Cuban Intelligence Imprisons Activist, Threatens to Destroy Opposition Movement 3

The Cuban activist is detained despite her precarious health condition. (Twitter)

By: Karina Martín PanAm Post

Tension between Cuban activists and the island’s law enforcement spiked this week after a State Security agent allegedly threatened to destroy a prominent opposition movement.

Cuban activist Joanna Columbié said a State Security agent threatened to “destroy” the Cuban opposition group she is associated with, “Somos +“ (We Are More). The agent, identified only as “Leandro,” said Saturday, May 27 that he would ensure the organization’s demise with the next few days.

Leader of Somos+ Eliécer Ávila said the agent told Columbié that she would be “processed” because the government is tired of the organization and its participation in #Otro18, a platform that organizes citizen proposals for new electoral laws.

Columbié, who is currently a political prisoner, undergoes frequent interrogation, according to Roxana Arias, another member of the organization. She said Columbié was taken to an infirmary last Sunday, May 28 due to pain in her kidneys. Despite the pain, she received no medical treatment.

Arias also said during her visits, she noticed that Columbié “was not eating much” and that “the heat in the prison was horrible.”

According to local media, Columbié suffers from diabetes, asthma and hypertension, and when her mother, who lives in Santiago, called the prison to verify her health, she was told that everyone had the right to have family members call “except her,” which was as a consequence of “not having educated her daughter properly.”

Somos has already released a statement saying that the regime will not be able to defeat the opposition movement building steam on the island, or crush Columbié’s spirit.

Sources: Cubanet; 14ymedio.

Karina Martín is a Venezuelan reporter with the PanAm Post based in Valencia. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages from the Arturo Michelena University.

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‘A Series of Razors Waiting to Cut You’: The High Cost of Doing Business in Cuba 2

The Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, one of the hotels in which Starwood is investing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, one of the hotels in which Starwood is investing. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Justin Rohrlich, Vice News

March 25, 2016 | 11:50 am

Sarkis Yacoubian swore he was just a businessman, but the state security agents holding him in a Havana interrogation room called him a spy.

It was July 2011, and Yacoubian, then 51, had been working in Cuba for nearly two decades. An Armenian-Canadian born in Beirut, he owned a trading company called Tri-Star Caribbean, which imported emergency vehicles, mining equipment, and auto parts for Cuba’s state-run industries.

About eight months before his arrest, Yacoubian says, a regime official visited Tri-Star’s Havana offices a handful of times — “Let’s call him ‘the Colonel,'” says Yacoubian, who claims not to recall the man’s name. The Colonel said that Cuba wanted to buy a fleet of BMWs, and asked Yacoubian to arrange it. The government’s wish list: sixteen 5-series sedans for the rental market and diplomatic use, and an armored X5 SUV for Cuban president Raul Castro’s personal motorcade. Yacoubian, knowing the contract could lead to many more, agreed to deliver the cars to Tecnotex, a state-owned conglomerate under the purview of the military run by Castro’s son-in-law, Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez.

The problems, however, started almost immediately. The government had previously been working with Eric Soulavy, a BMW dealer based in Venezuela who had run into financing problems. Yacoubian says a BMW rep got in touch with him and said that he needed to buy out Soulavy’s contract with BMW, which still had one year remaining. (A spokeswoman for the auto company said it does not comment “on the behavior of third parties as a matter of principle.”)

Yacoubian says he was at that point contractually obligated to deliver the vehicles to the Cubans, so with his “back to the wall,” he began negotiating with Soulavy. Yacoubian says they agreed to $800,000, with an initial transfer of $100,000. Soulavy, who is now a real-estate developer in Key Biscayne, Florida, says he doesn’t recall the exact amount he received from Yacoubian, but remembers charging him “something for the tools and parts we had invested in that business.”

Yacoubian says the buyers at Tecnotex were also asking him to take a $1,000 loss on each car, but “you don’t tell Raul Castro no.” Still, Yacoubian wasn’t doing the deal out of fear — he estimated the foothold the deal was gaining him could one day be worth up to $250 million.

Instead, he was accused of plotting to kill Castro.

Feature continues here: “A Series of Razors”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba-Russia Propaganda Returns to Cold War Roots 2

Cuban agent José Manuel Collera

Cuban agent José Manuel Collera

By Chris Simmons

Last week, the blog “Cuba Inside the World” posted a feature titled “Ex CIA double agent to RT: US AID is a front for U.S. intelligence.”  However, upon reading the story, one learns that the “ex CIA agent” is none other than admitted Cuban state security agent, José Manuel Collera. So, what we actually have is a Cuban spy making false accusations against the US and using Moscow’s propagandists to spread the story. How very ……unimaginative.

