Cuban Spy Ring the Focus in Political Thriller ‘Wasp Network’ 1

A scene from director Olivier Assayas’ thriller, ‘Wasp Network,’ which stars Penélope Cruz.

Marie-Louise Gumuchian

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) – A ring of Cuban operatives seeking to infiltrate anti-government groups exiled in Miami in the early 1990s is the focus of French director Olivier Assayas’ “Wasp Network”, a star-studded political thriller based on a true story.

Starring Penelope Cruz, Edgar Ramirez, Gael Garcia Bernal and Wagner Moura, the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday, where it is competing with 20 others for the top Golden Lion prize.

The action begins in Havana with Cuban pilot Rene Gonzalez, played by Ramirez, flying off to the United States to defect, leaving his wife, Cruz’ Olga, and their daughter behind in the Communist state led by Fidel Castro.

While it appears at first that he wants to start a new life in Florida, he joins other exiled Cubans there as part of a ring known as the Wasp Network, a pro-Castro group.
Led by Garcia Bernal’s undercover operative Manuel Viramontez, they infiltrate Cuban-American groups that want to topple the Castro regime.

“I liked the idea of leading the audience in one direction and then twist it and then we see the other side of the game,” Assayas told a news conference.

Garcia Bernal described the key characters as “spies that are trying to stop violence”.

“There’s something very unique about this story that highlights the act of love that actually made them do this, and the people they left behind support them,” he said.

The film is based on the true story of The Cuban Five intelligence officers who were arrested in Florida in 1998, convicted of espionage and other activities and jailed, before eventually being released after lengthy jail terms as part of a prisoner swap between the two countries.

Assayas, known for “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper”, said shooting in Cuba was “what allowed this film to happen.”

“I thought there would be conditions, strings attached, the reality there was not. We were completely free to make the film as wanted. We were monitored to put it mildly, but there were no consequences on the film,” he said.

Article continues here: Hollywood Fiction

Editor’s Note: Any similarities between this movie and the real Wasp Network are purely coincidental. After all, the real Wasp Network played a central role in the premeditated murder of four Americans, influenced the U.S. political system at the local, state and Federal levels; spied on numerous military targets including SOUTHCOM, CENTCOM, SOCOM, NAS Key West and Barksdale Air Force Base; indimidated American media outlets, manipulated the Cuban American community, etc.  

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Daily Caller Editor Vows To Investigate ‘Bizarre Claim’ Cuban Spies Used His Site To Spread A Fake Senate Sex Scandal Reply

Sen. Robert Menendez

Sen. Robert Menendez

By Hunter Walker, Business Insider

A popular conservative news site is at the center of an alleged plot by Cuban spies to smear New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez with a fake sex scandal.

Daily Caller Editor In Chief Tucker Carlson he’s is looking into a “bizarre claim” made by an attorney for Menendez that Cuban intelligence agents may have planted false stories claiming the senator had encounters with underage prostitutes on the site.

“I guess this means Menendez no longer thinks the story is part of a racist plot against him, as he initially suggested. But Cuban intelligence? It’s a bizarre claim, and self-serving, and they’ve produced no evidence of any kind to prove it. Obviously we’re skeptical, but we’re making calls right now to see what we can dig up,” Carlson told Business Insider in an email Monday night.

According to a Washington Post story published Monday, Stephen M. Ryan, a lawyer for the Democratic lawmaker, claimed U.S. officials believe agents of the Cuban government may have attempted to damage Menendez’s reputation due to his criticism of the Castro regime and position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ryan made his blockbuster claim in a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an investigation into a possible Cuban plot to smear the senator.

Both Ryan and Menendez office did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the letter. A spokesperson for the FBI field office in Miami, which was reportedly looking into the initial allegations about Menendez also did not respond.

The Post noted the Cuban government has previously been accused of smearing opponents, including Menendez, with false media reports.

