New York Times Using Discredited Cuba Sources Reply

Yesterday’s New York Times featured this highly disappointing article by foreign correspondent Damien Cave: Former Exit Port for a Wave of Cubans Hopes to Attract Global Shipping

One of the sources widely used by Cave and the New York Times was Arturo Lopez-Levy, who it erroneously cited as “a former Cuban official who studies Cuba’s economy and politics” and someone “who also works with a group of Cuban-Americans favoring engagement with Cuba.” No mention was made to how – in his own book – Lopez-Levy admitted to having been a spy with Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Likewise, the Times failed to note the PhD candidate’s close family ties to Raul Castro’s son-in-law, MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

The paper then compounded this sourcing error by citing Phil Peters, a senior member of the long discredited Lexington Institute. A self-professed “think tank,” this group was exposed as a fraud years ago for writing flattering news stories on its corporate sponsors in the defense sector. Coverage on their money-for-stories approach can be found here: Analyst’s switch stirs tanker talk, and in the Babalu Blog feature,
Sherritt, Cuba, and the Cubanologist.”

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Famed Castro Apologist Hypes “Rise” of CELAC Reply

OAS head at Cuba Summit in Unusual Encounter

By Associated Press

HAVANA — The secretary-general of the Organization of American States arrived in Cuba on Monday to attend a regional summit, in an unusual encounter 52 years after Cuba was kicked out of the regional bloc.

Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean, was attending as an observer, so there was no official access to his arrival as was the case with visiting foreign ministers and heads of state. But Cuban officials confirmed his presence on the island to The Associated Press.

Hugo Zela, Insulza’s chief of staff, said the OAS, which was formed in 1948, has no record of a secretary-general visiting Cuba.

Tensions between Cuba and the OAS began shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, when Washington put pressure on Fidel Castro’s nascent Communist government through the organization.

Cuba was suspended from the bloc in 1962 at the height of the Cold War and many other nations turned their backs on Havana, with Mexico a notable exception.

By the dawn of the 21st century and with the Cold War nearly two decades in the rear-view mirror, some countries — particularly Venezuela under the late President Hugo Chavez, who called Castro a friend and mentor — began pushing for Cuba’s reintegration into the hemispheric community.

In 2009 the OAS ended Cuba’s suspension with the consent of Washington, which had been hesitant at first. But Havana balked at rejoining the bloc it sees as obeying U.S. interests.

“Cuba’s position toward the OAS remains the same: We will not return,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at the summit. “It has negative historical baggage as an instrument of domination by the United States that cannot be resolved through any reform.”

Nonetheless, Rodriguez said inviting Insulza to the CELAC summit was done out of “courtesy.”

The CELAC was formed in 2011 and includes all the Western Hemisphere’s nations except Canada and the United States.

“It should replace within a short time the OAS, that institution that did so much harm to integration,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Roberto Patino said Monday.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba analyst and lecturer at the University of Denver, said the CELAC’s creation puts pressure on the OAS to remain relevant.

“The problems of the OAS are due to the fact that inter-American multilateralism has not been updated in respect to the changes in politics and balance of power that have taken place in (the region) and beyond as part of the rise of the global south,” Lopez-Levy said. “The second summit of the CELAC in Havana pours salt on that wound,” he added.

For decades the argument for excluding Cuba from the OAS was its closed, single-party system. Havana has little tolerance for internal opposition and routinely harasses dissidents whom it officially labels treasonous “mercenaries.”

Insulza has come under criticism particularly from the Cuban exile community for not scheduling meetings with island dissidents during the trip, in order to avoid making the summit hosts uncomfortable.

“It’s startling,” said Elizardo Sanchez, a nongovernmental human rights monitor in Cuba. “It’s a little surprising because the OAS usually recognizes the human rights NGOs.”

Cuban dissidents have complained about increased harassment and detentions in the days leading up to and during the summit. Some said they were prevented from holding an alternative forum, while others claimed to be under effective house arrest.

Editor’s Note: Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is a long-term doctoral student in Denver.