It reminds me of a Cold War joke a good friend once told me.  It goes something like this:

A race was scheduled in Moscow between a U.S.-built Ford and a Russian-built Lada. Predictably, the Ford won. The next day, “Pravda” – the official newspaper of the (then) Soviet Communist Party – proudly reported that the Lada came in second place and the Ford finished next-to-last.

 

 

Man Accuses Cuban Agents of Insidious, ‘Psychological’ Intimidation 1

Porno para Ricardo

Porno para Ricardo

A man who threw a party for a friend in a punk-rock band that has been critical of Fidel Castro says that he has been the target of a ‘psychological’ campaign of intimidation.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Oscar Casanella, a 35-year old cancer researcher in Havana, says he just wanted to have a party for Ciro Díaz, a close friend who plays in a punk-rock band.

Problem is, Díaz is lead guitarist for Porno Para Ricardo, a band whose expletive-filled lyrics include attacks on Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel Castro: “The Comandante wants me to applaud after he’s spoken his delirious s—.”

So Casanella’s party turned into an example of how Cuba’s communist system tries to grind down the citizens it finds objectionable, starting out with low-level threats and ratcheting up the pressure if the targets refuse to change their behavior.

Cuban police and State Security agents can beat dissidents, arrest them for brief periods to harass or intimidate them, search their homes, seize their phones and computers, listen in on their conversations, and throw them out of school.

“But they also have psychological pressures, like anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, a car that comes too close, an agent who stands there just to make sure you know he’s watching you,” dissident Guillermo Fariñas told a Miami audience last year.

Casanella said Díaz, a friend since high school, called him at the end of a trip to Europe to say that he was returning to Havana on Dec. 6, 2013, a Friday. Casanella promised him a welcome-back party at his own home that Saturday.

“That’s where the Kafka-esque machinery started,” wrote Lilian Ruiz, who first reported the case July 4 on Cubanet, a Miami-based portal for news on Cuba.

On the Thursday before the party, four elderly men and women he did not know approached him as he left his home in the Plaza neighborhood of Havana and threatened him, Casanella told el Nuevo Herald on Thursday.

“They said, ‘You cannot have any activities or parties these days,’ that other people could harm me, and they also could harm me,” he said. He asked what right they had to threaten him, but they refused to identify themselves and walked away.

Casanella said he presumed the four knew about the party from State Security monitors of Diaz’s telephone calls or perhaps his own. He has attended meetings of the dissident group Estado de SATS but said he does not consider himself to be a dissident.

Read more here:  State Security tactics

 

Porno para Ricardo

Cuban ‘Dissident’ Says He Was Really an Infiltrator 3

State Security collaborator Ernesto Vera

State Security collaborator Ernesto Vera

Lawyer Ernesto Vera said his main task was to attack and sow discord within two key Cuban opposition groups on the island.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

A Cuban lawyer has confessed that he was a State Security collaborator for the four years he spent portraying himself as a dissident and harshly attacking two of the country’s most active opposition groups.

Ernesto Vera, 34, had been accused of being a collaborator last year, but his confession cast a rare spotlight on how State Security agents recruit informants and pay them thousands of dollars to discredit dissidents and generate rivalries among them.

Vera also pointed a finger at five other Cubans who in his view have been suspiciously critical of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White, the largest and most aggressive dissident groups on the communist-ruled island.

“My mission within State Security was to disparage and discredit UNPACU, especially its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, and the Ladies in White,” Vera told el Nuevo Herald by phone Wednesday from his home in the eastern city of Santiago De Cuba.

But he said he sat for a 44-minute video taped confession to Ferrer earlier this month because he was “disgusted with so many lies, the double life and faking a friendly relationship with people I hated so much.”

The two men shook hands at the end of the video.

State Security began the slow work of recruiting him as “Agent Jorge” after he was fired as a law professor at a medical school in Santiago, he said. Until then, he had been only on the periphery of dissident groups.

People who identified themselves as dissidents arranged to meet him in public places. But they were State Security agents and their meetings were videotaped — recordings then used to blackmail him into becoming an informant in 2010, Vera said. They also threatened to kill his mother and make it look like an accident unless he cooperated.

“I am ashamed to say I was a coward,” he told el Nuevo Herald, confirming that he had recorded the talk with Ferrer and written a three-page confession dated July 5 and published Tuesday by UNPACU.

