How Cuba’s Spies Keep Winning 1

Headquarters of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), Cuba’s primary foreign spy service.

They’ve infiltrated another attempt to unseat Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal

The failed landing on a rugged stretch of Venezuelan coastline last week by a band of mercenaries hoping to unseat Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro is another tragedy for the beleaguered nation.

The predawn mission was meant to capitalize on the element of surprise. But the irregular soldiers were immediately confronted by Venezuelan troops because their operation had been thoroughly penetrated by Cuban-backed Venezuelan intelligence. Some were killed in the fighting and more may have been executed. Among the captured are two Americans.

The debacle is demoralizing for an enslaved nation suffering dire privation and brutal repression. It is also an opportunity to reflect on Cuba’s asymmetric-warfare capabilities and the sophistication of its intelligence apparatus, which over more than a half-century has run circles around the U.S. Beyond the killing, the fiasco will deepen suspicion and distrust among the members of the opposition—particularly of “friends” who claim to have broken with the dictatorship.

The U.S. government has said it had no “direct involvement” in the seaborne operation. Jordan Goudreau, a former Green Beret who was the ring leader of the plot, did receive some interest in his services from advisers to U.S.-backed interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó. But Mr. Guaidó’s communications team has put out a statement insisting that the interim president never agreed to launching the operation.

Mr. Goudreau, who heads the U.S.-based security firm Silvercorp, apparently planned to provoke a military uprising, detain Mr. Maduro, and put him on a plane to the U.S.

There is near universal agreement that it was a reckless endeavor. Yet it is only the latest in a string of desperate attempts to try to bring down the dictatorship. And while the methods have varied, the common denominator in all the quashed uprisings has been how effectively Cuban-led intelligence has disrupted the plans. In some cases the plots may even have originated with state-security agents, who recruited eager patriots and mercenaries and set them up to be killed. This also reinforces a sense of futility among would-be rebels.

Whether it’s inside the military or among the ranks of the opposition, many Venezuelans now conclude that Cuban moles are everywhere and it’s too risky to put confidence in anyone. This is key to Havana’s control strategy in Venezuela. It is also standard practice on the island.

The struggle to liberate Venezuela is a proxy war between the U.S. and Cuba, which is backed by its allies Russia, Iran and China. The conflict drags on because Cuba has the edge where it matters.

When it comes to traditional military capabilities, the U.S. soars above its adversaries. But Havana dominates in deception, human intelligence and propaganda. It’s been that way from the early days of the Cuban dictatorship. “The Cubans were underestimated for more than a quarter of a century,” former CIA Cuba analyst Brian Latell wrote in his 2012 book, “Castro’s Secrets.” The U.S. thought it was dealing with “bush-league amateurs” until Florentino Aspillaga Lombard, a highly decorated Cuban agent, defected in 1987. That’s when the U.S. began to understand that Castro’s Cuba had “developed a foreign intelligence service that quickly rose into the ranks of the half dozen best in the world.” Moreover, “in some covert specialties, particularly in running double agents and counterintelligence,” over decades, Mr. Latell wrote, “Cuba’s achievements have been unparalleled.”

It’s a mistake to think this is only about people like high-ranking Pentagon intelligence analyst Ana Belén Montes, who was exposed as a Cuban spy in 2001 after some 16 years working for the enemy. Cuba has myriad ways of spreading disinformation, combating critics, and widening its influence. Return access to the island for journalists and academics, for example, is denied when there is unfavorable coverage, which is presumably why yours truly cannot get a visa.

Blackmail is another method of manipulation. I have twice interviewed a Cuban defector who told me it was his job in Cuba to retrieve videocassettes from hidden cameras in hotel rooms and official residences where visiting dignitaries were staying. The goal was to capture on film compromising behavior that could be used to extort political favors or, for example, force a resignation. With heavy political and diplomatic traffic to the island from Europe and Washington, it’s a safe bet that at least a few have been compromised in this way.

