Lawyer for American Imprisoned in Cuba Argues Client Should be Able to Sue US Government 4

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Jessica Gresko, Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A U.S. government subcontractor who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over lost wages and legal fees, his attorney told an appeals court Friday.

Alan Gross was working in Cuba as a government subcontractor when he was arrested in 2009. He has since lost income and racked up legal fees, his attorney Barry Buchman told the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. A lawyer for the government argued the claims are based on his detention in Cuba, making him ineligible to sue.

The panel is expected to issue a written ruling on the case at a later date.

A lower-court judge previously threw out Gross’ lawsuit against the government in 2013, saying federal law bars lawsuits against the government based on injuries suffered in foreign countries. Gross’ lawyers appealed.

Gross was detained in December 2009 while working to set up Internet access as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s U.S. Agency for International Development, which does work promoting democracy in the communist country. It was his fifth trip to Cuba to work with Jewish communities on setting up Internet access that bypassed local censorship. Cuba considers USAID’s programs illegal attempts by the U.S. to undermine its government, and Gross was tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

On Friday, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson asked a lawyer for the government, Alan Burch, if USAID was still sending people to Cuba. He responded he didn’t know. A USAID spokesman did not immediately return a telephone call Friday.

The Associated Press has previously reported that USAID continued its democracy-building efforts in Cuba following Gross’ arrest, including one program to set up a “Cuban Twitter” and another to send young Latin Americans to Cuba.

“The goal is laudable, but this is a very dangerous thing to do, I think,” Henderson said of USAID sending people to Cuba.

Gross said in his lawsuit in 2012 that he wasn’t adequately trained or warned about the dangers, though he wrote in one report on his work that what he was doing was “very risky business in no uncertain terms.” A 2012 AP investigation also found he was using sensitive technology typically available only to governments.

Gross’ $60 million lawsuit blamed the U.S. government and the contractor he was working for, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., for failing to appropriately prepare him. The lawsuit did not say how much each party should pay or how Gross’ attorneys arrived at the $60 million figure.

The Gross family settled with Development Alternatives Inc. for an undisclosed amount in May 2013.

Follow Jessica Gresko at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko.

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Man Accuses Cuban Agents of Insidious, ‘Psychological’ Intimidation 1

Porno para Ricardo

Porno para Ricardo

A man who threw a party for a friend in a punk-rock band that has been critical of Fidel Castro says that he has been the target of a ‘psychological’ campaign of intimidation.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Oscar Casanella, a 35-year old cancer researcher in Havana, says he just wanted to have a party for Ciro Díaz, a close friend who plays in a punk-rock band.

Problem is, Díaz is lead guitarist for Porno Para Ricardo, a band whose expletive-filled lyrics include attacks on Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel Castro: “The Comandante wants me to applaud after he’s spoken his delirious s—.”

So Casanella’s party turned into an example of how Cuba’s communist system tries to grind down the citizens it finds objectionable, starting out with low-level threats and ratcheting up the pressure if the targets refuse to change their behavior.

Cuban police and State Security agents can beat dissidents, arrest them for brief periods to harass or intimidate them, search their homes, seize their phones and computers, listen in on their conversations, and throw them out of school.

“But they also have psychological pressures, like anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, a car that comes too close, an agent who stands there just to make sure you know he’s watching you,” dissident Guillermo Fariñas told a Miami audience last year.

Casanella said Díaz, a friend since high school, called him at the end of a trip to Europe to say that he was returning to Havana on Dec. 6, 2013, a Friday. Casanella promised him a welcome-back party at his own home that Saturday.

“That’s where the Kafka-esque machinery started,” wrote Lilian Ruiz, who first reported the case July 4 on Cubanet, a Miami-based portal for news on Cuba.

On the Thursday before the party, four elderly men and women he did not know approached him as he left his home in the Plaza neighborhood of Havana and threatened him, Casanella told el Nuevo Herald on Thursday.

“They said, ‘You cannot have any activities or parties these days,’ that other people could harm me, and they also could harm me,” he said. He asked what right they had to threaten him, but they refused to identify themselves and walked away.

Casanella said he presumed the four knew about the party from State Security monitors of Diaz’s telephone calls or perhaps his own. He has attended meetings of the dissident group Estado de SATS but said he does not consider himself to be a dissident.

Read more here:  State Security tactics

 

Porno para Ricardo

Cuban ‘Dissident’ Says He Was Really an Infiltrator 3

State Security collaborator Ernesto Vera

State Security collaborator Ernesto Vera

Lawyer Ernesto Vera said his main task was to attack and sow discord within two key Cuban opposition groups on the island.