“All of my attacks on José Daniel Ferrer and the Ladies in White were ordered by State Security,” he said. They were part of a one-two punch, “to discredit the dissidents and lessen the impact of the repression when it came.”

The lawyer said he falsely accused Ferrer of stealing money sent by supporters abroad and abusing his wife. He and another infiltrator also sparked the biggest schism within the Ladies in White, causing about 30 members in Santiago to break with the main group.

Vera said he wrote the attacks with information and photos provided by State Security Col. Ernesto Samper. He was paid several thousand dollars over four years so he could send his columns abroad via the Internet, which costs $6 to $10 per hour in Cuba.

Read more here: State Security agent Ernesto Vera

Editor’s Note:  For additional background, also see Cuban Dissidents Plant a Hoax to Trap Government Spies and Ladies in White Resign Over Alleged State Security Infiltrator

 

 

How Cuba’s State Security Welcomed Me on Returning to Havana Reply

Terminal 2 of the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (Courtesy:  Havana Times)

Terminal 2 of the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (Courtesy: Havana Times)

By Isbel Diaz

HAVANA TIMES – After participating in the congress of the Association of Latin American Studies in Chicago, I returned home to Cuba this past June 20th, following a one-month stay in the United States. I arrived at terminal 2 of Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport to be received by Cuban State Security agents. Customs officers then proceeded to take away my cell phone and other belongings.

I was detained at the airport for three hours and all of my personal belongings were meticulously inspected. The officials were chiefly interested in all of the documents I carried with me and all electronic devices that could store information.

As such, in addition to my phone (which stored all of my personal contacts and private notes), two external hard disks and their cables, two cell phones I had brought my nephew and my boyfriend as gifts and an SD memory with family videos were confiscated, even though the authorities didn’t know what their contents were and didn’t even take the trouble of asking.

All of these devices were classified as items for personal use by the customs authorities themselves – the number of items didn’t exceed the limit established by Resolution 320 / 2011, which establishes what imports are of a commercial nature, nor did their respective prices surpass the limits established in the Value List published under Resolution 312 / 2011.

It is therefore quite evident that these confiscations are the result of the arbitrariness and excessive monitoring that all Cubans with free-thinking postures that are critical of the country’s socio-political reality are subjected to.

The fact that Lt. Colonel Omar, a well-known State Security officer, came in and out of the premises, reveals that the reasons behind this incident are clearly political.

I was given absolutely no explanation as to why my belongings were being confiscated. I was only referred to the customs resolution that empowers these officials to retain what they see fit. The contents and scope of the said resolution were not explained to me either.

What was explained to me were the reasons they confiscated several of the documents I carried with me. According to the Confiscation and Notification document, they “tarnish the country’s morals and customs.” The documents in question were:

–  Historian Frank Fernandez’ classic El anarquismo en Cuba (“Anarchism in Cuba”), a book the author had sent to the Cuban Anthropology Institute (as the dedication he had handwritten attested to). Fernandez had learned that a group was studying the issue at the institute and he wanted to contribute to the work with his research on Cuba’s workers’ and anarcho-syndicalist movements.

Article continues here:  State Security   

 

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.

Cuban Pastor Says He Was Denied Permission To Travel Abroad 1

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

A Cuban pastor who has been harshly critical of the government says he was denied permission to travel abroad last month for a religious gathering even though his passport and visa were all in order. Bernardo de Quesada Salomón said he was checking in at the Havana airport Nov. 27 for a flight to the Dominican Republic when immigration officials told him his computer records showed he had a “limitation” and could not leave the island. Authorities never told him the reasons for the block, de Quesada said, but State Security officials in his hometown of Camagüey told neighbors that it was because he had illegally added a bathroom to a house he was turning into a church.

Cuba’s government lifted a widely hated requirement for an exit permit on Jan. 14, but retained the power to block any travel abroad for a blanket “national interest” that has never been detailed. Others blocked from traveling abroad have included another pastor in de Quesada’s Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics, Mario May Medina, and a dozen former political prisoners paroled before completing their long sentences.

The London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an organization that advocates religious freedom and human rights and was sponsoring the conference in the Dominican Republic, urged the Cuban government to lift the “limitation.” De Quesada’s participation in the conference “cannot seriously be considered a threat to national security,” Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a statement Thursday. “CSW is concerned that this may open the door to the Cuban government arbitrarily banning other religious leaders from traveling out of the country.”