The Guaidó team now says it balked at the Goudreau plan in part because it did not trust former Venezuelan General Cliver Alcalá, whose brother is Mr. Maduro’s ambassador to Tehran but who claimed to have switched sides. Mr. Alcalá was taken into custody in the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges in March. But that he got close to the Guaidó team in the first place is another credit to Cuba’s intel network—most likely in this case with a lot of help from Iran.

Intelligence Officers in Cuba Ratchet Up Harassment of Christian Journalist 1

Officials increase threats in interrogations of Yoe Suárez

Independent Cuban journalist Yoe Suárez. (Courtesy of Yoe Suárez)

Independent Cuban journalist Yoe Suárez. (Courtesy of Yoe Suárez)

MIAMI (Morning Star News) – Intelligence officials in Cuba have increased harassment of an independent journalist, summoning the Christian and his mother twice in the past two weeks to threaten harsh consequences if he continues reporting on human rights issues, sources said.

As part of his Christian calling, Yoe Suárez has reported for non-state media outlets in Cuba since 2014 about human rights and freedom of religion issues, including the imprisonment of husband-and-wife pastoral team Ramón Rigal and Adya Expósito. They were imprisoned in April 2019 for homeschooling their children.

Following a series of interrogations and threats by Cuba’s Department of State Security (DSE, the island domestic intelligence branch) over the past year, an intelligence official identifying himself as a second-in-command-for-the-press summoned Suárez and his mother on April 3 to the Siboney Police Station, Playa municipality in Havana, according to Suárez.

The official, who identified himself as “Captain Jorge,” issued a series of implied threats to Suárez’s mother about consequences her 29-year-old son would suffer if he continued working as a reporter outside of Cuban intelligence controls, Suárez said.

“He told us, ‘You don´t know what a dungeon is, or what it is to have a patrol in front of your house,’” Suárez told Morning Star News.

Suárez added that the official said, “The Office of the Prosecutor and Minors can intervene,” suggesting they could take him into custody and also take custody of Suárez’s less than 2-year-old son. Cuban civil law’s Family Code states that “both parents, or one of them, will lose custody over their children when they are convicted as a sanction for a final sentence issued in criminal proceedings.”

“This time they were much less kind than the last,” Suárez told Morning Star News. “He mentioned to me an article of the penal code under which I qualified for the crime of mercenarism.”

Article continues here: Cuban Intelligence Targets Journalist 

 

DGI Defector: Cuban Intelligence Behind Chile Protests 1

Written by Christian Gomez, New American

A former Cuban intelligence officer affirms that Cuba’s intelligence service is carrying out destabilization efforts in Chile and that they are being directed out of the Cuban embassy in Santiago.

For 11 years, Enrique García Diaz served as an officer in the General Intelligence Directorate (DGI) — Cuba’s primary intelligence agency under the supervision of Cuba’s Ministry of Interior. During his years of active duty, García Diaz served as a vice consul in Bolivia and as a foreign trade representative in Ecuador. At the same time, however, he was actually an undercover agent for the DGI, in charge of surveillance operations in seven Latin American countries, including Chile.

García Diaz defected to Ecuador in 1989 and now lives in the United States. In an interview with the Chile-based, Spanish-language, online news publication El Líbero, he claims that the DGI (since renamed the Directorate of Intelligence, DI) retains much of the experience and training that it received from two KGB-run institutes located in the outskirts of Moscow. According to García Diaz, these KGB-run academies conducting training for Cuban intelligence in 1981-82 and another one for the chiefs of Cuban intelligence in 1985-86.

Throughout the Cold War, the leadership of the Soviet Union steadfastly encouraged and supported Marxist revolutions in non-communist countries. By the mid-1960s, the Soviet Union, through its espionage and intelligence service the KGB (now renamed FSB), had established special training centers for fomenting revolution at the Lenin Institute and Patrice Lumumba University, both in Moscow. The KGB also set up additional centers throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic, North Korea, and in Cuba.

