Posts Tagged ‘stateterror’

Take Cuba off the Terrorist List

January 29, 2015

Drop the Label
Take Cuba off the Terrorist List
The new US-Cuba talks are a refreshing burst of sunshine in the 54-year dismal relationship between neighbors separated by a mere 90 miles. The nations negotiated a successful swap of prisoners. The onerous travel restrictions the US government placed on just visiting the island are starting to crumble. Embassies in Washington and Havana will soon be opened. Rules designed to ease trade are being written. But despite this long-awaited meltdown of US policies that added to the island’s economic woes but never succeeded in tumbling Cuba’s communist government, a portion of the Cold War edifice remains intact: Cuba is still on the US terrorist list.

This list, reserved for countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”, is a very short one. It doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, the country that accounted for 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 and has been responsible for spreading extremist Wahhabi ideology throughout the Middle East. It doesn’t include Pakistan, a country that has long been a staging ground for Islamic terrorists and on the receiving end of US drone strikes for the past decade. It certainly doesn’t include Israel, a country Amnesty International called “trigger happy” for using “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force” against Palestinians. It doesn’t even include North Korea, a country that recently threatened to bomb the “White House, the Pentagon and the whole US mainland.”

Of the world’s 196 countries, only four are included: Iran, Sudan, Syria….and Cuba.

The US government first put Cuba on the list three decades ago, in 1982, accusing the island of providing a safe haven for members of the Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s FARC rebels. It also accused Cuba of providing political asylum to Americans facing criminal and terrorism charges. In 2006, the State Department added that Cuba opposed the US-led war on terror and made no attempt to “track, block, or seize terrorist assets.”

Over the years, these accusations have faded as Latin American dictatorships were overthrown and leftist groups started using the ballot instead of bullets to gain power. In Columbia, where decades-long fighting between government and guerrilla groups persists, Cuba has become an internationally recognized and appreciated mediator hosting peace talks. The ETA called a ceasefire in 2011 and said it would disarm. And despite US accusations, after 9/11 Fidel Castro roundly condemned terrorism, refused to harbor individuals wanted for terrorism, and signed onto all UN-sanctioned anti-terrorism treaties.

In its 2013 Report on Terrorism, the State Department admitted that Cuba’s links to ETA have become more distant and that Cuba has been hosting negotiations between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels. It also mentioned how there has been no indication that the Cuban government “provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”

Most people around the world would find it very strange that Cuba would be on a “terrorist list,” as it is most known worldwide for exporting doctors, musicians, teachers, artists, and dancers–– not terrorists.

Cuba’s continued inclusion on the terrorist list has become a stumbling block in negotiations. While both sides have been upbeat about the recent talks, Cuba has complained and demanded to be removed from the terrorist list. The Cuban government considers it insulting and unfair; it also notes the United States has repeatedly supported terrorist acts and harbored terrorist fugitives, such as Luis Posada Carriles, convicted in absentia of the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 in which 73 people were killed.

Inclusion on the terrorist list is not just political jousting; it adds an extra burden to the economic restrictions associated with the long-standing US economic embargo, especially on the banking system. All banks engaging in financial transactions with Cuba are subjected to tedious US screenings to ensure that terrorist money does not enter the US. Banks dealing with countries on the US terrorist list be slapped with major fines, such as the huge $8.9 billion penalty that French bank BNP Paribas paid last year for dealing with Cuba, Sudan and Iran. Most foreign banks–even when engaged in perfectly legal transactions with Cuba, weigh their options and decide it’s not worth the hassle.

But change is in the air. Following the December 17, 2014 agreement to restorerelations with Cuba, President Obama instructed the Secretary of State to launch a review of Cuba’s inclusion on the list and provide a report and recommendation within six months.

If the recommendation is to remove Cuba from the list, the President would have to submit a report to Congress 45 days before the new decision would take effect. The report would have to ensure that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism in the preceding six months, and then offer guarantees that it would not do so in the future.