Citing “Former” Cuban Spy, AFP Reports Dissident Influence Waning 1

In a feature worthy of Granma or Russia’s Pravda, the AFP reported that Cuban dissidents now travel freely, but their on-island influence has diminished. Curiously, the AFP conceded that Cuba’s apartheid regime censors dissident messages, but failed to report that foreign travel is allowed only when approved by Havana’s pervasive security and intelligence services. Likewise, it omitted State Security’s long-term, repressive targeting of the internationally-known Ladies in White and less famous protesters.

The piece then quoted “former” Cuban spy Arturo Lopez-Levy as saying dissidents do not provide “viable alternatives to the country’s main problems.” In reality, Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is in his eighth year as a doctoral student in Denver.

“Vail Daily” column: Cuba is changing 4

Wayne Trujillo, Valley Voices

An apparently polite and perfunctory presidential encounter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial became more than a mere handshake. Not only did President Barack Obama shake Raul Castro’s hand, but he also shook the Beltway and blogosphere, ironically and metaphorically giving pause to those with sanitary concerns about casual and calculated handshakes. This one did indeed go viral. The handshake grabbed the synoptic attention spans that comprise the Internet, inciting gobs of Google returns and emotional comments.

While some pundits and politicians consider President Obama’s acknowledgement of Cuba’s leader either a pragmatic grasp of diplomacy or merely a funereal formality, others lambasted the palming as insouciance, if not actually a tacit high five, to tyranny and thuggery. While the presidential handshake may have meant nothing more than a spontaneous greeting without forethought or consequence, the possibility exists that the gesture subtly acknowledged that our Cuban policy, codified through ostracism and various legislative measures through the years, has likely delayed rather than hastened Cuban democracy.

One thing is certain. Cuba is changing.

Last month, I traveled to Cuba on the Chamber of the Americas Cuban Cultural/Educational mission trip. Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban native and doctoral candidate at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, guided the mission, introducing us to Cuban artists, musicians, academics, students, bloggers, activists, religious leaders and budding entrepreneurs. The introductions were more than an exchange of handshakes and pleasantries. We engaged in spirited and freewheeling discussions about socioeconomic and political challenges that would’ve been impossible even a decade ago. Actually, finding a budding entrepreneur in Cuba a decade ago would’ve been impossible. A recent New York Times article explored the Cuban government’s gradual and limited shifts and allowances, quoting our tour organizer, Lopez-Levy, on the intricacies the Cuban government and reformists navigate on the delicate dance to a destination even remotely considered a full-fledged free democracy. Cuba’s limited freedoms and private proprietorships appear more of an amateur dress rehearsal than the world premiere of a polished production on any stage of the global economy.

Feature continues here: Cuba is Changing

Good Day For Castro Collaborators in Huffington Post 2

Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?

By Arturo Lopez-Levy

Nelson Mandela, even after his death, promoted peace and reconciliation among nations and civility between leaders. His funeral has brought about the refreshing image of Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama, of Cuba and the U.S., greeting each other.

The struggle against apartheid was a cause that gathered many around the world. The African-American university student Barack Obama and the thousands of Cuban soldiers who went to Angola were among them. Mandela inspired them and thanked them all for their contribution. Barack Obama and Raul Castro were on the same side of the South African conflict, Mandela’s side. They had common adversaries like Senator Jesse Helms, author of the insignia law of the embargo against Cuba, and the loudest voice in the racist and reactionary resistance against American repudiation of apartheid.

A gesture says more than a thousand words. Obama behaved in accord with the dignity and protocol that comes with leading a democratic superpower. The handshake would not have been extraordinary without past deviations by the U.S. from all diplomatic norms in its policy towards Cuba. In Mexico in 2002, then-president George W. Bush put President Vicente Fox on the ropes by demanding that Mexico arrange the Monterrey summit in a way that he did not have to greet Fidel Castro. Fox asked Fidel Castro to speak, eat and leave before Bush arrived. When Fidel revealed their phone conversation, Fox’s decision to genuflect toward the North caused a crisis in the relations between Havana and Mexico City.

Article continues here: Barack Obama and Raul Castro: More Than a Handshake?

Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands

By John McAuliff

There has never been a more propitious moment in the spirit of Nelson Mandela for President Obama to make an historic change in U.S.-Cuba relations. As I wrote in a previous post, Judy and Alan Gross have given the White House the moral authorization, if not obligation, to negotiate with Cuba to achieve Alan’s release. Two-thirds of the Senate have given it the political space by signing a letter initiated by Senator Leahy.

