Espías cubanos todavía dependen de tecnología anticuada como la onda corta y clave Morse 3

Juan O. Tamayo,

No importa si usted no es un espía cubano. Usted podría recibir mensajes secretos enviados por La Habana a sus agentes en Miami, Washington y otras partes del mundo.

Cada semana, una estación de onda corta en Cuba transmite 97 mensajes codificados en tonos que parecen de fax. Un programa de computadora fácilmente disponible al público cambia los tonos en números, y entonces los espías cubanos decodifican los números en palabras.

Una segunda estación espía transmite 16 mensajes por semana en los puntos y rayas del código Morse, de 175 años de antigüedad, mensajes secretos para aquellos espías de La Habana de más edad o menos conocimientos tecnológicos.

Dieciséis años después de los arrestos en Miami de cinco espías cubanos que recibían sus órdenes secretas por transmisiones de onda corta, La Habana continúa usando un sistema que ha caído en desuso en el mundo del espionaje desde el fin de la Guerra Fría.

Hay muchas maneras más modernas y eficientes de comunicar secretos usando satélites, transmisiones por ráfagas, correos electrónicos únicos, etc., dijo Chris Simmons, oficial retirado de inteligencia del Pentágono especializado en asuntos cubanos.

“Pero estas transmisiones cubanas podrían ser para viejos espías, dinosaurios que llevan mucho tiempo escuchando (onda corta), agentes a largo plazo, que se sienten cómodos así y no quieren ni necesitan cambios”, añadió Simmons.

La estación cubana más ocupada en estos tiempos, y la única estación espía del mundo entero que usa los tonos de tipo fax, ha sido bautizada como HM01 por radioescuchas aficionados que tienen websites tales como Spooks List, Spynumbers, ShortwaveSchedule y Enigma2000.

La misma transmite de 11 a 14 mensajes por día, un total de 96 por semana, en el mismo horario cada semana pero usando una docena de frecuencias de onda corta, dijo Chris Smolinski, de 41 años, ingeniero informático de Maryland cuyo hobby es vigilar las estaciones espía.

Cada mensaje tiene casi siempre 150 grupos de cinco dígitos, de modo que los radioescuchas no pueden medir la verdadera longitud del texto, y algunas de las transmisiones de 10 minutos son falsas, diseñadas para encubrir el verdadero número de espías que las reciben.

Cualquiera puede conectar un receptor de radio a una computadora, donde el programa DIGTRX —usado por muchos radioaficionados para enviar y recibir textos largos— convierte los tonos en números. Los espías usan entonces programas secretos para convertir los números en texto.

“HM01 es un sistema ideal porque no hay que enseñárselo a nadie. La computadora hace todo el trabajo”, dijo Smolinski.

Lea más aquí: Espías cubanos todavía dependen de tecnología anticuada como la onda corta y clave Morse

Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying 9

By Juan O. Tamayo,

A top aide to one of Cuba’s veteran political figures, Ricardo Alarcón, and the aide’s wife, have been convicted of spying and sentenced to 30 and 15 years in prison, according to persons close to the case.

Miguel Alvarez and Mercedes Arce, both former Cuban intelligence analysts in their 50s, were tried and convicted in December, the persons said, 22 months after they were detained in Havana for interrogation on March 3, 2012.

Alvarez was sentenced to 30 years on charges that he leaked secret information to Arce, according to the sources. Arce got the lesser sentence for allegedly using the information to write analytical reports on Cuba that she sold to private companies in Mexico.

Alvarez is the most senior Cuban official known to have been convicted of spying against the communist government in decades. At least three other Cubans are imprisoned on the island for spying, including two former Interior Ministry officials.

The Cuban government has repeatedly offered to swap U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, imprisoned in Havana since 2009, for four Havana spies held in U.S. prisons since 1998. But it has made no mention of the spies held in Cuban prisons.

The island’s state-controlled news media, which almost never reports on politically sensitive crimes, has published nothing on the Alvarez-Arce case. Relatives also have not commented publicly, hoping their silence will lead to better treatment for the couple.

There has been no indication of the seriousness of the breach of security allegedly created by Alvarez and Arce, but the Cuban government jealously guards even routine information such as sugar harvest figures and Fidel Castro’s home address.

