State Carries Out Vandalism Against Homes of Dissidents 2

by Pedazos de la Isla

Police forces of the Cuban regime have not only taken up the task of arresting, beating, deporting and spying on human rights activists on the island, but also have a long history of carrying out acts of vandalism against their homes. In the last couple of days, new cases of these actions have been documented.

Alexei Jiménez Almarales, an independent journalist from Holguin province, sent a note to this blog where he explains that the home of dissident couple Julio Cesar Álvarez Marrero (president of the Claridad Human Rights Movement) and Catalina Hidalgo Nonell (a member of the Ladies in White) was attacked by mobs organized by State Security on the morning of July 29th in the mentioned Eastern province. “When they awoke on Sunday morning, they found the walls of their home full of signs with messages against them as well as exploded condoms full of paint…they had been thrown against the walls of their home, which was left completely filthy“, detailed Jimenez.

The repressors also “left a glass bottle with gasoline and a fuse on the tip in front of their house, as well as a box of matches next to the bottle.” Julio Cesar Alvarez told the journalist that this serves as a direct threat of lighting his house on fire and he assures that “if something happens to me or to my wife, the culprit is the Cuban government“.

Meanwhile, on the same day in the city of Colon, in Matanzas province, the Lady in White Caridad Burunate suffered a similar attack when political police agents hurled feces at her house, all of this as an attempt to impede her from marching to church as all members of this female group do each Sunday. “See the terror which Raul Castro’s regime has wanted to implant in Colon, Matanzas, filling my house with feces”, wrote the dissident on her Twitter account (@CaridadBurunate), publishing various photos of the aftermath along with the text. It is not the first time this is done to her.

Burunate’s home not only serves as a meeting point for a number of activists and Ladies in White in the area, but also as the headquarters of the community project known as “Lanza Flores-Capitán Tondique”, where members of the opposition in Matanzas prepare food for homeless and sick citizens. Caridad Burunate responded to the attacks by hanging a sign outside her home explaining to everyday people what had happened, as well as by publishing another tweet which read, “Down with Fidel, Down with Raul, Down with the tyranny, Down with the dicatorship, Down with communism and Long Live a Free Cuba!“

Ladies in White Resign Over Alleged State Security Infiltrator 2

By Juan O. Tamayo,

At least 18 members have quit Cuba’s dissident Ladies in White in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba. Top opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer has been accused of treating a black supporter like a slave. And Ferrer has split from his wife of 20 years.

The two most aggressive opposition movements in eastern Cuba appear to be going through a rough period in recent weeks, forced to deny serious allegations and even hanging up the phone on usually friendly Miami news media. But dissidents say their troubles are the work of infiltrators from the State Security apparatus in the communist-ruled island, tasked with fueling the jealousies and rivalries that have long riven the opposition, and creating new ones. “It is very, very clear that all of this comes from people who have a job to do for the political police,” said Ferrer, who served eight years as a political prisoner, was freed in 2011 and is now one of the island’s most respected opposition activists.

The group he founded, the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), is the most combative dissident faction in Santiago. Earlier this year it forged a national alliance with Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s $67,000 Sakharov prize.

Authorities meanwhile have repeatedly cracked down on the Santiago branch of the Ladies in White as they push to win the same right to stage public protests as their counterparts in Havana, who march along an avenue after Sunday Mass. At the root of the split within the Ladies in White is a push by several members to expel a woman repeatedly accused of being a State Security infiltrator and inventing gossip about infidelities by the group’s members or their husbands.

Group leader Berta Soler in Havana acknowledged that she and Santiago leader Belkis Cantillo opposed expelling the woman during a June 18 meeting in Santiago because it would be essentially undemocratic to drive her out without hard evidence. “We are learning each day how to live with infiltrators. It does not worry us,” Soler told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. “We are not going to waste the time that must be used to continue working for human rights.”

In a statement issued June 30, Soler had declared: “We will not fall into the foolish game of you tell me and I tell you … There are no proofs that she is an agent … so she will continue being a member until it is proven.” That statement acknowledged that 18 Ladies in White in Santiago had resigned. Ferrer, who is married to Cantillo, said last week that the number of resignations had climbed to 27. Several calls to Cantillo’s cellphone went unanswered.

Ferrer said he separated from Cantillo after 20 years of marriage because of her attitude toward some of the Ladies in White who want to expel the alleged infiltrator. The women who resigned remain members of UNPACU, he said.

State Security agents have repeatedly infiltrated and in some cases founded opposition movements during the five decades of Castro rule, to spy on the groups and exacerbate the many rivalries and tensions that have historically hit the dissident movements.

Soler and Cantillo returned to Cuba in May after a lengthy trip abroad during which they received a hero’s welcome in the United States and Europe and collected more than $65,000 — a fortune by island standards — in prizes and donations.

The alleged infiltrator not only spread the gossip about infidelities but sold end-of-year school exams and offered to obtain U.S. visas for $3,000, two Ladies in White said, both crimes that real dissidents know too well would immediately land them in jail. “Since she joined us [in August] the bickering started. We have no doubts about her,” said Yelena Garcés, who with her sister Aimee led the group of women that resigned.

“We have no doubts that she and her husband work for the political police, and that their principal mission … is to divide” the opposition, Ferrer said by phone from his home in the small Santiago town of Palmarito de Cauto. Ferrer said UNPACU expelled the woman several months ago, but the Ladies in White remain “incapable of realizing that she … is creating problems.” El Nuevo knows her name, but will not print it because it has been unable to reach her for comment.

