Today in Havana: Career Spy to Moderate Discussion of Professor LeoGrande’s New Book, “Back Channel to Cuba” 2

American University professor, Dr. William M. Leogrande

American University professor, Dr. William M. Leogrande

By Chris Simmons

Today in Havana, the new book by William M. Leogrande and Peter Komubluh, ¨Back Channel to Cuba. The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana,¨ will be presented at the Villena room of the Cuban Association of Writers and Artists (UNEAC). Also being discussed is the expanded second edition of a book on Cuba-US relations by a pair of Cuban authors. According to Cubarte, the session is being moderated by Ramón Sánchez Parodi.

Ramón Sánchez Parodi Montoto was the first chief at the Cuban Interests Section when Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic mission on September 1, 1977. This career spy served in Washington for 12 consecutive years. During this assignment, Sánchez Parodi was exposed as an intelligence officer during the Senate testimony of Dr Daniel James of the Congressional Research Service. James said Sánchez Parodi, whom he cited as either Directorate of Intelligence (DI) or America Department (DA), targeted the Congressional Black Caucus to foment opposition to existing US policies towards Cuba. According to the New York Times, Sánchez Parodi was extremely well connected to the US academic, civic, cultural, and business communities. He was promoted to Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs immediately following his US tour. His portfolio was the Western Hemisphere.

During the latter half of the 1990s, Sánchez Parodi was Cuba’s Ambassador to Brazil. Following this tour, he returned to Havana to head the Department of International Relations for Cuban Customs.

Brazil Spied on Iran’s Ambassador to Cuba, Russian Diplomats, Others 2

Brazilian Agency Spied on Foreign Workers

By Lucas Ferraz, Folha de S. Paulo


The Brazilian government’s main espionage branch spied on three foreign diplomats at embassies and in their homes, says a report by ABIN (Brazilian Intelligence Agency).

The report includes details on ten secret operations between 2003 and 2004 and shows that even countries with which Brazil has attempted closer relations in recent years, such as Russia and Iran, were targets of ABIN.

It also says Russian diplomats involved in negotiations to purchase military equipment were photographed and followed on trips.

The same occurred with employees of the Iranian embassy, followed so that ABIN could identify their contacts in Brazil. The report also shows that ABIN agents followed Iraqi diplomats on foot and by car to photograph them and record their activities at the embassy and at their homes.

The Presidency’s Institutional Security Cabinet, to which ABIN is subordinate, confirmed the operations and said they were carried out according to the Brazilian legislation.

The Brazilian government says they were counterintelligence operations, that is, they sought to protect secrets in Brazil’s interest.

During the “Miucha” operation in 2003, ABIN followed the routine of three Russian diplomats, including the former general consul in Rio, Anatoly Kashuba, who left the country in the same year, and representatives of the Rosoboronexport, the Russian weapon export agency.

The “Xá” operation monitored the routines and contacts of Iranian diplomats – ABIN followed the steps of Iran’s then-ambassador in Cuba, Seyed Davood Mohseni Salehi Monfared, during a visit to Brazil between April 9 and 14, 2004.

An ABIN agent who examined the report at Folha’s request said the Iranians were likely followed at another country’s request, a typical cooperation between intelligence agencies.

The report also shows that the Brazilian government spied on the Iraqi embassy after Iraq was invaded by the U.S. in 2003.

Translated by Thomas Muello

Blogger Yoani Sánchez Says Comment on ‘Cuban Five’ Was Ironic, Misunderstood Reply

By Juan Carlos Chávez,

Opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez stirred controversy in Brazil on Wednesday when she made a ironic comment about the Cuban government’s misuses of money, time and resources in an international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies. She had said that if that they were freed, the Cuban government would save millions of dollars. Hours later, Sánchez clarified her position through several messages sent through social media.

The five men were convicted in 2000 of spying on anti-Castro groups in Miami. As part of a spy ring called the Wasp Network, they were linked to the Cuban government’s 1996 shoot-down over the Florida Straits of two planes carrying members of the exile group Brothers to the Rescue. Four South Florida men were killed. Cuba has waged a relentless campaign for the release of the men known as the “Cuban Five.’’ “The amount of money that my country’s government is spending on this worldwide campaign, on [ad] space of international media by the Interior Ministry, the number of hours spent in schools talking about those five people, in order to bring that campaign to an end, they should free them,’’ said Sánchez, 37. “I’m worried about my country’s coffers and would prefer their release to see if they save more [money] because there are more issues on the table.”

Hours after the story was published in El Nuevo Herald, she sent posted this comment on the paper’s home page: “At no moment in Brazil did I ask for the five members of the Cuban Interior Ministry to be free. I was using irony to express my views that if they’re free right now, the government would save millions of dollars that it is now paying in this campaign that has lasted for 15 years. “If the irony didn’t work, if the words that I used weren’t the right ones, I apologize. My position is the same: They’re not innocent.” Sanchez also Tweeted several messages that underscored this view.

