MIAMI—Cuba will allow US air marshals on regularly scheduled commercial flights between the two countries, island authorities announced on Friday.
Josefina Vidal, director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s department for the United States, posted on her Twitter account that an “arrangement on the deployment of air marshals onboard airlines was amended to make it applicable to scheduled flights.”
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed the agreement in a statement on Friday.
“With regard to Federal Air Marshal Service [FAMS] coverage on flights to/from Cuba, TSA has an arrangement in place for charter and scheduled commercial flights,” the statement said. “As a general matter, to protect the operations and efficacy of our Federal Air Marshal program, TSA does not provide specific information about when or which flights are covered by our air marshals, as that could potentially compromise security.”
The twin announcements eliminate a confrontation between the Obama administration and members of Congress over the security of flights to and from Cuba.
The TSA admitted in mid-September that no federal air marshals were aboard the regularly scheduled commercial flights to Cuba that started in late August.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican-Florida, and other Congress members quickly accused the Obama administration of lying because TSA officials had declared earlier that a bilateral agreement for the air marshals would be in place by the time the flights started.
As the controversy continued, the House Committee on Homeland Security approved a measure to suspend the regular flights until the TSA certified that Cuban airports met all security requirements. The measure was submitted by Rep. John Katko, Republican-New York, chairman of the subcommittee on transportation security.
Cuba’s Foreign Ministry also announced that representatives of the two countries had met in Washington on Wednesday to discuss “the security of the flow of people and goods between the two countries, and mutual concerns about cyber security.”
Officials from the Cuban Ministries of the Interior and Transportation, as well as the Customs Department took part in the meeting, along with US officials from the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security.
Representatives of both government also gathered in Washington Friday for the fourth round of meetings of the Bilateral Commission, to review progress on issues of “shared priority,” such as cooperation on commercial flights, public health and the fight against drug trafficking.
Editor’s Note: Career Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina de la C. Vidal left the US in 2003 when 14 Cuban spy-diplomats were declared Persona Non Grata. Among the spies officially expelled was her husband, First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera. A First Secretary at the Cuban Interests Section like her husband, Vidal “voluntarily” returned to Cuba. Long known to US Intelligence as a spy, Vidal and another spy-wife left with their spouses, bringing the total to 16 Cuban spies removed from the United States. This is believed to be roughly half of the Cuban spy-diplomats then serving undercover in Washington and New York. For the last several years, she has served under shallow cover as head of the North America portfolio in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). She remains one of Havana’s premier experts in US affairs, but her expulsion will likely continue to limit her spy career until her retirement.
(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.
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?
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.
By Wilfredo Cancio Isla (Cafe Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban journalist and diplomat Sonia Franco Cervera has abandoned her post as consul at the Cuban Embassy in Germany and is currently in Miami, after having requested political asylum from US authorities.
Sources told CafeFuerte that the 31-year-old Franco arrived in the United States in July this year, accompanied by her 3-year-old son Franco, after travelling from Berlin to Mexico and crossing the US border to invoke the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA).
Apparently, Franco’s decision was prompted by the unexpected trip and subsequent arrest in Havana of her husband Daciel Alfonso Guzman, who was the deputy chief of Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Germany.
“We don’t know much about what happened, but it is confirmed that Daciel [Alfonso] was called to a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) in Havana and that he suspected something was wrong,” a source involved in the case stated in Berlin. “They made the decision that she go to the United States with the kid.”
Erased from the Official Site
According to another testimony, Franco’s first move was to request aid from the US Embassy in Berlin. Her request didn’t yield any results and she decided to use her diplomatic passport to travel to Mexico. She is currently staying in the home of some friends in Miami.
CafeFuerte tried to contact Franco in Miami, but desisted after several unsuccessful attempts. A person involved in this situation said that the former diplomat is going through a very tense moment and does not wish to make any declarations about what happened.
For the time being, Alfonso’s name has been removed from the webpage of the Cuban Embassy in Germany and a blank space has been left under the heading of Deputy Chief, with an email left as reference. Belkis Rodriguez Hidalgo appears as the First Secretary in the Consular Section page.
“We’ve heard versions of the story here that Daciel was called to give a full accounting following complaints about the performance of his duties, but nothing concrete has been leaked and people suspect there is something more serious behind this,” a source linked to MINREX said in Havana.
Feature continues here: Diplomat Defects
Meeting in DC marks 16 years in int’l fight to free Cuban 5
By Ned Measel, The Militant
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 125 people attended a meeting here Sept. 13 to demand freedom for the Cuban Five. “Tonight’s event is part of activities taking place all over the world” to mark the 16th anniversary of their arrest on frame-up charges by the FBI, said Alicia Jrapko, U.S. coordinator of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. (See box below.)
The meeting, sponsored by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 and held at the headquarters of the Service Employees International Union, featured the first U.S. showing of 16 new prison paintings by Antonio Guerrero, titled “Absolved by Solidarity.”
