Bad Math:  Tampa Newspaper Erroneously Claims Just 5 People Served in Massive Cuban Spy Network Reply

By Chris Simmons

The article in yesterday’s Tampa Bay Times, “Florida’s Worst Spies,” is certain to have delighted intelligence officials in Havana. In this poorly researched feature, the Wasp Network – the largest spy ring ever known to have operated on U.S. soil, is never mentioned. Instead, the two journalists focused on five of its failed spies – the ring’s hardcore leaders whom Havana later lionized as the “Cuban Five.” In reality, the Wasp Network consisted of over 40 officers and agents, most of whom fled or made plea agreements when arrested. Led by a Cuban Military Intelligence officer, the spy ring stretched from Key West (Florida) to New York City, southwest to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (B-52s are stationed here) and then south to Mexico City. Significantly, two military commands based in Tampa – CENTCOM and SOCOM – were major Wasp targets.

How is it possible that this paper, a self-professed winner of 12 Pulitzer Prizes, doesn’t know of key events that occurred in its own city?

 

 

 

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Will St Pete Become Havana’s Newest Spy Base? 6

 The Cuban consular general and his second in command were in town Saturday to tour St. Petersburg, shown here from just south of downtown with Fourth Street running north.


The Cuban consular general and his second in command were in town Saturday to tour St. Petersburg, shown here from just south of downtown with Fourth Street running north.

Cuban Officials Touring St. Petersburg This Weekend as They Eye Consulate Location

By Paul Guzzo, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer

Tampa has the historic and cultural link to Cuba, but it might be St. Petersburg that lands the first Cuban Consulate in the United States in more than five decades.

Alejandro Padrón, Cuba’s consular general from its embassy in Washington, D.C., and his second in command, Armando Bencomo, were in St. Petersburg on Saturday and took a tour of its real estate assets that was led by Dave Goodwin, the city’s director of planning and economic development.

Such a tour did not take place in Tampa.

“They have some interest in our city and they want to get to know more about it,” said Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, which along with the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability sponsored the delegation’s trip.

“We are happy to help them learn what a great place it would be to have a consulate.”

Kanika Tomalin, the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, described the tour as “pretty comprehensive” but did not provide specifics on where they visited.

“They will understand what the city can offer their goals,” she said.

There is competition between Tampa and St. Petersburg to host the Cuban Consulate.

The Tampa City Council, Hills- borough County Commission and Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce have voted in favor of bringing the consulate to their community.

The chamber also sent a delegation to Cuba in May 2015.

Each has heavily promoted that Tampa and Cuba share a connection dating to the founding of Ybor City in the late 1800s by immigrants from the island nation.

Later, Tampa was a staging ground for Cuba’s War of Independence against colonialist Spain. And with Cuban tobacco, Tampa would go on to become Cigar City.

But the St. Petersburg City Council voted for a consulate to open in that city as well.

The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership also sent two delegations to Cuba in the past year and welcomed one from the island nation to its city in December.

Feature continues here:  Will St Pete Become Havana’s Newest Spy Base?

Editor’s Note:  When the United States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba in the early 1960s, the Castro regime had been conducting its espionage operations from a network of over two dozen consulates and Prensa Latina (news agency) sites from coast to coast. Since the theft of US economic, political and military secrets provides one of the largest revenue streams flowing the regime, Havana dearly wants its “diplomatic” spy network back to further increase its espionage effectiveness and drive down costs.  

 

 

Tampa Tribune’s “Pro-Consulate” Argument Fatally Flawed 5

macdillBy Chris Simmons

The Tampa Tribune’s recent editorial, “Get behind consulate effort,” is an interesting read, mostly because of its total lack of understanding of US national security and Castro’s Cuba. For example, the feature claims “warnings by several former military officials that the local Cuban consulate would become a hotbed for espionage seem to us overwrought.” It then concedes that Havana undoubtedly DOES collect against MacDill Air Force Base, but proposes that a consulate would actually “make it easier to keep tabs on Cuban officials.”

It seems the Tribune is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Just last month, it ran a story highlighting several Cuban espionage operations in the area. Now it insists adding more spies – this time based out of consulate – would make it easier to find them.

What the paper meant to say is finding spies hidden among a consulate’s diplomats is easier then finding them operating somewhere within the greater Tampa/St Pete metropolitan area. That point is true – and totally irrelevant. Operationally, the local Cuban spy networks already in play would avoid contact with any of their diplomatic facilities because of the inherent risks. These covert spies – when caught – go to jail – as did many members of Cuba’s Wasp Network, a branch of which was headquartered in Tampa. Diplomat-spies are different, as immunity precludes their arrest.

Furthermore, who will monitor these new Cuban spies? I suspect local counterintelligence entities are already busy hunting down other clandestine networks run by the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Cubans, ISIS, etc. What will local politicians say when these unmonitored Cubans are later caught conducting economic espionage against local businesses?

Havana’s acquisition of a Hellfire missile should remind everyone that US secrets are for sale around the clock. Cuba’s intelligence services would welcome the opening of a Tampa consulate – but only as a tool augmenting a very lucrative revenue stream.

Critics Fear Cuban Consulate in Tampa Would Become a ‘Spy Hotbed’ 5

Though diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are warming, some in Tampa say establishing a Cuban consulate here would be a big mistake. ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Though diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are warming, some in Tampa say establishing a Cuban consulate here would be a big mistake. ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

By Howard Altman | Tampa Tribune Staff

TAMPA — As civic leaders from both sides of Tampa Bay jockey to host a Cuban consulate, a small group of naysayers sees a darker side to the prospect — one rooted in continuing Cold War tensions and the island nation’s reputation for superior espionage operations.

A consulate “will be Cuba’s headquarters for intelligence operations in Tampa and Florida,” says Evelio Otero, a retired Air Force colonel who served at both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. “It will be a spy hotbed.”

The focus for Cuban spies would be Centcom and Socom, says Jim Waurishuk, a retired Air Force colonel who served as deputy director of intelligence for Centcom.

Otero and Waurishuk belong to a small group called “No to Cuban Consulate in Tampa,” which, as its name indicates, is opposed to having an outpost of the Castro government in the Tampa area.

Otero, born in Puerto Rico to a Cuban father, was head of Centcom’s coalition intelligence center and chief of intelligence operations forward in Qatar. His father was the first voice in Telemundo and a founder of Radio Martí, broadcasting U.S.-funded information to Cuba.

Waurishuk dealt with Cuba during his military career, including a stint as the senior intelligence officer on the White House National Security Council staff focusing on the island nation. This marks his first foray into the contentious world of Cuban-American politics.

They say their “no consulate” group consists of about a dozen people pushing officials in Tampa and St. Petersburg to reject calls to host the first Cuban consulate in the U.S. since the nation embraced Communism more than five decades ago.

Their effort includes lobbying Hillsborough County commissioners to vote against a resolution supporting a Cuban consulate in Tampa, perhaps Ybor City — a launching point for Cuban revolutions that ousted the Spanish and later brought Fidel Castro to power.

The Hillsborough County resolution has yet to come up for a vote.

But the city councils in both Tampa and St. Petersburg already have adopted resolutions inviting a Cuban consulate to their communities.

Feature continues here: Cuban Spying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Former” Cuban Spy Arturo Lopez-Levy Criticizes Castro Regime Fees on US Travelers 2

People wait outside José Martí International Airport in Havana in 2009 for friends and relatives arriving from the United States. Fees levied on flights from the United States are many times higher than for any others. ASSOCAITED PRESS FILE

People wait outside José Martí International Airport in Havana in 2009 for friends and relatives arriving from the United States. Fees levied on flights from the United States are many times higher than for any others. ASSOCAITED PRESS FILE

Fees for Americans a Sore Spot in Cuba Travel

By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff

TAMPA — The battle for the Cuban charter flight business out of Tampa International Airport has landed in federal court, exposing what U.S. citizens must pay the secretive Cuban government for use of Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

The annual total is somewhere between $31 million and $62 million — more than any other nation pays, said one Cuba analyst — enough to make critics question whether the fee is covering actual costs or going to support Cuba’s ruling Castro regime.

Tampa International Airport, by comparison, received $14.6 million in landing fees during 2014 for flights from airlines based in every nation that lands here.

On a per-flight basis, the same U.S. plane that pays $275 for landing fees at Tampa International pays up to $24,000 in Havana.

The cost estimates on U.S.-Cuba flights is based on two factors: the revelation in court documents that landing fees range as high as $148 for each U.S. passenger, coupled with the projection that two-thirds of the 635,000 Americans traveling to the island nation in 2014 are destined for the capital city of Havana.

“It is a way to get more money off the U.S. since the U.S. government blocks it from making money in other ways,” said Arturo Lopez-Levy, a policy analyst for the Cuban government from 1992-94 who now is an academic in Denver and an advocate for better relations between Cuba and the U.S.

Lopez-Levy said the U.S. is the only nation in the world that pays such high fees to land in Havana.

The $148 figure is included in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami pitting one company that offered flights between Tampa and Cuba against another.

Miami-based Island Travel & Tours alleges in the suit that Cypress, California-based Cuba Travel Services sets ticket prices artificially low to drive out competition, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Island Travel Tours began offering charter flights to Cuba from Tampa in October 2011. Cuba Travel Services entered the market in December.

In May, Island Travel Tours ceased flights out of Tampa. It continues to fly to Havana out of Miami.

At that time, in an interview with the Tribune, company President Bill Hauf blamed saturation of the charter flight industry from Tampa International Airport to Cuba coupled with predatory pricing by his competitor.

Now the court will take up the allegations.

In its lawsuit, Island Travel Tours lays out all fees charged to U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba in an attempt to demonstrate that Cuba Charter Services undercut prices:

♦$58.90 per passenger in United States passenger fees;

♦$148 per passenger for a José Martí International Airport landing fee;

♦$46 per passenger for a Cuba required medical insurance fee.

Story continues here:   US Tourists Fund Regime

   

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