De Quesada, 48, an Evangelical pastor, said he was arrested, harassed and blocked from traveling abroad several times from 2003 to this year because of his work with the Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics and the New Apostolic Reform in Cuba. He is not a dissident, he said, but his efforts to “preach the biblical truth have put me against this communist government,” he told El Nuevo Herald on Thursday in a phone interview from Camagüey. De Quesada said he made two trips abroad this year, the last one in October, but apparently angered State Security officials in Camagüey when scores of his supporters greeted him at the city’s airport on this last return.

Cuban Dissidents Plant a Hoax to Trap Government Spies 2

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Cuban blogger Ernesto Vera Rodriguez thought he had a scoop: Exiles in Miami had cut off funds to the island’s most active opposition group in recent months, the Cuban Patriotic Union, UNPACU.

But the report was a fake, concocted by UNPACU leaders in a rare effort to unmask government agents infiltrated into the ranks of the opposition. And Vera, who claims to be a dissident, was the first to publish it. But he insists that he has no connection with State Security.

“It was a hook, to see who would bite,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer, UNPACU’s Miami representative and brother of José Daniel Ferrer, who heads the opposition group from his home in the eastern Cuban town of Palmarito de Cauto.

More importantly, Luis Enrique Ferrer added, the fishing expedition was also an attempt to hit back at State Security, the branch of the Interior Ministry that monitors, harasses, intimidates and arrests dissidents.

State Security agents have repeatedly infiltrated and at times even created opposition groups to disrupt their plans, embarrass their leaders and sow mistrust.

Infiltrators “cause more damage within the opposition than even the active repression,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer. “They are more damaging because they create mistrust and discredit the opposition inside the country.”

The Ferrer brothers’ scam was revealed Friday by Cuban journalist Michel Suarez in Diario de Cuba (Cuba Diary), a Web page based in Spain.

El Nuevo Herald spoke to the people involved and confirmed the details in Suarez’s story.

Luis Enrique Ferrer told El Nuevo that he and his brother arranged the sting using secret email accounts and a code they developed when they were held in separate prisons from 2003 to 2010.

Then in mid-September they talked about the fake report over a telephone line. It went like this: The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) had stopped its financial support for UNPACU in favor of the dissident Ladies in White.

They were certain that State Security agents would listen in on all of their conversations.

About three days later, on Sept. 17, Vera posted the report on his eponymous blog. “It is not a rumor; it is not a joke. This information was confirmed by various people, all of them human rights activists with access to CANF leaders,” he wrote.

Vera, who lives in Santiago de Cuba, near Palmarito de Cauto, insists he obtained his “completely true” report from “reliable sources.”

“I don’t have any type of link with State Security,” he told El Nuevo Herald Friday by phone from Cuba.

At the same time Vera published his “scoop,” State Security Maj. Luis Plutín, in charge of the Santiago region, began telling area dissidents that CANF would no longer provide them with assistance, said José Daniel 0Ferrer.

Omar Lopez Montenegro, who handles human rights issues for CANF, said there was no truth at all to Vera’s report. “He got that information from the intelligence services of Cuba,” Lopez said. “The assistance is being maintained.”

The Ferrers were not surprised that Vera, a lawyer in his early 30s, bit on their bait because they have denounced him as an infiltrator many times over the past year or so.
Although he sometimes criticizes the government, the vast majority of Vera’s blog posts attack UNPACU, José Daniel Ferrer and the Ladies in White.

Luis Enrique Ferrer also noted there were others who echoed Vero’s report.

Percy Alvarado Godoy, confirmed by the Cuban government as an intelligence agent who infiltrated CANF in the 1990s, wrote in his blog on Sept. 20 that Vero’s report showed the “terrorist” CANF had broken with the “delinquent” José Daniel Ferrer.

In Miami, Edmundo Garcia, who runs the pro-Castro blog La Tarde se Mueve (The Afternoon Moves) also repeated the Vera report. So did Aldo Rosado-Tuero, of the blog Nueva Accion (New Action). He is a harsh critic of both the Cuban government and dissidents.

“It was like they were in the same orchestra, playing the same rhythm,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer.

UNPACU, currently the most visible and pugnacious of Cuba’s dissident movements, has been targeted for several destabilization efforts by government agents in recent months.

Sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003, José Daniel Ferrer was freed in 2011 following talks between Cuban President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega. While most of the more than 100 other political prisoners freed at that time, including his brother, went directly from prison to exile in Spain, Ferrer stayed in Cuba and founded UNPACU.