The decision to lift Cuban sanctions lies in the hands of Congress, but taking Cuba off the terrorist list is an action the President can take (he can also free the Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have been cleared for release–– but that’s another issue). Cuban diplomats says they cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations with the United States while Cuba continues to be considered a sponsor of international terrorism. President Obama’s next executive action should include removing Cuba from the list–– join us by sending him that message now.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She lived in Cuba for four years and is the author of several books on Cuba, including No Free Lunch: Food and the Revolution in Cuba Today.,

Cuban Hero Rene Gonzalez Recalls Plane Explosion in Barbados

October 7, 2014


Mexico, Oct 6 (Prensa Latina) Cuban antiterrorist fighter and hero Rene Gonzalez, a member of the well known Cuban Five, recalled the explosion of a Cuban plane facing the coasts of Barbados, on October 6, 1976, leaving 73 victims.
In an article published in Mexican newspaper El Universal, Rene Gonzalez talked about other terrorist attacks, just as the one on the fall of 1962 in the city of Havana against a hotel from boats with Miami licenses.

He listed attacks or murders of fishermen in the north of Cuba, attacking coastal villages with the result of innocent citizens killed or mutilated, sabotage against nursery houses putting at risk the life of children, as well as the killing of literacy campaign workers by counter-revolutionary bands.

‘This story, unknown to the rest of the planet, has been nailed, however, in the collective memory of the Cuban people’, said Gonzalez, one of the Cuban Five, convicted 16 years ago by alerting Cuba of violent actions by anti-Cuban groups, who were subjected to arbitrary and rigged trials against the Caribbean nation.

The terrorist actions against Cuba have been a constant since January 1st, 1959 , when the Revolution forever rescued the aspirations of sovereignty for the Cuban people, he said. ‘It was that same memory which prompted me without hesitation to the acceptance of the mission that would take me to inform the author of that terrorist act of my early experiences, José Basulto,’ he said.

As one more Cuban citizen, it became a natural duty for me to avoid, by sneaking up on violent groups that are still in common places in Miami, the consummation of such activities, he stressed.

Gonzalez explained in detail the story of the longest trial in the history of the United States, which after being started it would be abrupt and mysteriously covered by the absolute silence of the media corporations ‘.

Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and René González – this last the author of the article – were arrested in the United States in 1998, when performing activities of prevention of terrorism against Cuba.

Of them, only Rene and Fernando returned to Cuba after serving all of their sentences, but Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio are still in US prisons, although hundreds of personalities in the world are calling for his release, including 10 Nobelists, in addition to organizations of lawyers and parliaments.

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba

April 11, 2014


By Dan Beeton
Global Research,

A new investigation by the Associated Press into a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention this week, with the news trending on the actual Twitter for much of the day yesterday when the story broke, and eliciting comment from various members of Congress and other policy makers. The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot described in an interview with radio station KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central rolein funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).

More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funding for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:
(S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004 ) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.

Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:
¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps’] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”

The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:
11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.

The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).

The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:
…DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.

Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader María Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered). The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commentedthat, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

What is wrong with the white houses plan for democracy in cuba?

April 9, 2014


by Zuleika Rivera, LAWG Intern

ZunZuneo or the “Cuban Twitter” continues to dominate headlines as details regarding U.S. Agency of International Development’s (USAID) failure to inspire a “Cuban Spring” through a “discreetly” funded social networking platform remain unclear. The Associated Press (AP) first broke the story on April 3, 2014 outlining the parameters of the USAID and Creative Associates International program to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cell phone text messaging to evade Cuba’s strict control of information and its restrictions of the internet. The idea behind the development of the social media platform, according to AP, was to create a credible news source for Cubans on the island. ZunZuneo drew more than 40,000 followers and gathered data (such as location, cell phone numbers) on its users which was hoped to be used for political purposes. According to the AP, the social network managers hoped to use this information to trigger “smart mobs” that would protest the current Cuban government and generate a “Cuban Spring,” head nodding to the “Arab Spring,” a series of protests and uprisings that swept through a handful of Arab countries from 2010-2013.