At these centers, recruits from all over the world received special training in how to disseminate propaganda, handle small arms, make improvised explosives, and carry out asymmetrical warfare. Historically, under the direction of the Soviet Union, Cuba has played an instrumental role in inciting communist revolutions throughout Latin America.

Article continues here: Cuban Manipulation

 

Report: Cuban Spy Documents Target Security at Miami’s Airport. MIA Says No Breach. Reply

A TSA checkpoint at Miami International Airport. A report says Cuban intelligence has sought information on security at MIA. Al Diaz ALDIAZ

By Douglas Hanks and Nora Gámez Torres

Miami International Airport on Monday downplayed documents reportedly leaked from Cuban intelligence services showing that informants in the county facility were passing on security codes and other confidential information.

The documents reported by the CiberCuba website depict clandestine memos of MIA’s internal passcodes and other details sent by an unnamed operative referred to as “El Gordo.” A Jan. 9, 2017, document, published by CiberCuba, has a message from an “Agent Charles” reportedly passing on airport passcodes to some restricted areas of MIA. The operation described in documents, spanning the years between 2015 and 2017, was dubbed “Programa Recolector.”

“I’m sending here two PIN from MIA security,” one of the memos reproduced on the website says. “Access to secure areas. Miami International Airport.”

Lester Sola, Miami-Dade County’s aviation director, said the information in the allegedly leaked documents was not credible. For instance, he said, the colors of the airport’s security protocols were not as described in the documents.

“We don’t believe the information in the documents is credible,” Sola told the Miami Herald. “We believe nothing in the report poses a credible security threat. But we didn’t ignore the information. Out of an abundance of caution, we have shared it with our federal partners. The FBI is looking into it.”

The documents appear to have blacked-out passcodes, and an alleged copy of a Department of Transportation ID for an aviation mechanic.

Sola’s predecessor at MIA, Emilio Gonzalez, reviewed some of the documents for CiberCuba and said they raised concerns if authentic. “These codes give direct access to any part of the airport,” Gonzalez told the website. “That the Cuban government has people inside the facility with that level of accessibility is really worrying.”

Gonzalez, a retired colonel who once worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency and now serves as Miami’s city manager, declined to comment Monday afternoon. The documents published by CiberCuba were dated between 2015 and 2017, overlapping with Gonzalez’s tenure as MIA director from 2013 to late 2017.

Jose Abreu, the county’s aviation director before Gonzalez, also called the report troubling. “If the report is accurate, it’s worrisome,” said Abreu, an engineer who is now a senior vice president at the Gannett Fleming consulting firm. “Because there are security sensitive areas in the airport. There’s no question about that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Now Hunts Cuban Human-Rights Abusers In The U.S. Was He Once An Offender Himself? 3

Juan Antonio Blanco, director ejecutivo de la Fundación por los Derechos Humanos en Cuba. (Courtesy: Miami Herald)

By Nora Gámez Torres, ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com 

Juan Antonio Blanco — the academic, activist, and executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba — recently announced an initiative to unmask and deport Cuban human-rights abusers now living in the United States. He declared that the drive was not “a witch hunt” against people just because of their political beliefs or affiliations with political organizations on the island.

What Blanco didn’t say: He once belonged to the Rapid Response Brigades, which were created by Fidel Castro in the 1990s to repress dissidents and contain popular unrest.

“I myself am a member of the Rapid Response Brigades in my building,” Blanco said during a conference in the United States in 1993, after he had broken with the Cuban government.

The brigades were organized along paramilitary lines and have been frequently deployed by the government to repress the dissident Ladies in White and other opposition groups. In 1994, Brigade members, along with police and military members dressed in civilian clothes and armed with clubs and steel rods, cracked down on a large Havana protest known as El Maleconazo, which gave way to the mass departures of the Balsero Crisis.

“It’s true that there have been cases where such encounters have gotten out of hand. I joined the brigade precisely because I think it is important to make sure that there will be no excesses or abuses,” Blanco added in 1993, according to the book “Talking About Revolution,” which was written by activist Medea Benjamin and based on conferences that Blanco held in several U.S. universities at the time.

