‘What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five’ is a fascinating piece of fiction by Castro apologist Stephen Kimber. Despite objective reviews which found his research unencumbered by facts, the Canadian writer has long sworn his manifesto is accurate and balanced. At long last, the charade is over. Comrade Kimber is currently in Havana celebrating the Spanish-language release of his work, with a new foreword by convicted spy René González, who described the novel as “the best written treatise on the case.” The Castro regime’s enduring love for Kimber was further demonstrated during Wednesday’s presentation at the University of Havana, when Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada – who served as Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations for nearly three decades – served as the keynote speaker.
PPPFocus.com reports Havana is adamant that “normalization would not happen as long as the economic blockade against Cuba stays on, as long as the US maintains its naval base in Guantanamo and as long as Cuba is not compensated for the economic damage caused by decades of hostility.”
Reuters reports Cuba is aggressively pushing a claim for more than $300 billion in economic damages because it understands “President Barack Obama is attempting to advance normalization as much as possible before his second and final term ends in January 2017.”
Meanwhile, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) continues its unfettered loathing of Cuban exiles in features like “Miami Anti-Cuban Mafia Rejects Reopening of Cuban Embassy in the U.S.”
“We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.” — Gerardo Hernandez, Cuban spy who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court for the murder conspiracy of Americans, thereafter commuted and released by President Obama as part of his one-sided deal with Raul Castro [Courtesy: Capitol Hill Cubans]
By Dareh Gregorian, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A Miami woman who was married to a Cuban double agent wants JPMorgan Chase to pay through the nose for allegedly hiding Cuban cash.
Ana Margarita Martinez won a $7.1 million judgment against the Cuban government for “emotional distress” in 2001, after she found out her husband, Juan Pablo Roque, wasn’t the man she thought he was.
She’d met Roque in 1992, after the former Cuban Air Force major made headlines for allegedly braving shark infested waters to swim to Gitmo seeking political asylum in the U.S.
They dated for three years before getting hitched.
Unbeknownst to Martinez, Roque was an FBI snitch – and an undercover Cuban agent who’d been sent to gather intel on the Cuban exile community in Miami. She found out both after he snuck out of their home one night in 1996, and then appeared on CNN in Cuba a few days later crowing about his accomplishments.
Adding insult to injury, when asked what he missed about Miami, he said just one thing: “My Jeep.”
Martinez, who’d been born in Cuba, said she’d been completely duped. “She believed that Roque shared her anti-communist ideals,” court papers say.
A federal judge in Florida found Cuba liable for Roque’s actions, saying he was “especially offended that Cuba – a country that disregards human rights – has callously trampled the rights of one of our own citizens on our own soil in furtherance of a vile criminal conspiracy.”
Feature continues here: JPMorgan Hides Cuban Assets
by Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations
Travel to Cuba is a new fad, helped by the changes the Obama administration has made in U.S. policy. It’s easy now for almost any group to go there, under the guise of some educational program or purpose.
But travel to Cuba has long been a practice for American leftists, who have seen the Castro regime not as a brutal oppressor of human rights but as a beacon of light in the Hemisphere. No democracy, free expression, freedom of the press, free trade unions? Who cares, after all? The thrill of visiting the communist island has been too much to resist.
Still, there was usually a pretense that the visitors were not there to celebrate the regime. But not in the coming visit organized by The Nation, the old leftist magazine. Its September trip includes many of the staples, according to The Nation’s invitation letters. The trip will feature:
museum tours with eminent art and cultural historians; seminars and lectures featuring renowned Cuban economists, government officials, community activists, physicians, and urban planners; exclusive concerts with popular jazz artists, troubadours, and folk musicians; performances by students of Cuba’s internationally acclaimed ballet institutes; visits to artist’s colonies and studios; guided tours of Old Havana, the Latin American Medical School, and the University of Havana; and visits to many other inspiring locales and events.
No surprises there. But actually I left out a key clause in that paragraph. The trip will also include:
a meeting and discussion with the Cuban Five, the intelligence agents considered national heroes after spending many years imprisoned in US jails.
This is pretty remarkable. The Nation describes the tour as “a particularly inspiring and extraordinary time to experience the people, politics, culture, and history of Cuba in a way few ever have before.” In a way few Americans ever have before? Now, that’s true enough: how many American get to meet with and celebrate people who spied against our country and were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder? How many Americans want to? Due to their actions four Americans died, in a Brothers to the Rescue plane shot down in international airspace. But the frisson of meeting people who actually—the Cuban government has admitted this—were intelligence agents and were convicted of spying on the United States is so wonderful that it is worth the $5,550 per person fees for the tour.
Feature continues here: The Nation’s Spy Tour
After spending 16 years in US prisons, Gerardo Hernandez shares his remarkable story behind his liberation.
Cuban intelligence officer Gerardo Hernandez was a central character in the frosty relations between Cuba and the United States.
His return to Cuban soil on December 17, 2014 marked a dramatic new beginning for both countries.
