassador to Cuba Reply

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.

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

Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal – Now Head of Cuban-US Relations – Accuses US of Using the Internet “To Promote Subversion” 1

Senior Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Senior Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Cuban Official Josefina Vidal Accuses US of Using the Internet “To Promote Subversion”

14ymedio, Havana, 26 August 2016 – Josefina Vidal, Director of the United States Division for Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said

Tuesday that the internet is being used from the United States as a way to promote internal subversion on the island.

“The illegal use of radio and TV against Cuba isn’t enough, they insist on using the internet as a weapon of subversion,” the diplomat complained through her Twitter account.

Vidal criticized the first conference on the free use of the internet on the island, organized by the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which operates Radio and TV Martí. The event, which will be held in Miami on 12-13 September, will bring independent Cuban journalists together with digital innovators and individuals who are fighting for the island to open up to the World Wide Web.

In an article published by Cubadebate and shared on social networks by the diplomat, she says that the government of the United States, over the last two decades, has spent 284 million dollars to promote programs of regime change in Cuba.

Source:  Josefina Vidal Accuses US

 

 

 

U.S. Rules Out Swap of Jailed Cuban Spy Ana Belen Montes 3

Mugshot_of_DIA_s_Ana_5_1_IH64TF61_L166332774By NORA GÁMEZ TORRES, ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

The Obama administration “has no intention” of releasing or swapping jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes, according to a letter sent by the U.S. Department of State to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Aug. 19 letter, obtained by el Nuevo Herald, followed a number of news reports pointing to the possibility of freeing Montes — a top Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst on Cuban affairs who is serving a 25-year prison sentence — in exchange for Cuba handing over American fugitive Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard.

The letter, addressed to committee chairman U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., says the State Department “want(s) to assure you that the United States government has no intention of releasing or exchanging Montes.”

Nunes had written to Obama on July 12 urging the president not to release or swap Montes, calling her “one of the most brazen traitors in U.S. history.” The State Department wrote that it was “responding on the president’s behalf.”

Montes, one of the top foreign spies captured in recent years, authored some of the key U.S. intelligence assessments on Cuba. She was arrested in 2001 and was sentenced in 2002 after she pleaded guilty to spying for Cuba throughout her 16 years at the DIA.

Montes was — and remains — unrepentant. She betrayed the public trust, the security of the United States and her oath to support and defend the constitution while remaining loyal to the Castro brothers in Havana,” Nunes wrote. “Ana Belen Montes richly deserved her 25-year prison sentence, and must serve every day of it.”

“She betrayed the public trust, the security of the United States and her oath to support and defend the constitution while remaining loyal to the Castro brothers in Havana” — U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

Montes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, declared in a 2015 interview with the blog Cayo Hueso, which supports the Cuban government, that she has not changed. “I will not be silenced. My commitment to the island cannot be ignored,” she was quoted as saying.

Nunes’ letter noted that because of her senior post at DIA, Montes has compromised every single U.S. intelligence collection program that targeted Cuba, revealed the identity of four covert U.S. intelligence agents who traveled to Cuba and provided Havana with information that could have wound up in the hands of other U.S. enemies.

“In short, Montes was one of the most damaging spies in the annals of American intelligence,” the committee chairman wrote.

Article continues here:  No Deal For Montes

 

Iran, Cuba seek closer ties 1

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on arrival at the Foreign Ministry building in the Cuban capital of Havana, August 22, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on arrival at the Foreign Ministry building in the Cuban capital of Havana, August 22, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has met with Cuba’s President Raul Castro while on the first leg of a six-nation tour of Latin American countries.

The meeting took place on Monday in the Cuban capital of Havana, where the top Iranian diplomat arrived on Sunday night at the head of a high-ranking politico-economic delegation.

The two statesmen discussed the development of bilateral ties, international and Middle East affairs, as well as the upcoming summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is to be held in Venezuela later in the year.