Twenty-five years later, Blanco still finds it difficult to explain his statements.

“I did not belong to a Rapid Response Brigades unit,” he initially told el Nuevo Herald during a telephone interview. “The most that I recall participating in was one time when there was a protest against a neighbor in my building, and what I did was precisely to block any abuses against that person. What I did was to break up the activity.”

“I say there [at a 1993 conference] that I am a member because I belonged, not because I signed anything or was involved in anything,” Blanco said. “Sadly, the way that I was talking about that at that time, well, you evidently seize on that now and you take it out of context, and that doesn’t help.”

Feature continues here:  Devoted Spy to Human Rights Champion?

 

Director of National Intelligence Tells Congress: Russia, China, Iran & Cuba Pose Greatest Espionage Threat to US 2

General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said (in part):

Moving to counterintelligence, the threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and nonstate, is persistent, complex, and evolving. Targeting and collection of US political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated. Russia and China pose the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale. As well, the threat from insiders taking advantage of their access to collect and remove sensitive national security information will remain a persistent challenge for us.”

Complete testimony here:  DNI Testimony

Critics Fear Cuban Consulate in Tampa Would Become a ‘Spy Hotbed’ 5

Though diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are warming, some in Tampa say establishing a Cuban consulate here would be a big mistake. ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Though diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are warming, some in Tampa say establishing a Cuban consulate here would be a big mistake. ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

By Howard Altman | Tampa Tribune Staff

TAMPA — As civic leaders from both sides of Tampa Bay jockey to host a Cuban consulate, a small group of naysayers sees a darker side to the prospect — one rooted in continuing Cold War tensions and the island nation’s reputation for superior espionage operations.

A consulate “will be Cuba’s headquarters for intelligence operations in Tampa and Florida,” says Evelio Otero, a retired Air Force colonel who served at both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. “It will be a spy hotbed.”

The focus for Cuban spies would be Centcom and Socom, says Jim Waurishuk, a retired Air Force colonel who served as deputy director of intelligence for Centcom.

Otero and Waurishuk belong to a small group called “No to Cuban Consulate in Tampa,” which, as its name indicates, is opposed to having an outpost of the Castro government in the Tampa area.

Otero, born in Puerto Rico to a Cuban father, was head of Centcom’s coalition intelligence center and chief of intelligence operations forward in Qatar. His father was the first voice in Telemundo and a founder of Radio Martí, broadcasting U.S.-funded information to Cuba.

Waurishuk dealt with Cuba during his military career, including a stint as the senior intelligence officer on the White House National Security Council staff focusing on the island nation. This marks his first foray into the contentious world of Cuban-American politics.

They say their “no consulate” group consists of about a dozen people pushing officials in Tampa and St. Petersburg to reject calls to host the first Cuban consulate in the U.S. since the nation embraced Communism more than five decades ago.

Their effort includes lobbying Hillsborough County commissioners to vote against a resolution supporting a Cuban consulate in Tampa, perhaps Ybor City — a launching point for Cuban revolutions that ousted the Spanish and later brought Fidel Castro to power.

The Hillsborough County resolution has yet to come up for a vote.

But the city councils in both Tampa and St. Petersburg already have adopted resolutions inviting a Cuban consulate to their communities.

Feature continues here: Cuban Spying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did Cuba Target Senator Menendez? 3

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. (Record - file photo) U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. (Record – file photo)

Fed Agent Lied About Menendez Meeting, Lawyers Say

By ABBOTT KOLOFF, staff writer | The Record

EXTRACT: Menendez’s attorneys said in court papers filed Tuesday that they anticipate disclosing “classified information” at trial about a “foreign service” that planted allegations against the senator “to discredit him for his foreign policy and national security views.” Last year, The Washington Post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency provided the Justice Department with information that the tip could have been connected to the Cuban government. Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, has been a vocal critic of President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

A federal agent gave false testimony to a grand jury to make it appear that meetings about a drug reimbursement policy were focused only on helping a wealthy Florida eye doctor win a multimillion-dollar Medicare billing dispute, attorneys for Sen. Bob Menendez said in court papers filed late Thursday.

