Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal: US Should Have Never Labeled Cuba A State Sponsor of Terrorism 6

Josefina Vidal

Josefina Vidal

Vidal: Cuba never should have been on US terror list  

By Brian Williams, The Militant

A second round of talks between U.S. and Cuban officials on reestablishing diplomatic relations, which the U.S. government broke off 54 years ago, took place in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27. The shift in Washington’s tactics against Cuba’s socialist revolution was announced by President Barack Obama Dec. 17, at the same time as a press conference by President Raúl Castro announcing the return to Cuba of the final three of the Cuban Five.

The White House is seeking to fast-track the reopening of its embassy in Havana by April, while the Cuban delegation has emphasized steps Washington needs to take to remove obstacles to meaningful diplomatic relations.

“Cuban representatives reiterated the importance of solving a series of issues, which will allow for the creation of the appropriate context to resume diplomatic relations and open embassies in both capitals,” said a Feb. 27 news release from the Cuban delegation. These include removing Cuba from Washington’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, allowing banking services to Cuba’s Interests Section in Washington and assurances that U.S. diplomatic staff observe “norms governing the functions of diplomatic missions” in “compliance with national laws and non-interference in the internal affairs of States,” the statement said.

Cuba has been on the State Department’s State Sponsor of Terrorism list since 1982. Other countries on it are Iran, Syria and Sudan.

“For Cuba it is a matter of sheer justice,” Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, head of the North American Bureau of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry and the leader of Cuba’s delegation, told reporters at a news conference in Washington after the negotiations. “Cuba strongly believes that it should have never been included in this limited list of countries and today there is no ground to justify the inclusion of our country on that list.” [emphasis added]

The state sponsorship of terrorism issue is not up for negotiation, but “a separate process” of “evaluation” by the U.S., Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier. “Nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed.”

“In our view it’s not necessary to put it all in one package,” Vidal told Cuban reporters after the talks. “If, for example, in a few weeks we receive some satisfactory news in regards to the matter of Cuba’s removal from the terrorist list, I think we can be ready to then begin talking about how to formalize the reestablishing of relations.”

Feature continues here: The Militant

Editor’s Note:  Vidal departed the US in May 2003 as part of the mass expulsion of 14 Cuban diplomat spies. Part of two husband-wife spy teams chosen, she and another spy-spouse departed “voluntarily” when their mate was declared Persona Non Grata.  Thus, the US actually threw out 16 spy-diplomats.

Colombian President Asks US to Release Jailed Terrorist 4

"Ivan Marquez" stands next to a cardboard cutout photo of "Simon Trinidad" (Photo courtesy of EFE)

“Ivan Marquez” stands next to a cardboard cutout photo of “Simon Trinidad” (Photo courtesy of EFE)

‘Colombia asked US to repatriate prominent FARC leader’

by Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Report

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has asked the United States to repatriate “Simon Trinidad,” a FARC leader who is serving 60 years in a US prison, an adviser to ongoing peace talks with the guerrilla group said Monday.

According to former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, the Santos administration asked US Vice-President Joe Biden to see what possibilities exist to repatriate the rebel leader.

Trinidad was convicted in 2007 of conspiring to kidnap three US military contractors, who were held by the FARC between 2003 and 2008.

The FARC has asked for their fellow-rebel’s release since before the peace talks began in November 2012, claiming Trinidad’s release would be an “immense contribution to peace in Colombia.”

The United States at the time turned down the rebel request, saying that “Trinidad committed crimes and will continue to serve his time in jail.”

Simon Trinidad will remain in prison: US

Since then, rebel spokespersons are frequently flanked by a life-size cardboard cutout photo of Trinidad.

Santos’ alleged request to repatriate of the FARC leader appears to be part of a larger effort that also seeks the removal of FARC guerrillas from the United States’ list of extradition requests.

Santos told Spanish newspaper El Pais he would ask Washington to remove FARC members from the extradition list, claiming that “nobody is going to surrender their weapons to go and die in an American prison.”

The Colombian president discussed the ongoing peace talks over the weekend with Bernard Aronson.

The senior US diplomat was appointed Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process by US Secretary of State John Kerry less than two weeks ago and has already met with the government and rebel delegations.

US envoy meets FARC peace talks delegates behind closed doors

The leaked secret meetings have not been confirmed or denied by either the US government or the FARC, deemed a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.

The FARC have been fighting the Colombian state since 1964.

The United States has long played an active part in the conflict and spent billions of dollars in the first decade of this century to support the Colombian state’s military offensive that pushed the rebels to the periphery of the country.

Since the peace talks began, the warring parties have agreed to a rural reform, political participation for the rebels, and the FARC’s abandoning of drug trafficking.