Alvarez was a senior advisor to Alarcón on international and political affairs when Alarcón served as president of the legislative National Assembly of People’s Power, sitting in on many of his meetings with foreign dignitaries and journalists.

Alarcón, 77, a veteran specialist on U.S. relations, headed the National Assembly for 20 years but was replaced in February of last year, 11 months after the Alvarez and Arce arrests.

He is believed to remain a member of the powerful Political Bureau of the Communist Party. Alarcón is seen in public now mostly pushing the government campaign to free the four Cuban spies in U.S. prisons.

Former Florida International University professor Carlos Alvarez (no relation to the Alarcón aide), who was convicted of spying for Havana, described Arce in his confession as one of his Cuban intelligence handlers. He and his wife, Elsa Prieto, were sentenced in 2007 to five and three years in prison, respectively.

Read more here:
Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying

Cuban Authorities Harass Dissidents Before Havana Summit 1

By Juan O. Tamayo,

The Cuban government has unleashed “a large wave of political repression” against dissidents, detaining or threatening at least 60 to keep them from tarnishing a meeting of hemispheric leaders in Havana, a human rights group reported Monday.

The II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on Tuesday and Wednesday will focus mostly on efforts at economic integration among the 33 member nations. CELAC excludes the United States and Canada.

Cuba also has proposed declaring the region as a “zone of peace” and other nations have proposed addressing issues such as poverty, climate change, the peace talks between Colombia and FARC rebels and the U.S. embargo against the Cuban government.

But attempts by the Cuban opposition to voice their complaints to the foreign visitors and grab part of their media spotlight by holding two small “parallel summits” have been met with tough measures by security officials on the island.

Police briefly detained at least 40 dissidents, threatened or harassed another 18 and ordered five more to stay home “until the end of the summit,” said a report Monday by the illegal Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Those numbers are preliminary because of government controls on communications within the island, but they already amount to “a large wave of political repression against peaceful dissidents,” the report said, to “muzzle” them during the two-day summit.

Other dissidents have reported nearly 150 brief detentions and blocks on the cell phones of several pro-democracy activists.

Read more here: Cuban authorities harass dissidents before Havana summit

New York Times Using Discredited Cuba Sources Reply

Yesterday’s New York Times featured this highly disappointing article by foreign correspondent Damien Cave: Former Exit Port for a Wave of Cubans Hopes to Attract Global Shipping

One of the sources widely used by Cave and the New York Times was Arturo Lopez-Levy, who it erroneously cited as “a former Cuban official who studies Cuba’s economy and politics” and someone “who also works with a group of Cuban-Americans favoring engagement with Cuba.” No mention was made to how – in his own book – Lopez-Levy admitted to having been a spy with Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Likewise, the Times failed to note the PhD candidate’s close family ties to Raul Castro’s son-in-law, MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

The paper then compounded this sourcing error by citing Phil Peters, a senior member of the long discredited Lexington Institute. A self-professed “think tank,” this group was exposed as a fraud years ago for writing flattering news stories on its corporate sponsors in the defense sector. Coverage on their money-for-stories approach can be found here: Analyst’s switch stirs tanker talk, and in the Babalu Blog feature,
Sherritt, Cuba, and the Cubanologist.”

Famed Castro Apologist Hypes “Rise” of CELAC Reply

OAS head at Cuba Summit in Unusual Encounter

By Associated Press

HAVANA — The secretary-general of the Organization of American States arrived in Cuba on Monday to attend a regional summit, in an unusual encounter 52 years after Cuba was kicked out of the regional bloc.

Jose Miguel Insulza, a Chilean, was attending as an observer, so there was no official access to his arrival as was the case with visiting foreign ministers and heads of state. But Cuban officials confirmed his presence on the island to The Associated Press.

Hugo Zela, Insulza’s chief of staff, said the OAS, which was formed in 1948, has no record of a secretary-general visiting Cuba.

Tensions between Cuba and the OAS began shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, when Washington put pressure on Fidel Castro’s nascent Communist government through the organization.

Cuba was suspended from the bloc in 1962 at the height of the Cold War and many other nations turned their backs on Havana, with Mexico a notable exception.

By the dawn of the 21st century and with the Cold War nearly two decades in the rear-view mirror, some countries — particularly Venezuela under the late President Hugo Chavez, who called Castro a friend and mentor — began pushing for Cuba’s reintegration into the hemispheric community.