How did the United States successfully keep ZunZuneo a secret for so long? USAID used shell companies and foreign banks in the Cayman Islands, United Kingdom, Spain and Costa Rica in order to conduct its programs. USAID contracted with Washington Software Inc who was given $3.2 million to text subscribers of TV and Radio Marti. They were required to send 24,000 messages a week and no fewer than 1,800 an hour. They were also required to create an account and give full access to the Authorized Representative for the contracting officer, the government’s technical experts who are responsible for developing and managing the technical parts of a contract. USAID subcontractor, Creative Associates, received $6.5 million to carry out work in Cuba and later another received $11 million from USAID. The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors gave to Mobile Accord $60,000, and USAID also gave Mobile Accord $1.69 million to help run ZunZuneo. Similarly, the New America Foundation was given $4.3 million in 2012 under the Open Technology Institute; their role in the program, if any, remains unclear.

Soon after its creation in 2010, ZunZuneo gathered a lot of followers; and when famous Colombian-born singer Juanes hosted his “Peace Concert” in Cuba’s revolutionary plaza, the ZunZuneo took the opportunity to begin collecting data on Cubans. They polled all of their users on their general thoughts on the concert line-up; and as Cubans innocently answered, ZunZuneo gathered their data. In 2010 when ZunZuneo was at its height, they asked a Denver-based mobile company to join in (Mobile Accord). In their article, the Associated Press mentions a Mobile Accord memo that indicates that they were fully aware of their involvement, stating, “There will be absolutely no mention of the United States government involvement. If it is discovered that the platform is, or ever war, backed by the United States government, not only do we risk the channel being shut down by Cubacel [Cuba’s cell phone provider], but we risk the credibility of the platform as a source of reliable information, education, and empowerment in the eyes of the Cuban people.”

At this point Creative Associates had moved all corporations abroad and had made sure there was no money trail leading back to the United States. By 2011 Creative Associates was thinking of expanding their program and had agreed that the management team should not find out the United States government was involved. At this time they asked Mobile Accord to become independent from the United States government; but that became increasingly more difficult to do, as revenue from text messages was not enough. Finally, in September 2012 the program had to be cut, and it disappeared mysteriously from the Cuban landscape.

The White House has said that the program was not covert because they had disclosed the program to Congress and the program was intended to foster the free flow of information amongst Cubans on the island. Congress denies ever knowing about the program. The legality of this program is also in question since according to U.S. law any covert action by a federal agency must have presidential authority and Congress should also be notified. USAID has said that it is a “congressionally mandated and congressionally supported effort” and that it was reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). But the GAO report does not list any programs by name or any specifics about what programs were being carried out. It only says that USAID is conducting programs with “greater focus on information technology to support independent bloggers and developing social network platforms.” Similar to the White House, USAID said this was a discreet, not covert program. USAID came out with its own statement claiming that much of what was reported is false. While ZunZuneo doesn’t portray the full scope of the Obama Administration’s plan towards democracy promotion in Cuba, it is certainly the ugly side of it.

ZunZuneo proved it had little success in promoting freedom of expression on the island to support a more open civil society through a covert, or “discreet” program; and when compared to the White House’s policy to facilitate cross-cultural communication through people-to-people exchanges, ZunZuneo’s success diminishes to zero. In 2011 President Obama took a big step towards “promoting democracy” in Cuba by easing restrictions on travel for U.S. citizens to Cuba. While Cuba remains a sovereign state with its own political system, the legacy of U.S. policy towards Cuba doesn’t recognize this. The Obama Administration has taken steps to engage Cuba in a different way but still under the guise of “democracy promotion.” The President has liberalized travel regulations for purposeful travel as a way to empower and engage civil society in Cuba and in the United States. Its success was immediate: in 2011 73,500 U.S. citizens traveled legally to Cuba, and in 2012 that number increased to more than 98,000. Since the easing of restrictions, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued more than 250 people-to-people licenses, nine charter companies have been set up and there are more than 20 active travel service providers. People-to-people travel has led to authentic interactions between Cubans and U.S. citizens, which has deconstructed the Cold War image of Cuba as the enemy and presented a more accurate Cuban reality. Current regulations have allowed researchers and students to travel to Cuba, to study Cuba “on the ground,” and come back to the United States ready to share their experiences of a different Cuba, a Cuba that is changing.

