Special Report: How Cuba Taught Venezuela to Quash Military Dissent 1


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

By Angus Berwick, Reuters

CARACAS (Reuters) – In December 2007, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez suffered his first defeat at the polls.

Although still wildly popular among the working class that had propelled him to power nearly a decade earlier, voters rejected a referendum that would have enabled him to run for re-election repeatedly.

Stung, Chavez turned to a close confidant, according to three former advisors: Fidel Castro. The aging Cuban leader had mentored Chavez years before the Venezuelan became president, when he was still best known for leading a failed coup.

Now, deepening economic ties were making Cuba ever more reliant on oil-rich Venezuela, and Castro was eager to help Chavez stay in power, these advisors say. Castro’s advice: Ensure absolute control of the military.

Easier said than done.

Venezuela’s military had a history of uprisings, sometimes leading to coups of the sort that Chavez, when a lieutenant colonel in the army, had staged in 1992. A decade later, rivals waged a short-lived putsch against Chavez himself.

But if Chavez took the right steps, the Cuban instructed, he could hang on as long as Castro himself had, the advisors recalled. Cuba’s military, with Castro’s brother at the helm, controlled everything from security to key sectors of the economy.

Within months, the countries drew up two agreements, recently reviewed by Reuters, that gave Cuba deep access to Venezuela’s military – and wide latitude to spy on it and revamp it.

The agreements, specifics of which are reported here for the first time, led to the imposing of strict surveillance of Venezuelan troops through a Venezuelan intelligence service now known as the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence, or DGCIM.

Under Cuban military advisors, Venezuela refashioned the intelligence unit into a service that spies on its own armed forces, instilling fear and paranoia and quashing dissent.

Now known for its repressive tactics, the DGCIM is accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained Navy captain.

Feature continues here: Crushing Opposition

 

 

 

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Cuba’s Intelligence Masterstroke in Venezuela Reply

Poster of deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

By Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco, GeoPoliticalMonitor.com

Much has been said about the behavior of Venezuela’s Bolivarian regime, its evolving character, its dramatic economic mismanagement, and the impact it has projected throughout the American hemisphere, including its bilateral ties to Cuba.

At a first glance, it would seem that – based on classical international relations scholarship referents when it comes to assessing national power such as population, territory, natural resources, and sheer economic size – Venezuela is the senior partner. Yet a crucial factor is missing to examine how the balance of power truly works in the dynamic framework of said bilateral relation.

Beyond the evident ideological, political, and diplomatic affinities between the rulers of both countries, the crucial factor that has been overlooked even by most experts is the strong presence and operational intensity of Cuban intelligence agencies in Venezuela. A different picture – one that challenges conventional wisdom – might emerge when one considers this angle.

Such a topic is important considering its deep geopolitical implications. It also raises pertinent questions: What if Venezuela is not necessarily the senior partner after all? The fact that it has not been addressed is perhaps a result of the intrinsically covert nature of intelligence activities. Moreover, both regimes are not precisely known for their compliance with basic transparency standards. In practice, that means relevant and reliable information about it is notoriously scarce. Nevertheless, the analysis of what open sources provide is useful to elaborate a more or less accurate – yet broad – situational assessment.

Profile of Cuban Intelligence Services

According to conventional wisdom, effective foreign intelligence capabilities are usually associated with great powers. The American CIA, the British MI6, the Israeli Mossad, the Russian SVR and the like often come to mind whenever the term is mentioned. Of course, such perception is hardly unjustified. In contrast, Cuba is certainly far from being a great power, yet the reach of its intelligence services must not be underestimated.

The Cuban Intelligence Directorate – known as G2 – was initially trained by the Soviet KGB and the Stasi, the East German Ministry of State Security, the strongest intelligence agencies of the Socialist bloc during the Cold War. Moreover, the resilience that has played a key role in the survival of the Cuban communist regime for six decades can be at least partially attributed to its intelligence services’ abilities to monitor internal dissent, consolidate political rule, and keep at bay external rivals. It is even said that Fidel Castro himself was the target of hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts.

It is known that the Cuban intelligence community recruits promising college students, especially from social science programs. Its training and methods are based on the development of professionalism rather than improvisation, unlike other Latin American intelligence agencies. Furthermore, a heavy ideological ingredient promotes a strong morale.

Another aspect worth emphasizing is that Cuban intelligence has not just assumed a defensive position. Actually, it has been remarkably active abroad for decades. For instance, it supported several Marxist insurgencies in Central and South America during the Cold War. It has also managed to infiltrate US national security agencies and Cuban American political groups hostile to Havana’s socialist regime.

Last but not least, Cuban intelligence supported the military involvement of the country’s armed forces in extra-regional operational theatres such as Angola, Vietnam, and even the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.

In short, despite Cuba’s structural limitations – including its precarious economy – the country’s intelligence services represent a big asset in terms of power projection. In effect, they need to be understood as a substantial force multiplier.

Article continues here: Cubans in Venezuela

 

The Irish Times Highlights Key Role of Cuban Spies in Keeping Venezuelan Regime in Power Reply

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó waves to supporters at a rally against President Nicolás Maduro’s government in Caracas. Photograph: Carlos Barria

Maduro Holds on to Power Despite Domestic and Global Pressure

Rallies support incumbent and rival Guaidó, as Venezuela’s army backing may be on wane

Tom Hennigan, The Irish Times

Rival presidents led rival mass rallies in Venezuela this weekend as the country’s political stand-off intensified with embattled President Nicolás Maduro backing a plan to move against the last bastion of the opposition after its leader, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president on January 23rd.

Speaking at a rally to commemorate 20 years in power for his populist Chavismo movement, Maduro once again ruled out stepping aside and holding new presidential elections as demanded by most countries in the Americas and the European Union.

But he backed a proposal by his own United Socialist Party of Venezuela to bring forward to this year elections for the national assembly, the country’s only institution controlled by the opposition.

“They want to bring forward elections? Let’s have elections!” said a defiant Maduro, whose government has been widely denounced for blatant poll-rigging in recent years.

Meanwhile at a rival rally in Caracas, Guaidó renewed his calls for the military to abandon the regime on the same day that an air force general became the most senior serving officer to recognise him as president. In a video posted on Saturday on social media, Francisco Yánez said a democratic transition was imminent. “People of Venezuela, 90 per cent of the armed forces are not with the dictator,” he added.

Cuban intelligence

Venezuela’s high command has declared its loyalty to Maduro but there are increasing signs of splits within the military, with the regime believed to be ever more reliant on a spy network run by Cuban intelligence officers to identify and neuter attempted insurrections against the regime by lower-ranking officers.

Guaidó called on supporters to keep up the pressure on Maduro to quit what he classified as his “usurpation” of the presidency by holding more rallies this month. He also announced humanitarian aid from the United States would soon be arriving via Colombia, Brazil and an unnamed Caribbean island and called on soldiers manning the frontier to let it enter the country. Maduro denounced the aid operation as a pretext for a military intervention by the US.

Article continues here:  Cuban Spies Prop Up Venezuela Government

 

Congress: Cuba to Share Critical U.S. Intel With Iranian Spies 4

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Iran’s foreign minister begun a Latin American tour in Cuba, declaring Iran and Cuba united by their histories of resisting what he called U.S. atrocities. Zarif also plans to visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Iran’s foreign minister begun a Latin American tour in Cuba, declaring Iran and Cuba united by their histories of resisting what he called U.S. atrocities. Zarif also plans to visit Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Intel sharing with Cuba endangers America, lawmakers warn

BY: Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon 

Obama administration efforts to bolster the sharing of critical intelligence data with Cuba is likely to benefit Iran, which has been quietly bolstering its foothold in the country with the communist government’s approval, according to conversations with members of Congress and other sources familiar with the matter.

A little noticed Obama administration directive on Cuba, released Oct. 14, instructed the U.S. director of national intelligence to assist and cooperate with Cuba’s intelligence services.

The directive has raised red flags on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are concerned that Cuba will pass along critical U.S. intelligence to the Iranians, who have made moves in recent years to extend their influence in the communist country and other Latin American countries hostile to the United States.

Iran’s interest in Cuba was on fully display earlier this year when Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, went on a goodwill tour throughout Latin America that included stops in Cuba and Venezuela, among others.

The goal of this visit, sources told the Washington Free Beacon, was to solidify Iran’s growing terrorist network in the region and ensure the Islamic Republic maintains its presence along America’s doorstep.

“The Castro regime has shown no inclination to end its anti-American activities, including espionage,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon. “The Castro regime in August and September 2016 deepened ties with Iran through high level visits, and there are reports that Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah has established a base in Cuba.”

“The director of national intelligence, General James R. Clapper, testified in February 2016 that the Castro dictatorship remained an espionage threat at the level of Iran, behind only China and Russia,” Diaz-Balart added. “Under these circumstances, President Obama’s directive to encourage intelligence sharing with the Castro regime is reckless, dangerous, and contrary to U.S. national security interests.”

Iran has been interested in Latin America for years, but now has the resources to pursue a footprint in the region as a result of the cash windfall provided by last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Hezbollah, the terror organization funded and directed by Iran, has had assets in the region for some time.

Feature continues here:  Cuba’s Dangerous Liaisons

 

 

 

 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is welcomed by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, Cuba / AP

The Castros Just Want the Embargo Lifted 4

FidelTranslated by Capitol Hill Cubans

Roberto Alvarez Quinones is a Cuban journalist who spent over 25-years in Castro’s state-run Granma newspaper, as an economic commentator. He also served stints at the Cuban Central Bank and the Ministry of Foreign Trade.

By Roberto Alvarez Quinones in Diario de Cuba

The Castros do not want normalization, just the embargo lifted

The Castro brothers have always understood U.S. presidents and the intricacies of political power better than the Americans have comprehended the Cubans. In Washington they still can’t fathom why the two brothers and their military junta don’t want friendly and harmonious relations with the U.S., but rather for the embargo to be lifted, and to receive loans and tourists from the north with bulging wallets. Simple as that.

With the Venezuelan crisis deteriorating by the minute, an end to the embargo has become urgent for the Castro regime. But having politically cordial and normal relations with Washington is not in their best interest. Hence, they will do everything possible to prevent them, or to sabotage them, even if the “blockade” (a military term that has nothing to do with a unilateral trade embargo placed by one country on another) is lifted.

The dictatorial elite’s view is that “too much” rapprochement with the US would generate great internal and external trouble, as it would mean “betraying” its history as an anti-American leftist leader in Latin America. But, above all, it could undermine the regime’s Orwellian control over all of Cuban society. People on the island feel would be less fearful of demanding more freedoms if the “Empire” were a strong ally.

The gerontocracy of “historical” commanders is not prepared – nor do they want to be – to grapple in a civilized way with the political, ideological, economic, cultural and psychological “contamination” that could spring from a close relationship with the U.S. The training of the Castro regime’s nomenklatura has always been based on the opposite: visceral confrontation with the “imperialist enemy.”

Castro’s Manifest Destiny

In reaction to U.S.-made rockets fired at a farmer’s house in the Sierra Maestra by Batista dictatorship aircraft on June 5, 1958, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Celia Sánchez setting forth the Manifest Destiny of his revolution: “When this war is over, for me a much longer and greater war shall begin: that which I will wage against them. I realize that this will be my true destiny. ”

That war did not end with the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington. And it will not end as long as the island is ruled by Castro and the commanders who joined the anti-U.S. crusade conceived by their leader. There will be no close relationship between Cuba and the United States until there is a new “de-ideologized” political leadership on the island.

Feature continues here: Castros Despise Normalization

 

Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub 3

Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is a leading target of U.S. investigations into alleged drug trafficking and money laundering by senior officials in the South American nation, a Justice Department official said. Mr. Cabello has denied wrongdoing. Photo: Marco Bello/Reuters

Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is a leading target of U.S. investigations into alleged drug trafficking and money laundering by senior officials in the South American nation, a Justice Department official said. Mr. Cabello has denied wrongdoing. Photo: Marco Bello/Reuters

U.S. probe targets No. 2 official Diosdado Cabello, several others, on suspicion of drug trafficking and money laundering

By José de Córdoba and Juan Forero, Wall Street Journal

May 18, 2015

U.S. prosecutors are investigating several high-ranking Venezuelan officials, including the president of the country’s congress, on suspicion that they have turned the country into a global hub for cocaine trafficking and money laundering, according to more than a dozen people familiar with the probes.

An elite unit of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami are building cases using evidence provided by former cocaine traffickers, informants who were once close to top Venezuelan officials and defectors from the Venezuelan military, these people say.

A leading target, according to a Justice Department official and other American authorities, is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, considered the country’s second most-powerful man.

“There is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel,” said the Justice Department official, speaking of a group of military officers and top officials suspected of being involved in the drug trade. “He certainly is a main target.”

Representatives of Mr. Cabello and other officials didn’t return phone calls and emails requesting comment. In the past, Venezuelan authorities have rejected allegations of high-ranking involvement in the drug trade as an attempt by the U.S. to destabilize the leftist government in Caracas.

In an appearance on state television Wednesday, Mr. Cabello said he solicited a court-ordered travel ban on 22 executives and journalists from three Venezuelan news outlets that he has sued for publishing stories about the drug allegations earlier this year. “They accuse me of being a drug trafficker without a single piece of evidence and now I’m the bad guy,” Mr. Cabello said. “I feel offended, and none of them even said they’re sorry.”

Feature continues here:  Venezuelan Drug Trafficking

 

 

 

 

US, Cuba to Continue Talks on Restoring Diplomatic Ties Monday Reply

By Global Times (China)

The United States and Cuba will hold a new round of talks on re-establishing diplomatic relations and re-opening embassies Monday, the State Department said Friday.

Roberta Jacobson, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, will travel to the Cuban capital of Havana Sunday for talks with Josefina Vidal, Director General of the US Division of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The two sides have been in communication since last meeting held in Washington in February, the State Department said in a statement, adding that “it is in the interest of both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations and re-open embassies.”

“A US Embassy in Havana will allow the United States to more effectively promote our interests and values, and increase engagement with the Cuban people,” it said.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced in December that they have agreed to restore diplomatic relations, in a move to end more than half a century of estrangement between the two countries.

The two sides have held two rounds of talks in hopes of reopening embassies before a regional summit in April.

On Friday, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call that the US still hopes that the embassies could be reopened before the Summit of the Americas slated for April 10-11.

One sticking point of the talks is Cuba’s inclusion in the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism since 1982. In announcing the policy shift toward Cuba in December, President Obama instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s designation in the blacklist.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that the US is still reviewing whether Cuba can be removed from the blacklist and will “complete that as quickly as we can.” “We have always said that that should not be linked to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations or opening of embassies,” said the official, who dismissed that Cuba’s support for Venezuela following US sanctions would affect talks between Washington and Havana.

“Cuba has been, obviously, an ally of Venezuela’s for quite a while. Venezuela’s been an ally of Cuba in the past,” the official said. “But what I will say, and I want to be very clear about this, is, it will not have an impact on these conversations moving forward.”

US Sanctions Disrupt Venezuelan Money-Launderers Reply

BPAThe U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) yesterday named Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) as a foreign “money laundering concern.”  FinCEN’s notice also said a senior BPA manager accepted exorbitant commissions to process transactions related to Venezuelan third–party money launderers. “This activity involved the development of shell companies and complex financial products to siphon off funds from Venezuela’s public oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). BPA processed approximately $2 billion in transactions related to this money laundering scheme,” reported FinCEN. Reuters subsequently reported that the government of Andorra has taken control of BPA.

 

 

 

Alleged Cuba-Venezuela Spy Network Targets Maduro’s Opposition in Chile 3

 María Laura Liscano speaks out against the Castro regime’s harassment of the Venezuelan opposition in Chile. (Terra)


María Laura Liscano speaks out against the Castro regime’s harassment of the Venezuelan opposition in Chile. (Terra)

Activist María Liscano Condemns Espionage under Diplomatic Cover

Belén Marty, PanAm Post

On Tuesday, Venezuelan activist María Laura Liscano denounced Cuban espionage against opponents of the Nicolás Maduro regime who reside in Chile, following Monday’s report by Chilean television station Mega.

Liscano calls herself a spokesperson for Venezuelans in Chile, where she has lived the past four years since leaving her job as an intelligence analyst for the Venezuelan government.

The Mega report focuses on a Cuban national who claims to be an agent for a Cuban diplomat in Santiago, Chile. The individual claims the diplomat ordered him to infiltrate the leadership of Venezuelan opposition groups operating in Chile, and report on their activity.

“The espionage is coordinated by the Cuban embassy, and is directed at certain sectors in Chile that oppose Maduro. This is not the first time this has happened. In 2010, a Cuban leader in Chile denounced a similar practice being carried out against the Cuban community,” Liscano said.

The Venezuelan activist told the PanAm Post that she was surprised by the revelation that Cuban agents were focused on her: “It’s one thing to recognize that you are exposing yourself, but the reality [that they are spying on me] is another thing entirely.”

“We always knew that we were vulnerable to espionage; there have been many times when we were protesting, and people who are opposed to us would come and take pictures,” she said.

Liscano said she represents a nonpartisan Venezuelan community that share the same concerns expressed by student protesters who took to the streets in Venezuela in February.

Feature continues here (with video and audio clips): PanAm Post

 

 

 

 

Former DGI Officer Details The Life & Times of Senior Cuban Spy Alexis Frutos Weeden 1

Alexis Frutos Weeden(Courtesy: cafefuerte.com)

Alexis Frutos Weeden (Courtesy: cafefuerte.com)

By Chris Simmons

Former Dirección General De Inteligencia (DGI) officer Enrique García Diaz reports Alexis Frutos was selected for the DGI during his final year of high school. He then moved to Havana in 1976 to start his spy career. He married an Afro-Cuban woman who gave birth to two daughters during the 1980s. She was not a DGI official at that time.

During the years of the Reagan administration, the “Mexico Desk” at DGI headquarters had eight officers. Frutos Weeden was one of the best officers on this portfolio. Fellow “Desk Officers” included Yolanda Pascual, Enrique Vilavoy “Henry,” Luis Popa “Alan,” Pablo Avelino Gonzalez Diaz “Avelino,” Blas Andres Perira Luna “Ritz,” Orlando Fundora Jr “Aldo” and chief of Mexico operations Rolando Sarraf Elias “Elias.”

According to the CIA Directory of Cuban officials, Sarraf served as a Prensa Latina (PRELA) representative at the Cuban Embassy in the late 1970s. García Diaz and the CIA both noted Frutos Weeden’s assignment to Mexico City as the Commercial Attaché in the early-mid 1980s.

García Diaz said as of his 1989 defection, the DGI Centro in Mexico had 15 officers and had deeply penetrated the Mexican government, every major political party and all key societal sectors. He believes the (now) Directorate of Intelligence (DI) remains deeply rooted throughout the nation to this day.

Alexis Frutos is currently the Political Counselor at the Cuba Embassy in Venezuela, where García Diaz suspects he serves as the DI Centro Chief.