Accusations Menendez employed underage prostitutes at a resort in the Dominican Republic first appeared in the Daily Caller in late 2012. The first story about the scandal was written by Matthew Boyle and featured videos of women who claimed “Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”  Boyle, who is now a reporter for Breitbart News, did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

After Boyle’s story was published ABC reported tipsters attempted to bring the videos detailing the accusations against Menendez to other media outlets prior to the Daily Caller. Menendez’s alleged contact with the prostitutes was said to have taken place while he was traveling in the Dominican Republic with a donor, a wealthy doctor named Salomon Melgen.

The Justice Department is currently investigating whether Menendez used his office to aid Melgen’s business interests. In April, new data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed Melgen collected more money from Medicare in 2012 than any other doctor in the country.

According to a Dominican prosecutor, a lawyer for the woman involved in the story later claimed he was offered money to get them to lie about Menendez on tape by a man named “Carlos” who said he worked for the Daily Caller. A man named “Carlos” briefly appeared in one of the video clips showing the women being interviewed. In March of last year, a spokeswoman for the site told ABC News the Daily Caller had no connection to anyone named “Carlos.”

Editor’s Note:  Cuban Intelligence has a long history of using an intelligence technique known as “Active Measures” against U.S. politicians. Within the spy profession, Active Measures are defined as activities which use disinformation, threats, and/or violence to discredit opponents or otherwise manipulate the behavior of an individual or group.

For example, evidence presented during the trial of the Wasp Network spies revealed that the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) ordered Active Measures against no less than six U.S. political figures.

More specifically, DI headquarters ordered the Wasps to use two agents to infiltrate Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s reelection campaign. Once immersed in the campaign, the spy ring planned to publicize derogatory information to discredit, harass, or neutralize Congress’ Cuban-American contingent.

Additionally, Miami Herald journalist Gail Epstein Nieves reported on January 23, 2001 that Havana ordered the Wasp Network’s target list to focus on those officials who “COULD HAVE AN IMPACT ON FORMULATING POLICY TOWARD CUBA.” Furthermore, other Wasp communications referred to the three highly influential and strongly anti-Castro Congressional officers as “THE THREE PESTS”:  Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and Senator Bob Menendez. Evidence also proved the DI planned to place one or more agents on the Congresswoman’s staff.

The Herald went on to note that other targets included state Senator Mario Diaz-Balart, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and Hialeah Council President Herman Echevarria. This Active Measures operation was run by Major Ramón Labañino Salazar. It was codenamed Operation Giron, after the beachhead where the Bay of Pigs invasion failed.

 

Today in History: Spy Detained in Little Havana 1

March 13, 2003: “Former” Cuban Intelligence Officer Lazaro Amaya La Puente was detained on immigration-related charges while working in Little Havana. The courts subsequently ruled that Amaya had overstayed his visa, failed to register as a representative of a foreign nation, and provided misleading testimony. He had originally arrived in the US in 2000. Prior to leaving Cuba, Amaya was a guard at the US Interests Section where he gathered intelligence on US personnel and the activities of Cuban dissidents and other government opponents. In December 2005, the US Court of Appeals ordered his deportation.

Editor’s Note: “Failure to register as a representative of a foreign nation” has become an espionage-associated charge experiencing widespread use since the 1990s. Originally created to list foreign lobbyists, it is punishable by 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The charge requires only that the government prove the individual works under the direction of a foreign nation without Washington’s permission.

Yoani Sánchez Calls for the Release of 5 Cuban Spies and End to Embargo 1

By Juan Carlos Chavez, jcchavez@elnuevoherald.com

Arguing that Cuba’s government wastes money, time and resources in an international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies, opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez said Wednesday in Brazil that she would support their release. The five men were convicted in a highly-publicized trial in Miami in 2000 for being part of the Wasp Network, the largest the biggest Cuban spy ring known to have been dismantled in the U.S.

“The amount of money that my country’s government is spending on this worldwide campaign, on [ad] space of international media by the Interior Ministry, the number of hours spent in schools talking about those five people, in order to bring that campaign to an end, they should free them,’’ said Sánchez, 37. “I’m worried about my country’s coffers and would prefer their release to see if they save more [money] because there are more issues on the table.”