Cuba has just reaffirmed in friendly language its readiness and the parameters for agreement (exact text here). The content is not new but in the current context is tantalizingly suggestive of the choice facing President Obama.

Cuban President Raul Castro has called for “civilized relations” with the United States, saying the two countries should respect their differences.

Article continues here: Change With Cuba in President Obama’s Hands

New York Daily News Uses “Former” Cuban Spies as Unattributed Sources in “Handshake” Coverage 1

The recent article by Albor Ruiz “Obama-Castro Handshake More Than Just a Gesture” used former Cuban Intelligence Officers Jesús Arboleya and Arturo López-Levy as central sources in the feature. However, Ruiz failed to identify either man as a former spy, instead referencing Arboleya as a “Cuban writer and political analyst” and López-Levy as a “Cuba expert and Political Science professor at the University of Denver.”

Editor’s Note: Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by intelligence service defector Jesus Perez Mendez in 1983. Years later, Arboleya’s intelligence service was further corroborated by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez.

Arboleya served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section. During his US tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was inspired by the DGI, (then) Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

Arturo Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly.

Group Founded by “Former” Cuban Spy Denounces US-Cuba Policy 1

CAFE Denounces Mario Diaz-Balart’s Attempts to Reverse Advancements in U.S.-Cuba Policy

The Executive Committee of CAFE, Cuban Americans for Engagement, would like to express our severe dismay over the recent language introduced by representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) to the House Financial Services Appropriations Bill for the fiscal year 2014 that would reverse important advancements in U.S.-Cuba relations.

The language contained in sections 124 and 125 of the bill, which was passed by the full committee on Wednesday, would adversely affect two major policy changes of the Obama administration that have brought about improvements in the relations between the citizens of both nations over the past four years.

Section 124 would effectively dismantle the “people-to-people” licensing program, allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba for educational purposes, by defunding the program. These licenses have allowed U.S. citizens to legally visit Cuba and experience the island first-hand, ending their reliance on the skewed portrayals of Cuban reality by either the U.S. government or the corporate-controlled media.

These visits have also allowed Cuban citizens to interact with average U.S. citizens and to discover that most people in the U.S. desire normal relations with their Cuban neighbors. These educational exchanges have served to reinforce the similarities of both peoples and to express our shared interests.

The provisions in section 125 are particularly disturbing because they negatively affect thousands of Diaz-Balart’s own constituents and their families in Cuba by requiring OFAC to monitor and report details on Cuban American travel to Cuba and on all remittances carried to Cuba, whether by Cuban Americans or others.

These remittances that have been taken to Cuba in the past years have helped to bolster the nascent mixed economy and allow Cubans on the island to start and maintain small businesses. Without these much needed investments Cubans wouldn’t be able to participate in this new paradigm. The regulations imposed by this legislation would require a costly and intrusive monitoring system and would ultimately lead to diminished monetary support for the limited, yet increasing, free enterprise that is now possible in Cuba and less humanitarian and other donations to Cuba’s religious NGOs.

It is extremely hypocritical and downright un-American of Diaz-Balart and the Republican controlled Appropriations committee to discourage Cuban Americans from taking advantage of the economic reforms taking place in Cuba. These are the same public figures that decry the communist, authoritarian government’s control over the economy. These remittances have been the lifeblood of recent reforms in Cuba and Diaz-Balart’s shortsighted and malicious attempt to curtail such funds is an affront to the American way of life.
CAFE will join others in fighting to keep this hateful language from ever making it to the president’s desk and we hope that Diaz-Balart’s mean-spirited tactics will be met with negative results at the polls on Election Day in November of 2014. Diaz-Balart’s attempt to control the American citizenry’s right to travel and sabotage his own constituent’s efforts to contribute to the welfare of their extended communities in Cuba is a disgusting act of political posturing that shouldn’t be accepted by any sector of the American government or society.

