Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fact Trumps Fiction on "Cuban Five"...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
There seems to be an intensified effort to rewrite history regarding the case of five Cuban spies tried and convicted by U.S. federal courts (with no Cuban-American jurists or jurors) in 2001 -- known originally as the "Wasp Network" (now referred to as the so-called "Cuban Five").

For years, the Castro regime has tried to make them a cause celebre (in pursuit of their propaganda efforts) and have been recently assisted in this effort by "sympathetic" editorial writers, universities and D.C. advocacy groups.

The fiction that the Castro regime and its willing advocates have sought to propel is that the mission of the "Cuban Five" was simply to monitor the activities of "anti-Castro terrorists" in Miami.

That's a nice story.

Now, let's look at the facts (courtesy of the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive):

In 1995, after obtaining FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court approval, the FBI obtained warrants to surreptitiously search apartments and monitor telephone communications by a group of Cubans who were Cuban intelligence operatives. The group, through its principal agents or illegal officers, communicated directly with the Cuban Government about its activities and received specific missions and taskings from the Cuban Government. The instructions were subsequently relayed to the other members of the spy ring as appropriate.

During the searches, the FBI uncovered and read the contents of the communications from and to the Cuban Government. This information was concealed in hidden files on computer floppy diskettes kept in the residences of three of the principal agents.

At Cuban Government direction, the Cuban spy ring collected and reported information on domestic, political, and humanitarian activity of anti-Castro organizations in the Miami-Dade county area; the operation of US military installations; and other US Government functions, including law enforcement activity. The spy ring also carried out tasks in the United States as directed by the Cuban Government, which included attempted penetration of US military installations, duplicitous participation in and manipulation of anti-Castro organizations, and attempted manipulation of US political institutions and government entities through disinformation and pretended cooperation. The spy ring received financial support from the Cuban Government to carry out its tasks.

An analysis of the communications used by the spy ring revealed that they spoke and addressed each other and their agents as representing the Cuban Government. They referenced decision-making “by the High Command,” referred to individuals as “comrade,” and used names and abbreviations associated with Cuban Government organizations. Communications between the members also referenced the “Intelligence Information Department”; “C.P.” for centro principal or headquarters; “MINIT” for Ministry of Interior—which administers the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence or DI; and “DAAFAR,” a known abbreviation for the Cuban Air Force Command. They also used jargon and abbreviations such as “S.E.E.” (Servicios Especiales Enemigos) that refers to the FBI or CIA.

The spy ring members paid great attention to maintaining secrecy as to their identity and mission and took elaborate steps to evade detection. They called themselves “La Red Avispa”—The Wasp Network. They used code names, including “Giro,” “Castor,” “Lorient,” “Vicky,” “Franklyn,” “Allan,” “Manolo,” “Judith,” “Mario,” and “Julia.” They spy ring also used false identities, including assuming the name, date of birth, and social security number of a deceased person. The ring is viewed as the largest Cuban espionage operation uncovered in the United States in a decade.

On the basis of its investigation and surveillance, the FBI had identified three individuals as the spy ringleaders by 1998. The first was Gerardo Hernandez who had oversight for infiltrating his subagents into US anti-Castro groups in the Miami area. The second leader was Ramon Labanino whose primary task was to penetrate and report on US military installations and activity in the South Florida area, including the Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air Base in KeyWest. The third leader was Fernando Gonzalez, who took over Labanino’s responsibilities, including meeting with subagents when Labanino was tasked with Cuban Government missions outside the Miami area.

Hernandez and Labanino received reports from, and provided payments to, their respective subagents and tasked their subagents based on instructions they received from Cuba. Ricardo Villareal and Remijio Luna also exercised managerial or supervisory functions over subagents at times, but both men left the United States for other operational assignments.

Among the many communication topics between Hernandez and Cuba or his subagents were:

The infiltration of the US Southern Command headquarters in Miami—according to Cuba, “one of the new prioritized objectives that we have in the Miami area.”

• The activities of Cuban exile groups in Miami and tactics to disrupt those groups by, among other things, “creat(ing) animosity” between specified groups and attempting to discredit certain individual leaders.

The activities at the Boca Rica Naval Air Station as well as reports on an apparent military topic identified by Cuba that “continues to be of great importance to our comrades at DAAFAR.”

