Why do Cuba “experts” Ann Louise Bardach and Wayne Smith so often and so lovingly source Cuban “defector” Domingo Amachustegui? Reply

by Humberto Fontova

(Below)  On left with “Cuba expert” Ann Louise Bardach   &  on right with “Cuba expert” Wayne Smith.   








There has been a sibling tug of war between Raúl and Fidel since childhood,” Domingo Amuchastegui, a former Cuban intelligence officer, tells me over lunch this summer at Versailles…Domingo and I had originally met not long after his defection in the 1990s, and I’ve learned over more than two decades of covering Cuba that he has uncommon insights into the Caribbean island that has bedeviled every American president since Dwight Eisenhower. Indeed, he is that rare breed of defector who somehow manages to regularly visit his homeland.” (Ana Louise Bardach in Politico)

“A thoughtful Cuban defector,”(says Wayne Smith of Domingo Amuchastegui.)




Cuban “intelligence defector” Domingo Amuchastegui ( who somehow retains all the professional positions to his left–in Stalinist Cuba, from where he travels back and forth at leisure!)



Feature continues here: Faux Defector?

Editor’s Note:  In her book “Cuba Confidential,” Ann Louise Bardach admits to receiving a recruitment “pitch” from an intelligence officer assigned to the Cuban Interests Section (now Embassy) in Washington DC.



Castro Apologists Gather for Cuba Seminar 1

Cuba Experts to Hold Symposium at Santa Monica Library

By Jason Islas, Staff Writer — Santa Monica Lookout

March 28, 2013 — Wayne Smith, who served as unofficial ambassador to Cuba under President Jimmy Carter and is currently the director of the Cuba Program and Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, will join six other experts on Cuban culture and politics to discuss the future of the Communist island nation at the Santa Monica Public Library. The Cuba Symposium, which will also feature a talk by journalist Ann Louise Bardach, author of Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington, will seek to answer the questions about the impact President Barack Obama’s second term might have on with U.S. relations with Cuba which have thawed little since the end of the Cold War.

“We’ll be talking about art, but mainly we’ll be talking about is the nature of the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. and what can happen in Obama’s second administration,” said Adolofo Nodal, a Cuban-born American who was general manager of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs from 1988 to 2001. “There are major changes afoot,” said Nodal, who is also the chief operating officer of Cuba Tours and Travel. He was referring to the February 24 announcement by Raul Castro — Fidel’s brother — that he would step down in 2018, which Nodal and other observers of Cuba saw as a sign of liberalization in the Communist nation.

Former National Geographic editor and long-time Cuba watcher, Elizabeth Newhouse, agrees. “They are trying to open up in little ways,” said Newhouse, who will also be speaking at the April 11 symposium. “It would be very helpful in moving that process forward if we engage with them.”

Bardach, who has been writing about Cuban politics for nearly 20 years starting with a 1994 interview with Fidel Castro for Vanity Fair, said, “I think Raul Castro realizes that the only way to save their bacon is to change.” She will offer an up-to-date political analysis of the current situation in Cuba at the Symposium. “There’s no getting around it, it’s a totalitarian dictatorship,” she said. Due to restrictions enforced by the government, “Cuba has the lowest level of Internet usage in the hemisphere.” And the embargo, which was codified into law as the Cuban Democracy Act in 1992, hasn’t helped Cubans’ access to information, even giving the Cuban government a convenient scapegoat for when Socialist policies fail, Bardach said.

Nodal, Newhouse and Smith are advocates of lifting the embargo placed on Cuba in 1960 and for loosening restriction on travel to the island nation. Though lifting the embargo is likely a distant possibility, some are hopeful that Obama’s second term could lead to looser travel restrictions. “Travel is another step toward a better understanding between two countries,” said Nodal, who sees travel as an opportunity for Americans and Cubans to get to know each other in a capacity other than as enemies. Newhouse said that under President Bill Clinton, travel was opened somewhat, but after the Bush Administration placed Cuba on a list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, restrictions were once again tightened.

Obama has since tried to reverse some of those policies. “In his first term, he opened up travel to Cuban Americans,” Newhouse said. “A year later, he re-instituted the People to People travel.” The nonprofit People to People International was founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 as a grass-roots diplomacy program “dedicated to enhancing cross-cultural communication within and across communities and nations,” according to its site.

As Cuba continues to change, Nodal and other observers hope that the future will bring greater ties with the island nation. “We really just want to get Americans and Cubans to meet,” said Nodal, adding that he hopes people come away from the April 11 Symposium “with an understanding of what the reality is in Cuba,” which he noted from his trip there a week ago, was optimistic.

The Symposium, which was organized by Nodal, runs from 6:15 to 9 p.m. in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium. Registration is required and those interested in attending should send an email to info@cubatoursandtravel.com.

