Obama Frees Cuba-Backed Puerto Rican Terrorist 3

A painting of Oscar Lopez Rivera in Humboldt Park in Chicago in 2011. (Credit: Sally Ryan for The New York Times)

A painting of Oscar Lopez Rivera in Humboldt Park in Chicago in 2011.
(Credit: Sally Ryan for The New York Times)

Obama Commutes Sentence of F.A.L.N. Member Oscar Lopez Rivera

By CHRISTOPHER MELEJAN, New York Times

President Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence of a man convicted for his role in a Puerto Rican nationalist group linked to more than 100 bombings in New York and other cities in the 1970s and 1980s.

The man, Oscar Lopez Rivera, was serving a 70-year sentence after being convicted of numerous charges, including seditious conspiracy, a charge used for those plotting to overthrow the United States government.

He was linked to the radical group known as the F.A.L.N., the Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation, and was one of more than a dozen group members convicted in the 1980s.

Under Mr. Obama’s commutation order, Mr. Lopez Rivera’s prison sentence will expire May 17. It was one of 209 grants of commutation by the president announced Tuesday.

The F.A.L.N., which waged a violent campaign for the independence of Puerto Rico, was considered by the authorities to be among the most elusive and resilient terrorist groups to operate in the United States. Among its notable attacks was a bombing at Fraunces Tavern in New York in 1975 that killed four people.

The group was known for its tight-knit membership, fanatical zeal and hit-and-run tactics, as exemplified by the bombings of four government buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve in 1982 that seriously wounded three police officers.

Mr. Lopez Rivera was not specifically charged in the Fraunces Tavern bombing but more broadly with, among other things, the interstate transportation of firearms with the intent to commit violent crimes, and transportation of explosives with intent to kill and injure people and to destroy government buildings and property.

President Bill Clinton offered Mr. Lopez Rivera and other members of the F.A.L.N. clemency in 1999, a decision that stirred an emotional debate. Mr. Clinton said their sentences were out of proportion with their offenses.

While 12 prisoners accepted the offer and were freed, Mr. Lopez Rivera rejected the chance to reduce his sentence because it did not include all of the group’s members, his lawyer, Jan Susler, said at the time. If he had accepted the agreement, she said, he would have been eligible for release in 2009.

Article continues here:  FALN  

Obama Just Opened the Door for Castro’s Spies 1

President ObamaCuban intelligence will have a field day in the United States thanks to Obama’s latest outreach to Havana

By John R. Schindler • 10/14/16, Observer.com

Normalization of relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba has been one of the big foreign policy initiatives of Barack Obama’s presidency. During his two terms in the White House, Washington has overturned more than a half-century’s worth of American policies toward the Communist regime in Havana.

Calling that legacy a “failed approach,” Obama’s outreach to Havana, particularly in his second term, has been pronounced, including a visit by the president and the first lady to Cuba. By the time he leaves office in three months, Obama will have substantially re-normalized relations with the Castro regime.

Obama has pressed forward over the opposition of many Cuban-Americans and human rights groups, who note that Washington’s gifts to Havana have not been reciprocated with greater respect for democracy and the rule of law in Cuba, as many had anticipated. In the words of Amnesty International, “Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.”

Obama seems unperturbed by all this, and today he issued revised guidance for the U.S. Government in its re-normalized dealings with Havana. Presidential Policy Directive 43 is likely to be this president’s last push on Cuban matters, and its call to Congress to drop the Cold War-legacy embargo on the Castro regime seems like to fall on deaf ears.

Most of PDD-43’s guidance won’t impact average Americans, unless they happen to travel to Cuba. Obama has now permitted them to bring back as much Cuban rum and cigars as they like—something Americans were last able to do when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.

There’s the usual Obama boilerplate about promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba, though there’s nothing in PDD-43 that seems likely to make any impression on Havana. The document omits the word “Communist” entirely. Cubans expecting this president to demand concessions from the Castro regime in exchange for trade favors and diplomatic recognition have been let down yet again by Barack Obama.

Some of PDD-43’s guidance will have important national security implications. It directs the Defense Department to expand its relationship with Havana, especially in “humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counternarcotics in the Caribbean.” It further orders the Pentagon to “support Cuba’s inclusion in the inter-American defense system…which will give Cuba a stake in hemispheric stability.”