Sánchez is the creator of the blog Generación Y, an award-winning journalism and human rights blog published in various countries. She is in Brazil as part of an 80-day trip outside of the island and was received on Wednesday at the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia where a documentary titled, Cuba-Honduras Connection was screened. The film was supposed to be shown on Monday in the northeastern city of Feira de Santana but was canceled due to violent demonstrations and protests by Cuba government supporters.

In his meeting with Brazilian lawmakers, Sánchez also criticized the U.S. trade embargo. She referred to it as “interventionist” and said that it has not worked. “As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and not in order of importance, it should end as soon as possible is that it is used by the Cuban government as the fundamental reason to explain its economic failure and political and social repression,” Sánchez said. Sánchez’s remarks began to spread quickly on the Internet. The remarks were first reported in the Viewpoint blog of journalist Joan Antonio Guerrero Vall, a collaborator Martí Noticias.

One of the five spies is serving two life sentences on charges of conspiracy to murder and help Cuban warplanes shoot down two civilian planes in 1996, killing the four crew members from Miami who were aboard. Three others are still in prison and the fifth finished his 13-year prison sentence last year and is now completing three years of probation. Trial evidence showed that ring members, some using fake identities, tried to infiltrate U.S. military installations and Cuban exile groups in an effort to feed military and political information back to Havana.

Sánchez arrived Monday in Brazil and was met with protests by supporters of the Cuban regime at airports in Recife and Salvador, but the most serious incident occurred in Feira de Santana, where a larger group interrupted the scheduled Monday night documentary with shouts of “Long live the revolution” and “Cuba yes, Yankees no.” Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, the ruling Workers Party (PT), who participated in the act, tried in vain to mediate between the protesters and the blogger, who could only speak a few minutes in an impromptu debate. Deputy Mendonça Filho, of the Democrats opposition party, also asked the Federal Police to take charge of Sánchez’s safety while in Brazil, the first stop in the blogger’s visit to a dozen countries.

Sánchez, who is scheduled to visit Miami on April 1, had been denied permission to leave Cuba 20 times in six years. Her trip was approved by Cuban authorities under new immigration reforms that took effect in January.

Cuban defectors choosing Tampa over Miami 2

By Juan O. Tamayo el Nuevo Herald

Hoping to avoid the anti-Castro maelstrom in Miami — and spies for the regime — some important expats are choosing to live in Tampa.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

TAMPA — One was a senior Cuban government official who handled more than $700 million in U.S. imports in one year. Another is the son of a top Cuban army general. And then there’s the daughter of the island’s powerful vice president.  All three defected and became part of a little-known trend among Cubans who escape their communist-ruled country and settle in Tampa, a city with strong historical ties to the island but not a major focus of current Cuban expatriate life.  Why Tampa?  To avoid Miami’s anti-Castro cauldron, analysts say. But also because the defectors are less likely to be recognized on the streets and because Miami has many knowledgeable FBI agents — and too many Castro spies.“They certainly can have a softer landing in this area,” said Ralph Fernandez, a Cuban-American lawyer in Tampa who said he knows of five mid- to high-level government officials living here whose defections in recent months have not been made public.

Miami immigration lawyer Wilfredo Allen said his Tampa office was contacted by half a dozen middle-ranking Cuban military officers and government officials for help with their legal status over the past three years.  Fernandez and other Cubans in Tampa agree that the total number of recent defectors living in the city of 346,000 people is high but unknowable because many of them are in hiding or keeping low profiles for various reasons.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/08/v-fullstory/2992589/cuban-defectors-choosing-tampa.html#storylink=cpy

This Month in History: Cuban Spies Proposed Intelligence Exchange With Dade County Sheriff Reply

September 1959:  Comandante Abelardo Colome Ibarra and another officer traveled to Miami and offered to initiate an intelligence exchange with the Dade County Sheriff’s Department. Colome openly declared his intelligence affiliation and offered information on US organized crime operations in Cuba in exchange for material on Cuban exiles in the US.  The Intelligence Department of the Sheriff’s Office rebuffed the Cubans.  Law enforcement authorities suspected Colome’s real purpose was to establish a legal intelligence presence to further enhance the growing operations then underway by “Illegal” officers.