If the negotiators can come to consensus on transitional justice, victim reparation and a truce, the 50-year-old conflict will come to a formal end.

Cuban Government Refuses to Return N.J. Cop-Killer Chesimard, Report Says 5

Posters are arranged before a press conference about fugitive domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard by the New Jersey State Police and the FBI at the FBI office in Newark on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger

Posters are arranged before a press conference about fugitive domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard by the New Jersey State Police and the FBI at the FBI office in Newark on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger

By Paul Milo |  NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Cuba will not turn fugitive Joanne Chesimard over to the United States, where she was convicted of the 1973 killing a New Jersey state trooper, a Cuban government representative told Yahoo News.

The official, Gustavo Machin, told Yahoo that the subject is “off the table” despite calls from Garden State lawmakers including Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) demanding the return of the 67-year-old Chesimard, who remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

While a member of a radical group, the Black Liberation Army, Chesimard and two others gunned down Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop. Two years after her 1977 conviction, Chesimard escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, which has been providing her sanctuary ever since.

Chesimard’s case gained renewed interest in December, when President Obama announced a thawing of relations with one of the world’s last remaining communist nations. But amid the fanfare immediately following Obama’s announcement, the State Police and elected officials demanded Chesimard be turned over as a condition of any change in status between the two countries. Diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States were largely severed a half-century ago following a communist uprising led by Fidel Castro.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week, Menendez said refusing to hand over Chesimard is “is an intolerable insult to all those who long to see justice served.”

Editor’s Note:  Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Gustavo Machin was thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Belen Montes spy case.

Expelled Spy Josefina Vidal Demands US “Forgive & Forget” Cuba’s Support to Terrorism Reply

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Cuban Diplomat Praises ‘Direct Contact’ With US

Buenos Aires Herald

The Cuban Foreign Ministry’s chief diplomat for US affairs Josefina Vidal said that both countries sustain “direct contacts” after a second round of talks in Washington, following the historic breakthrough in the bilateral standoff, when ties were restored between the two nations ending a 50-year stalemate.

Vidal said that both talks, one in Havana and the latest in Washington, have been “productive,” although she pointed out that “there are different approaches” between the two delegations.

Speaking in Cuban national TV, the diplomat insisted on her government claim to be removed from an “unfair” list of terrorist states annually released by the US since 1982.

She said that her US counterparts are “working to solve this issue.”

U.S. Hopes to Reopen Cuba Embassy Ahead of Americas Summit 2

Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson

Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson

Latin American Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government is optimistic about the prospects of reaching agreement with Cuba to re-open embassies before April’s Summit of the Americas in Panama, Washington’s chief negotiator in talks with Havana said Friday.

“I do think we can get this done in time for the Summit of the Americas,” Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said after discussions in Washington with a Cuban delegation.

The gathering in Panama could be the occasion for the first meeting between President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro since the two men announced in December an agreement to restore bilateral diplomatic ties after a break of more than 50 years.

Friday’s talks at the State Department were “productive and encouraging,” Jacobson told reporters after her second encounter with Havana’s representative, veteran diplomat Josefina Vidal.

Cuba moved on Friday to eliminate one obstacle to an early reopening of embassies, as Vidal said Havana was not making its removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism a precondition for progress toward normalization.

Even so, she suggested the removal needs to occur before the formal restoration of diplomatic relations.

“It would be very difficult to explain that Cuba and the United States have established normal diplomatic relations when Cuba is kept on this list,” Vidal said.

Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier Friday that the issue of the list was not on the agenda for the discussions between Jacobson and Vidal.

“The state sponsored terrorism designation is a separate process, it is not a negotiation. And that evaluation will be made appropriately and nothing will be done with respect to the list until the evaluation is completed,” Kerry said.

The process of removing a country from the list requires a formal notification from the president to Congress, which then has 45 days to consider the matter.

Editor’s Note:  Fellow Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Gustavo Machin reportedly accompanied Vidal to Washington in his position as Deputy Chief of MINREX’s North America Division.

Kelly: Ex-FBI Chief Tells of Cop-Killer Swap That Cuba Rejected 1

 ASSOCIATED PRESS  Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, above in 2013, said he presented a spies-for-Chesimard trade to Cuba through intermediaries.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, above in 2013, said he presented a spies-for-Chesimard trade to Cuba through intermediaries.

By Mike Kelly, Record Columnist -The Record [Bergen County, NJ]

Years before Joanne Chesimard was placed on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists and the bounty for her capture was increased to $2 million, federal authorities secretly reached out to their Cuban counterparts with a plan to bring the convicted cop killer back to New Jersey.

It was the fall of 1998. The FBI drew up a proposal to trade five captured Cuban spies for Chesimard, who had been convicted two decades earlier of killing a New Jersey state trooper in a turnpike gunfight but had broken out of jail and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.