It’s far from clear that Havana’s Communist rulers—whose entire worldview for more than a half-century has been based on resistance to Yankee hegemony—actually want to be part of any American-led defense apparatus in our hemisphere, but the Pentagon follows orders, so we can expect the U.S. military to have more meetings and conferences with Cuban counterparts at the table.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of PDD-43 is what it tells our Intelligence Community to do. Obama has ordered American spies “to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.”

Feature continues here:  Castro’s Spies 

Editor’s Note:  While much of the author’s assessment is correct, he errs on several significant facts. First of all, a spy war has not “raged between Washington and Havana since the early 1960s.”  It actually began before the Castro Revolution when Raul Castro met and partnered with the Russian KGB’s Latin America department. Subsequently, Castro and the other anti-Batista allies came to power in January 1959. By that May, roughly four dozen Cuban spies were reportedly active in South Florida according to the CIA.

Secondly, the Wasp Network did NOT consist “of five Cuban intelligence officers and their many agents.” The five Schindler is referring too are the small group of senior officers and agents who did not make a deal with the US government in exchange for a lighter sentence. In reality, most of the personnel in the 40-plus member network escaped to spy again.

Chris Christie Wants Cuba Flights Blocked Over Havana’s Sheltering of American Terrorist Reply

rewardChristie urges Port Authority to reject Newark-Cuba flights over cop-killer case

By Geoff Earle, New York Post

WASHINGTON – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is urging the Port Authority not to reopen direct flights between Newark and Havana because of Cuba’s continued harboring of convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

“It is unacceptable to me to me as governor to have any flights between New Jersey and Cuba until and unless convicted cop killer and escaped fugitive Joanne Chesimard is returned to New Jersey to face justice,” Christie wrote in a letter to PA chief John Degnan obtained by The Post.

“I will not tolerate rewarding the Cuban government for continuing to harbor a fugitive,” he added.

Chesimard was convicted in 1977 of the brutal murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Officer James Harper was wounded in the melee.

Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, busted out of a New Jersey prison in 1979 and fled in 1984 to Cuba, where she was granted asylum. She was serving a life sentence, and escaped with armed accomplices.

Her continued sanctuary inside Cuba became an issue immediately after word broke of the new thaw in relations between Cuba and the US.

“We believe that the strong US interest in the return of these fugitives will be best served by entering into this dialogue with Cuba,” President Obama said this spring.

Feature continues here: Christie Pushes Back Against Cuba’s Continued Sheltering of American Terrorist

 

 

Cuban Military is in Syria; Can Havana’s Spies be Far Behind? 5

Castro_KhruCuba is Intervening in Syria to Help Russia: Its Not the First Time

By James Bloodworth in The Daily Beast:

Reports that Cuban forces are now fighting in Syria follow a long history of the Castro brothers working closely with their patrons in Moscow.

Not for the first time Cuban forces are doing Russia’s dirty work, this time in Syria. On Wednesday it was reported that a U.S. official had confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and Special Forces units were on the ground in Syria. Reportedly transported to the region in Russian planes, the Cubans are rumoured to be experts at operating Russian tanks.

For President Obama, who has staked his legacy on rapprochement with America’s adversaries, the entrance of Cuba into the bloody Syrian civil is one more embarrassment. Russia, Iran and Cuba—three regimes which Obama has sought to bring in from the cold—are now helping to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, ruler of a fourth regime he also tried in vain to court early on in his presidency. Obama has been holding his hand out in a gesture of goodwill to America’s adversaries only for them to blow him a raspberry back in his face—while standing atop a pile of Syrian corpses.

Yet for seasoned Cuba-watchers the entrance of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces into the Syrian civil war is a surprise but hardly a shock. A surprise because Cuba was forced two decades ago to curtail its military adventurism by a deteriorating economy (the Cuban military has been reduced by 80 per cent since 1991).

Largely thanks to the involvement of Cuban troops in the fight against Apartheid South African in Angola in the 70s and 80s (not to mention the more recent medical “missions” to disaster-stricken parts of the world) Cuba has gained something of a reputation for internationalism. At one point the Cuban presence in Angola reached 55,000 soldiers, inflicting a defeat on South African forces which helped precipitate the end of Apartheid. “The [Cuban army’s] decisive defeat of the aggressive apartheid forces [in Angola] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor,” Mandela told the Cuban leader on a visit to Havana in 1991.

In recent years Angola has lent the Castro regime a romantic penumbra which says that, for all its faults, the Cuban revolution is on balance progressive (watch the film Comandante by the ludicrous Oliver Stone to get a sense of what I mean). Yet while everyone remembers Cuban heroics in Angola, few remembers Cuban terror in Ethiopia.