Sánchez is the creator of the blog Generación Y, a columnist for foreign newspapers, and a prolific user of social media to shed light on life in Cuba. She made her remarks Wednesday during a visit to the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia. Her initial comments spread quickly on the Internet and in South Florida after they appeared on the Viewpoint blog of journalist Joan Antonio Guerrero Vall, a collaborator of Martí Noticias. In her meeting with Brazilian lawmakers, Sánchez also had criticized the U.S. trade embargo, saying it was “interventionist” and has not worked. “As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and not in order of importance, it should end as soon as possible is that it is used by the Cuban government as the fundamental reason to explain its economic failure and political and social repression,” she said.

Sánchez had been denied permission to travel abroad for a decade by the Cuban government, but under a new travel and migration policy Cuba enacted last month, Cubans no longer need an exit visit to leave the island. The blogger quickly took advantage of the new policy and accepted invitations to speak in Latin America, Europe, and the U.S.

She is scheduled to speak at Miami’s Freedom Tower, a former processing center for Cuba refugees, on April 1 and receive the Miami Dade College Presidential Medal for championing human rights. Asked if the college had a response to the future honoree’s remarks in Brazil, Juan Mendieta, MDC’s director of communications, said, “We’re focused on our event. We’re not going to get into this debate.’’

Miami Herald reporters Mimi Whitefield and Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.

Yoani Sánchez Calls for the Release of 5 Cuban Spies and End to Embargo 1

By Juan Carlos Chavez,

Arguing that Cuba’s government wastes money, time and resources in an international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies, opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez said Wednesday in Brazil that she would support their release. The five men were convicted in a highly-publicized trial in Miami in 2000 for being part of the Wasp Network, the largest the biggest Cuban spy ring known to have been dismantled in the U.S.

“The amount of money that my country’s government is spending on this worldwide campaign, on [ad] space of international media by the Interior Ministry, the number of hours spent in schools talking about those five people, in order to bring that campaign to an end, they should free them,’’ said Sánchez, 37. “I’m worried about my country’s coffers and would prefer their release to see if they save more [money] because there are more issues on the table.”

Sánchez is the creator of the blog Generación Y, an award-winning journalism and human rights blog published in various countries. She is in Brazil as part of an 80-day trip outside of the island and was received on Wednesday at the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia where a documentary titled, Cuba-Honduras Connection was screened. The film was supposed to be shown on Monday in the northeastern city of Feira de Santana but was canceled due to violent demonstrations and protests by Cuba government supporters.

In his meeting with Brazilian lawmakers, Sánchez also criticized the U.S. trade embargo. She referred to it as “interventionist” and said that it has not worked. “As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and not in order of importance, it should end as soon as possible is that it is used by the Cuban government as the fundamental reason to explain its economic failure and political and social repression,” Sánchez said. Sánchez’s remarks began to spread quickly on the Internet. The remarks were first reported in the Viewpoint blog of journalist Joan Antonio Guerrero Vall, a collaborator Martí Noticias.

One of the five spies is serving two life sentences on charges of conspiracy to murder and help Cuban warplanes shoot down two civilian planes in 1996, killing the four crew members from Miami who were aboard. Three others are still in prison and the fifth finished his 13-year prison sentence last year and is now completing three years of probation. Trial evidence showed that ring members, some using fake identities, tried to infiltrate U.S. military installations and Cuban exile groups in an effort to feed military and political information back to Havana.

Sánchez arrived Monday in Brazil and was met with protests by supporters of the Cuban regime at airports in Recife and Salvador, but the most serious incident occurred in Feira de Santana, where a larger group interrupted the scheduled Monday night documentary with shouts of “Long live the revolution” and “Cuba yes, Yankees no.” Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, the ruling Workers Party (PT), who participated in the act, tried in vain to mediate between the protesters and the blogger, who could only speak a few minutes in an impromptu debate. Deputy Mendonça Filho, of the Democrats opposition party, also asked the Federal Police to take charge of Sánchez’s safety while in Brazil, the first stop in the blogger’s visit to a dozen countries.

Sánchez, who is scheduled to visit Miami on April 1, had been denied permission to leave Cuba 20 times in six years. Her trip was approved by Cuban authorities under new immigration reforms that took effect in January.

Havana’s Smear Campaign Against Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Follows Her To Brazil Reply

BY Ryan Villarreal, International Business Times

Cuba’s most prominent dissident Yoani Sanchez has described the ridicule she encountered upon her arrival in Brazil by pro-Fidel Castro leftists as an extension of Havana’s “information war” against her. Waving Cuban flags, protesters called Sanchez a “mercenary” for the U.S. government and tossed photocopied dollar bills at her she passed, flanked by her own supporters, through the Guararapes International Airport in northeastern Brazil Monday morning.

“On arrival many friends welcomed me and other people shouted insults. I wish in Cuba we could do the same. Long live freedom!” Sanchez wrote in a post on her Twitter account, which has been blocked by the Cuban government for the few Cubans that have access to the Internet. Later in the evening, more protesters showed up in the city of Bahia to picket the screening of a documentary featuring commentary from Sanchez, titled “Connection Cuba-Honduras,” forcing the event to be cancelled. Sanchez, who was in attendance, attempted to open a dialogue with her detractors but was ignored and shouted over. “They repeated a hackneyed, identical script without any intention of listening to my response,” Sanchez wrote in her latest blog entry. “They responded to orders … I could see the long arm that moves from the Revolution Square in Havana.”

The Brazilian magazine Veja first reported that the Cuban government was coordinating a local defamation campaign against Sanchez through its diplomats. “The plan to spy on and embarrass Yoani Sanchez was drafted by the Cuban government, but will run with the knowledge and support of the PT (Workers’ Party), the party activists and at least one employee of the Presidency,” wrote Veja reporter Robson Bonin. The presidential employee, Ricardo Martins Poppi, an aide to Gilberto Carvalho, chief minister in President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet, told Veja he had attended a clandestine meeting on Feb. 6 which discussed migration policy and Sanchez’s upcoming trip.[emphasis added] “That doesn’t surprise me, it’s part of an information war,” Sanchez said in her initial response, the Miami Herald reported.

Sanchez, 37, has gained international recognition for her blog Generation Y, established in 2007 and in which she has written about her experiences living in Cuba. Her writing, which has been critical of the Cuban government at times, has gotten her blacklisted. Her blog has been blocked and she is only able to publish it through the covert help of supporters who can transfer her entries from her portable hard drive onto the Internet. In the past five years she has been denied an exit visa to leave the country over 20 times until the travel restriction was universally lifted last month. Sanchez has also reported multiple instances of harassment, intimidation and physical abuse from Cuban police and Castro supporters, though she has never been arrested. [emphasis added]

One of Sanchez’s supporters, Sebastian Arcos, a Cuban exile and Associate Director of Development at the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University, said the Cuban government is threatened by her because she was born and raised in Cuba, a product of the education system and therefore her criticisms are rooted in the genuine experiences of a Cuban citizen. Aside from two years Sanchez spent studying in Switzerland from 2002 to 2004, she has spent the rest of her life in Cuba.

“They see her as an internal threat and she has been able to disarm them by engaging them in a civilized way,” Arcos said. “There is nothing more dangerous to a totalitarian regime than a well-educated, articulate and civilized opponent.” Arcos added that Sanchez is considered even more threatening because her writing is not overtly political. “She is not an active member of any dissident movement,” he said. “She is a human being, and she has political opinions, but her primary goal is free expression in its purest form.”

Sanchez has embarked on a three-month world tour, making her first stop in Brazil among roughly a dozen countries, including the U.S., Mexico and Spain.

This Month in History: Brazil Rebuffed Diplomatic Posting of Murderous Spy 1

August 1986:  Brazil rejected Havana’s assignment of senior intelligence officer, Colonel René Rodríguez Cruz, after a damaging O Estado de Sao Paulo story.  The newspaper ran a photograph of Rodríguez with pistol in hand, standing over the body of a just-executed male. The paper also reported that Rodríguez had served as director of the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), an intelligence assignment.  Furthermore, according to the newspaper’s source, Brazil ranked second only to Mexico as the most important country for Cuban intelligence operations.

On two months earlier – in June – a year after the end of the military dictatorship, Brazil had re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba.  America Department (DA) officer Julio Sergio Cervantes Padilla, Havana’s Political Counselor to Brazil, had engaged in extensive lobbying of Brazilian government officials to facilitate the renewed ties.

Editor’s Note: 

For more on ICAP, see the July 5th posting, “Spy Surrogate to Host “Free the Five” Symposium,

For additional background on the America Department, see the August 6th article, “Cuban Role Demands More Scrutiny As Brazil Investigates Military Dictatorship’s Abuses,”

Cuban Role Demands More Scrutiny As Brazil Investigates Military Dictatorship’s Abuses 2

Yesterday, the New York Times’ published a great story on human rights abuses during the 1960s-1970s by Brazil’s military junta  The Time’s Brazil Bureau chief, Simon Romero,  authored the feature, which can be found here:  (  Omitted from this piece, however, is the extensive role Havana played in subverting the Brazilian nation, in part, serving as a catalyst for the military dictatorship.  While not excusing military abuses by any means, context provides clarity and as such, Cuba’s hidden hand must also be examined.  My modest contribution to shedding light on these ties follows.