Cuban authorities refused to discuss the proposed deal.

Three of those spies were sent back to Cuba in December in exchange for American contractor Alan Gross and a CIA operative. The two others had returned earlier after serving their U.S. prison terms.

The proposed 1998 trade, which has never been publicly acknowledged by either the United States or Cuba, was described in detail in two recent interviews with The Record by one of its originators, former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Why the plan failed may offer insight about the obstacles facing the state police, the FBI and a host of political figures as they renew efforts to bring back Chesimard. The story also illustrates the legacy of suspicion that permeates U.S.-Cuban relations.

In New Jersey, however, the renewed discussion of Chesimard’s fugitive status has reopened old wounds that date to an unsettling time in America — a time that was punctuated by a horrific confrontation on the New Jersey Turnpike between state troopers and members of the Black Liberation Army who were calling for an armed revolution.

Just before midnight on May 2, 1973, Chesimard, then 25, was traveling south with two male compatriots when two troopers stopped their car. Within minutes a wild gunbattle broke out, leaving Trooper Werner Foerster dead and his partner wounded.

Chesimard, who also was wounded, was later caught, charged with murder and sentenced to a life term. But in 1979, she escaped from the state women’s prison in Clinton and disappeared, only to turn up five years later in Cuba.

Chesimard, 67, and reportedly living in the Havana area under the name Assata Shakur, is regarded as a criminal by U.S. authorities. Cuba has never shown any inclination to rescind her political asylum, which was granted by Fidel Castro in the mid-1980s.

In the fall of 1998, however, Freeh thought he saw an opening for U.S. authorities to get their hands on Chesimard.

Feature continues here:  Chesimard deal


Alan Gross Takes Fight with Feds to U.S. Supreme Court 2

agBy Zoe Tillman, Legal Times, @zoetillman

Alan Gross, the American contractor freed after five years of detention in Cuba, is taking a lawsuit against the federal government to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gross wants the high court to review whether the government can be held responsible for injuries he and his wife claimed they suffered while he was detained in Cuba.

In a petition filed with the high court on Feb. 12, Gross and his wife Judith argued that a federal appeals court in Washington was wrong to find that the federal government was immune against all of the Gross’ claims, including economic losses in the United States and Judith Gross’ emotional distress. The appeals court found that those injuries stemmed from Gross’ incarceration in Cuba, triggering immunity for the feds.

“The decisions of the lower courts will have profound negative consequences for all U.S. residents who travel abroad, no matter how briefly, including those who travel for work,” Gross’ lawyers argued in the petition. “The decisions would mean that a U.S. resident who travels abroad for one day and suffers some injury during that limited time would have no redress for any subsequent harm occurring solely in the United States, even if that domestic injury dwarfs the foreign injuries.”

Gross was working as a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor in Cuba when he was detained by authorities there in 2009. In 2011, he was convicted of attempting to subvert the Cuban government and sentenced to 15 years in prison. While Gross was still incarcerated, he and his wife, who was in the United States, sued the federal government and the contractor who hired him, arguing they were negligent in failing to alert Gross to the riskiness of his work and in preparing him for those risks.

Gross reached a confidential settlement with the contractor, Developer Alternatives Inc. A federal district judge dismissed the case against the U.S. government in May 2013 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed that decision in November—one month before Gross was released.

Gross’ lawyers at Gilbert LLP declined on Friday to discuss their petition to the Supreme Court.

On appeal to the high court, Gross and his wife are also arguing that the lower courts created an unconstitutional distinction between plaintiffs suing the federal government for injuries that took place solely in the United States and those who suffered some or all of their injuries abroad.

The government’s response is due March 16.

Editor’s Note:  Alan Gross already received $3.2 million from a 2014 lawsuit.

This Friday’s US-Cuba Talks to Focus on Reopening Embassies 2

State DepartmentU.S.-Cuba Talks on Re-Establishing Diplomatic Relations

Media Note

[US Department of State] Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

February 20, 2015


On February 27, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson will host a delegation from the Cuban government led by Josefina Vidal, general director of the U.S. Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss re-establishing diplomatic relations. The talks will take place at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and will focus on matters related to reopening embassies, including the functions of diplomats in our respective countries.

These talks continue the dialogue initiated by the parties on January 22 in Havana, Cuba and are a key step in implementing the new direction in U.S.-Cuba relations announced by President Obama on December 17, 2014. It is in the interest of both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies. A U.S. Embassy in Havana will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values, and increase engagement with the Cuban people. As with the more complex process of normalizing relations, re-establishing diplomatic relations requires the agreement of the governments of both Cuba and the United States.

Editor’s Note: Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal was thrown out of the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban spy-diplomats.