Yesterday’s Herald featured the innocent sounding article, Supporters of Stronger US Relations With Cuba Stage Rare Gathering in Miami. The author, longtime Cuba-watcher Juan Tamayo, wrote “A rare conference of supporters of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations heard calls Saturday for the Obama administration to allow more travel to the island and remove it from a list of supporters of terrorism.”
The career journalist noted that over 100 people attended the one-day event that offered panelists such as “Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban foreign policy expert at the University of Denver, and Antonio Zamora, a Miami lawyer and member of the Brigade 2506 that invaded Cuba in 1961. He now favors normalizing bilateral relations.”
Conference promoter Hugo Cancio, however, lamented that Washington denied a visa to “invited panelist, retired Havana diplomat Jesus Arboleya, and denied permission to attend the conference to two Cuban diplomats in Washington – First Secretary Juan Lamigueiro and General Counsel Llanio Gonzalez.” Tamayo also spoke with Collin Laverty, a U.S. citizen who works with U.S. visitors to the island, who told him about 90 percent of Americans visiting Cuba are funneled through the Cuban government’s Havanatour agency. (Note: The actual name is Havanatur).
Alarmingly, you could fill volumes with all the intelligence service connections the Herald conveniently omitted. A few of these key facts would include:
• Arturo Lopez-Levy – in his own book – admitted to having been a spy with Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Likewise, the Herald failed to note the seven-year PhD candidate’s close family ties to Raul Castro’s son-in-law, MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.
• The banned panelist, 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.
• The Havanatur office in Miami surveilled Cuban-Americans seeking to visit the island and recruited agents from among them, according to 1981 Congressional testimony. Subsequently, the US Treasury Department identified Havanatur and CIMEX (among others) as Cuban front companies. In the intelligence arena, a “Front Company” is any entity created, controlled, or heavily influenced by a spy service to fulfill espionage missions without its actions being attributed to the host intelligence service.
In March 2004, the US Treasury identified Havanatur as a CIMEX subsidiary. Public records reveal CIMEX’s involvement in everything from weapons purchases for leftist guerillas in the 1980s to more genteel import/export endeavors.
Havanatur, as well as the remainder of Cuba’s tourism sector, is run as a joint venture by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). For almost 20 years, credible defectors and émigrés have reported that part of the earnings from tourism are channeled back into the operating budgets of these two agencies. As a result, US tourists are actively funding Cuban repression and espionage.
• The entry point for the much heralded “people-to-people” tours is the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). DGI officer Jesus Raul Perez Mendez was the ICAP director before his defection. So well known is ICAP’s collaboration that in 1983, the New York Times cited a State Department spokesman who said ICAP was suspected of having an intelligence collection mission in support of the DGI.
More recently, former DI officer Juan Manuel Reyes-Alonso reportedly that ICAP is not a DI entity per se, but that it was overwhelmingly influenced by the intelligence service. He further claimed ICAP was penetrated by a small cadre of bona fide DI officers, aided by a large staff of agents (i.e., collaborators). As a result, roughly 90% of ICAP was thought to be DI-affiliated.
So the question of the day remains: why is the Miami Herald so adamant about ignoring, suppressing, minimizing or discrediting news on Havana’s spy services?
Editor’s Note: A copy of this post was sent to the Miami Herald as a “Letter to the Editor.”