CAFE advocates an end to the unconstitutional restrictions on travel to Cuba imposed by the U.S. Congress and exhorts the U.S. State Department to at least, in the mean time, establish a single general license to cover all currently permissible categories of travel to Cuba. We also support the unlimited investment by Cuban Americans in Cuba and the end to the embargo that prohibits individuals and companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction from most trade and economic transactions with the island.

Editor’s Note: “Former” self-professed Cuban Intelligence Officer Arturo Lopez-Levy is a founding member of CAFÉ. More on this group can be found in this May 10, 2012 post: CAFE: Changing the Aroma of Cuban-American Politics

Castro Apologists Support Migration Talks 2

U.S., Cuba Resuming Migration Talks

By Portia Siegelbaum / CBS News

Havana Cuban and U.S. officials will hold the first migration talks between the two nations since 2011 in Washington on Wednesday.

Analysts believe both countries have a strong interest in getting them off the ground again. “I think there is a lot of clarity in both capitals that geographic proximity and family connectivity require the two governments to establish a regular channel for problem solving and information sharing in this space,” says Julia Sweig, Director of Latin American Studies, Council on Foreign Relations. “Much has changed regarding the flow of people back and forth,” she added.

Periodic discussion of the issue has taken place since 1980, but an accord was not reached until 1994, when the two countries sat down to find a solution to the rafters’ crisis in which 30,000 people fleeing economic troubles at home set out on flimsy crafts hoping to reach U.S. shores. The following year, the U.S. and Cuba signed a second migration accord. Both were agreements to work toward “safe, legal and orderly migration.” And they called for regular reviews of their implementation.

The Bush Administration broke off these twice-yearly talks, along with taking other measures such as severely restricting the rights of Cuban Americans to travel back to the island — limiting them to only one visit every three years. President Obama reestablished the rights of Cuban Americans to visit their homeland as much as they want and resumed the talks, only to break them off over the detention and jailing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, which the State Department has repeatedly said remains a major obstacle to any improvement in relations between the two neighboring countries.

Gross is serving a 15-year sentence in a Havana military hospital for bringing sophisticated communication equipment illegally into Cuba as part of a USAID program to promote democracy on the island. In Havana’s eyes, the program aims for regime change.

Arturo Lopez Levy, lecturer and PhD Candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and a Cuban-American says, “Opening the talks again is a sign of both sides’ will to explore ways to advance their positions through negotiations. It opens the possibility of a new virtuous cycle in which a positive action by Cuba or the United States can be reciprocated by the other side. Issues such as Alan Gross’ situation and the presence of Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism are on the table because both sides know that their interlocutor would react positively to a goodwill gesture.”

Nevertheless, when the talks were announced last month, State Department spokesman William Ostick said they do not signify a change in U.S. policy toward the island.
Instead, he insisted that, “Continuing to ensure secure migration between the U.S. and Cuba is consistent with our interests in promoting greater freedoms and increased respect for human rights in Cuba.”

But critics of warming relations eye with unease the fact that Wednesday’s talks follow recent bilateral meetings in Washington on direct mail service, suspended since the 1960s. The migration accords commit the United States to issue visas to a minimum of 20,000 Cuban migrants each year, while Cuba promised to discourage irregular and unsafe departures.

The U.S. also agreed to return illegal migrants picked up at sea to Cuba and Havana promised not to take reprisals against them and to allow U.S. diplomats posted at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to visit the returnees to make sure they are not being treated unjustly. This is important, as it represents a relaxation of Cuba’s previous restrictions on the movement of American diplomats on the island.

Similar softening in these movement limitations is taking place in the U.S., with Washington giving Cuban diplomats posted there or at the U.N. in New York permission to travel to different states, even to Miami.

The U.S. Interests Section also recently took steps to speed up visa interview appointment scheduling and is processing many thousands more Cubans than before. But ordinary Cubans, particularly young ones asking for temporary tourist visas, still complain that they are more often than not turned down as possible immigrants.

The interviews take place in a waiting room, with the visa applicants called up to a window. Anyone there, including others waiting to be interviewed, can hear what’s being said in the interviews being conducted. The “interviews” often last less than a minute. In January 2012, the Cuban government relaxed its travel restrictions, allowing a much greater number of people, including dissidents, to leave the island and for a much longer period of time without losing their property or rights as citizens, to two years instead of 11 months.