The filing was made to bolster a request to have corruption charges dropped against the New Jersey Democrat and the doctor, Salomon Melgen, and came in response to prosecutors’ saying in papers filed more than a week ago that the senator is trying to rewrite history about his advocacy for Melgen, a longtime friend.

The attorneys alleged that prosecutors gave grand jurors bad instructions about what constitutes corruption, failed to screen them for bias, leaked information that compromised the defense, and were “preoccupied with sex” by focusing on issues related to Melgen’s girlfriends and an investigation of underage prostitutes that turned out to be groundless.

Prosecutors have said they may call Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, to testify about a meeting they had with Menendez.

According to Menendez’s attorneys, Sebelius has said Reid and Menendez spoke to her during the meeting about how a drug reimbursement policy “was unfair to health providers.” According to court documents, a health official told the FBI that the senators were “not there to talk about a particular case; they were there to talk about policy.”

Article continues here: Did Cuba Target Menendez?

 

Memorias inquietas: De cuando Fidel Castro mandó a vigilar a su amigo George McGovern 1

Fidel Castro maneja el jeep donde viaja el senador George McGovern durante una visita a Cuba en mayo de 1975.(Courtesy: cafefuerte)

Fidel Castro maneja el jeep donde viaja el senador George McGovern durante una visita a Cuba en mayo de 1975.(Courtesy: cafefuerte)

Por Juan Reynaldo Sánchez*

Tal vez el ex candidato presidencial demócrata George McGovern nunca lo supo, pero su visita de amistad en 1975, la primera de las ocho que realizaría a la isla, fue especialmente trabajada por la inteligencia cubana para penetrar su círculo íntimo.

McGovern había perdido la carrera por la Casa Blanca ante Richard Nixon en 1972, apostando en su agenda de política internacional por una normalización en las relaciones con el gobierno de Fidel Castro. En 1974, su rival tuvo que renunciar a la presidencia tras el escándalo de Watergate, que involucró a varios exiliados cubanos. Y un año después, McGovern decidió visitar Cuba en plan de acercamiento y fraternidad, en mayo de 1975.

Por esos días me encontraba preparándome para ingresar en la escolta personal de Fidel Castro y estaba cursando la Escuela de Especialistas en Seguridad Personal. A cuatro alumnos de la institución nos dieron la misión  de servir de escoltas a McGovern y otros colegas suyos del Senado de Estados Unidos que visitaban cuba con mucha discreción; nada de noticias en los medios oficiales cubanos.

Fue así que trabajando con esta delegación norteamericana presencié el intento de penetración de la inteligencia cubana a los amigables visitante.

En el Hotel Tropicoco

McGovern y sus invitados habían solicitado al gobierno cubano hospedarse en un hotel alejado del centro de la ciudad de La Habana. Se escogió y se propuso el hotel Tropicoco en la playa Santa María del Mar, al este de la ciudad. Además, como medio de transporte se utilizó un ómnibus de turísmo con el objetivo de que durante los recorridos que los invitados realizarían por la isla estuvieran todos localizados en el mismo vehículo, pudiendo conversar unos con otros y brindarles a las comodidades a bordo de bar, servicios sanitarios y camareros.

Sin embargo, el objetivo fundamental de la inteligencia cubana, encabezada por el Coronel Ramírez y  el oficial Carlos (seudónimos utilizados) del Departamento América del Norte, ubicado en el edificio de Línea y A, en el Vedado, era que ambos, con fachada de funcionarios del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (MINREX), también pudieran intercambiar, oír y obtener información sobre los integrantes de esta delegación.

Nosotros, los oficiales de la seguridad personal, viajábamos en otro automóvil, un Ford negro y también con matrícula del MINREX, vestidos en ropa de civil.