US on Verge of Momentous Cuba Decision: Whether to Take Island off Controversial Terror List 3

HAVANA (Associated Press) – A normally routine bit of Washington bureaucracy could have a big impact on U.S. relations with Cuba, either ushering in a long-stalled detente or slamming the door on rapprochement, perhaps until the scheduled end of the Castro era in 2018. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry must decide within a few weeks whether to advocate that President Barack Obama should take Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a collection of Washington foes that also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

Cuban officials have long seen the terror designation as unjustified and told visiting American delegations privately in recent weeks that they view Kerry’s recommendation as a litmus test for improved ties. They also hinted the decision could affect discussions over the release of jailed U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross, whose detention in 2009 torpedoed hopes of a diplomatic thaw. Inclusion on the list means a ban not only on arms sales to Cuba but also on items that can have dual uses, including some hospital equipment. It also requires that the United States oppose any loans to Cuba by the World Bank or other international lending institutions, among other measures.

U.S. officials agree the recommendation, which Kerry must make before the State Department’s annual terror report is published April 30, has become ensnared in the standoff over Gross. The American was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he was caught bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally while working for a USAID-funded democracy-building program. Cuba has been on the terror list since 1982, and is also the target of a 51-year U.S. economic embargo — the reason why the island of beaches, music and rum is the only country Americans cannot visit as tourists. Removal from the list would not change that.

Critics say Cuba’s inclusion on the list has little to do with any real threat posed by the Communist-run Caribbean island, and they say the list has become so politicized it’s useless. North Korea was removed in 2008 during nuclear negotiations that ultimately failed, and was never put back on. Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden had been hiding out, is not on the list in large part because of its strategic importance.

Longtime Cuba analyst Philip Peters of the Virginia-based think tank the Lexington Institute said removing Cuba from the list “makes sense … just because it’s been a specious allegation that the United States has repeated for many years … It would improve the atmosphere.”

Others argue against rewarding Havana unless it releases Gross. “I have long believed it’s in our interest to see an improvement in relations with Cuba,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Gross’s home state of Maryland who traveled with a congressional delegation to Havana last month. But “the first step needs to be resolving Alan Gross’s situation.”

Voices calling for a change in the policy are growing louder, however. Last month, The Boston Globe cited administration sources saying high-level diplomats determined Cuba should be dropped from the list. That prompted State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland to say there were “no current plans” to do so, though she did not explicitly rule out the possibility.
Last week, a Los Angeles Times editorial called for Cuba’s removal from the list, and other newspapers have voiced similar opinions. The Cuba Study Group, a Washington-based exile organization that advocates engagement to promote democratic change, issued a white paper in February calling for an “apolitical” reexamination of the terror designation.

While Kerry can review the designation even after the State Department’s report comes out, Cuba’s continued inclusion on the list in April would almost certainly rule out its chances of removal in 2013. A U.S. official involved in deliberations told The Associated Press that Kerry will ultimately decide and nobody under him is in a position to predict what will happen. “It’s very much up in the air,” he said. But another administration official said that lifting the terror designation will be a hard sell while Gross remains imprisoned. “It’s very unlikely,” the second official said. “There is no consensus. And if you are on (the list), you stay on as long as there is no consensus on taking you off.” The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Ostensibly, Cuba has been designated a terror sponsor because it harbors members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, the Basque militant organization ETA and a handful of U.S. fugitives, many of whom have lived here since the 1970s. But much has changed in recent years. Late last year, peace talks began in Havana between Colombia and the FARC, and even Washington has voiced hope that the negotiations will end Colombia’s half-century old conflict. ETA announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011, and Madrid has not openly called for the return of any Basque fugitives. Cuba has enjoyed improved relations with Spain and Colombia in recent years, and both countries routinely vote at the U.N. against continuing the U.S. embargo.

Under President Raul Castro, Cuba has freed dozens of dissidents and has begun opening its economy and society, though it remains a one-party political system that permits no legal opposition. Castro announced in February that he would step down in 2018 and signaled a likely successor. The time might also be ripe in terms of U.S. politics.

While in the Senate, Kerry was an outspoken critic of America’s policy on Cuba, saying it has “manifestly failed for nearly 50 years.” He called for travel restrictions to end and held up millions of dollars in funding for the type of programs Gross worked with. His boss, President Obama, no longer has to worry about reelection or pleasing Cuban-Americans, an all-important voting bloc in the crucial swing state of Florida.

Ann Louise Bardach, a longtime Cuba observer and the author of “Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington,” said all the political winds would seem to point toward a reboot in relations — except for Havana’s decision to hold Gross and try to swap him for five Cuban agents in the US. “In a way they cooked their goose with Alan Gross,” she said. “The Cubans thought, ‘Gee what a brilliant idea, we’ll have a chit to trade.’ Little did they know that they would be at this moment where you have considerable momentum to move on in Washington, and politically, because of the Gross mess, Washington can’t act.”

