Recent Cuban “Numbers Stations” broadcasts from Havana to the regime’s spies abroad:
Recent Cuban “Numbers Stations” broadcasts from Havana to the regime’s spies abroad:
HAVANA – (Associated Press) The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left Cuban President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.
Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the communist-led country.
“One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in,” Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, said after the end of the talks. “Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Vidal said that before deciding whether to allow greater economic ties with the U.S., Cuba is seeking more answers about Obama’s dramatic of loosening the half-century-long trade embargo.
“I could make an endless list of questions and this is going to require a series of clarifications in order to really know where we are and what possibilities are going to open up,” Vidal said.
Obama also launched a review of Cuba’s inclusion on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and Vidal said “it will be difficult to conceive of the re-establishment of relations” while Cuba remains on that list, which imposes financial and other restrictions.
Vidal also said full normalization will be impossible until Congress lifts the many elements of the trade embargo that aren’t affected by Obama’s executive action — a step seen as unlikely with a Republican-dominated Congress. Among key prohibitions that remain is a ban on routine tourism to Cuba.
She also said Cuba has not softened its refusal to turn over U.S. fugitives granted asylum in Cuba.
Cubans said they were taken aback by the flow of information but wanted to know much more about what the new relationship with the U.S. means.
“We’ve seen so much, really so much more than what we’re used to, about very sensitive topics in our country,” said Diego Ferrer, a 68-year-old retired state worker. Jesus Rivero, also 68 and retired from government work, sat on a park bench in Old Havana reading a report in the official Communist Party newspaper, Granma, about Jacobson’s press conference.
“It’s good that Granma reports the press conference in the residence of the head of the Interests Section,” Rivero said. “But I think they should explain much more so that the whole population really understands what’s going on.”
Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal is a career Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer. Her identity has been corroborated by both US and former Cuban intelligence personnel.
Josefina Vidal Expected Choice as Cuban Ambassador to US
By Chris Simmons
Two career Cuban spies, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro and Gustavo Machin Gomez, will lead this week’s migration and normalization discussions with the United States. The pair are members of Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service – the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), and serve as Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the North American Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). This is Machin’s second time in the Division, having served as Deputy Chief in 2003 and Division Chief from 2004-2005.
As Havana’s lead “diplomats” on U.S.-Cuban relations, they handled the Alan Gross negations, the return of three of Havana’s jailed spies, and the artificial insemination of DI officer Adriana Perez O’Connor (wife of freed spy Gerardo Hernandez). Perez herself was a member of the Wasp Network – the largest Cuban spy ring ever known to operate in the US. Incidentally, when details are eventually released regarding the Obama administration’s secret talks to restore US-Cuba relations, Vidal and Machin will undoubtedly be at the center of events.
From the DI’s perspective, MINREX’s North America Division is now seen as a de facto wing of the spy service. This assignment is so important that three former members were appointed to ambassadorships. Now we are witnessing the unprecedented return of Ambassador Gustavo Machin to serve as Josefina Vidal’s deputy. Given this pattern of events, I think it’s fairly safe to say Vidal is Raul Castro’s choice to be the first Cuban Ambassador to the United States.
Little is publicly known about Vidal’s espionage career. In May 2003, the US expelled 14 Cuban diplomats for espionage. Seven diplomats were based at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and seven at the Interests Section. Among the seven Washington-based spies declared Persona Non Grata was First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera. His wife, First Secretary Josefina Vidal, also known to the US as a Cuban Intelligence Officer, voluntarily accompanied her expelled spouse back to Cuba.
Previously, Vidal’s lone known success was her support to the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); in particular, Julia E. Sweig, a CFR Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Latin America Program. In her book, Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground, Sweig profusely thanked six Cuban spies for assisting her with her research. The six intelligence officers were Jose Antonio Arbesu, Ramon Sanchez Parodi, Fernando Garcia Bielsa, Hugo Yedra, Jose Gomez Abad and Josefina Vidal.
The son of a revolutionary hero, Gustavo Machin Gomez, was expelled in November 2002 in retaliation for the Ana Belen Montes case. In 2003, he was Deputy Director of MINREX’s North America Division and Chief the following year. In 2006, he was appointed Cuba’s first ambassador to Pakistan, where he is believed to have targeted US counterterrorism operations in the region. He then returned home to head the International Press Center before his current assignment.
DI officer Johanna Tablada preceded Machin in his second tour as Deputy Division Chief before her appointment as ambassador to Portugal. She was suspected of being assigned to Department M-I, the elite element focused on targeting the US intelligence community, universities, and Congress.
Eduardo Martinez Borbonet previously assisted Vidal as a Counselor in the North America Division. In November 2011, two weeks after a landslide victory propelled longtime Havana-ally Daniel Ortega into a controversial third term, he became Havana’s ambassador to Nicaragua.
In late December 1998, First Secretary Martinez Borbonet was expelled for his involvement in the South Florida based Wasp Network. The diplomat-spy served at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations (CMUN), the traditional hub for Havana’s US-based espionage operations. He had arrived approximately eight years earlier as a lowly Third Secretary.
As predicted, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) statement released yesterday confirmed that Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, head of the Ministry`s US affairs section, will lead the Cuban delegation. The first day’s topic remains immigration, while on day two, the two nations will discuss the principles and process to reestablish diplomatic ties and open embassies.
By Chris Simmons
The next round of US-Cuban discussions will be held on January 21 and 22 in Havana. Deputy Assistant Secretary Alex Lee is expected to lead the U.S. delegation at the migration talks on the 21st, while Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson will lead at the normalization talks on Jan. 22nd.