People-to-people travel has created a new class of ambassadors: citizen ambassadors that in their exchanges on the island promote the core values of democracy. The exchange of ideas between real people via a different brand of “democracy promotion,” program, such as people-to-people travel, is what will inform Cubans about “democracy,” not spam social messaging. The Obama Administration should focus on initiatives such as un-restricted travel to Cuba for all U.S. citizens, and high level dialogue with the Cuban government to talk about a variety of issues of common interest. These tactics will not only save money from unknowing taxpayers, but educate about U.S. ideals and realities by real people who are not trying to destroy Cuba, in a much clearer, less secret, non-covert manner. Rather than staining USAID’s reputation around the world, and smearing the Obama Administration as cold war re-enactors, the time is long overdue to sever our ties with difficult-to-clarify, “discreet” democracy promotion programs.

ZunZuneo proved to be a failure; the 53-year-old economic embargo on Cuba, another failure, and the list could go on. Cuba is not our enemy, rather our neighbor; and we should begin to treat them as such. Behind closed doors, judgments can be passed; but in the world arena, we should be “keeping up with the Joneses”—the 188 countries that annually vote in the UN General Assembly to end the embargo—and begin on the path toward a respectful, normal relationship with Cuba.
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Message to the Network “In Defense of Humanity” from the Direction of the Hermanos Saíz National Association

April 6, 2014


AP news agency revealed the existence, between 2009 and 2012, the
Zunzuneo project prepared in the laboratories of ideological subversion of the
U.S. and promoted by USAID. Its purpose was to create a network directed to
Cuban youths to influence them to leadthem oppose the revolutionary government
and, eventually, mobilize them and use them for their destabilization purposes.
Through the SMSs, at first apparently inoffensive, ZunZuneo arrived to send
about two million messages to hundreds of young people in Cuba.

White House spokesman, Jay Carney, after revelations in different newspapers
finally admitted the paternity and funding of the Project by the government of
the United States.

The Hermanos Saíz Association that gathers the vanguard of young Cuban writers
and artists, requests the members of the Network “In Defense of Humanity” and
through all means available to you to denounce this new interference of the
United States against the Cuban Revolution.

The wishes of the Empire for an alleged generational fissure are totally
unfounded. We will not betray those who gave their life for sovereignty, justice
and true democracy.

Our generation, demonstrated in the recent AHS Congress that it is, in essence,
anti colonial and anti imperialist.

We, young Cuban artists, are committed to guarantee the continuity and
improvement of our Socialism and will not permit any manipulation whatsoever.
The methods of cultural war rehearsed against us will fail.

Havana, April 4, 2014, Direction of the Hermanos Saíz National Association,


US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest

April 3, 2014


WASHINGTON (AP) — In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop a bare-bones “Cuban Twitter,” using cellphone text messaging to evade Cuba’s strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo — slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

The program’s legality is unclear: U.S. law requires that any covert action by a federal agency must have a presidential authorization. Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. McSpedon, the most senior official named in the documents obtained by the AP, is a mid-level manager who declined to comment.

USAID spokesman Matt Herrick said the agency is proud of its Cuba programs and noted that congressional investigators reviewed them last year and found them to be consistent with U.S. law.

“USAID is a development agency, not an intelligence agency, and we work all over the world to help people exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, and give them access to tools to improve their lives and connect with the outside world,” he said.

“In the implementation,” he added, “has the government taken steps to be discreet in non-permissive environments? Of course. That’s how you protect the practitioners and the public. In hostile environments, we often take steps to protect the partners we’re working with on the ground. This is not unique to Cuba.”