Las habitaciones del segundo piso del Hotel Tropicoco, donde alojó la comitiva estadounidense, estaban totalmente cubiertas con micrófonos y equipos de grabación. Para ello se instaló un puesto de mando del KT (chequeo telefónico) en la oficina de la administración del hotel, a la cual solamente tenían acceso los oficiales de la inteligencia y los de la seguridad personal; ningún otro personal, ya fuera el administrador ni otro empleado tenía acceso a este local. De manera que todo lo que los senadores, así como sus secretarios y ayudantes conversaran en privado sería grabado.

La belleza inclina

Pero la actividad de inteligencia iba mucho más allá. Entre los cubanos que fueron designados para atender a la delegación visitante había una traductora cubana de cualidades muy especiales. Se trataba de una muchacha preciosa, con un cuerpo escultural y todos los atributos para cautivar las miradas masculinas, y el Coronel Ramírez no perdió tiempo para trazar una estrategia. Ideó proponer a sus superiores un trabajo de acercamiento de la bella traductora  a los senadores, y  si algunos de ellos mostraba interés en ella, pues entonces se desplegaría algo más que un trabajo de acercamiento y se implementaría una actividad  de  penetración si fuera posible.

Feature continues here: cafefuerte

 

Miami Herald OP/ED: Alan Gross Should Not Be Swapped For Cuban Spies 1

Alan Gross began his fifth year as a prisoner of Cuba’s unjust “justice” system last week, a symbol of the continuing estrangement between that island nation and the United States, and, more important, the fundamentally unchanged nature of the governing regime.

Gross, for anyone who needs reminding, is a 64-year-old husband and father who was surprisingly detained in December of 2009 by Cuban authorities. He was summarily tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison for the “crime” of delivering a portable computer and a cellphone to Cuba’s small and isolated Jewish community, an action not normally considered a crime except by a handful of repressive regimes around the world, including, of course, Cuba.

Since his arrest, Gross has lost more than 100 pounds. He suffers from degenerative arthritis and his health continues to deteriorate. Even worse is the emotional toll that four years of incarceration and separation have taken on him and his family. For these reasons, and because his severe punishment is in no way commensurate with his alleged transgression, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

On the anniversary of his arrest, Gross’ wife, Judy, made a dramatic plea for President Obama to “do whatever it takes to bring Alan home.” The Obama administration, for its part, has said, without releasing details, that it is holding behind-the-scenes talks with the Cubans on the topic, even though officials have repeatedly called for his release without the need for negotiations.

Unfortunately, the Cuban government has other plans. Where the rest of the world sees a victim of an arbitrary and unfair government, Cuba’s leaders see a human pawn that can be used to advance their own selfish political objectives.

The regime said last week that it was ready to hold talks over Gross’ freedom, but that any such dialogue must include the situation of the four imprisoned spies who have been held in this country since 1998. In fact, the Cuban government has repeatedly declared that it would be prepared to exchange Gross for the four so-called “anti-terrorist fighters” in U.S. jails.

The Obama administration would be wrong to give in to this blackmail because the two cases are totally distinct. Alan Gross is a hostage; the Cubans committed espionage. The four Cuban spies (a fifth was released after completing his sentence and now lives in Cuba) were sentenced for spying not on Cuban exile organizations, but on U.S. military installations and for their part in the downing of airplanes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue in 1996.

Gross, in contrast, was arrested when he was sent as a private contractor by USAID with equipment that could be used by Cuba’s tiny Jewish community to connect to the Internet. The Cubans were involved in espionage activities that had fatal consequences. Alan Gross was part of an effort to increase the freedom of communication _ which may be a crime in Cuba, but not in the rest of the civilized world. The two cases could not be more different.

Gross’ wife has pleaded that he should not be left to die in prison. Releasing him would be the humanitarian thing to do, especially considering he committed no crime. It’s up to the Cuban government to demonstrate that it’s capable, just this once, of doing the right thing.