Some of the women who resigned said Soler made the dispute worse during the June 18 meeting by telephoning the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana to report their separation, a call they took as a threat to deny them U.S. visas. Soler told El Nuevo she would not comment on that allegation. Radio Martí reported last week that she hung up when one of its reporters asked her about it.

The Ladies in White was founded by female relatives of 75 dissidents jailed during a 2003 crackdown to demand their freedom. The government freed the last of the 75 still in prison in 2010-2011 — but forced most to go into exile in Spain. Only a dozen insisted on staying in Cuba to continue their opposition activism, including Ferrer and Angel Moya, Soler’s husband. The Ladies in White vowed to remain together to push for human rights and democracy.

Ferrer himself has come under harsh attacks from Raumel Vinajera, a former UNPACU activist now living in the United States who has accused him of being a “slave keeper” and stealing money donated for the opposition movement. A photo of Vinajera, who is black, holding an umbrella over the light-skinned Ferrer while the UNPACU leader speaks on a cellphone has been spread on the Internet, especially by Ernesto Vera, a Santiago lawyer and self-described dissident who regularly attacks UNPACU, the Ladies in White and blogger Yoani Sanchez.

Ferrer said the photo was snapped when it was raining and he went to his patio to get better reception on his cellphone. He added that police seized that photo and several others during a raid of his home in July of last year.

Kerry: U.S. Working to Free Alan Gross 1

Washington is seeking to free two U.S. citizens held in Cuba and Iran, but has rejected a swap deal with Havana, says Kerry

By Elad Benari,

Washington is seeking to free two U.S. citizens held in Cuba and Iran, but has rejected a deal with Havana to swap a jailed American for five Cuban spies, top diplomat John Kerry said Wednesday. Kerry told U.S. lawmakers that officials were working hard to win the release of contractor Alan Gross held for more than three years in Havana, AFP reported.

Senator Patrick Leahy visited the island recently, met with Gross “and talked to the government,” Kerry told the House foreign affairs committee. “They were and have been attempts to trade Alan Gross for the five spies that are in prison here in the United States, and we’ve refused to do that because there’s no equivalency,” the secretary of state said. “Alan Gross is wrongly imprisoned, and we’re not going to trade as if it’s a spy for a spy, which they’re trying to allege,” he stressed, according to AFP.

Gross, 63, was arrested on December 3, 2009 for illegally distributing laptops and communications gear to members of Cuba’s small Jewish community. At the time, he was working for a firm contracted to the U.S. State Department. In March 2011 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acts against the independence or territorial integrity” of Cuba, and relatives fear his health is failing. Last November, 500 rabbis from around the world appealed to Havana on his behalf.

Kerry said he hoped that the United States could appeal to Cuba’s leaders to treat Gross’s case as a “humanitarian” issue. He also said he had been working through back channels to try to find out more about retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared some six years ago while on a trip to Iran. “On Levinson, I have actually engaged in some back-channel diplomacy in an effort to try to see if we can get something done there,” Kerry said. “That has been raised at very high levels, and it is not a forgotten issue by any means. We’re on it,” he added.

U.S. Administration Calls for Investigation of the Death of Cuban Oswaldo Payá 1

By Juan O. Tamayo,

The Obama administration has joined growing calls for an independent investigation into the deaths of Cuba’s most respected dissident Oswaldo Payá and a fellow dissident in a car crash that some allege was caused by state security agents. “The United States supports the calls for an international investigation with independent international observers” into the deaths of Payá and Harold Cepero, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday. “The people of Cuba and the families of these two activists deserve a clear, credible accounting of the events that resulted in their tragic deaths,” Nuland said during a news briefing.

Nuland’s comments came amid growing calls for an independent investigation into the July 22 car crash that killed Payá and Cepero, an activist in Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement.
The Cuban government says Spanish politician Angel Carromero caused the deaths when he accidentally slammed the car into a tree in eastern Cuba. Payá and Cepero were passengers. Carromero and Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig survived.

A Cuban court sentenced Carromero to four years in prison for vehicular homicide. He returned to Spain in December under a bilateral agreement that allows each country’s citizens to serve sentences in their own country. Carromero now says his rented car was rammed from behind and forced to crash by a red vehicle with government license plates, and that he had been followed by state security vehicles from the time the four men left Havana.

A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators signed a letter earlier this week requesting that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States, investigate the deaths. “Recent interviews published in Spanish news media indicate that… Carromero is innocent and that the vehicle carrying Payá was deliberately attacked by Cuban government officials,” said the letter.

Sent to ICHR executive secretary Emilio Alvarez Icaza, it was signed by Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, his Republican counterpart Marco Rubio, Arizona Republican John McCain, Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk. “Oswaldo Payá was a brave man trying to peacefully advocate for greater political freedoms for his Cuban brothers and sisters,” the letter noted. “It increasingly looks like he paid for that effort with this life. “His memory and family deserve an honest and independent accounting of what happened,” the senators concluded.

Payá’s relatives have repeatedly demanded an independent investigation of the crash, and several Spanish and other European politicians, mostly conservatives, have followed suit. His daughter, Rosa Maria, has said the family might also file a lawsuit against Cuba in Spanish courts because her father had Spanish citizenship.

Today in History: New Intelligence Service Created by Castro Regime 2

March 26, 1959: The new government created a second intelligence service, the Intelligence Information Department of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (DIIFAR). This entity followed the Fidel Castro-directed establishment of the Investigation Department of the Rebel Army (DIER) just ten weeks earlier. Less than three months later, the two organizations merged to form the Department of State Security (DSE).