After 16 years in US prisons, he was given a hero’s welcome, and remains defiant and loyal to his government.
In 2001 he was convicted by a Miami court and handed down two life sentences for sending intelligence back home to Cuba.
The court said his actions assisted in the murder of Cuban exiles – in the shooting down of two planes – who were attempting to overthrow the Castro government.
He was a spy, but Hernandez, and the other members of the so-called “Cuban Five” spies captured on US soil and now released, have been declared national heroes by Fidel Castro and were decorated by Cuban president Raul Castro earlier this year.
All this time he had been separated from his wife Adriana Perez, yet, to the surprise of many she was nine months pregnant when he returned to Cuba in 2015. What hadn’t been revealed was that in an unusual diplomatic gesture of good will, officials on both sides had worked to send Hernandez’s sperm to Panama, so that the couple could have a child through artificial insemination.
Hernandez’s surprise release, and the story involving his wife and their baby, which may never have been born, was a key ingredient in secret negotiations leading to a historic agreement to end more than half a century of hostilities between the US and Cuba.G
Now, for the first time, Hernandez and his wife share the story of his imprisonment and release, Perez‘s experiences, how Hernandez posed as a Puerto Rican graphic artist in the US before his capture and how their child was conceived in a diplomatic move, as they talk to Al Jazeera in Havana, Cuba.
By Chris Simmons
The left-wing group, CODEPINK, is currently in Cuba as it heads a “a historic delegation” that – from February 8-15, “will have high-level meetings with government officials, visit members of the Cuban 5 who were recently released from US prison, talk to doctors who combated Ebola in Africa, and interact with local people about cultural, economic, environmental and health issues.”
However, a closer review of their agenda finds scheduled meetings with intelligence officers and co-opted agencies, including:
Monday, February 9 @9am: Meeting with Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), followed by a possible meeting with Fernando Gonzalez and the rest of the Cuban 5.
Friday, February 13 @9:00am: Meeting with Josefina Vidal, an expelled Directorate of Intelligence officer currently serving “undercover” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For more details on the intelligence activities of the highlighted groups and individuals, simply use the search tab. For CodePink’s full schedule, click here.
Josefina Vidal Expected Choice as Cuban Ambassador to US
By Chris Simmons
Two career Cuban spies, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro and Gustavo Machin Gomez, will lead this week’s migration and normalization discussions with the United States. The pair are members of Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service – the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), and serve as Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the North American Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX). This is Machin’s second time in the Division, having served as Deputy Chief in 2003 and Division Chief from 2004-2005.
As Havana’s lead “diplomats” on U.S.-Cuban relations, they handled the Alan Gross negations, the return of three of Havana’s jailed spies, and the artificial insemination of DI officer Adriana Perez O’Connor (wife of freed spy Gerardo Hernandez). Perez herself was a member of the Wasp Network – the largest Cuban spy ring ever known to operate in the US. Incidentally, when details are eventually released regarding the Obama administration’s secret talks to restore US-Cuba relations, Vidal and Machin will undoubtedly be at the center of events.
From the DI’s perspective, MINREX’s North America Division is now seen as a de facto wing of the spy service. This assignment is so important that three former members were appointed to ambassadorships. Now we are witnessing the unprecedented return of Ambassador Gustavo Machin to serve as Josefina Vidal’s deputy. Given this pattern of events, I think it’s fairly safe to say Vidal is Raul Castro’s choice to be the first Cuban Ambassador to the United States.
Little is publicly known about Vidal’s espionage career. In May 2003, the US expelled 14 Cuban diplomats for espionage. Seven diplomats were based at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and seven at the Interests Section. Among the seven Washington-based spies declared Persona Non Grata was First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera. His wife, First Secretary Josefina Vidal, also known to the US as a Cuban Intelligence Officer, voluntarily accompanied her expelled spouse back to Cuba.
Previously, Vidal’s lone known success was her support to the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); in particular, Julia E. Sweig, a CFR Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Latin America Program. In her book, Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground, Sweig profusely thanked six Cuban spies for assisting her with her research. The six intelligence officers were Jose Antonio Arbesu, Ramon Sanchez Parodi, Fernando Garcia Bielsa, Hugo Yedra, Jose Gomez Abad and Josefina Vidal.
The son of a revolutionary hero, Gustavo Machin Gomez, was expelled in November 2002 in retaliation for the Ana Belen Montes case. In 2003, he was Deputy Director of MINREX’s North America Division and Chief the following year. In 2006, he was appointed Cuba’s first ambassador to Pakistan, where he is believed to have targeted US counterterrorism operations in the region. He then returned home to head the International Press Center before his current assignment.
DI officer Johanna Tablada preceded Machin in his second tour as Deputy Division Chief before her appointment as ambassador to Portugal. She was suspected of being assigned to Department M-I, the elite element focused on targeting the US intelligence community, universities, and Congress.