But the ZunZuneo program muddies those claims, a sensitive issue for its mission to promote democracy and deliver aid to the world’s poor and vulnerable — which requires the trust of foreign governments.

“On the face of it there are several aspects about this that are troubling,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s State Department and foreign operations subcommittee.

“There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity. There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility. And there is the disturbing fact that it apparently activated shortly after Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who was sent to Cuba to help provide citizens access to the Internet, was arrested.”

The Associated Press obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project’s development. The AP independently verified the project’s scope and details in the documents — such as federal contract numbers and names of job candidates — through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those directly involved in ZunZuneo.

Taken together, they tell the story of how agents of the U.S. government, working in deep secrecy, became tech entrepreneurs — in Cuba. And it all began with a half a million cellphone numbers obtained from a communist government.

…MORE on…,

Rene Gonzalez Claims for Freedom for the Cuban Five

February 13, 2014


Rene Gonzalez, the only Cuban anti-terrorist fighter who is now a member of the Cuban Five, but the only who has been released, started his own account in social network Twitter Wednesday, and took the chance to claim for the freedom of his comrades in prison in the US. rene4the5 is Rene Gonzalez account and he said he wanted to talk about the case of the Cuban Five personally.

Rene, together with Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González, monitored the activities of anti-Cuban groups in the US national territory.

“ I want to talk about the case of the Cuban Five, not to disregard any way to talk to the US public opinion, reach the interest of the US people, “ said Gonzalez to Cuban website CUBADEBATE Wednesday.
Rene Gonzalez has been very active in the campaign for the release of his comrades, since he got out of prison and returned to Cuba.

The campaign urges US President Barack Obama to use his power prerrogatives to get the freedom of the Cuban anti-terrorist fighters.

Rene Gonzalez said he will be in London in March to take part in an international meeting, with the purpose to attract parliamentaries of the entire world, to create an international commission to get the release of his comrades.

The decision, he said, will have the sponsoring of renowned world personalities.

In his first “ Tweet “ (message on Twitter) Rene wrote “ A Husband, A Father, A Grandfather. Becuase I defended life, I had to fulfill 15 years in prison. Now, another four men, my brothers the day of today, are still suffering prison. End the injustice. “

U.S. Attorney Arthur Heitzer Asks Obama to “make things right” and Free the Cuban 5

September 5, 2013

_1-arthur heitzer604

Attorney Arthur Heitzer has practiced civil rights and employment law in Milwaukee, WI since 1975, where he has repeatedly been named among the “Best Lawyers,” as well as having been listed in Who’s Who in American Law and among Super Lawyers. He is an honors graduate of both the University of Wisconsin Law School and of Marquette University, where he was elected president of the student body and helped lead a movement against institutional racism which resulted in creation of the Educational Opportunity Program in 1968, a national model for recruiting and retaining students of color. He has held leadership roles in the Wisconsin Bar Association and the National Lawyers Guild, where he chairs its Cuba Subcommittee. He has been to Cuba numerous times, as part of sister church and sister city delegations, as well as professional research projects.

September 5, 2013

Dear President Obama:

I am a Midwesterner, born and bred. Like most of the people around me, I believe in hard work and fair play. That’s why, since my first visit to Cuba right before starting law school at the University of Wisconsin in 1972, I’ve been troubled by the contrast between people of Cuba who universally seem to love and show generosity to visitors from the U.S., and our government’s policies designed since 1962 to impose “hunger and hardship” on the Cuban people.
This letter is about the Cuban Five, asking you to act promptly to free them; still incarcerated are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando González, plus René González was recently freed after serving over 13 years in prison.
As a lawyer in Wisconsin, I had the opportunity visit and get to know personally one of the Five, Fernando Gonzalez, when he was held at the Oxford Federal Correctional Institution a bit north of Madison, WI. I cannot imagine a more temperate, reasoned and educated individual, and I joked that if he ever got out, he could be the Cuban ambassador to the U.S. Let me first explain a bit about his role, which I think exemplifies what the case of the Cuban Five is all about. Then I’ll show evidence that even U.S. authorities have treated them as being political prisoners.