The Media’s Love Affair With Castro Collaborators Reply

The Fourth Estate’s torrid tryst with sympathizers of the Cuban Revolution continues this week with the Huffington Post again running a feature by longtime Raulista and “former” Cuban Intelligence Officer, Arturo Lopez-Levy: Cuba Under Raul Castro: Economic Reform as Priority?

Not to be outdone, the Associated Press published Cuba’s new heir apparent has work cut out for him and the Pacific Standard ran Our Guide Proves Prescient in Outlining Post-Castro Cuba. Both of these articles star “award-winning” journalist Ann Louise Bardach, who has admitted that a Cuban spy attempted to recruit her during a visit to its Interests Section in Washington. News flash: when a journalist and self-professed “Cuba Expert” is targeted for recruitment by the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), it’s safe to say that said journalist’s opinions and publications are already very pro-Castro.

Editor’s Note: At no time did any of the news outlets advise their readers of their sources’ “previous” associations with Cuban Intelligence.

Cuba Critics Look to Test Government on Travel Law 1

PETER ORSI | Huffington Post

HAVANA — For years, Cuban dissidents say, authorities’ message to them has been the same: Sure, you can leave the country. Just don’t expect us to let you come back. Now, two prominent and outspoken government opponents say they’ve been told they can come and go freely under a new law that eliminated decades-old travel restrictions on nearly all islanders.

It’s a calculated risk that potentially enables the dissidents to become high-profile ambassadors for change in the communist-run country, traveling abroad to accept awards and slamming the government back home in speeches to foreign parliaments. At the same time, it blunts one of their main criticisms of Cuba’s human rights record, that it effectively held them and others hostage by restricting their movement. “Previously the policy was just to get them out of the country, which really, really did work for the maintenance of the Castro government,” said Ann Louise Bardach, a longtime Cuba analyst and author of “Cuba Confidential.” “But if they are allowing them to come back, we are looking at a game-changer of sorts because that could usher in the first embryonic state of some democratic process,” Bardach said. “If people can go abroad, criticize the government and return, that’s a new day in Cuba.”

The government faces some of the same pluses and minuses with all Cubans traveling abroad, showing that it is being more open by letting its citizens leave more easily, but taking the risk that some won’t come back. Travelers seeing the world for the first time are apt to experience things that could give them cause to clamor for more freedoms or material goods back home, or it could make them more grateful for basic guarantees like free health care and education. Some will surely have both those reactions.

Cubans of all political stripes lined up outside travel agencies and migration offices when the law scrapping the country’s exit visa requirement went into effect Monday, looking to book flights, renew expired passports or just get information about how the measure would affect them. Among them was Yoani Sanchez, a dissident blogger who has garnered fame overseas for her writings about the frustrations of daily life. Sanchez says she has been turned down 20 times when she asked for permission to travel abroad to accept awards or attend conferences, and authorities told her she would only be allowed out if she was leaving for good.

It’s a practice that has been used to rid the island of a number of people considered troublemakers, including dozens of activists who were imprisoned in 2003 during a notorious crackdown on dissent. Under an agreement brokered by the Roman Catholic Church, many of them accepted exile in Spain as a condition of their release in recent years, although some holdouts were freed and allowed to stay in Cuba.

Sanchez said that to her surprise, an official told her Monday she will be able to leave and return once she has her new passport, a process that should take around two weeks. Shortly before turning in that night, she tweeted enthusiastically about her intention to visit friends in Canada: “I will dream of embraces, walls that fall and borders that dissolve.” Sanchez will apparently be the first dissident to test the government’s word, but she’s not alone.

In interviews with The Associated Press, several others confirmed plans to travel in the near term, including two recent winners of the European Union’s Sakharov prize who were denied permission to collect the award in person. They include Berta Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White protest group, who hopes to organize a delegation of the women to travel to Strasbourg, France, to pick up their prize from 2005. Guillermo Farinas, a noted hunger striker and 2010 Sakharov winner, said state security agents took the trouble of driving out to his home in the central city of Santa Clara to let him know he’ll be allowed to travel and return.

Both Farinas and Soler would presumably use the opportunity as a bully pulpit to bash their home country, seek support from sympathetic groups and lobby foreign governments to press Havana on human rights and democracy. “My position will be the same wherever I am. I will say the same thing anywhere,” Farinas said. “I believe the Cuban government should be replaced by a democratic government, and it is up to the Cuban citizenry to put another government in place or ratify the one that’s there.”

Story continues:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130115/cb-cuba-dissidents–travel/?utm_hp_ref=media&ir=media