The Cuban delegation is expected to be led by Josefina Vidal, director of the North American Affairs Division within Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vidal led the previous round of migration talks last July in Washington, D.C. A member of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee, Vidal was thrown out of the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Havana’s spy-diplomats. For five years, her office also played a central role in the negotiations regarding the return of USAID contractor Alan Gross.
Cuba Says it Has a Right to Grant Asylum to US Fugitives
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has urged President Barack Obama to demand the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard before restoring full relations under a historic detente announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro last week.
Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press that “every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. … That’s a legitimate right.”
“We’ve explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum,” Vidal said.
“There’s no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.,” she added.
In a letter to the White House made public Sunday, Christie said Cuba’s asylum for Chesimard, who has changed her name to Assata Shakur, was “an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police, who have tirelessly tried to bring this killer back to justice.”
Later Monday, during a live interview with a local television anchor, Christie responded to Vidal‘s statement that Cuba has the right to grant to political asylum to those who have been persecuted.
“So Joanne Chesimard, a cold-blooded cop-killer, convicted by a jury of her peers, in what is without question the fairest and most just criminal justice system in the world — certainly much more just than anything that’s happened in Cuba under the Castro brothers. She is now, according to an official of the Cuban government, persecuted,” he said.
He added, “these thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable.”
Feature Continues Here: Cuba to Remain Safe Haven
Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal was thrown out of the United States in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of 14 Cuban spies serving under diplomatic cover. For previous stories on this spy, use the search icon.
By Suzanne Pollak
Senior Writer, Washington Jewish Week
Bethesda Jewish Congregation Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer returned Wednesday from a two-day trip to Cuba “saddened and disappointed Alan [Gross] did not come away in our care.”
Schnitzer was part of a three-member Joint Delegation of American Religious Leaders that participated in meetings with high level Cuban officials on Nov. 3 and 4 with the goal of freeing Alan Gross, the Potomac man serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for crimes against the state.
Prior to his departure, Schnitzer said talks with the officials seemed more ambiguous than he could remember and therefore he had hoped Gross would be allowed to leave Cuba.
“We all feel this an especially auspicious time,” Schnitzer said, noting that the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April of 2015 creates “a window of opportunity.” Panama has invited Cuba to attend for the first time, and if there is any movement in negotiations to free Gross, it might be possible for officials from the United States and Cuban to meet and work things out, Schnitzer said.
Gross, 65, was arrested in December 2009 while in Cuba working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross was there to connect Cuba’s Jewish population to the Internet but was convicted in 2011.
Schnitzer, who represented the Cuban American Jewish Mission, was joined on the trip by Rev. John McCullough of Church World Service and Rev. Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church.
The delegation, along with the Cuban Council of Churches, called for “the humanitarian release” of Gross and the Cuban Five. The Cuban government has insisted it will free Gross only if the United States frees the Cuban Five, three of whom have been in prison in the United States since 1998 following their convictions for espionage, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges. The other two have completed their prison sentences and returned to Cuba.
Freeing the Cubans still in American prisons “is the best and only way to get Alan out,” Schnitzer said. “The Cubans are waiting for this country, waiting for America, to engage” in talks, he said.
At the end of the trip, the delegation issued a joint statement. “Our common prayer is that by working together, we can help reunite these families and our countries.”
During the short visit, Schnitzer tried several times to visit Gross, but “Alan is not taking any visitors except his wife,” he said. However, he did learn that Gross, already in failing health, is having trouble walking due to “hip issues,” has difficulties with one eye and “lost another tooth.”
Since February, members of the delegation have met with members of Congress, the State Department and American religious leaders to pave the way for their two-day trip.
On Monday and Tuesday, the three men met with Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Chief of Mission, United States Interests Section Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Assistant Foreign Minister Josefina Vidal Ferrerio, Minister of Religions Caridad Diego Bello and Rene Gonzalez, one of the freed members of the Cuban Five.
RUSIA, 16 de octubre. El vicecanciller ruso Serguei Riabkov recibió en la sede del Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de este país, a Josefina Vidal, Directora General de la Dirección de Estados Unidos del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba.
El encuentro se desarrolló en un clima de cordialidad y en el marco de las excelentes relaciones de cooperación entre ambos países. En el mismo se intercambió sobre el desarrollo de los principales aspectos de las relaciones bilaterales entre Rusia y Cuba y sobre los temas de la actualidad internacional.
Estaba presente, además, el Embajador de Cuba ante la Federación de Rusia, Emilio Lozada García. EmbaCuba Rusia – Cubaminrex
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Calls Out State Department for Castro Visas
By Kevin Derby | Sunshine State News
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, came out swinging at the Obama administration on Tuesday for giving three Cubans with close ties to the Castro regime — Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro, Josefina Vidal and Antonio Castro, the son of Fidel Castro — visas to enter the United States. Ros-Lehtinen wrote to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the matter.
“I’ve written to Secretary Kerry to express my opposition and concern over the State Department’s recent decision to grant these three high-ranking Castro regime officials entry to the United States,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday. “This is a misguided decision that gives the appearance of normalcy in relations with this murderous regime and sends the wrong message to the 11 million Cuban people suffering under its oppressive rule. It is an affront to the principles of freedom and democracy, and I would urge the administration to reverse its decision and instead push for greater reforms on the island.”
Editor’s Note: Directorate of Intelligence officer Josefina Vidal left the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban spy-diplomats.
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.