Archive for March 29th, 2011

More Chicanery in the Cases of the Cuban Five

March 29, 2011

In his new International Policy Brief (PDF), Wayne S. Smith, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Cuba program, discusses the Cuban Five case. On March 22nd, new exculpatory evidence was presented in the case. In his brief, Smith discusses why all of the Cuban Five should be released. ( W.L. )

More Chicanery in the Cases of the Cuban Five
March 2011
At a press conference on March 22, new exculpatory evidence was presented in the cases of two of the Cuban Five. Many Americans seem to believe the now-famous Cuban Five were spies working for Havana against the United States and therefore deserve what they got – years in prison. But that is far from the truth. In fact, while they were indeed members of the Cuban Intelligence Service, they had been sent to the U.S. not to spy on the U.S. government or any of its entities but, rather, to penetrate certain Cuban exile organizations and gather information on the terrorist activities they were conducting against Cuba. The idea was then to provide that information to the FBI so that it could move to halt those activities, as it should have done.
Three representatives of the FBI were indeed invited to Cuba in June of 1998 to receive what the Cuban agents had come up with and returned with sixty-four folders of pertinent information. The Cubans had rather expected that the U.S. would then quickly take action against the terrorists. They were to be disappointed. Rather, apparently able to determine the identity of the sources from the information they had been handed, they arrested the Cuban Five, who in 2001 were put on trial in Miami— a hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment. In hopes of beginning in a more impartial atmosphere, the Defense asked for a change of venue. But it was denied. …

To read the full brief download the PDF here,

Mensaje de René por Leonard Weinglass

March 29, 2011

Amigos y afectos de Leonard Weinglass:

La eventualidad de un “lock down” -parte de este via crucis al que a poner fin dedicó sus últimas energías- me impidió conocer en su momento de la irreparable pérdida de nuestro imprescindible Lenny.

En una sociedad en que el egoismo es virtud, Leonard Weinglass cultivó el extraordinario mérito de consagrarse a dar de sí mucho a cambio de muy poco, y guiado sólo por una privilegiada vocación de justicia dedicó su vida a cultivar la verdad como única medida de conseguirla en el estéril terreno que le tocó: el decadente sistema de justicia norteamericano. Lo hizo con pasión, entrega, altura, honestidad, inteligencia y valentía ejemplares.

Para los Cinco, que tuvimos el privilegio de ser el foco de sus últimos esfuerzos, entrar en contacto con este hombre tan grande como humilde fue tan simple como abrir la puerta a un hermano mayor, que por derecho natural se convirtió en uno más de nosotros.

Algún día será así de natural, para cualquier norteamericano, tocar a las puertas de Cuba. Cuando eso suceda se recordará el valor de los que lo hicieron cuando se requería de coraje, altruismo, elevados principios, claridad intelectual y visión humanista.

Entre ellos, en destacado lugar, figurará nuestro hermano Leonard Weinglass.

Con profunda admiración.

René González Sehwerert.

28 de marzo de 2011.



March 29, 2011

I always knew, from the very beginning that behind their unquenchable search of material needs was something fishy. Photo: Ismael Francisco.

South Journal—Cuba´s Granma newspaper published an article about the recent disclosure by a Cuban State Security Agent of US plans against the island hidden behind the curtains of “humanitarian aid.” We now bring you the article written by journalists Deisy Francis Mexidor, Marina Menendez and Jean Guy Allard.

Behind False Apparel
Hiding behind a “humanitarian” façade, some NGOs are being the instrument of direct subversion against Cuba. Jose Manuel Collera Vento, Gerardo for Cuban State Security, exposes US attempts to penetrate the religious community.
It all began in late 2000, when Jose Manuel Collera Vento headed a freemason´s institution through which some people from the United States approached him after being introduced by citizen Gustavo Pardo Valdes. Seemingly, they were united by common feelings linked to the fraternal organization, and they expressed Collera their interest in promoting a humanitarian project. “However, as relations developed other objectives became evident.”
It soon became noticeable that those individuals “had strong influence and presence in social, cultural and political circles in the United States.” However, what was really interesting was freemasonry was not the real link for them.
Furthermore, why was the US Interest Section in Havana and its officials interested in the terms of such a planned “assistance”? Somehow, some of those officials were always present in the meetings with the representatives of the NGOs that would send the humanitarian aid.
By the year 2002, Collera had fluent relations with Canada´s Donner Foundation, used by the enemies of Cuba to camouflage the financing of subversive plans against the island, and with the Pan-American Development Foundation (FUPAD), created by the Organization of American States (OAS), whose major income came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Collera, along directives of those NGOs, visited the US Interest Section in several occasions in the times of Vicky Huddleston, James Cason and Michael Parmly, former heads of that office.
That way, he had relations with figures like Curtin Winsor, former US ambassador to Costa Rica, heading the Donner and who, along freemason Akram Elias, ex-Grand Master of Washington´s Grand Lodge, introduced Marc Wachtenheim to Collera. Wachtenheim was a CIA collaborator linked to CIA official Rene Greenwald. These two latter persons made a detailed study of the technological capabilities of information and communication networks in Cuba. Until 2010, Wachtenheim was the director of the Cuba Development Initiative program with the FUPAD, which also received money from the National Endowment for Democracy.
The thing is that “they began talking about information technologies, then about libraries, independent drugstores, all out of state jurisdiction…” and in the end, Collera saw himself sitting in Washington in 2005, in front of hawk Otto Reich, former undersecretary of State.
The conversation “was mainly aimed at listening to his opinions on the situation in Cuba. Reich was interested in counterrevolutionary Gustavo Pardo and in a possible ´change´ translated into the toppling of the government.” Though “they were quite afraid that such a change took place abruptly because—in their opinion—such a situation would lead to a mass exodus to US territory, which ´was not convenient to them.”
Since they are ignorant about the real Cuban civil society, they planned to create a parallel society according to their subversive interests and in that context—Collera deduced—they imagined that freemasonry was a fraternity organization to emerge as a leader in such “transition.”
At that point, Collera, felt that too much importance was given to him as a person because “meetings came and go.” He recalled a meeting “at Winsor´s place with a visceral enemy of the Cuban Revolution: terrorist Frank Calzon,” who said he would send Collera “medications and means, particularly short wave radios, something he never did.”
However, he did tell Collera that Calzon supported and maintained relations with local counterrevolutionaries, as he did with Pardo, a man who, since very young cooperated with the CIA in sabotage actions and life attempts against Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, for which he was punished by Cuban courts.
One surprise after the other followed Collera during his stay in the United States. He was received even at the National Security Council, where they “only sat to listen to me, they would not give any opinion,” and this made Collera somewhat uncomfortable.
He finally understood that they were actually trying to use him, as they were looking for information about the subject that keeps awake those who, in Washington, wish to topple the Cuban Revolution: his criterion “about the possibilities for a change in Cuba and which the objective situation for that aim could be.”
On the other hand, during all these meetings Collera was able to corroborate the understanding by the US government that “there are no leaders among the so-called dissidence because, in the first place, the visible figures lacked acknowledgment in the small “opposition” circle and because they did not constitute a political reality.”


The arrival at the White House of a Democratic administration did not translate into any change for the deteriorated relations between the United States and Cuba.
Although President Barack Obama has tried to portray a different image in that sense, he has only favored cosmetic modifications by lifting some of the draconian measures imposed by George W. Bush, while by using a lower tone in his discourse he has stiffened the blockade of Cuba.
Since he took power, there´s been an increase of fines against those who have tried to avoid the barriers imposed by the economic siege, and this indicates that such policy keeps prevailing with its entire rigor.
The recent confirmation of the allocation of another 20 million dollars in 2011 for espionage and subversion against the island has placed Obama closer to the reactionary sectors of the Florida-based rightist circles. His behavior is consistent with the heritage of the Bush Plan in its 2004 and 2006 versions.
The role that would be played by the NGOs to lead to a “change” in Cuba is precisely well detailed on Chapter 2 of such an annexationist project, as it reads about transferring to Non-government organizations and churches many of the responsibilities currently in the hands of the socialist state in the procurement of basic services, and intends to accuse the Revolution of not meeting the most important humanitarian needs of the population. For the transition “ideologists”, this scenario would only take place in a post-Castro era.
As to the FUPAD, its actions against Cuba have undergone diversification and have expanded to sectors such as the intellectuals and the religious people. Making use of the US tax-payers´ money, they support those citizens they try to tap for the execution of their subversive plans inside our country.

Jose Manuel Collera was increasingly becoming aware that such postulates were behind the NGOs that had approached him. In their desperate intentions to undermine the social project in its inside, they could resort to just any method, Collera understood this.
On September 18, 2006, he corroborated that idea as the Miami Medical Team Foundation—an organization linked to USAID—proposed him to “find people that were fully reliable” to undertake a big job. This organization was trying to boycott Cuba´s international aid to other countries, by promoting actions aimed at achieving the desertion of experts in the health sector.
It was a ridiculous proposal that they made to Collera: looking for fully reliable people skillful and with knowledge in Information Technologies to “cause the breakdown of the computer system in the airports of Miami and Atlanta, by using information technologies out of government control,” although they also talked “of another 13 possible airports with high traffic in US territory.
They were thinking of a possible cybernetic attack which, if achieved, would have led to a “real disaster” in the eyes of the world and it would provide the pretext for a direct military intervention in Cuba. “Cuba would be accused and they would have the perfect justification for a “response” armed action against our country.”
Two days later, during a meeting with Manuel Alzugaray—current president of Miami Medical Team Foundation—Collera corroborated that they were playing big.
Alzugaray, an individual who left Cuba in the beginnings of the Revolution and who has a large terrorist background, told Collera that they had set up “a special team at the White House, led by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with the support of the Southern Command; its objective was that of prompting the end of the Cuban government. “
So, Collera was supposed to undertake the task of “organizing the reception of “humanitarian aid”—according to indications—through the doors of the freemasonry,” and he was also informed about a new factor to step up the process: overriding his condition of being a physician, they stated the idea of “spotting scientific institutions and hospitals in Cuba working on radioactive isotopes”, and they insinuated that the Havana-based Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center was a possible place where these isotopes could be found.
This indication was directly linked to the US concern that in the event of a military attack on Cuba, American troops could be affected by the use of the so-called radioactive dirty bombs.
Collera felt that all this was beyond his personal forces and he was staggered. How far could these ONGs with humanitarian façade really go?
But that same day of September, he also met with officials trusted by Rice.
Of course, the questions were the same: What was Cuba´s situation like? What could happen in the near future? How could his institution get help in the event of a political situation linked to a “transition”?
That same afternoon, as he traveled to the Miami airport on his way back to Cuba, Collera also received confirmation that the chief of the US Interest Section in Havana would meet him after he arrived in Cuba to give him a permanent visa, which had been requested by Robert Blau, who then was the political and economic counselor at the Interest Section.
Contacts increased in level, while the conversations went beyond philanthropy.

All that time, Jose Manuel had no other choice than resorting to cold blood, since it was so difficult for him to maintain an indulgent response and at the same time listen at occasions, without showing disturbance, the plans that were in the works.
Even once, he was proposed to take part in a rally at the Kennedy Center, in New Jersey, where he would be granted a diploma by Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
He was introduced as “a Cuba who will say here what he cannot say there.” But he smelled a trap in those words and rapidly thought he had to be careful in his statements.
He took the microphone and without addressing anybody in particular, “I said I would say there the same thing I could say here,” to later add an idea that left the audience in doubt: “freedom is inside of us; freedom does not depend of our context.” What was he referring to? They must have wondered.
With no time to spare he began to “praise” the figure of Diaz-Balart and he found the way to not betray himself, “because he is one of the bloodiest enemies of the Cuban Revolution.”
The solution he found was describing the man as “one of the pillars of the differences between a big nation and a small one,” without saying who was right.
When Collera concluded, people in the audience congratulated him by saying “how nice you words about Diaz-Balart!” However, the subtle words did not pass unnoticed for Diaz-Balart who told the organizers of the ceremony that “the little guy knows how to hedge his bet.”

Trips back and forth increased in number, contact did as well. Collera made about six trips to the United States in a short period of time and he witnessed the visits to the island by FUPAD officials and emissaries.
“There was lot of talk there about the absence of the Commander in Chief (Fidel Castro) due to his disease,” which was taken as “a good moment to give steps towards “democracy”, since they considered that there was lack of leadership in the country.”
In October 2008, US John Heard and Colombian expert in logistics, communications and informatics Hector Cortes Castellanos—both sent by the FUPAD—arrived in Havana to “explore the field and not undertake any project before assessing well the way to use and manage the resources,” as indicated by Wachtenheim.
Once in Cuba, Heard—an International Relations graduate who got involved in the USAID since 1983—was interested in knowing about the “penetration” levels by the State Security in different population groups. He also expressed his wish to meet in western Pinar del Rio city with counterrevolutionary Dagoberto Valdes and with the staff of the Convivencia magazine, of the same nature. “We also visited a writer called Raul Capote,” Collera recalls.
On that occasion, “Valdes was given a laptop and a package of medicines, and he suggested a meeting with counterrevolutionary Carmen Vallejo who, since 1988, set up a project to allegedly assist children and youths suffering from cancer with the material and financial support of the US Interest Section and some European embassies.”
Now, having involved Collera, without FUPAD authorization, in these meetings with all their contacts in Havana, cost the emissaries their “out of the scene.” Seemingly, “they violated a key compartmentalizing rule, thought both used their own clandestine measures to obtain information at the style of Special Services. Therefore, they photographed the notes from their contacts, and destroy the papers later and hid their camera memory card.
For this role he was given, Collera “needed to increase his personal contacts with people from all provinces so that, when appropriate, he could activate a network of collaborators from Guantanamo to Pinar del Rio,” once the alleged humanitarian aid began to arrive in the country, which operated as the facade used by the US-manipulated NGOs to get “their stuff” in Cuba. The assistance would also have the seal that it was destined to the most vulnerable sectors of the Cuban population.
At this point in time, Collera had the doors open to Washington. In September 2009, he was received at the Cuba Bureau, belonging to the State Department, when he went for the extension of his visa. On that occasion he was accompanied by Humberto Alfonso Collado, a FUPAD emissary and Wachtenheim.
While assisting him, they assured that he “would not have any more difficulties to get a visa and that it would no longer be a problem every time he wished to travel to the United States.”

While in one of his many meetings with Marc Wachtenheim, Collera was asked “a characterization of the social and political situation of the country and also, that he should try to get access to a cell phone and the Internet in order to facilitate bilateral communication.”
The man also suggested that Collera “should try to invest in an illegal business in which he could earn some money, perhaps as a smoke screen for the money he received from the FUPAD.”
But, he must have his numbers straight. Even the director of the Cuba Program with the Foundation indicated that he should send back the bills or receipts about his expenses, as he said on 3 March 2009.
December 2009 was the last time Collera met with Wachtenheim, who gave him “one hundred Euros for personal expenses, an external drive, a scanner and a cell phone that the man had used in Cuba with an over 100-dollar call credit.”
The interests shown by the man and his personal conditions, left no doubt in Collera that he was a CIA agent, and that the alleged “humanitarian assistance was penetrated, controlled, led and monitored” by the US Interest Section in Havana, in a manner that “everything was out of Cuban institutional context.”
It was so much so that, following the agreement of Interest Section official Joaquin Monserrate and Wachtenheim, FUPAD emissaries held a meeting at the Interest Section building on December 4 to evaluate the development of their subversive projects.
On the agenda were, among the tasks assigned to Collera, the “setting up of a computer Internet network with a particular detail: it should be out of the control of Cuban authorities; boosting the so-called independent libraries; giving the green light to the supply of medications through the so-called mini-drugstores and organizing lectures on specific subjects.
“They would finance the trips inside and out of the country and help upgrade printing machines at the Grand Lodge of Cuba.”
Wachtenheim promised Collera that he would return to Cuba for some masonry-related activities in the early 2010; however, he received an unexpected phone call indicating to momentarily suspend all the plans. “Not long ago, I had a new contact with him. He told me he had got out of the FUPAD, but that he was doing the same job and he would create his own team for that aim, which would allow him to be more independent.”

Jose Manuel Collera Vento is a pediatric doctor by profession; he graduated in 1970. He was born in farmer family in Western Pinar del Rio province. He met an internationalist mission in Angola between 1983 and 1985. He was a directive of the Grand Lodge of Cuba, where he occupied different responsibilities since 1975, even he headed the Lodge for some time. Also in 1975, he began cooperating with the Cuban State Security.
According with the characterization made of Collera, he could become a great agent due to his personal qualities and his prestige in the masonry circles. He confirmed that characterization 30 years after it was made.
Now he smiles about this evaluation and sort of joking he recalls that “we did something good, because the United States gave me the Medal of Freedom, which is considered—as I learned—the highest “honor” granted by the Republicans in the US Senate.”
For nearly 30 years Collera was “Duarte” for the State Security. Due to operative reasons “I changed my pseudonym and they let choose it; so I thought of our five brothers (in US jails) particularly in one of them. And from that moment on I have been Gerardo.”
Now as he rises from obscurity, Collera says he feels in peace, because “I think I fulfilled my duty, something that we all—in one way or the other—have to do for our long history of struggles, which come together in only one. I am a fully committed man, both as a Cuban and as a patriot. I am a fervent follower of Jose Marti and of Carlos Manuel de Cespedez. And as a freemason, I acted to protect all those whom I love and defend.”


March 29, 2011

Speaking with Havana´s Historian Eusebio Leal

lchirino | March 29, 2011
South Journal— In his second day in Cuba, former US president Jimmy Carter visited the Havana-based Belen Convent, accompanied by the city´s historian Eusebio Leal and Cuban government officials. He learned of the Belen community project which particularly assists local senior citizens.
In statements to reporters, Carter said they came here to visit the Cuban people and government representatives and that it was a pleasure for them visiting the people of Cuba. He expressed his wish for improved relations between Cuba and the United States based on these meetings.
Responding to a question about US citizen Alan Gross, Carter explained that they have talked with some people about the case, but that he did not come to get Gross out of the country.
The visitor toured the facilities in the convent like the rehabilitation and physiotherapy ward, the craftsmanship workshop, the cultural center and he also spoke with senior citizens who go to the Convent every day. He enjoyed Cuban tunes sung by the elderly.
Before leaving the convent, the former US president wrote in the guests´ book:  “A wonderful place for people of the same age as are we.”
Carter was accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, the president of the Carter Center Dr. John Hardman and by the director of the Program for the Americas of that Center, Jennifer McCoy.
The visitor and his companions arrived in Cuba on Monday, on the invitation of the Cuban government. He already visited the Jewish Community Center and he met with the Archbishop of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
Jimmy Carter is expected to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday afternoon.

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