Editor’s Note:  An “Illegal” is a highly trained intelligence officer assigned abroad who operates with no overt contact with his government.  Since an Illegal is not protected by diplomatic immunity, he/she generally serves under a false identity with the appropriate supporting documents. 

“Burned” Cuban Agent Moves From Miami to the Big Apple 6

Dr. Lisandro Pérez, formerly a Sociology professor at Florida International University (FIU), has moved to John Jay College in New York City.  Identified as a Cuban Intelligence agent by no less than three separate sources, Perez was first “outed” 32 years old.

In 1974, the trimester Areito magazine was founded, which boasted of its support for Castro’s Cuban Revolution.  Four founders and collaborators of Areito were Jorge Dominguez, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Lisandro Pérez & Marifeli Perez-Stable.  In 1980, Committee of 75 leader, Reverend Manuel Espinosa, publicly denounced Areito as front organizations for DGI espionage and recruitment campaign in the United States.  In March 1982, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, that Areito was “DGI propaganda.”  Then, in July 1983, DGI Captain Jesus Perez-Mendez defected to the United States and also confirmed Areito’s ties to Cuban Intelligence.

Background

Pérez was formerly a Sociology professor at Florida International University (FIU) and the founder of the Cuban Research Institute (CRI).  He established CRI in 1991 and developed it into the premier academic center in the US for the study of Cuba and Cuban Americans.  He served as its director until 2003.  CRI has a relationship with the influential Inter-American Dialogue and they co-sponsor Cuba-related events in DC.  He is also a long-time supporter of dialogue w/dialog with Cuba.

Pérez has a lifelong interest in Cuban migration to the U.S., the dynamics of the Cuban-American community, and social change in Cuba. For several years, he was the author of the journal Cuban Studies, which has been published annually by the University of Pittsburgh   Press since 1985. It is the preeminent journal for scholarly work on Cuba.  He has contributed to several edited collections and has written articles for journals such as Columbia Journal of World Business, International Migration Review, the Latin American Research Review, Los Angeles Times, and the Journal of Latin American Studies. He has appeared on PBS’ Frontline, at the Woodrow Wilson Int’l Center for Scholars, at the Inter-American Dialogue, and the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE).

See the full article here:  Burned Cuban Agent Moves From Miami to the Big Apple

This Day in History: First US Crackdown on Cuban Espionage Reply

Mid-June 1960:  The US expelled two Cuban diplomats:  Carlos Manuel Lazaro Felix Sanchez y Basquet and Dr. Berta Louisa Pla y Badia.

Sanchez served as a consular officer in Miami, while Pla served as the cultural attaché at Havana’s consulate in New York.  The State Department claimed Sanchez was “the principal Cuban Intelligence agent in the Miami area” and engaged in running a spy network in South Florida.  The State Department also accused Sanchez of attempting to illegally smuggle arms. Washington said Pla was engaged in propaganda and influence operations, to include fomenting racial dissent. When expelled, Pla had lived in the US for eight years.  She joined the Cuban Consulate in April 1959.  A few months later, Jose Paz Novas defected to the US and claimed he was the chief of the G-2’s Miami operations.

This Date in History Reply

May 15, 1997:  Ana Belen Montes, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s senior Cuba analyst for political and military affairs, was briefed about a Top Secret Special Access Program (SAP).  One of the Castro regime’s highest ranking penetration agents in the Defense Department, in her subsequent communications to Havana, Montes noted that she and a colleague were the only ones in her office knowledgeable of this program.  Widely used throughout the Intelligence Community, SAPs consist of safeguards and other protocols that exceed standard security measures.

Mid-May 1959:  According to a declassified CIA report, by this date, 40-50 Cuban agents were active in the Miami area.