Fernando was only in the U.S. a short time before being arrested with the rest of the Cuban Five. They were all working for Cuba, to try to prevent further acts of terrorism and mass murder. Fernando in particular was attempting to monitor Orlando Bosch, who not only advocated murder of civilians for political purposes, but Bosch acted as well, most notoriously in engineering the bombing of a Cubana civilian airliner in October 1976, killing all 73 on board, including a victorious team of young fencers and medical students coming from South America. Joe D. Whitley Acting Associate Attorney General, and later the first General Counsel to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, wrote in 1989 that “For 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence… His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.” But despite that and his illegal entry, Bosch was allowed to remain in the U.S., and without prosecution or confinement until he died in Miami in 2011. His partner in engineering the 1976 Cubana bombing, Luis Posada Carriles, still lives unfettered in Miami, where they have both been publicly honored, and your administration has failed to either try Posada for terrorism or honor an extradition request for him to face trial in Venezuela. On August 16, 2006, while Fernando and the rest of the Five were finishing their eighth year in jail, Bosch continued to publicly justify this bombing, in an interview in Barcelona’s LaVanguardia newspaper, where he also declared that “a bomb is a proof of rebelliousness, a proof of bravery.”

Contrast that with your own remarks on April 16, 2013, after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, that “Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, that is an act of terrorism.” But that was Boston. Cuba claims to have lost over 3,000 of it people due to terrorism, much of it CIA inspired. The Cuban Five were sent to Miami, which the FBI had labeled as the “terrorist capital of the U.S.,” to try to prevent further deaths and mayhem.

To do this dangerous undercover work, most of the Five adopted aliases, and used false identification to match. Fernando’s alias is listed as the lead defendant in the court papers and on the appeals. Although when the U.S. media mentions this case at all, it often refers to the Five as “convicted spies,” that is not true. Their trial of over six months did not include any claims or evidence of any classified U.S. information, so none of them were ever charged with actual espionage, and only three of them were charged with “conspiracy”– supposedly, planning to do something which the evidence showed they did not actually do. For that, the judge initially gave them life sentences.

The Five all acted as agents of Cuba, and like the U.S. contractor Alan Gross now held in Cuba on a 15 years sentence, none of them registered with their host government to report their undercover work. On September 12, 2013, the four who remain in jail will begin their 16th year of imprisonment.

You have gone to Miami and publicly called for “justice for Cuba’s political prisoners…” But the imprisonment of the Cuban 5 in the U.S. was clearly a political act as well.

Here are a few examples of decisions in their case which were clearly “political”:

1. The decision to arrest them in violent, pre-dawn raids on September 12, 1998, while still allowing the career terrorists whom they were monitoring to live and operate freely in the U.S.

2. The decision to charge and later try them on grounds that for nationals of other countries, such as Russia, would lead to sending them home; and the extraordinary decision by Janet Reno to add a “conspiracy to commit murder” charge against Gerardo Hernandez, prior to her return to Florida and her run for Governor.

3. The decision to force their trial to take place in Miami, rather than let it be moved even to another county in Florida. The Miami jurors in the trial expressed strong feelings against the Cuban government these defendants all admittedly worked for; and the U.S. Justice Department in another case noted that a fair trial with less direct Cuban government involvement could not be held in Miami because of such sentiments.

4. The decisions to hold each of the Five in solitary confinement/special isolation for 17 months, to seek and obtain maximum sentences unheard of in a case where no U.S. interests or secrets were compromised, as well as to consistently deny two of their wives and children visas to visit them. These have been criticized by Amnesty International, and by the relevant body of the United Nations. The trial and confinement of the Cuban Five is the only U.S. domestic criminal proceeding to be found unjust by both these bodies.