The manipulation of the media, political institutions, and public opinion, including using anonymous or misidentified telephone calls and letters to media and political figures.

• Specific security precautions to be undertaken to avoid detection.

You can read the entire nine-page summary here.

Capitol Hill Cubans

Judy Gross: "Alan is increasingly desperate in Cuba"...


- The U.S. contractor Alan Gross, Cuba sentenced to 15 years in prison, is today the main obstacle to overcome historical tensions between Washington and Havana, and advance policy  President Barack Obama to the island.
Alan Gross and his wife and daughters. Photo.

For Gross, 62, detained since December 2009 Cuba has generated numerous efforts by governments, humanitarian, religious institutions and the Jewish community before the Raul Castro regime, asking for his release for reasons humanitarian.
This week, Obama said he would support any initiative to the release of Gross, who is going through serious difficulties health in a cell in Cuba. Meanwhile, the former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, announced Tuesday that will end your stay  Havana after seeking unsuccessfully for the immediate release the contractor. Richardson came to the island at the invitation of the government Cuba.
"I am very disappointed and surprised. Perhaps the Cuban government has decided that it wants to improve relations with [U.S.]. Maybe that's the message you are sending, " Richardson said at a news conference before leaving Cuba. "I do not know if I could return here as friend ... The next step would be the Cuban government, but I have tried as a friend. " The well-known politician had promised his wife Gross to visit him in prison before leaving Cuba, but was not authorized the visit.
After confirmation of his sentence by the Supreme Court of Cuba on August 5, Judy Gross, Gross's wife, agreed to answer a questionnaire in English CaféFuerte dramatic circumstances on the handles family and political  concurring in the case of the contractor. These are the responses of Mrs. Gross, who dreams of an early release of her husband and a  new start for family life.
You can read the interview in English here. 

Alan, desperate and weak
CaféFuerte: When was the last time I spoke with Mr. Gross? How do you get?
Judy Gross: I spoke to Alan last week. Each time I talk to him, sounds more and more depressed and anxious to be in  home. We are all very concerned about their health both physically and mental. It sounds increasingly desperate, his voice is weaker.
CF: Have you spoken to him since the Supreme Court ruled Cuba on the case and upheld his sentence?
CF: You have visited her husband in Cuba. When was the last time you saw him? Can you describe the conditions where he is detained?
JG: The last time I saw Alan was in March when  I attended his trial in Havana. Looked horrible. After losing more  100 pounds and suffering from other ailments, was bent and shuffling in and out of the room. Not good. Is a small cell he shares with two other inmates. He spends most part of the day walking in circles for his cell for exercise.
CF: What other details can count on the health of Mr. Gross?
We are very concerned about the mental and physical health of Alan. Has lost over 100 pounds. Suffers from various ailments, including partial paralysis in one leg. Arthritis in the hip is increasingly more painful and has difficulty sitting for more than minutes. He needs to see their physicians in the U.S. and re-  their routine care. I'm afraid I'll get a phone call one day to say that has had a setback in his health. We need Alan at home now. I fear that none of us will be able to endure this ordeal much longer.
An unending nightmare
CF: How much has changed the detention of Mr. Gross daily life of your family? Her eldest daughter is fighting cancer, as well as the mother of Mr. Gross. How to face this situation?
JG: It is very difficult. Alan's imprisonment has made an impression on us all. It was very hard for us both emotionally and financially. In our oldest daughter does well in  possible. It has undergone several surgeries to his father next cheer. And, of course, wishes with all his heart that his parent can be with her during this crucial time in his life.
Alan's mother fears that he will never see it. I wake up and  go to bed every day with a cloud over my head, wondering if going to see Alan again. My youngest daughter is severely impaired emotionally by the absence of Alan. They did many things together, and she has her fishing rods in the balcony. They did a  pact that the first thing they would do together when he returns home is go fishing.
I had to sell our house and move to a small apartment one bedroom, I returned to work full time, I have deal daily with our precarious situation. But the worst, course, is that Alan is being deprived of the joy and desire live. As we approached the Jewish High Holidays, we are once again hope that we will meet with the family.
CF: Her husband's family is of Czech origin. Have there been any diplomatic rapprochement with the Cuban government through the Czech Republic and / or Czech Jewish groups?
JGI do not know specifically about the Czech Republic, but I have learned that many foreign governments have intervened on behalf of my husband with the Cubans, and therefore I am grateful.
Knowing Cuban politics
CF: How did you know about Cuba before the arrest of Mr. Gross? Have you changed your perception?
JG: Before this ordeal, all I knew about Cuba was that Alan was saying. He loves the Cuban people, really enjoy music, food and Cuban culture. Every time I brought back from Havana street performers and CDs other items that are sold in stalls, and insisted that go out and eat Cuban food. Now I know more than I ever wanted know about Cuban politics. Alan finds himself caught between two  governments that refused to turn the page on past hostilities.
CF: Did Mr. Gross made friends in Cuba during his previous trips to the island? If so, have they been in contact your family?
JG: Alan makes friends wherever he goes and Cuba is no different.
CF: Do you think the U.S. government has done everything  everything within its power to secure the release of Mr. Gross? If not, what else do you think you can do?
JG: We are very grateful for all the efforts to bring back Alan. But obviously we will not be Alan satisfied until you are at home with us. I know that the best  way to resolve a conflict is face to face. I think the leaders  of both countries should sit together and resolve their differences.
Family plea to Cuban government
CF: Why do you think the Cuban government has so far been reluctant to give Mr. Gross for humanitarian reasons?
JG: I do not know, I can not speak for the Cuban government.
CF: Many believe that keeping the case of Mr. Gross outside the public view has been an error. Do you agree?
JG: The case of Alan has been widely covered by media.
CF: How do you imagine his reunion with Mr. Gross after his release? What do you think they will do when this happens?
JG: Be the best day of our lives, but to be honest, it is increasingly difficult to imagine.
CF: Want to send a message to the Cuban authorities and the Cuban people in general who will read this interview?
JG: I have pleaded with the Cuban authorities many  times before and do it again and again. My message is simple: take into account the plight of our family and requests of the Jewish community and all others around the world Alan released in time for the Jewish High Holidays [Rosh Hashanah, 29  September].