Eduardo Martinez Borbonet previously assisted Vidal as a Counselor in the North America Division. In November 2011, two weeks after a landslide victory propelled longtime Havana-ally Daniel Ortega into a controversial third term, he became Havana’s ambassador to Nicaragua.
In late December 1998, First Secretary Martinez Borbonet was expelled for his involvement in the South Florida based Wasp Network. The diplomat-spy served at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations (CMUN), the traditional hub for Havana’s US-based espionage operations. He had arrived approximately eight years earlier as a lowly Third Secretary.
By Nick Miroff, Washington Post
MEXICO CITY — Since their return to Havana last month after 16 years in U.S. federal prison, the remaining three members of the spy ring known as “the Cuban Five” have been a frequent presence on state television. Wherever they go — visiting universities or attending outdoor concerts in their honor — they are celebrated as “Heroes of the Republic.”
They speak with a confidence and a candor unusual among Communist officials of their generation, who rarely veer off-script or show emotion. Despite their years behind bars, the men are relatively young, at least by Cuban leadership standards.
And with each public appearance, more Cubans and Cuba-watchers wonder what role the five, and especially ringleader Gerardo Hernández, might play in the country’s political future.
Although several of them had not set foot on the island in 20 years, Havana’s ceaseless international campaign to free the men has arguably made them the most recognizable faces in the Cuban government after the Castros. A generation of Cuban schoolchildren has grown up memorizing their names and biographies.
Hernández, 49, was serving two life sentences plus 15 years when he was freed as part of the prisoner swap for a long-jailed CIA mole in Cuba that also triggered the release of Alan Gross, an American government subcontractor.
Sent by Havana to infiltrate anti-Castro groups in Miami, Hernández was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, having passed along information that Cuba used in the 1996 downing of two civilian planes operated by the exile group Brothers to the Rescue, killing four.
“We dreamed about this moment for so long,” Hernández told Cuban television soon after his arrival, choking back tears. “The only thing that lifted our spirits was the thought of coming home, to be with the Cuban people again.”
“It was worth it,” he said.
The agents have said nothing specific about their plans. But when the Obama administration agreed to send them back, it possibly gave Cuba more than a group of intelligence operatives.
“We don’t know yet what they’ll do, but they return with tremendous prestige,” said Aurelio Alonso, a member of the small Havana civil society organization Cuba Posible, which advocates gradual reforms. “So far, they’ve demonstrated an extraordinary level of political maturity.”
Feature continues here: Cuban Spies
Editor’s Note: The Washington Post is incorrect in reporting the Wasp Network was created “to infiltrate anti-Castro groups in Miami.” It actually targeted US military bases, the FBI, the Miami Herald, local and national political figures, and other groups.
By Missy Ryan, Washington Post
A Cuban national imprisoned for nearly two decades as an American spy is now in the United States, his family said Tuesday, the first confirmation of the former U.S. agent’s whereabouts since he was released in last month’s deal to overhaul ties with Cuba.
Rolando Sarraff, a cryptographer with Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence, was imprisoned in 1995 on suspicion that he was passing secrets to the United States. Information provided by Sarraff helped U.S. officials dismantle networks of Cuban spies in the United States, one illustration of the mutual hostility that characterized U.S. dealings with Communist Cuba for more than 50 years.
The White House secured Sarraff’s release last month as part of President Obama’s sweeping agreement to thaw U.S. ties with the island nation. The deal also included the return of an American aid contractor held by Havana and the release of three Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned in the United States.
But since the deal was announced Dec. 17, Obama administration officials have declined to confirm whether Sarraff was taken to the United States, or whether he was in U.S. government custody somewhere else. For weeks, family members in Cuba, Spain and the United States said they had not been informed by either the U.S. or the Cuban government about his whereabouts.
This week, his sister, who lives in Spain, said she finally heard from her brother. “He’s well, and he’s in the U.S.,” Vilma Sarraff told The Washington Post. She declined to give details.
The Sarraff family’s confirmation of the former agent’s whereabouts were first reported Tuesday by the Associated Press
Missy Ryan writes about the Pentagon, military issues, and national security for The Washington Post.
By Associated Press
HAVANA — The wife of a Cuban intelligence agent freed by the United States has given birth to a girl after a pregnancy made possible by negotiations to improve ties between the two countries.
The Communist Party daily Granma says the baby named Gema was born Tuesday and weighs 7 pounds and 1 ounce (3.2 kilograms).
U.S. officials helped facilitate a process of artificial insemination so that convicted spy Gerardo Hernandez and his wife Adriana Perez could have a child. It came during talks that led the U.S. to release Hernandez and two other agents last month and the announcement of plans to restore normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Cuba, meanwhile, freed imprisoned U.S. aid worker Alan Gross.
Corrected Editor’s Note: Both Gerardo Hernandez and Adriana Perez work for the Directorate of Intelligence (DI). As part of the Wasp Network, her mission was to courier messages and material between Havana and Miami. She was still in training when her husband and nine other Wasp Network members were arrested in September 1998.