In 2009 the OAS ended Cuba’s suspension with the consent of Washington, which had been hesitant at first. But Havana balked at rejoining the bloc it sees as obeying U.S. interests.

“Cuba’s position toward the OAS remains the same: We will not return,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at the summit. “It has negative historical baggage as an instrument of domination by the United States that cannot be resolved through any reform.”

Nonetheless, Rodriguez said inviting Insulza to the CELAC summit was done out of “courtesy.”

The CELAC was formed in 2011 and includes all the Western Hemisphere’s nations except Canada and the United States.

“It should replace within a short time the OAS, that institution that did so much harm to integration,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Roberto Patino said Monday.

Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuba analyst and lecturer at the University of Denver, said the CELAC’s creation puts pressure on the OAS to remain relevant.

“The problems of the OAS are due to the fact that inter-American multilateralism has not been updated in respect to the changes in politics and balance of power that have taken place in (the region) and beyond as part of the rise of the global south,” Lopez-Levy said. “The second summit of the CELAC in Havana pours salt on that wound,” he added.

For decades the argument for excluding Cuba from the OAS was its closed, single-party system. Havana has little tolerance for internal opposition and routinely harasses dissidents whom it officially labels treasonous “mercenaries.”

Insulza has come under criticism particularly from the Cuban exile community for not scheduling meetings with island dissidents during the trip, in order to avoid making the summit hosts uncomfortable.

“It’s startling,” said Elizardo Sanchez, a nongovernmental human rights monitor in Cuba. “It’s a little surprising because the OAS usually recognizes the human rights NGOs.”

Cuban dissidents have complained about increased harassment and detentions in the days leading up to and during the summit. Some said they were prevented from holding an alternative forum, while others claimed to be under effective house arrest.

Editor’s Note: Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is a long-term doctoral student in Denver.

Foreign Tourist Thanks Cuban Government For Apprehending Purse Snatcher 1

A few days ago, Havana Times published a story about the December 2013 robbery of foreign tourist “Emma Scopes.” In the feature, HT quoted Scopes as saying:

“The efficiency of the police was also truly astounding“

“…the police were able to catch the man who took my bag and return my possessions. By the time the police returned with the perpetrator in hand cuffs…”

“So a huge ‘thank you’ to the police…”

Such are the simple joys of a tourist visiting a national security state.

Read the entire propaganda piece here: My Experience Being Robbed in Cuba

Citing “Former” Cuban Spy, AFP Reports Dissident Influence Waning 1

In a feature worthy of Granma or Russia’s Pravda, the AFP reported that Cuban dissidents now travel freely, but their on-island influence has diminished. Curiously, the AFP conceded that Cuba’s apartheid regime censors dissident messages, but failed to report that foreign travel is allowed only when approved by Havana’s pervasive security and intelligence services. Likewise, it omitted State Security’s long-term, repressive targeting of the internationally-known Ladies in White and less famous protesters.

The piece then quoted “former” Cuban spy Arturo Lopez-Levy as saying dissidents do not provide “viable alternatives to the country’s main problems.” In reality, Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly. Now living comfortably in Colorado, Lopez-Levy (aka Lopez-Callejas) is in his eighth year as a doctoral student in Denver.

Carromero Says Cuban Officer Forced Him to Change Crash Story 7

By Juan O. Tamayo,

Angel Carromero says a Cuban officer slapped him “a couple of times” to dissuade him from insisting that the death of leading dissident Oswaldo Payá was caused by State Security agents and was not an accident.

The evidence also led him to conclude that Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero, survived a car crash and were murdered later by State Security, Carromero told El Nuevo Herald Tuesday during his most detailed recounting yet of the crash.

The Spaniard’s comments by phone from Madrid shed new light on a fatal incident that has led the Payá family, the U.S. and other governments and many human rights activists around the world to demand an independent investigation of the deaths.

Carromero said he is now speaking at length about the crash and its aftermath to help Payá’s relatives — he is eager to testify at any lawsuit they file against Cuba, he noted — and to mark the anniversary of the deaths on July 22.

Cuba’s version is that he was driving a rented Hyundai too fast and hit a tree near the eastern city of Bayamo. Payá died on the spot and Cepero later at a hospital. Another passenger, Jens Aron Modig of Sweden, was not injured. Carromero was convicted of vehicular homicide and was freed to serve his four-year prison sentence in Spain.

Carromero says that a Cuban man in military uniform “slapped me around a couple of times” to persuade him that he was wrong when he insisted on saying that a car with government license plates had rammed his vehicle from behind and caused the crash.

“That did not happen. Slap. Slap,” he recalled the officer saying. “It wasn’t a beating. A couple of slaps because they wanted me to change my version of events.”

Carromero said his car had been tailed by three different government vehicles, including one marked police cruiser, from the time the foursome left Havana the morning of July 22 to visit dissidents in eastern Cuba. The two Europeans were members of conservative political parties that often support the island’s opposition.

Evidencing the intensity of the government’s interest on Payá and the Europeans, “Yohandry Fontana,” widely believed to be a front for State Security operations, tweeted six hours before the crash that Payá was on his way to the beach resort of Varadero.

Carromero said they never drove to Varadero. But on the previous day, he added, he had exchanged 4,000 Euros into Cuban currency in Havana. When the teller asked him why he was changing so much, he replied that he was going to Varadero.

The police cruiser that initially tailed them gave way to an old red Lada as they made their way east, he said, and shortly before the crash was replaced by a newer blue car, also with clearly visible blue license plates and with two men aboard.

That car kept getting closer and Payá told him to maintain his normal speed of about 50-60 kph, the Spaniard said. But he grew scared, “It’s terrifying to look at the rear view mirror and see the eyes of the person that is looking at you.

“I felt the impact and lost control,” he said. He fainted and does not recall hitting a tree, certainly not with the kind of impact that would have killed two people. He never saw the blue car or its passengers again.

Read more here:

Security Services Ensure Dissidents Remain Unemployed or Underemployed 2

Cuban Dissidents Shut Out of Job Market

Regime Opponents Struggle to Find Means of Earning a Living

By Osniel Carmona Breijo – Latin America, Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Cubans marked out as dissidents say it is nearly impossible to find work because of state controls over all areas of employment. For decades, the Cuban state was the sole employer, and despite recent reforms allowing for limited private enterprise known as “cuentapropismo”, getting an operating license still entails vetting by the authorities.

Renato Olazábal was designated a “counterrevolutionary” after an unsuccessful attempt to escape to the United States on a “balsa” or home-made raft in 2006. Olazábal, a 38-year-old English graduate, said that afterwards, he found it next to impossible to find work, and was turned down for five public-sector jobs.

He said that even when candidates fulfilled the criteria for a particular job, they still had to be cleared by State Security and Military Intelligence before being offered the job. The vetting process involves quizzing candidates’ neighbours about their political views, and enquiries among local officials from Committees for Defence of the Revolution – a nationwide neighbourhood surveillance network – the Communist Party, the armed forces and the interior ministry.

“They are very interested in whether you’ve taken part in elections, the May 1 parade and things like that,” Olazábal said. “Also, they ask people whether they consider you to be a revolutionary or not.” Olazábal now supports his family by selling handicrafts, risking prosecution since he does not have a trader’s license.

Independent journalist and veteran opposition member, José Fornaris, says the job market is part of a police state. The government is “the owner of businesses, factories, institutions – of every type of employment in general,” he said. “For people to exercise their right to work and maintain their dignity, they have to submit to the conditions and blackmail of the regime.” After Fornaris joined the Cuban Committee for Human Rights in 1988, official harassment forced him to leave his work as a journalist and presenter at the National Radio Progreso station.

In 1990, he found work as a manual labourer, only to be fired after a fellow-worker denounced him, accusing him of conspiring against then President Fidel Castro. “They wanted to incriminate me, claiming that the United States Interests Section [unofficial diplomatic mission to Cuba] had given me some explosives to assassinate the then leader of the regime,” said Fornaris. “They were trying to prosecute me as a terrorist, without any coherent motives.”

After being cleared of the accusations, Fornaris became a leading voice within the opposition movement. He recalled being contacted by a Cuban security officer known as “Sol”, whose job was to monitor staff at the Cuban Institute for Radio and Television. The officer promised to get him reinstated at Radio Progreso, and later a promotion to a managerial job in the institute. The price was that Fornaris should abandon his political activities and collaborate with the regime. He turned the offer down.