Zarif earlier met with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez and the country’s Minister of Economy and Vice-President Ricardo Cabrisas.

In his meeting with Rodriguez, Zarif said he sought to “open a new chapter in bilateral relations with Cuba.”

The top Cuban diplomat, for his part, hailed “the Iranian foreign policy’s victory” in reaching a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers and the deal’s subsequent implementation.

Cabrisas visited Iran earlier in August, when he handed over a written message by President Castro to President Hassan Rouhani. He said Havana sought the promotion of all-out relations with Tehran.

Zarif leads a group of 120 businessmen and financial executives from government and private sectors. He has now arrived in Nicaragua on the second leg of his Latin American trip, which will also take him to Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela.  (Source:  Spy News Agency)

Editor’s Note: Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI) officer Ricardo Belen Cabrisas Ruiz served as the Commercial Counselor in Ontario from approximately January 1967 through at least October 1970. According to a declassified Defense Department intelligence report, known DGI officer Ricardo Belen Cabrisas Ruiz then served as Ambassador to Japan. He subsequently became Cuba’s Foreign Trade Minister sometime prior to October 1983. In the mid-2000s, he served as Minister of Government within the Office of the President.

In the late 1980s, the DGI was reorganized and renamed the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

Expelled Spy (& Cuba’s Current Director of US Relations) Condemns U.S. For Its “Hostile Policies” 6

Josefina Vidal, Director General of the U.S. division at Cuba's Foreign Ministry, gestures as she speaks with the media at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. The United States and Cuba claimed progress Friday toward ending a half-century diplomatic freeze, suggesting they could clear some of the biggest obstacles to their new relationship within weeks. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Josefina Vidal, Director General of the U.S. division at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Cuban leader: ‘It’s up to US to dismantle its hostile policies’

By Emma Johnson, The Militant, Vol 80/No. 30, August 15, 2016

“Relations between Cuba and the U.S. have been asymmetric; therefore it is up to the U.S. to dismantle hostile unilateral policies,” said Josefina Vidal, who leads Cuba’s negotiating team with Washington. “Cuba doesn’t have any comparable policies.”

Vidal, director general for U.S. affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations, spoke to the Cuban Communist Party’s daily Granma on the anniversary of the reopening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington on July 20 last year, some 54 years after the U.S. government unilaterally severed diplomatic relations with Havana.

Since the 1959 deep-going social revolution in Cuba, which brought a workers and farmers government to power, Washington has used sabotage, an attempted invasion, diplomatic isolation and an unprecedented economic embargo to try to overturn the rule of the working class and its allies.

Recognizing that more than 50 years of this course had failed to accomplish its aims, President Barack Obama—and a substantial majority in the ruling class he represents—decided it was time to try something else. Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced Dec. 17, 2014, the beginning of talks to restore diplomatic relations. Simultaneously, the last of the Cuban Five, revolutionaries imprisoned by Washington for over 16 years, were released and returned home to Cuba.

Vidal said achievements of talks since then include the removal of Cuba from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism and the creatio

n of the Cuba-U.S. Bilateral Commission. “It was important to have a mechanism of this type to address unresolved issues, cooperation in areas of mutual interest and talks on bilateral and multilateral matters,” she said. Ten such agreements have been signed and others are currently being negotiated related to drug trafficking, search and rescue, ocean oil-spill response and meteorology.

Embargo remains in force

But the bulk of Washington’s economic embargo still remains in force, she said. Imports from the U.S. to Cuba are severely restricted, exports from Cuba to the U.S. virtually impossible and banking relations have not been normalized. Cuba can still not make financial transfers, and the U.S. government continues to impose heavy fines on banks and foreign financial entities that do business there.

The Obama administration has imposed penalties totaling more than $14 billion, “a record amount in the history of the application of the blockade against our country,” Vidal said, “on U.S. and foreign entities for their legitimate associations with Cuba.” This continues to have “an intimidating effect on U.S. and international banks. Thus far, the U.S. government has failed to issue a political statement or legal document explaining to world banks that operations with Cuba are legitimate, and that they won’t be sanctioned.”

