Donald Trump Crackdown Looms For Cuba as Repression Continues After Obama Outreach 3

Cuban President Raul Castro and his government have benefited more than his people from the Obama administration’s détente. (Associated Press)

Cuban President Raul Castro and his government have benefited more than his people from the Obama administration’s détente. (Associated Press)

By Dave Boyer – The Washington Times

President Obama’s historic move to normalize relations with Cuba hasn’t slowed repression by the Castro regime, and the incoming Trump administration is likely to take a tougher stand on restricting tourism, recovering stolen U.S. assets and demanding human rights reforms by Havana, analysts say.

In the two years since Mr. Obama announced a thaw in the United States’ half-century policy of isolating the island nation, the administration has paved the way for increased engagement, approving such measures as daily commercial flights, direct mail service, cruise ship ports of call and the reopenings of long-shuttered embassies in Washington and Havana.

But Mr. Obama’s policy has not been fully embraced on Capitol Hill and is vulnerable to reversal under the Trump administration, though the president’s aides say his détente is already bearing fruit in Cuba and beyond.

“We’re seeing real progress that is making life better for Cubans right now,” said White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. “Sustaining this policy will allow for further opening, further travel, further U.S. business opportunities.”

But critics say the U.S. money now flowing to Cuba is being pocketed directly by the military and the Cuban intelligence services, not benefiting Cuban entrepreneurs. They also say the government of President Raul Castro has become more repressive since the formal resumption of diplomatic ties with Washington.

“This year, they’ve had over 10,000 politically motivated arrests,” said Ana Quintana, an analyst on Latin America at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “During President Obama’s visit [in March], there were 498 people arrested in those three days.”

Judging by the standards Mr. Obama laid out in December 2014, she said, “the policy has been a failure.”

“It was originally intended to help the Cuban people by providing greater freedoms,” Ms. Quintana said. “It’s been diluted, because they found that they’re not going to get the concessions from the Cuban government that they expected. The vast majority of people who have benefited from this have been the Cuban military and the Cuban government.”

President-elect Donald Trump is likely to take a less rosy view than Mr. Obama of the U.S. engagement with Cuba, say those familiar with his team’s thinking. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for “turning a blind eye” to Cuba’s human rights violations and denounced Mr. Obama’s initial deal with Havana as a “very weak agreement.” Several anti-Castro Cuban-American conservatives are part of Mr. Trump’s transition team.

Article continues here:  Espionage & Repression Continues

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress: Cuba to Share Critical U.S. Intel With Iranian Spies 4

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Iran’s foreign minister begun a Latin American tour in Cuba, declaring Iran and Cuba united by their histories of resisting what he called U.S. atrocities. Zarif also plans to visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Iran’s foreign minister begun a Latin American tour in Cuba, declaring Iran and Cuba united by their histories of resisting what he called U.S. atrocities. Zarif also plans to visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Intel sharing with Cuba endangers America, lawmakers warn

BY: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon 

Obama administration efforts to bolster the sharing of critical intelligence data with Cuba is likely to benefit Iran, which has been quietly bolstering its foothold in the country with the communist government’s approval, according to conversations with members of Congress and other sources familiar with the matter.

A little noticed Obama administration directive on Cuba, released Oct. 14, instructed the U.S. director of national intelligence to assist and cooperate with Cuba’s intelligence services.

The directive has raised red flags on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are concerned that Cuba will pass along critical U.S. intelligence to the Iranians, who have made moves in recent years to extend their influence in the communist country and other Latin American countries hostile to the United States.

Iran’s interest in Cuba was on fully display earlier this year when Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, went on a goodwill tour throughout Latin America that included stops in Cuba and Venezuela, among others.

The goal of this visit, sources told the Washington Free Beacon, was to solidify Iran’s growing terrorist network in the region and ensure the Islamic Republic maintains its presence along America’s doorstep.