Cuba - Pro-government mobs harass opponents...

                        Human Rights / Violence repressive
Photos: Courtesy of the author

Three opponents are the sample representative of the latest mob attack starring paramilitary Cuban government service. One of the opponents has a skull fracture, another, several teeth detached and Finally, a fractured cheekbone. The incident took place in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba province.

By Adolfo Paul Borraza

Havana, September 8 / PD / Besides being detained for 72 hours, Juan Carlos Figuerola, Antonio Ruben Adrobell and Maso were victims of hatred and arrogance of the regime simply support and sustain the journey of Damas de Blanco to the church of the Virgin of Charity, at the east.
According to refer victims, their injuries were viciously and with certain danger of losing life. They say it was the "people inflamed, "as the government wants to see who assaulted them.
"The true people supported us, I felt fear, but we saw  solidaridadpor gestures from them. Those who attacked us did not are more than party members and plainclothes police, "explains Adrobell, who was hit in the head.
"They are afraid. The town of Palma is brave and know that we hit  the street without fear, but it's life we ​​go, if must die "said Figuerola, who lost by a stone several teeth.
The three dissenting members of the Republican Party illegal Cuba and have been warned earlier by security police  State and threatened with prison.
September 2011 by Drafting.

Richardson leaving Cuba without being able to see Alan Gross
Sept. 13 - This is the way the Castro brothers treat those useful idiots, like Bill Richardson, who support them and ignore their crimes:
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he will leave Cuba after apparently exhausting all avenues to try to see an American subcontractor sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state.
Richardson says he tried numerous avenues to gain an audience with Maryland native Alan Gross, but to no avail.
He says he recognizes that "this isn't going to change, so why would I stay?"
Richardson previously vowed not to leave the island without seeing Gross. He said Tuesday that he would leave the following day.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington that the U.S. government regrets Havana's refusal to allow a meeting between Richardson and Gross. Associated Press
Obama: "It's clearly time for the Cuban regime to change"
Sept. 13 - US President Barack Obama thinks that recent changes in Cuba have not been 'sufficiently aggressive' and that more substantial transformations are needed on the communist island, in line with what is happening elsewhere in the world.
The policies of his own administration, in turn, are creating 'more space inside Cuba for freedom and civil liberties,' Obama told a small group of news agencies, including the German Press Agency dpa, Monday.
'The Cuban government has said that it wants to transition, to loosen up the economy, so that businesses can operate more freely,' Obama said at a White House round-table discussion with Hispanic reporters.
'We have not seen enough evidence that they have been sufficiently aggressive in changing their policies economically, and they certainly have not been aggressive enough when it comes to freeing political prisoners and giving people the opportunity to speak their minds.'
This is particularly disappointing in the current international context, Obama said.
'Everywhere people are crying out for freedom, you are seeing enormous changes taking place in the Middle East just in the span of six months, you are seeing there are almost no authoritarian communist countries left in the world, and here you have this small island that is a throwback to the 60s.'
'Obviously it's not working for them. The standards of living have not improved significantly, in fact they are deteriorating in many cases, people's liberties continue to be constrained at a time when the world is more open and people have more information than ever before,' Obama said.
In this setting, he stressed, 'it's clearly time for the Cuban regime to change.' 