5. Although the Cuban Five have been held in separate U.S. prisons and their conduct in prison has been exemplary, every one of them was simultaneously put and held in “the hole” around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003; they were eventually returned to their respective prison populations after a public campaign on their behalf. No justification for these simultaneous actions has ever been provided to my knowledge.

6. Despite a unanimous three-judge panel decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2005 that the Cuban Five’s conviction was the result of a “perfect storm” of hatred towards the Cuban revolution combined with intimidation, violence and threats in Miami, and prosecutorial misconduct, the Bush administration refused to accept a new trial outside of Miami, and instead pursued an unusual review by all members of that circuit, which then set aside the unanimous appellate opinion. That original court decision footnoted some of the extensive history of “exile” violence that the Five were attempting to deter.

7. The subsequent revelation that the U.S. government had paid the reporters for the Miami media who contributed to the prejudice against these Cuban agents and defendants, was a fact unknown to the defense or the judge at the time. The editor of one the influential Miami dailies that was implicated, El Nuevo Herald, then explained that serious compromise of journalistic ethics was not significant, because it was one of the paper’s founding principles to oppose the Cuban government.

Finally, and getting back to my Midwestern roots, the political nature of their imprisonment was also demonstrated by the authorities’ reaction in Oxford, WI when information about Fernando and the Cuban 5 started reaching the public. Each summer more than 10,000 Wisconsin progressives gathered just 20 miles away, in Baraboo, WI at “Fighting Bob” Fest, named after the famous “Fighting Bob” Lafollette; and for several years we worked to educate them about this case. By September 2007, hundreds of people came up to sign our petitions, under a banner with picture of Fernando and the caption “What Do You Know About Wisconsin’s Most Famous Political Prisoner?” We had a prison visit scheduled and confirmed by prison authorities to meet with Fernando that next week, but within 3 days of that gathering a prison representative called and said the visit was cancelled for no reason that could be disclosed, but it would be rescheduled. In fact, Fernando was being shipped away to Terre Haute, IND, where the case of the Five was not nearly so well known. I asked Sen. Russ Feingold to inquire as to the reason for the transfer, and was advised that the warden requested it based on alleged security concerns – even though there had never been the slightest infraction asserted against Fernando. When our government authorities act in fear of the public becoming educated, something’s not right.

So fair play is all we ask. The continued incarceration of any of the Five is not fair. When the people in the Heartland hear about this case, they agree. But it is both your job and your power to make things right, sooner rather than later.

Arthur Heitzer, Attorney at Law
Milwaukee, WI

Chair, National Lawyers Guild Cuba Subcommittee


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U.S. harboring two CIA tortures who assassinated Cuban diplomats

August 17, 2013


by Jean-Guy Allard

TWO CIA agents who participated in Argentina in the torture of Cuban diplomats Jesús Cejas – whose remains were recently returned to Cuba – and Crescencio Galañena, have been living untroubled for a number of years in the United States, protected by the country’s authorities.

Michael Townley, a U.S. agent loaned by the CIA to the DINA (the secret police of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile) and Guillermo Novo Sampol, an old Cuban-American accomplice of CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, are protected by the FBI, with which they always cooperated, and the CIA, for which they executed dirty tasks, and the State Department, which ignores their presence in U.S. territory.

It is documented that Townley and Novo played an active part in the torture of Cuban diplomats Jesús Cejas Arias and Crescencio Galañena Hernández, who disappeared in Argentina during the military dictatorship (1976-1983).

José Luis Mendéz Méndez, a Cuban historian and researcher, has spent years following the search for the remains of the two men, considered as martyrs by the Cuban Revolution.

In the course of his meticulous investigations, Méndez interviewed Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda, chief of the Chilean DINA, on July 19, 2004.

“Contreras disclosed that on August 11, 1976, his U.S. agent Michael Townley and the international terrorist living under protection in Miami, Guillermo Novo Sampol, traveled to Argentina to interrogate and torture Cuban diplomats Jesús Cejas Arias and Crescencio Galañena Hernández.”