Article continues here:  Victim Vidal

Editor’s Note:  Vidal was thrown out of the United States in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of 16 Cuban spies serving under diplomatic cover.

 

 

Will St Pete Become Havana’s Newest Spy Base? 6

 The Cuban consular general and his second in command were in town Saturday to tour St. Petersburg, shown here from just south of downtown with Fourth Street running north.


The Cuban consular general and his second in command were in town Saturday to tour St. Petersburg, shown here from just south of downtown with Fourth Street running north.

Cuban Officials Touring St. Petersburg This Weekend as They Eye Consulate Location

By Paul Guzzo, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

Tampa has the historic and cultural link to Cuba, but it might be St. Petersburg that lands the first Cuban Consulate in the United States in more than five decades.

Alejandro Padrón, Cuba’s consular general from its embassy in Washington, D.C., and his second in command, Armando Bencomo, were in St. Petersburg on Saturday and took a tour of its real estate assets that was led by Dave Goodwin, the city’s director of planning and economic development.

Such a tour did not take place in Tampa.

“They have some interest in our city and they want to get to know more about it,” said Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, which along with the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability sponsored the delegation’s trip.

“We are happy to help them learn what a great place it would be to have a consulate.”

Kanika Tomalin, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, described the tour as “pretty comprehensive” but did not provide specifics on where they visited.

“They will understand what the city can offer their goals,” she said.

There is competition between Tampa and St. Petersburg to host the Cuban Consulate.

The Tampa City Council, Hills- borough County Commission and Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce have voted in favor of bringing the consulate to their community.

The chamber also sent a delegation to Cuba in May 2015.

Each has heavily promoted that Tampa and Cuba share a connection dating to the founding of Ybor City in the late 1800s by immigrants from the island nation.

Later, Tampa was a staging ground for Cuba’s War of Independence against colonialist Spain. And with Cuban tobacco, Tampa would go on to become Cigar City.

But the St. Petersburg City Council voted for a consulate to open in that city as well.

The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership also sent two delegations to Cuba in the past year and welcomed one from the island nation to its city in December.

Feature continues here:  Will St Pete Become Havana’s Newest Spy Base?

Editor’s Note:  When the United States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba in the early 1960s, the Castro regime had been conducting its espionage operations from a network of over two dozen consulates and Prensa Latina (news agency) sites from coast to coast. Since the theft of US economic, political and military secrets provides one of the largest revenue streams flowing the regime, Havana dearly wants its “diplomatic” spy network back to further increase its espionage effectiveness and drive down costs.  

 

 

Is Clinton responsible for NJ cop-killer’s Chesimard’s freedom? The facts and history Reply

By Louis C. Hochman, New Jersey 101.5

Above: Joanne Chesimard was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List in 2013.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took the stage at the Republican National Convention Tuesday prepared to attack.

He presented a seething indictment of former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — holding her to account for everything from Boko Haram’s abduction of more than 200 girls to the bloody civil war in Syria that’s cost more then 400,000 lives.

Fact-checkers have been giving the allegations a mixed rating — the consensus is most of Christie’s statements had at least some truth, but some were missing important context.

For instance: Clinton’s State Department did hold off on naming Boko Haram a terrorist organization, but as part of a strategy it hoped would more successfully curb the group’s activities without lending it credibility in the region, and while putting many of its leaders on terror lists. The State Department eventually named Boko Haram a terrorist organization in late 2013, several months after Clinton’s tenure as secretary ended.

But perhaps the most striking allegation for New Jersey residents — that Clinton, in effect, “rewarded” the convicted murderer of a New Jersey State Trooper with safety in Cuba.

Read More: Is Clinton responsible for NJ cop-killer’s Chesimard’s freedom? The facts and history