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

A Cuban lawyer has confessed that he was a State Security collaborator for the four years he spent portraying himself as a dissident and harshly attacking two of the country’s most active opposition groups.

Ernesto Vera, 34, had been accused of being a collaborator last year, but his confession cast a rare spotlight on how State Security agents recruit informants and pay them thousands of dollars to discredit dissidents and generate rivalries among them.

Vera also pointed a finger at five other Cubans who in his view have been suspiciously critical of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White, the largest and most aggressive dissident groups on the communist-ruled island.

“My mission within State Security was to disparage and discredit UNPACU, especially its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, and the Ladies in White,” Vera told el Nuevo Herald by phone Wednesday from his home in the eastern city of Santiago De Cuba.

But he said he sat for a 44-minute video taped confession to Ferrer earlier this month because he was “disgusted with so many lies, the double life and faking a friendly relationship with people I hated so much.”

The two men shook hands at the end of the video.

State Security began the slow work of recruiting him as “Agent Jorge” after he was fired as a law professor at a medical school in Santiago, he said. Until then, he had been only on the periphery of dissident groups.

People who identified themselves as dissidents arranged to meet him in public places. But they were State Security agents and their meetings were videotaped — recordings then used to blackmail him into becoming an informant in 2010, Vera said. They also threatened to kill his mother and make it look like an accident unless he cooperated.

“I am ashamed to say I was a coward,” he told el Nuevo Herald, confirming that he had recorded the talk with Ferrer and written a three-page confession dated July 5 and published Tuesday by UNPACU.

“All of my attacks on José Daniel Ferrer and the Ladies in White were ordered by State Security,” he said. They were part of a one-two punch, “to discredit the dissidents and lessen the impact of the repression when it came.”

The lawyer said he falsely accused Ferrer of stealing money sent by supporters abroad and abusing his wife. He and another infiltrator also sparked the biggest schism within the Ladies in White, causing about 30 members in Santiago to break with the main group.

Vera said he wrote the attacks with information and photos provided by State Security Col. Ernesto Samper. He was paid several thousand dollars over four years so he could send his columns abroad via the Internet, which costs $6 to $10 per hour in Cuba.

Read more here: State Security agent Ernesto Vera

Editor’s Note:  For additional background, also see Cuban Dissidents Plant a Hoax to Trap Government Spies and Ladies in White Resign Over Alleged State Security Infiltrator

 

 

How Cuba’s State Security Welcomed Me on Returning to Havana Reply

Terminal 2 of the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (Courtesy:  Havana Times)

Terminal 2 of the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. (Courtesy: Havana Times)

By Isbel Diaz

HAVANA TIMES – After participating in the congress of the Association of Latin American Studies in Chicago, I returned home to Cuba this past June 20th, following a one-month stay in the United States. I arrived at terminal 2 of Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport to be received by Cuban State Security agents. Customs officers then proceeded to take away my cell phone and other belongings.

I was detained at the airport for three hours and all of my personal belongings were meticulously inspected. The officials were chiefly interested in all of the documents I carried with me and all electronic devices that could store information.

As such, in addition to my phone (which stored all of my personal contacts and private notes), two external hard disks and their cables, two cell phones I had brought my nephew and my boyfriend as gifts and an SD memory with family videos were confiscated, even though the authorities didn’t know what their contents were and didn’t even take the trouble of asking.

All of these devices were classified as items for personal use by the customs authorities themselves – the number of items didn’t exceed the limit established by Resolution 320 / 2011, which establishes what imports are of a commercial nature, nor did their respective prices surpass the limits established in the Value List published under Resolution 312 / 2011.

It is therefore quite evident that these confiscations are the result of the arbitrariness and excessive monitoring that all Cubans with free-thinking postures that are critical of the country’s socio-political reality are subjected to.

The fact that Lt. Colonel Omar, a well-known State Security officer, came in and out of the premises, reveals that the reasons behind this incident are clearly political.

I was given absolutely no explanation as to why my belongings were being confiscated. I was only referred to the customs resolution that empowers these officials to retain what they see fit. The contents and scope of the said resolution were not explained to me either.

What was explained to me were the reasons they confiscated several of the documents I carried with me. According to the Confiscation and Notification document, they “tarnish the country’s morals and customs.” The documents in question were:

–  Historian Frank Fernandez’ classic El anarquismo en Cuba (“Anarchism in Cuba”), a book the author had sent to the Cuban Anthropology Institute (as the dedication he had handwritten attested to). Fernandez had learned that a group was studying the issue at the institute and he wanted to contribute to the work with his research on Cuba’s workers’ and anarcho-syndicalist movements.