That, says Lopez Levy, is a game changer in reaction to which both countries “probably need to update their cooperation in this area in which there are new challenges and opportunities.” He sees the new situation as one in which both sides have something to bring to the table. “Presidents Obama and Raul Castro can bring new positive dynamics to the people to people relations,” he points out. “(Mr.) Obama can implicitly support economic reform in Cuba by easing the trips to Cuba and Cuban-Americans permanence on the island for long periods. Raul Castro can provide a better environment around the U.S. interests’ Section work in Havana, cooperating with more educational and cultural long term trips and contacts.”

US Foe Cuba Wary of Snowden Entanglement 4

(Agence France-Presse) Cuba has given its backing to Latin American allies who have offered asylum to fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden but is unlikely to risk antagonizing Washington by becoming more deeply embroiled in the intrigue, analysts say.

Cuban leader Raul Castro on Sunday said Havana backed the “sovereign rights” of countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua who had offered asylum to Snowden, who remains marooned in the transit area of a Moscow airport. Castro’s show of support drew a swift response from anti-secrecy website Wikileaks, who challenged the Cuban leader to go further and offer Snowden safe haven. “If Raul Castro’s solidarity on #Snowden is serious, Cuba will publicly offer Snowden asylum,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter.

It is a challenge Cuba — a key transit point from Russia to Latin America — is unlikely to respond to anytime soon, several analysts told AFP. While Cuba is a bitter historical and idelogical enemy of the United States, analysts say authorities in Havana do not wish to add to the enmity by involvement in the Snowden imbroglio. “The Cuban government wants to show solidarity with Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua on the Snowden case, but seems reluctant to go much beyond that,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think-tank.

“They do not want to get involved and further complicate their relationship with Washington. “There are enough difficulties as it is without adding another, very serious one.” Shifter said even allowing Snowden to use Havana as a transit point en route to another destination in the region would be “risky.” “There doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite in Havana for getting into a fight with Washington,” he said. “A confrontation now would accomplish nothing and would reverse some of the modest steps that have recently been made in relaxing bilateral tensions.”

Anya Landau French, editor of The Havana Note blog which specialises in relations between communist Cuba and its powerful northern neighbor, also questioned whether the Caribbean nation would assist Snowden’s possible passage to Latin America. “I doubt we’ll see Edward Snowden turn up in Havana any time soon,” she said. If Cuba hopes to one day see the end of the severe US embargo on relations with the island which has been in place since 1962, it must first extricate itself from the US State Department’s list of nations deemed to be state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba is one of four countries, along with Iran, Sudan, Syria, included on the State Department blacklist.

A 2006 State Department report however noted that Cuban authorities had given assurances they would no longer accept “new” US fugitives, Landau French points out.
“Allowing Snowden to transit Cuba would be a break of faith from that assurance given,” she said. Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who is now a professor of international relations specializing in Latin American foreign policy at the University of Boston, believes Havana would be unwilling to risk the long-term diplomatic consequences of granting Snowden asylum. “It is hard to believe that Cuba would be enthusiastic about offering permanent asylum to a 30-year-old who could…turn into a prolonged embarrassment lasting decades,” Hare said. “Cuba knows better than any of the asylum-offering countries that the grant of asylum may offer some short-term political satisfaction but it ultimately taints foreign policy for years to come,” he added, describing Snowden as “diplomatically toxic.”

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban-born academic at the University of Denver, said Castro’s government would not want to do anything that risk improving relations with US President Barack Obama’s administration. “Cuba does not want the Snowden case to derail the possibility of real progress in its relationship with the United States in the second Obama administration,” Lopez-Levy says.

“On the one hand, Cuba does not benefit by scoring ideological points against the United States; on the other hand, Cuba wants to support its allies. It is a difficult balance, but for the moment it is held well,” Lopez-Levy said. “Cuba wants to stay as far away from the Snowden affair as possible but it is unrealistic to think that Havana will completely abdicate from its role as co-leader (with Venezuela) of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas),” Lopez-Levy added, referring to the regional grouping of Latin American nations set up by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004. “If Snowden may transit legally through Havana, but that is not the same as giving him asylum.”