“The Castro regime has shown no inclination to end its anti-American activities, including espionage,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon. “The Castro regime in August and September 2016 deepened ties with Iran through high level visits, and there are reports that Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah has established a base in Cuba.”

“The director of national intelligence, General James R. Clapper, testified in February 2016 that the Castro dictatorship remained an espionage threat at the level of Iran, behind only China and Russia,” Diaz-Balart added. “Under these circumstances, President Obama’s directive to encourage intelligence sharing with the Castro regime is reckless, dangerous, and contrary to U.S. national security interests.”

Iran has been interested in Latin America for years, but now has the resources to pursue a footprint in the region as a result of the cash windfall provided by last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Hezbollah, the terror organization funded and directed by Iran, has had assets in the region for some time.

Feature continues here:  Cuba’s Dangerous Liaisons

 

 

 

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba / AP

Iran, Cuba seek closer ties 1

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on arrival at the Foreign Ministry building in the Cuban capital of Havana, August 22, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez on arrival at the Foreign Ministry building in the Cuban capital of Havana, August 22, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has met with Cuba’s President Raul Castro while on the first leg of a six-nation tour of Latin American countries.

The meeting took place on Monday in the Cuban capital of Havana, where the top Iranian diplomat arrived on Sunday night at the head of a high-ranking politico-economic delegation.

The two statesmen discussed the development of bilateral ties, international and Middle East affairs, as well as the upcoming summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is to be held in Venezuela later in the year.

Zarif earlier met with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez and the country’s Minister of Economy and Vice-President Ricardo Cabrisas.

In his meeting with Rodriguez, Zarif said he sought to “open a new chapter in bilateral relations with Cuba.”

The top Cuban diplomat, for his part, hailed “the Iranian foreign policy’s victory” in reaching a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers and the deal’s subsequent implementation.

Cabrisas visited Iran earlier in August, when he handed over a written message by President Castro to President Hassan Rouhani. He said Havana sought the promotion of all-out relations with Tehran.

Zarif leads a group of 120 businessmen and financial executives from government and private sectors. He has now arrived in Nicaragua on the second leg of his Latin American trip, which will also take him to Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela.  (Source:  Spy News Agency)

Editor’s Note: Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI) officer Ricardo Belen Cabrisas Ruiz served as the Commercial Counselor in Ontario from approximately January 1967 through at least October 1970. According to a declassified Defense Department intelligence report, known DGI officer Ricardo Belen Cabrisas Ruiz then served as Ambassador to Japan. He subsequently became Cuba’s Foreign Trade Minister sometime prior to October 1983. In the mid-2000s, he served as Minister of Government within the Office of the President.

In the late 1980s, the DGI was reorganized and renamed the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

The Most Dangerous U.S. Spy You’ve Never Heard Of 4

Ana Montes with then-Deputy DCI George Tenet, after receiving an award.

Ana Montes with then-Deputy DCI George Tenet, after receiving an award.

By Thom Patterson, CNN

Programming note: Explore untold stories of American spies: CNN Original Series “Declassified” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNN.

(CNN) — She put American combat troops in harm’s way, betrayed her own people and handed over so many secrets that experts say the U.S. may never know the full extent of the damage.

Ana Montes was the Queen of Cuba, an American who from 1985 to the September 11, 2001 attacks handed over U.S. military secrets to Havana while working as a top analyst for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

But despite her crimes, Montes remains largely unknown.

You might not think Cuba could do much harm to a superpower like the U.S., said retired DIA official Chris Simmons, appearing on CNN’s “Declassified.”

But you’d be wrong.

The threat increases, he said, when Havana goes on to sell those U.S. military secrets to nations like China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

Montes’ anger about U.S. foreign policy complicated her relationships and drew the attention of Cubans who enticed her to turn her back on friends, family and her own country.

The fascinating spycraft that surfaced from her case offers a rare glimpse into the invisible world of espionage, where some experts believe there could be as many as 100,000 foreign agents working inside the U.S.

The two Anas

Montes grew up like millions of other girls during the Cold War, in a large, middle-class family, the oldest of four children.

Born to Puerto Rican parents on a U.S. Army base in Germany in 1957, Montes‘ father served his country as an Army doctor. By the time Montes entered high school, her father had left the military and settled the family about an hour north of Washington, D.C., in Towson, Maryland.

She attended the University of Virginia, and in 1977 and 1978, she spent a liberating year studying in Spain. There, she met a Puerto Rican student named Ana Colon.

The two Anas quickly became friends — bonding through their Puerto Rican roots — not politics. “I had no political awareness whatsoever,” said Colon, now a Washington-area elementary school teacher.

Feature continues here:  Ana Montes

 

 

Will Spy Wars Between Cuba and the U.S. End with Restored Relations? 3

spy_vs_spyHIGHLIGHTS

Since Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959, and over the next five decades, Havana built one of the world’s most active intelligence services

Some of the biggest crises in U.S.-Cuba relations can be traced to the involvement of Cuban spies and agents

Cuban espionage against the United States intensified in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan stepped up rhetoric against Cuba at the height of the Cold War

By Alfonso Chardy, Miami Herald    achardy@elnuevoherald.com

Though the United States has restored relations with Cuba, and President Barack Obama is planning to visit the island later this month, it’s unclear if the two countries have declared a truce in the spy wars they have waged for more than 50 years.

Lawmakers in Congress have warned the Obama administration that allowing Cuba to operate an embassy in Washington and consulates throughout the country will only make it easier for Havana to deploy spies and agents in the United States.

“We are all too familiar with the Castro regime’s efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against the host countries,’’ according to a letter sent in 2015 to the U.S. Department of State by five Cuban-American lawmakers including Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J.

Since Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959, and over the next five decades, Havana built one of the world’s most active intelligence services — one that dispatched spies and agents to penetrate the highest levels of the American government and some of the leading Cuban exile organizations.

In fact, some of the biggest crises in U.S.-Cuba relations can be traced to the involvement of Cuban spies and agents — from the downing of two Brothers to the Rescue planes to the theft of U.S. military secrets at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the spying of U.S. military facilities in South Florida and infiltration of leading Cuban exile organizations in Miami by members of the now-defunct Wasp Network.

Story continues here: Miami Herald

Editors Note: It seems the Miami Herald didn’t pay attention during last month’s testimony by Director of National Intelligence, General James R. Clapper, who told Congress Russia, China, Iran & Cuba pose the greatest threat to the United States.

 

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

Palm Beach Newspaper Warns American Firms of Cuba’s Espionage Threat 2

SpyvsSpySeveral Caveats to be Aware of Before Doing Business in Cuba

PalmBeachPost.com / Filed in: Business

Get ready for another round of “Let’s go do business in Cuba” enthusiasm on Friday. That’s when Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to raise the Stars and Stripes for the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Before you go rushing into a business venture on the island that was the communist outpost in the Cold War, you might want to have a talk with Ross Thompson at Classified Worldwide Consulting, which has an office in West Palm Beach. Thompson, the firm’s managing director, has a few caveats to share.

In particular, Thompson cautions that Cuba’s foreign investment and business laws present six key challenges that Americans need to think through ahead of time. They are:

  1. The Cuban government will own a majority stake in the company. A 49-51 percent split is common, but Havana has required a larger share in some sectors.
  2. Your local workforce will be selected by the Cuban government. This selection may not be based on skill or merit but by seniority or cronyism.
  3. Cuban managers will be appointed to mirror your handpicked managers, especially if your senior leadership includes Cuban exiles. The Cuban managers will ultimately control many decisions, or influence them, when dealing with your majority partner, the Cuban government.
  4. Everything in Cuba is heavily influenced by Cuba’s intelligence service, the DGI. You must be very careful to guard your own corporate proprietary information. [Emphasis added]
  5. Vendors you may work with may be fronts, or “cutouts,” for other foreign intelligence services such as those from China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. The capture and exchange of corporate confidential information is a lucrative business, so guard your files. [Emphasis added]

Feature continues here: Cuban Economic Espionage

 

Congressional Hearing Next Thursday: “The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security” 1

CongressSubcommittee Hearing: The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere | 2200 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Feb 26, 2015 10:00am to 1:00pm

Chairman Duncan on the hearing: “In 1982, Cuba was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism for providing critical support to many terrorist organizations. Today, given the links between Cuba and China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia and the close proximity to the U.S. homeland, I am deeply concerned about the U.S. national security implications of the Administration’s Cuba policy change. Cuba continues to support terrorist organizations and it was caught red-handed proliferating weapons to North Korea as recently as last year. Cuba has also been stunningly successful in espionage against the U.S., in trafficking U.S. national security secrets to hostile regimes, and in benefiting from a criminal pipeline spanning Cuba to Florida. This hearing will examine the U.S. national security implications of the President’s Cuba policy change and potential vulnerabilities to Americans as a result.”

WITNESSES:

Mr. Chris Simmons:  Editor, Cuba Confidential

Mr. Fernando Menéndez:  Senior Fellow, Center for a Secure Free Society

José Azel, Ph.D.:  Senior Research Associate, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies – University of Miami

The Honorable Dennis K. Hays:  Director, The Emergence Group

***Any changes to witness list will be reflected above.

Brazil Spied on Iran’s Ambassador to Cuba, Russian Diplomats, Others 2

Brazilian Agency Spied on Foreign Workers

By Lucas Ferraz, Folha de S. Paulo

SPECIAL ENVOY TO BRASILIA

The Brazilian government’s main espionage branch spied on three foreign diplomats at embassies and in their homes, says a report by ABIN (Brazilian Intelligence Agency).

The report includes details on ten secret operations between 2003 and 2004 and shows that even countries with which Brazil has attempted closer relations in recent years, such as Russia and Iran, were targets of ABIN.

It also says Russian diplomats involved in negotiations to purchase military equipment were photographed and followed on trips.

The same occurred with employees of the Iranian embassy, followed so that ABIN could identify their contacts in Brazil. The report also shows that ABIN agents followed Iraqi diplomats on foot and by car to photograph them and record their activities at the embassy and at their homes.

The Presidency’s Institutional Security Cabinet, to which ABIN is subordinate, confirmed the operations and said they were carried out according to the Brazilian legislation.

The Brazilian government says they were counterintelligence operations, that is, they sought to protect secrets in Brazil’s interest.

During the “Miucha” operation in 2003, ABIN followed the routine of three Russian diplomats, including the former general consul in Rio, Anatoly Kashuba, who left the country in the same year, and representatives of the Rosoboronexport, the Russian weapon export agency.

The “Xá” operation monitored the routines and contacts of Iranian diplomats – ABIN followed the steps of Iran’s then-ambassador in Cuba, Seyed Davood Mohseni Salehi Monfared, during a visit to Brazil between April 9 and 14, 2004.

An ABIN agent who examined the report at Folha’s request said the Iranians were likely followed at another country’s request, a typical cooperation between intelligence agencies.

The report also shows that the Brazilian government spied on the Iraqi embassy after Iraq was invaded by the U.S. in 2003.

Translated by Thomas Muello

Cuban Ally’s Dangerous Plunge 1

Bolivia’s Descent Into Rogue State Status

The country is a hub for organized crime and a safe haven for terrorists.

Mary O’Grady, Wall Street Journal

In the years after a brutal 10-year Soviet occupation, Afghanistan became a petri dish in which a culture of organized crime, radical politics and religious fundamentalism festered—and where Osama bin Laden set up operations.