Feature continues here: Cubans in Syria

 

Wanted Terrorist Seen as Symbol for U.S.-Cuban Differences 1

It was a murder on the New Jersey Turnpike – stunning violence near the New Brunswick exit. Now, decades after Black Liberation Army leader Joanne Chesimard was sentenced for the 1973 killing of a state trooper, escaped prison, and surfaced in Cuba in 1984, she is first and foremost among the estimated 70 American fugitives harbored there whose apparent flouting of U.S. law is fuel for critics of recent efforts to restore U.S.-Cuba relations.

In December, 54 years after America severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, Presidents Obama and Raul Castro proposed a renewal of ties. “We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring [Chesimard] back,” said New Jersey State Police Col. Rick Fuentes, “and stand by the reward” for her capture.

Read entire feature here:  Philadelphia Inquirer

 

 

Expelled Spies Continue Leadership Role in U.S.-Cuba Normalization Talks 5

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal

U.S. and Cuba Meet for Talks to Fully Restore Diplomatic Ties

By Randal C. Archibold, New York Times

MEXICO CITY — The United States and Cuba are closer than ever to reaching an agreement to fully restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies, officials in both countries said as negotiators met Thursday in Washington for another round of talks to iron out remaining details and discuss possible dates.

The move toward full diplomatic relations broken decades ago during the Cold War has been seen as a key step toward ending hostilities and normalizing ties with a historic opponent that once agreed to allow Soviet nuclear missiles on its soil and repelled an invasion by American-backed insurgents.

Yet progress toward full diplomatic relations has not gone as swiftly as initially hoped in December, when President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba first committed to restoring ties in a surprise announcement.

Now, with a number of obstacles out of the way or close to it, particularly for the Cubans, the talks have reached the most optimistic point after four rounds of conversations in Havana and Washington.

“I’m trying not to sound too Pollyannaish,” said a senior State Department official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about closed-door diplomatic matters. “But I do think we’re closer than we have been in the past, and I think my counterparts are coming up here with a desire to get this done.

“But equally,” the official added, “we have certain requirements that we need met, so we just have to see whether we can get there in this round of talks. I certainly hope so.”

Gustavo Machin, a top Cuban diplomat who has been part of his country’s delegation at the talks, told reporters in Havana on Monday, “We don’t see obstacles but rather issues to resolve and discuss.”

The governments closed their embassies after President Dwight Eisenhower broke diplomatic relations on Jan. 3, 1961, in response to a demand by Cuba’s new leader, Fidel Castro, that the American Embassy staff be significantly reduced. Mr. Castro called the embassy a spy outpost, part of an American plot to topple the Communist government he installed after the 1959 revolution.

Feature continues here:  Spies Lead Talks

Editor’s Note:  Josefina Vidal and Gustavo Machin, both undercover members of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), are suspected of being Department M – I (US Targets) officers. The elite staff of this Department handles penetrations of the US Intelligence Community, Congress, other Federal agencies, and academia.  

Whose Embassy Is This? 4

Cuba's President Raul Castro pauses as he speaks to reporters on the tarmac of the Jose Marti airport after escorting France's President Francois Hollande to his plane in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Castro said Cuba and the U.S. will name ambassadors to each other’s countries as soon as the island is removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism later this month. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Cuba’s President Raul Castro pauses as he speaks to reporters on the tarmac of the Jose Marti airport after escorting France’s President Francois Hollande to his plane in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Castro said Cuba and the U.S. will name ambassadors to each other’s countries as soon as the island is removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism later this month. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

The Cubans try to control the new American compound in Havana

By THE WASHINGTON TIMES [OPINION]

Barack Obama’s romance with the Castro brothers is rapidly turning into a sour shack-up. That’s what happens sometimes to romances under a tropic moon and the rustle of the coconut palms. Cuba wants to redefine the sanctity of embassies, and how they function. The public still doesn’t know what concessions the president is making to keep a flame under the romance, but it doesn’t sound good for our side.

The State Department has asked for another $6 million to expand the “American interests section,” in all but diplomatic protocol the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. Legally and officially, the American Interests Section is part of the Swiss Embassy, but it’s staffed by American diplomats and housed in the old American Embassy in a large building facing the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Plaza, which was cobbled together to “embarrass” the Americans.