'Whether they are going to seize that opportunity, so far we have not seen the kind of evidence that we'd like to see, but that change is going to take place,' Obama said.
The US strategy of offering Cuba a slightly more outstretched hand, by freeing up remittances and allowing Cuban-Americans to more freely travel to the island, is appropriate in this context, he said.
'It empowers Cubans inside of Cuba who then are able to have other sources of income, meet their families, get new ideas and exposure to what is going on outside of Cuba.'
'We think it creates more space inside Cuba for freedom and civil liberties,' Obama insisted.
As to the situation of US contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15-year jail sentence in Cuba for espionage, Obama repeated the US demand for his release.
'We've said repeatedly that Mr Gross should be free, that the conviction was not based on evidence or rule of law, also that there's an humanitarian issue here involved given Gross' precarious health.'
Still, he highlighted the 'private' nature of the ongoing trip to Cuba of former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who is meeting with officials to secure Gross' release.
'Richardson is acting as a private citizen on an humanitarian mission to try to free Gross.'
'Anything to get Mr Gross free we will support, although Mr Richardson does not represent the US government in his actions there,' Obama said.  Read more

Cuban police surround Havana church
Sept. 13 - An evangelical pastor and about 60 followers holed up in a Havana temple for more than three weeks are praying for “a new Cuba,” the group’s spokesman told journalists Monday.
Cuban police have surrounded the Pentecostal Assembly of God church since last week in a show of concern for the men, women and children that Pastor Braulio Herrera has said gathered for a simple “spiritual retreat.”
The show of force triggered rumors of a cult waiting for the end of the world. But knowledgeable Havana residents called it a “mutiny” sparked by a theological and property dispute between Herrera and his church leaders.
Ignacio Estrada, a dissident who has been in regular contact with Herrera’s son and spokesman, William, said the son’s latest message Monday evening was that the 60 people at the church were praying “to achieve a new Cuba.”
“They are praying for the Holy Spirit to make an appearance in Cuba now, and they are saying that God is going to pronounce himself on Cuba at any moment,” Estrada told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. Herrera could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Maybe it’s a protest against the church or the government, but they deserve to be heard,” added Estrada, a gay activist against the government’s tough policies on HIV-positive Cubans.
In a separate interview published by blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, William Herrera said the group was involved in a strictly religious gathering and did not want but would no fight against a police intervention.
“Since it is a time of glorious illumination, with hard-hitting testimonies of revelations and joyful events revealed by God — a living God and not a paper God — there is simply no limit for this peaceful and transcendental retreat,” he was quoted as saying. The Miami Herald
Documentary "Cuba y Los Elefantes" with subtitles in English
Sept. 10 - This documentary was made by Peru's Institute for Political Freedom.
Includes interviews with Dr. Darsi Ferrer, Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antunez" and other dissidents.
It will help you to better understand the reality of life under the tyranny of the Castro brothers
Several Cuban dissidents arrested during a religious ceremony honoring La Virgen de la Caridad
Sept. 9 - Cuban police in Havana have arrested at least six people who shouted slogans calling for the release of political prisoners.
The detentions took place during the first religious procession of Cuba's patron saint allowed in the island since the 1959 revolution.
Not a word from Castro's personal secretary Jaime Ortega.
Click here  to see a video by the BBC of the arrests.