Article continues here:  State Security   

 

After Mother’s Death, Jailed American Alan Gross Visited by Wife in Cuba 1

Judy Gross, the wife of jailed US contractor Alan Gross, after arriving in Cuba Tuesday to visit her husband and plead with Cuban government officials to release him from prison. Gross is serving a 15 year sentence for importing banned satellite communications equipment to the island.

Judy Gross, the wife of jailed US contractor Alan Gross, after arriving in Cuba Tuesday to visit her husband and plead with Cuban government officials to release him from prison. Gross is serving a 15 year sentence for importing banned satellite communications equipment to the island.(CNN)

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN

(CNN) — The wife of imprisoned U.S. State Department contractor Alan Gross traveled to Cuba Tuesday as part of her ongoing effort to free her husband.

Judy Gross did not talk to a CNN reporter outside Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, and she and Gross’ attorney quickly boarded a bus provided by the Cuban government.

Last week, Gross’ mother died after a long fight with cancer, Gross’ attorney, Scott Gilbert, said.

The Cuban government refused Gross’ request to travel to the United States to say goodbye to Evelyn Gross before she died. Gross had promised that after seeing his mother he would return to his prison cell at a military hospital in Havana.

“We would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to his relatives,” Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Josefina Vidal said in a statement. “It is necessary to clarify that neither the Cuban penitentiary system nor the U.S. penitentiary system provide the possibility for inmates to travel abroad, no matter the reason.”

Gross, 65, is serving a 15-year sentence for bringing satellite communications equipment to Cuba as part of his work as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was convicted in March 2011.

U.S. officials said Gross was merely trying to help Cubans bypass the island’s stringent restrictions on Internet access and have said his imprisonment is one of the major obstacles to improved relations with Cuba.

In April, Gross embarked on a hunger strike to protest his continued imprisonment. He later said he was suspending his hunger strike after his mother pleaded with him to begin eating again.

Since his arrest, Gross has suffered a slew of health problems, his attorney said, and lost more than 100 pounds.

“Alan is confined to one room, 23 hours a day.” Gilbert said during an interview with CNN in April. “He spends his day there in pajamas, he’s fed meals in his room. He’s let out for an hour a day, to exercise an hour a day in a small, walled courtyard where you can barely see the sky.”

Cuban officials have said they want to negotiate Gross’ case with representatives of the United States in conjunction with the fates of three Cuban intelligence operatives serving lengthy sentences in U.S. prisons.

But U.S. officials have called that effort blackmail and said the cases are separate matters because Gross was not working as a spy in Cuba.

The diplomatic impasse is taking its toll on Gross, Gilbert said.

“The White House has yet to engage on this issue; we need the president to make this a priority. Without that, Alan will die in Cuba,” Gilbert said.

Editor’s Note:  Josefina Vidal left the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Cuban diplomat-spies. Despite her departure, she continues to insist she is not a career staffer with Havana’s primary foreign intelligence service, the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).

Internet Foils Disinformation Operation Regarding Funeral For Mother of Alan Gross 5

Spy vs spyBy Chris Simmons

Cuba’s once world-class propaganda operations suffered another self-inflicted blow late yesterday, this time by expelled Spy Josefina Vidal, who continues to serve undercover as director of the US Division within Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vidal issued a press release claiming Havana is unable to award Gross a humanitarian visa for the funeral because “…neither the Cuban penitentiary system nor the US penitentiary system provide the possibility for inmates to travel abroad, no matter the reason…”

Before crafting this poorly conceived propaganda piece, Mrs. Vidal and her DI brethren should have searched the internet, where they would have found this Associated Press story on convicted Wasp Network spy Rene Gonzalez from April 12, 2013:  Judge approves Cuban spy visit home.

Is it really possible that the DI can’t even pull off a simple disinformation mission anymore without tripping over itself? Unbelievable! Ironically, readers will also note that the AP story is proudly displayed on the website by the National Committee to Free the Five.

Mother of Alan Gross, American Contractor Jailed In Cuba Since 2009, Dies At 92 Reply

Alan Gross outside the courthouse in Havana, Cuba, in a March 5, 2011, file photo. (AP)

Alan Gross outside the courthouse in Havana, Cuba, in a March 5, 2011, file photo. (AP)

Fox News Latino

The mother of Alan Gross, the U.S. government subcontractor who has been in a Cuban jail since 2009, and who begged to be able to see her as her cancer worsened, has died.

Evelyn Gross, 92, passed away on Wednesday in Plano, Texas after battling lung cancer.

Even as she battled her illness, the woman pleaded with her son to end a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

Gross was arrested in Cuba while working to set up Internet access.

The Maryland man had been working covertly in Cuba as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development.

Gross, who is serving a 15-year sentence, asked to see his mother before she died and had promised to return to Cuba if he had been allowed to visit.

When he began a hunger strike this year, his mom persuaded him during a phone call to end it.

Her death inspired renewed condemnations of Cuba from critics of the communist government’s prolonged jailing of Gross.

“Evelyn Gross loved her son dearly, and it’s a shame on the Castro regime that she had to spend the final years of her life pleading for his freedom,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican whose family is from Cuba.

“This is a tragic example of just how cruel and heartless the Castro regime is. No son and no mother deserve the fate that Alan Gross and his mother faced over the last five years,” Rubio said. “We should work for his immediate unconditional release and  ensure that this already tragic story can at least end with Alan Gross’ freedom and reunification with his surviving family.”

Ric Herrero, executive director of CubaNow, assailed the Cuban government for refusing to extend the Gross family the kind of flexibility the United States did to a jailed Cuban spy who asked to be allowed to see a dying relative.

“Her passing is made all the more tragic by the fact that Alan had asked for a furlough to visit her before she died, which the Cuban government coldly denied,” said Herrero in a statement. “By denying his request, particularly after a U.S. court granted a furlough to Cuban spy Rene Gonzalez to visit his dying brother in 2012, the Cuban government has only lived up to the expectation that they have no sincere intention to improve relations with the U.S.”

Editor’s Note: The sentence “The Maryland man had been working covertly in Cuba as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s Agency for International Development” is incorrect. The USAID effort to bring internet to the Jewish community was neither covert nor secret. 

Why Would You Encourage Tourism to Cuba? My Brother Alan Gross is Imprisoned There 2

Bring Alan HomeDallas Morning News – Opinion

Re: “Havana great time — You can get there from here,” June 1 Travel story.

Writer Joy Tipping wrote a light and airy article about her travels to Cuba. My brother Alan Gross also traveled to Cuba four times on behalf of our government to bring in cellphones and computers to Cuba’s small Jewish community. On his fifth trip in December 2009, he was arrested and is now languishing in a Cuban jail cell (bringalanhome.org).

He would agree that the Cuban people are warm and wonderful. He would agree that the music is great and the art bright and cheerful. But beware, if you drive in Cuba and have an accident, you would most likely be thrown in jail. If you express political thoughts, you will be thrown in jail. If you are Cuban and attempt to travel to the U.S., you will most definitely be thrown in jail.

Is this a place you would like to visit and support?

Bonnie Rubinstein, Plano

Their Men in Caracas: The Cuban Expats Shoring Up Maduro’s Government Reply

From military advisers to aid workers, thousands of Cubans form an information network across Venezuela’s economy

By Paulo A Paranagua, Guardian Weekly

Cuba hopes ally Nicolás Maduro can avoid an election in the throes of an economic crisis. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

Cuba hopes ally Nicolás Maduro can avoid an election in the throes of an economic crisis. Photograph: Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

When asked how many Cubans are working in Venezuela, minister of foreign affairs Elías Jaua cites the 25,000 medical aid workers in the programme launched by the late president Hugo Chávez, adding “about 1,000 sports trainers and 600 farming technicians”. The opposition claims the number is higher, particularly as there are Cuban advisers in all the ministries and state-owned companies.

At the end of February the student leader Gaby Arellano tried to present a petition to the Cuban ambassador in Caracas. “We will not allow Cubans to interfere in our affairs any longer,” she said. “We don’t want them to go on controlling the media, directing military operations or indoctrinating our children.” Teodoro Petkoff, a leftwing opposition figure, is not convinced Havana exerts that much influence. “Such claims play down the responsibility of the Chavistas for what’s going on,” he says.

Defence specialist Rocío San Miguel believes Cuba really does influence policymakers in Venezuela. She recalls the way Chávez’s illness was managed, his hospitalisation in Havana clothed in secrecy, and the transfer of power to Nicolás Maduro (pictured), who was educated in Cuba. “Cuban officers attend strategic planning meetings for the armed forces,” she says, basing her claim on insider sources.

“It’s not a myth, it’s the reality,” says General Raúl Baduel, minister of defence under Chávez and now in custody at the Ramo Verde military prison. The Cubans have modernised the intelligence services, both the Sebin (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service) that reports directly to the president, and military intelligence. They also set up a special unit to protect the head of state.

Furthermore Cubans have computerised Venezuela’s public records, giving them control over the issue of identity papers and voter registration. They have representatives in the ports and airports, as well as supervising foreign nationals. They took part in purchases of military equipment and work on the Maracaibo airbase.

“All Cuban ‘internationalists’ have had military training and must, if required, fulfil combat duties,” San Miguel asserts. “Cubans form an information network which keeps Havana up-to-date on shifts in public opinion,” says political observer Carlos Romero.

Feature continues here:  Their Men in Caracas