He recounts the story as an clear example of “the extent to which the intelligence agencies are involved in making decisions about who is suitable to work in this country”.
After the laws on private business were relaxed, Fornaris applied for a “cuentapropista” license to sell second-hand books. The official handling his application assured him the license would be issued quickly, as this type of permit was not often requested. When his application was rejected, the official was surprised, embarrassed and unable to offer a logical explanation as to why it had happened, Fornaris recalled.

Fornaris now heads the Association for Freedom of Press, an organisation which is not recognised by the government and which aims to help improve journalism and promote media freedom in Cuba.

Osniel Carmona Breijo is an independent journalist reporting from Havana and Mayabeque province.

Cuba’s Ex-Prisons Chief — Accused of Human-Rights Abuses — is Back in the U.S. 14

By David Noriega and Juan O. Tamayo,

A former Cuban prisons chief who was living in Miami and returned hastily to the island after he was accused of human-rights abuses is now back again in the United States, according to a knowledgeable source.

Interior Ministry Col. Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, returned to Cuba in November after a half-dozen dissidents identified him as a former director of prisons in the central province of Villa Clara and accused him of abuses. But a person with direct knowledge of the case Wednesday confirmed reports last week that Rivero had returned to somewhere in the United States. The person declined comment on Rivero’s location and all other issues, and asked for anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Rivero’s wife, Juana Ferrer, who stayed in Miami when he returned to Cuba, insisted to an El Nuevo Herald reporter Wednesday that he remains in the island and accused the media of harassing her and her family. The report of Rivero’s return drew grumbles from Miami immigration lawyers William Allen and Santiago Alpizar, whose complaints about his presence in South Florida last year eventually prompted an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I am disappointed that it’s been months since this information has been made public, and in those months this guy returns to Cuba, returns to this country and nothing has happened,” Allen said. He added that he was especially frustrated because the U.S. government at the same time has sought to deport other Cubans who, like Rivero and Ferrer, allegedly lied about their Communist Party membership and other issues when they applied for U.S. visas and residence.

The normal procedure for cases like Rivero and Ferro would be for ICE to submit the results of its investigation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami for a decision on whether to press criminal charges — most likely fraudulently obtaining visas and residence. If the federal prosecutors decline, ICE can then start removal procedures — in essence, deportation cases in which an immigration judge rules on whether the defendants committed fraud. Deportations to Cuba are rare, so the defendants face detention in immigration lockups like the one on Krome Avenue or can voluntarily return to the island. ICE and the U.S. Attorneys Office in Miami declined comment on the Rivero and Ferrer case.

Rivero retired in 1996 from the Interior Ministry, in charge of all prisons, and moved to Miami in 2010 with his wife, a former Interior Ministry passport officer who held at least the rank of captain. They moved in with a daughter, who has a young child. A half-dozen former Cuban political prisoners have accused him of abusing them or ordering prison guards to abuse them when he was in charge of juvenile detention centers and later adult prisons in Villa Clara in the 1980s and 1990s.

Dissident Guillermo Fariñas, like Rivero a resident of the city of Santa Clara, alleged that an angry Rivero ripped out two intravenous feeding tubes from his arms when he was in a hospital in 1998 carrying out one of his many hunger strikes. Farinas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize for freedom of conscience, said Rivero also shouted that “dissidents don’t need intravenous liquids. They need to be killed.”

Federal investigators obtained copies of Rivero and Ferrer’s applications for visas and residence, under the Cuban Adjustment Act, in November, around the same time that Rivero went back to their home in Santa Clara. Prosecuting Rivero for human rights abuses would be difficult, according to experts, but he and Ferrer could be put in removal procedures if they are found to have lied in their U.S. applications.

The forms ask if the applicants have ever worked in prisons, belonged to a Communist Party, received weapons training or served in a “paramilitary unit.” Interior Ministry officers hold military ranks and can carry weapons. Rivero has denied the allegations of human rights abuses and branded his accusers as “liars.” But he appeared to acknowledge possible problems with his visa application when he spoke with a handful of Miami reporters in November. When he applied for a U.S. visa, he said, “at that time I had been out of the Interior Ministry for 14 years. I didn’t give it any importance.”