DGI officer Jorge Timossi Corbani, a founding member of Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency, served in Brazil from 1959-1960. In late 1961, Havana assigned Ramiro Rodriguez Gomez as 1st Secretary and chief of the DGI Centro in Rio de Janeiro, which was then Brazil’s capital.  Fellow DGI officer and newly assigned Cultural Attaché, Miguel Brugueras del Valle joined Rodriguez shortly thereafter.  A third Intelligence Officer in the 12-member diplomatic staff was Guillermo Rivas Porta.

From 1961-1963, Cuban Intelligence provided financial aid to Brazilian revolutionaries who sought to create guerilla training camps in the state of Goias.  Additionally, peasant leader Francisco Juliao and Governor Leonel Brizola received DGI financial support.  In April 1963, Raul Roa Kouri became Havana’s Ambassador to Brazil.  Following his appointment, he became the conduit for Cuban funds and direction to its Brazilian allies.  Ambassador Roa, son of Cuba’s Foreign Minister, assessed Governor Brizola as the Brazilian revolutionary with the greatest potential for success. Two DGI couriers were enroute to Brazil with money for Brizola when President Joao Goulart was overthrown on March 31, 1964.  In total, the DGI had made $10 million available to Govenor Brizola.

Havana withdrew most of its embassy staff shortly after the military revolt. Rodriguez remained the Centro Chief until Brazil severed ties with Cuba on May 13, 1964. Only two Cuban officials served in Brazil when relations were severed.  Cuba’s continued support for Brazilian leftists was largely responsible for Brazil ending diplomatic ties.  That year, spymaster Manuel Pineiro assigned Ulises Estrada to oversee and participate in guerilla warfare training for a group of former Brazilian soldiers who fled to Cuba following a failed coup attempt. Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, Cuban support to Brazilian revolutionaries appears centered around training guerrillas and serving as the preferred safe haven for Brazil’s terrorists and revolutionaries. During this decade, Cuba trained at least 150 Brazilians (and perhaps over 200) in guerrilla warfare. During the latter half of the 1960s, the main faction trained was the National Liberating Action (ALN). ALN founder Carlos Marighella had extensive ties with Havana and its Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO).  Killed by police in 1969, Marighella achieved immortality when LASO’s flagship publication, Tricontinental, published his book, the Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla in 1970. Subsequently, Cuba translated Marighella’s book into several languages and distributed it worldwide.

By late 1971, the Brazilian regime’s aggressive effort to eliminate the guerrillas, coupled with their own internal dissention, led to the disorganization and demoralization of the revolutionaries. Many guerrillas and their supporters were killed or captured, their supplies destroyed, and their documents seized and exploited.  America Department officer Manuel Basabe was allegedly arrested in Brazil in the early 1970s for weapons smuggling.  By the mid-1970s, Brazilian police and military had broken up the Cuba-encouraged guerrilla groups.

Editor’s Notes: 

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 General of Intelligence (DGI):  The name previously used by the foreign intelligence wing of the Ministry of the Interior.  Following a 1989 “scandal” and reorganization, this service was reorganized and given a new name –the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).        

Ambassador “Burned” As Cuban Spy 2

Carlos Rafael Zamora Rodriguez, Havana’s Ambassador to Brazil, is a career officer in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), according to a highly reliable former DI officer.   Prior to his appoint to Brazil, Zamora led the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) office responsible for Cuban officials and citizens living abroad.  Historically, this position is often led by a DI officer.

Zamora was posted as Havana’s Ambassador to Panama in 2000.  Four years later, a diplomatic crisis erupted when outgoing Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso pardoned Luis Posada Carilles and three colleagues and allowed them to leave Panama.  The four had been imprisoned for involvement in an assassination attempt against Fidel Castro in November 2000.  Cuba responded by breaking relations, after which Panama declared Ambassador Zamora Persona Non Grata.

Prior to this first ambassadorial posting, Zamora reportedly served under deep cover as Director of MINREX’s Latin American Department.

Brazilian Communists Leading “Cuban 5” Crusade Reply

Brazilian Communists Leading “Cuban 5” Crusade

The Brazil-Cuba Friendship Committee has been established in the state of Goias, in Brazil’s central-west region. Now, Committees of Solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban Five exist in 15 of Brazil’s 27 States.  State Deputy Isaura Lemos, a member of the Communist Party of Brazil, is the primary proponent of this endeavor of this group.  Not surprisingly, the Radio Havana Cuba report failed to mention the ties between the Cuban 5 and the Havana-ordered murder of four Americans on February 24, 1996.   Cuba’s premeditated “downing” of two U.S. search and rescue aircraft in international airspace led to the indictment of several government officials, including the head of the Cuban Air Force.