Now something similar may be happening in Bolivia. The government is an advocate for coca growers. The Iranian presence is increasing. And reports from the ground suggest that African extremists are joining the fray.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is also the elected president of the coca producers’ confederation, and Vice President Alvaro García Linera, formerly of the Maoist Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, began building their repressive narco-state when they took office in 2006.

Step one was creating a culture of fear. Scores of intellectuals, technocrats and former government officials were harassed. Many fled.

Seventy-five-year-old José Maria Bakovic, a former World Bank infrastructure specialist, was targeted but refused to yield. As president of the highway commission from 2001-06, he had developed a bidding system for road construction to reduce corruption. This stymied Mr. Morales. Bakovic was twice imprisoned and appeared in court more than 250 times for alleged administrative crimes, according to people familiar with his case.
Nothing was ever proven.

In early October, prosecutors summoned Bakovic to La Paz for another grilling. Cardiologists said the high altitude would kill him. The government overrode their objections, effectively issuing a death warrant. He went to La Paz on Oct. 11, had a heart attack and died the next day in Cochabamba.

With the opposition cowed, President Morales has turned Bolivia into an international hub of organized crime and a safe haven for terrorists. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been expelled. United Nations data show that cocaine production is up in Bolivia since 2006 and unconfirmed reports say that Mexican, Russian and Colombian toughs are showing up to get a piece of the action. So are militants looking to raise cash and operate in the Western Hemisphere.

The Tehran connection is no secret. Iran is a nonvoting member of the “Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas” ( ALBA ). Its voting members are Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

In testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security in July, global security specialist Joseph Humire described Iran’s interest in ALBA: “Iran understood that the wave of authoritarian populism known as ’21st Century Socialism’ that was sweeping through the region offered the Islamic Republic a permissive environment to carry out its global agenda against the West.” Bolivia is fertile ground.

Iran may have put up some or all of the money to build a new ALBA military training facility outside of Santa Cruz. According to Mr. Humire, the Iranian Embassy in La Paz is “reported to contain at least 145 registered Iranian officials.” There is also Bolivian support for radical Islamic converts like the Argentine Santiago Paz Bullrich, a disciple of Iranian cleric Mohsen Rabbani and the co-founder of the first Shia Islamic association in La Paz.

Iran may be using its Bolivian network to smuggle strategic minerals like tantalum (used to coat missiles), Mr. Humire told Congress. It may even be smuggling people. Unconfirmed but credible reports describe high officials ordering the issuance of I.D. cards and passports to numerous young, fit “turks”—a slang term in South America for Middle Easterners. One witness told a Bolivian source of mine (who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of safety) that the foreigners were Iranians but not diplomats.

In late September, according to the Bolivian daily La Razón, Bolivia’s prospective consul to Lebanon was detained by Bolivian officials for allegedly trying to smuggle 392 kilos of cocaine to Ghana.

Thanks to steady cocaine demand, the Bolivian economy is awash in cash. Africa lies on the major transit route for European-bound cocaine. That may explain the increased sightings of Somalis, Ethiopians and South Africans in Santa Cruz, an unlikely place for African migration. In April, the partially burned body of a mutilated black man was found near the Brazilian border, suggesting a drug deal gone bad. An unusual marking was carved on the victim’s right thigh, as if villains wanted to be sure to get credit for the brutality.

Within days the Spanish daily ABC reported on a Spaniard, also tortured with a carving on his leg, found in the same area. I learned from a source who did not want to be identified that the victim allegedly told police that the black man who had died was his friend and was African. According to my source, a witness said the dying man also murmured the words “al-Shabaab,” the name of the Somali terrorist group.

One Bolivian I know claims that at Mr. Morales’s 2006 inauguration he saw Mohamed Abdelaziz, secretary general of the separatist Polisario Front, which has carried on a long conflict with Morocco.

North Africa is becoming a hotbed of violence. There are rumors of insurgent and terrorist alliances. If Mr. Abdelaziz was indeed in La Paz, it raises further questions about Bolivia’s foreign policy.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.