The watercolors tell the story of the Miami frame-up trial — from the denial of 11 motions for a change of venue to the long sentences and the sending of the revolutionaries to five distant prisons. The event included music, poetry, a short video, and a panel of speakers.
“It is an impossible task to show the entire trial through just 16 images,” Guerrero said in a statement displayed along with the exhibit. “We knew that we could not receive a fair trial. But nevertheless in that place, we achieved an invaluable victory and that was to denounce terrorism against our people in its own lair.”
Cheryl LaBash, an activist with the International Committee; Maria Naranjo, assistant district leader of SEIU Local 32BJ in Washington, D.C.; and Valarie Long, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union: made brief remarks to kick off the program.
José Ramón Cabañas, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, was the featured speaker. The U.S. government “called it a trial,” he said, “but we called it a political vendetta” aimed at punishing the Cuban Revolution. Cabañas took time to walk through and comment on Guerrero’s paintings.
Each of the watercolors were accompanied by an explanatory note from Guerrero.
Feature continues here: The Militant
By Chris Simmons
In yet another indicator of the slow, inevitable decline of the Castro regime’s once-vaunted propaganda machine, CubaSi reported that Minister of Public Health, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, condemned the United States because the “Associated Press revealed this week details of a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that used young people from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to travel to the island and obtain intelligence information on the workshops against HIV.”
It would be far too easy to mock the Castro brothers for their sustained use of the discredited AP story, so we won’t go there. Instead, we’ll simply suggest that next time the spinmeisters use a Ministry that doesn’t have an established history as an intelligence front.
For example, Lexis/Nexis has a great BBC story from August 14, 2005 noting that Paraguay was investigating a large influx of Cubans. Asuncion officials suspected Cuban intelligence officers were entering the country in the guise of medical staff or tourists. Officials reported that several foreign nations provided the information which led to the investigation. At the time, roughly 200 Cubans were entering the nation monthly. The Police and Prosecutor’s Office seemed most concerned about the Cuban medical brigades in Paraguay’s interior, which operated free of any oversight.
Two months later, on the other side of the world, Gustavo Ricardo Machin Gomez, a member of Havana’s primary foreign intelligence service, the elite Directorate of Intelligence (DI), arrived in Pakistan. There he reportedly supervised the 2500 medical personnel Cuba sent to conduct humanitarian missions after the devastating October 2005 earthquake. The medical personnel served in Pakistan’s northern region, adjacent to Afghanistan, for roughly seven months. During this period, Havana established 32 field hospitals and two relief camps. Immediately thereafter, Cuba re-established its Embassy in Pakistan and promoted Machin to Ambassador.
The career spy previously served in the US from the summer of 1998 through early November 2002, when Washington declared him Persona Non Grata, along with three other spies under diplomatic cover. He was a First Secretary at the Cuban Interests Section when expelled. The PNG action against Machin and another Interests Section officer reportedly retaliated for the 16-year career of Cuban spy Ana Montes, who was sentenced in October 2002.
We could go on, but that would be overkill……..
By Chris Simmons
Josefina de la C. Vidal, director for North America within the Cuban Foreign Ministry, yesterday denounced allegations of low-level intelligence operations by Washington.
Vidal’s criticism followed recent Associated Press claims that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Latin American youth to assist on-island dissidents. “These facts confirm that the U.S. government has not ceased its hostile and meddling plans against Cuba,” stated Vidal.
The AP assertions have already been discredited by USAID as “sensational” and “wrong,” as well as by Cuban dissidents cited in the AP story. Nonetheless, Vidal continued her laughable outrage, claiming “The U.S. government should end once and for all its subversive, illegal and undercover actions against Cuba, which violate our sovereignty and the will expressed by the Cuban people to perfect our economic and social model and to consolidate our democracy.”
Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Vidal departed Washington in May 2003 after the US declared her husband — First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera — and 13 other Cuban spy-diplomats Persona Non Grata. First Secretary Vidal, also known to the US as a intelligence officer, “voluntarily” returned to Cuba. The husband-wife spy team was chosen for expulsion, in part, because Washington knew Havana historically withdraws the spouse of any expelled spy.
Sen. Robert Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, according to people familiar with the discussions.
In a letter sent to Justice Department officials, the senator’s attorney asserts that the plot was timed to derail the political rise of Menendez (D-N.J.), one of Washington’s most ardent critics of the Castro regime. At the time, Menendez was running for reelection and was preparing to assume the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence, including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin American media.
The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI’s counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter.
The intelligence information indicated that operatives from Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence helped create a fake tipster using the name “Pete Williams,” according to the former official. The tipster told FBI agents and others he had information about Menendez participating in poolside sex parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing at the Dominican Republic home of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor, donor and friend of the senator.
Read more here: Alleged Cuban Plot
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)