John D. Feeley, a diplomat with the usual mouthful of title, “the principal deputy assistant secretary of state” in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, asked in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the money. Unless he told the senators more in private than he did in the public forum, it’s not clear what the money will be used for.

However, Mr. Feeley said some startling things about the big romance. American negotiators are still arguing about whether the security officers at the embassy are to be those of the Cuban secret police, and whether the U.S. can take its own electronic security equipment to expand the mission.

Whether American criminals who have taken refugee in Havana would be returned has not been determined, either. Within 48 hours of the announcement by the Obama administration that it would restore full relations with Havana, several Cuban dissidents were arrested, and are likely to remained imprisoned for an unknown period of time. The question of what the United States will get from reopened relations is not clear. What is clear is that the Cubans get a new center for Cuban infiltration, subversion and espionage in Washington.

WT OPINION continues here:  Embassy Confusion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba Welcomes Removal From U.S. List of States Sponsoring Terrorism 2

DI Officer Josefina Vidal

DI Officer Josefina Vidal

By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Cuba welcomed President Obama’s decision to remove the island nation from the list of states that sponsor terrorism — a list on which “Cuba never should have been included,” a senior Cuban official said.

Josefina Vidal, head of the North American section of the Cuban Foreign Ministry and Havana’s leader of negotiations to renew diplomatic ties with the United States, praised Obama’s “just decision” and said Cuba condemns rather than supports terrorism.

“Cuba rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as well as any action that has as its objective the encouraging, supporting, financing or covering up terrorist acts,” Vidal said in a statement released late Tuesday.

She said her nation had been the victim of terrorism rather than its promoter. She was alluding to efforts by U.S. and Cuban opponents of the Castro governments to overthrow or destabilize the regime, including the U.S.-backed attempted invasion at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, which she said claimed the lives of hundreds of Cubans.

“The government of Cuba recognizes the just decision taken by the president of the United States to eliminate Cuba from a list on which it never should have been included,” Vidal said.

Cuba’s position on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, with Iran, North Korea and others, had been a major obstacle in the improving of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December.

The Castro governments consistently demanded their nation be removed from the list — along with insisting that the U.S. embargo on Cuba be lifted, something that only Congress can do.

Editor’s Note:  Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal left the US in May 2003 as part of the expulsion of 16 Cuban diplomat spies. However, she and another DI spouse were not “officially” declared Persona Non Grata since the expulsion of their husbands made their departure a fait accompli.

Additionally, Cuba’s decades-long support to terrorist groups is irrefutable and well documented. In fact — from 1959 until September 11, 2001 — Cuban supported groups conducted more attacks and killed more Americans than any other terrorist groups in the United States.

Obama Says Would Move Fast to Take Cuba Off Terrorism Sponsor List 5

Obama(Reuters) – President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to act quickly once he receives a State Department recommendation on whether to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of terrorism-sponsoring countries, a remaining obstacle to the restoration of relations between Washington and Havana.

With just days to go before a hemispheric summit in Panama where Obama will come face-to-face with Cuban President Raul Castro, he offered no clear sign of how he was leaning or the timeframe for his decision. He ordered the review immediately after announcing a diplomatic breakthrough with Havana on Dec. 17.

Obama, in a Reuters interview in early March, said he hoped the United States would be able to open an embassy in Cuba by the time of the April 10-11 Summit of the Americas, and U.S. officials have since said the review was being expedited.

But the lack of a decision so far on taking Cuba off the terrorism blacklist – something Havana has steadfastly demanded – has raised strong doubts about whether the review will be finished in time to make further strides toward normalization before the summit.

“As soon as I get a recommendation, I’ll be in a position to act on it,” Obama said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Obama gave no sense of where the administration is heading on the issue but made clear that his decision would be based not on “whether they engage in repressive or authoritarian activities in their own country” but on the “current activities of the Cuban government” with regard to terrorism.

Cuba was added to the list of terrorism sponsors in 1982, when it was aiding Marxist insurgencies. But it is currently aiding a peace process with Colombia’s left-wing FARC guerrillas.

“I think there’s a real opportunity here, and we are going to continue to make – move forward on it,” Obama said. “Our hope is to be in a position where we can open an embassy there, that we can start having more regular contacts and consultations around a whole host of issues, some of which we have interests in common.”

He added: “What I’m saying is, I’m going to be taking a very close look at what the State Department recommends.”

(Reporting by Eric Walsh and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Ken Wills)