The remains of the two Cuban diplomats were discovered in Virreyes, 28 kilometers outside of Buenos Aires, an area where excavations were underway in the search for victims of that period of Argentine history. Cejas and Galañena were kidnapped on August 9, 1976 in the Belgrano district of Argentina.


August 5, 2013


By Manuel E. Yepe

The Cuban ration book is now 50 years old, and Cubans are remembering this with a display of humor and pride.

There were humoristic TV and radio shows full of popular jokes and mockery recalling the birth of the “libreta de los mandados” [ration booklet for groceries] –as Cubans have called it since its emergence in July 1963.

The libreta was a response by the revolutionary project to the malicious measures of the commercial and economic blockade decreed by the government of the United States, and made official in 1962.

On April 6, 1960, the genocidal policy was formalized. On that day, Lester I.D. Mallory, the State Department’s Assistant Undersecretary for Inter American Affairs, wrote in a secret report –declassified in 1991- that the majority of Cubans supported the Revolution, and therefore the objective of overthrowing the Cuban Government had to be achieved “swiftly, using all means to weaken their economic life with a line of action as skillful and discreet as possible to promote disappointment and frustration that would arise from dissatisfaction and economic difficulties; denying money and supplies to reduce real salaries and financial resources to cause hunger, despair and the overthrow of the government.”

The libreta has served, during the half century of its existence, to guarantee each one of the 11 million Cuban citizens a modest food basket (rice, beans, bread, coffee, eggs, meat, sugar, cooking oil, and other products) at state-subsidized prices, in order to exclude hunger – the denigrating social phenomenon typical of market economies from which not even the highly industrialized countries escape- from the everyday reality of Cubans.

As a defense mechanism against Washington’s goal of overthrowing Cuba’s revolutionary government through hunger, the libreta and its associated sub-systems of collecting and distributing products, constitute a complex supply network which comprises the egalitarian basic food distribution system that operates in Cuba.

The libreta has played a bigger or smaller role in the diet of Cubans, sharing its function with other mechanisms, such as the venta liberada or the mercado paralelo [products available for purchase outside the rationing scheme] whose difference from the libreta is that their products are not subsidized.

During the crisis the island suffered in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been its main support in the struggle against the U.S. blockade, Washington intensified its measures of economic suffocation with opportunistic aims.

The Torricelli Act was passed in 1992, giving a legal foundation for the blockade’s regulations, and conditioning its lifting on issues related to human rights and “democratization” — policies systematically manipulated by U.S. diplomacy.

In 1996, the Helms-Burton Act increased the extraterritorial nature of the blockade by making it applicable to branches of U.S. companies overseas, and forbidding merchant ships of any flag to touch U.S. ports for a period of six months after touching Cuban ports.

Cuba then applied a survival strategy of policies and measures that as a whole was named the “Special Period”. Among these measures was the creation of several chains of shops to collect convertible currencies. Their aim was to stimulate foreign currency incomes by offering products that are not normally sold in the national network which offers goods and services.

To complement this measure, the Cuban banking system issued -in parallel to the national currency- the convertible peso which is the only currency accepted at the shops that collect convertible currencies.

The dual currency fulfilled its role of collecting the convertible currencies urgently needed by the economy after the crisis of the 90’s, but it has also created social inequalities and complex accounting and practical problems. These are in the process of solution and represent one of the main economic objectives of the ongoing process of updating the Cuban socialist model

The libreta has survived much longer than the dual currency, and has also rendered a remarkable service to the survival strategy of the Cuban Revolution. It will also disappear in the short or medium term. The concrete advances the Cuban economy has been experiencing, despite the blockade and the persistent hostility of its powerful neighbor, allows and advises setting the objective of eliminating the ration book. This must be done based on the premises that the state should subsidize persons instead of products, that nobody should be abandoned without help, and that education and health services remain free and available for all.

July 2013.

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.


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