The husband of Raúl Castro's youngest daughter, arrested in another corruption case
Sept. 9 - Julio César Díaz Garrandez, who for several years has been considered the husband of Nidia Castro, Raúl Castro's youngest daughter, even though they have not officially married, has been arrested in a corruption case, according to information published in El Nuevo Herald.
DíazGarrandez, a former resident of Miami, who returned to the island as a successful businessman in the early 90s, has been detained in an interrogation center for the past three months, sources told El Nuevo Herald.
Nilsa Castro is the youngest of the three daughters of Raúl Castro with Vilma Espín. El Nuevo Heraldl (Spanish)
The Castro brothers have so far refused to let Bill Richardson meet with Alan Gross
Sept. 9 - Hopes that a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba might soon be freed were dashed when former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the Cuban government refused to let him meet with the prisoner.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Richardson described 62-year-old Alan Gross as an "American hostage." He said he would not leave the island until he was allowed to see him at a military hospital where he is being held.
"My mission here as a private citizen is to secure the release of Alan Gross, an American hostage," Richardson said late Thursday. "I've been informed by the Cuban government that I would not be allowed to see Alan Gross during my visit."
Richardson said that he had been scheduled to depart Saturday, but that he told Cuban officials he would not leave until he was granted a meeting with Gross.
"I promised his wife, Judy, that I would see him," the governor said.
It was not clear whether he had any further meetings scheduled Friday. There was no immediate comment from Cuba's government, or from Washington.
The news, delivered by a somber Richardson at the end of a long day of meetings with Cuban officials, was sure to come as a shock to those who had felt certain Gross' long ordeal was nearing an end.
Gross' lawyer said Wednesday that Richardson came to Havana at the invitation of the Cuban government, and earlier Thursday a leading Cuban official praised the governor and described Gross as a "victim."
The case has chilled efforts to improve ties between Washington and Havana, and the failure of Richard

The Worst of the Worst: Revisited...Foreign Policy...

Who will be the next coconut to fall?


When I listed the "Worst of the Worst" dictators -- or coconut heads, as I like to call them -- in Foreign Policy last summer, bemoaning their "ignoble qualities of perfidy, cultural betrayal, and economic devastation," few people thought the tyrants would fall any time soon. Then on Jan. 14, 2011, came a loud "THUD!" in Tunisia. A coconut dropped and smashed! Then another in Egypt on Feb. 11! Then on Aug. 24, rebels in Libya seized the "Brother Leader's" compound, forcing the rat to flee into his underground tunnels and disappear. Pro-democracy activists are now vigorously shaking coconut trees in Africa and the Middle East, hoping that their leaders' rickety autocracies will also come crashing down.
stems, dictators across Africa and the Middle East are resorting to some bizarre antics. One after another, they perform the same "coconut boogie":
One swing forward with promises of reform, such as promising not to stand for reelection or investing in jobs programs;
Three swings back, unleashing the full fury of security forces to brutally clamp down on street demonstrators, arresting hundreds of activists and deploying live ammunition, tanks, and jet fighters;
A jerk to the left, with fists pounding on a table and a jab in the air with clenched fist, vowing to hunt down "rats and traitors";
Then finally, a tumble for a hard landing on a frozen Swiss bank account. Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar al-Qaddafi have all now done the coconut boogie. Now, it is Syria's Bashar al-Assad's turn, though he's still clinging to power. More than 2,200 civilians have been killed so far in the 6-month uprising in Syria, according to the United Nations. But the tree is shaking.
Indeed, it is tough to be a coconut these days. The world is closing in on them. Their citizens are rising up. In the international community, dictators are finding their circle of friends rapidly dwindling, even in the places they used to feel most comfortable. The United Nations, generally petrified of taking on the coconut-heads, adopted a resolution permitting the international no-fly zone against Qaddafi's forces. Switzerland has frozen the bank accounts of one despot after another. Coconuts are no longer welcome, now shunned like the bubonic plague. 
And in this climate, paranoia, suspicion, and fear now grip many dictators, leading them to overact hysterically to the least provocation or expression of public dissent. Here are a few examples of the latest antics of some nervous coconuts from our Worst of the Worst list: