Ex-Venezuelan intelligence chief detained in Aruba at the request os
July 24 - Authorities in
Aruba announced Thursday that they arrested a close confidant of the
late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela who was sent as that country's
consul to the Caribbean island despite being sanctioned by the U.S.
government on charges of drug trafficking.
Hugo Carvajal, the former head of military intelligence under Chavez,
was arrested at the request of the U.S. prosecutors and is expected to
appear in an Aruban court Friday.
Carvajal was one of a number
of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials blacklisted by the U.S.
Treasury in 2008 for allegedly providing weapons to Marxist rebels in
neighboring Colombia and helping them smuggle cocaine to fund their
insurgency. Despite the charges, he remained close to power circles in
Venezuela and in January was appointed consul to Aruba by Chavez's
successor, Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela condemned the arrest, calling it a "grave violation" of
international law and the Vienna Convention granting diplomats immunity
Venezuela's foreign ministry released a statement calling on the
Netherlands, which manages foreign affairs for the otherwise
autonomously run Aruba, to immediately free Carvajal. It warned that
commercial and diplomatic ties could be affected.
There was no immediate comment from the Dutch government.
Officials in Aruba said they were initially confused about whether
Carvajal had immunity since he holds a diplomatic passport from
Venezuela. However, they went ahead with the detention because he had
yet to receive his accreditation from the local government.
"Immunity is always linked to a function," prosecutors spokeswoman Ann
Angela said in a phone interview. "And he does not have any function
here in Aruba. He is not the consul general; therefore he has no
U.S. prosecutors now have 60 days to formalize their extradition
request, Angela said.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a call seeking
Chavez was an instructor at the military academy in Caracas when
Carvajal was a student there in the early 1980s. Like many other cadets
from that era, Carvajal later took up arms with Chavez in a failed 1992
coup uprising that catapulted the young tank commander to fame and set
the stage for his future rise to power through the ballot box.
Everything We Know About The Huge Spy Base In Cuba That Russia Is
July 22 - Moscow and Havana
have agreed to reopen a Cold War-era signals intelligence (SIGINT) base
in Lourdes, Cuba.
An agreement was reached during Putin's visit to Cuba last week to
reopen the base, Russia business daily Kommersant reported last week.
That was confirmed by a Russian security source who told Reuters: "A
framework agreement has been agreed."
The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis had brought
the U.S. and Soviet Union close to confrontation over Moscow's proposal
to place nuclear weapons on Cuban soil.
Havana shut it down in 2001 because of financial issues and American
Located south of Cuba's capital Havana and just 150 miles from the U.S.
coast, the base left many parts of the U.S. vulnerable to Soviet
communication intercepts, including exchanges between Florida space
centers and U.S. spacecraft.
Here's what a Congressional report from 2000 said about the facility:
• The Secretary of Defense formally expressed concerns to Congress
regarding the espionage complex at Lourdes, Cuba, and its use as a base
for intelligence directed against the United States.
• The Secretary of Defense, referring to a 1998 Defense Intelligence
Agency assessment, reported that the Russian Federation leased the
Lourdes facility for an estimated $100 million to $300 million a year.
• It has been reported that the Lourdes facility was the largest such
complex operated by the Russian Federation and its intelligence service
outside the region of the former Soviet Union.
• The Lourdes facility was reported to cover a 28 square-mile area with
over 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel
working at the base.
• Experts familiar with the Lourdes facility have reportedly confirmed
that the base had multiple groups of tracking dishes and its own
satellite system, with some groups used to intercept telephone calls,
faxes, and computer communications, in general, and with other groups
used to cover targeted telephones and devices.
• News sources have reported that the Lourdes facility obtained
sensitive information about United States military operations during
Operation Desert Storm.
• Academic studies cite official U.S. sources affirming that the Lourdes
facility was used to collect personal information about United States
citizens in the private and government sectors, and offered the means to
engage in cyberwarfare against the U.S.
• The operational significance of the Lourdes facility reportedly grew
dramatically after Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a 1996 order
demanding the Russian intelligence community increase its gathering of
U.S. and other Western economic and trade secrets.
• It has been reported that the Government of the Russian Federation is
estimated to have spent in excess of $3 billion in the operation and
modernization of the Lourdes facility.
• Former U.S. Government officials were quoted confirming reports about
the Russian Federation’s expansion and upgrade of the Lourdes facility.
• It was reported in December 1999 that a high-ranking Russian military
delegation headed by Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel-General
Valentin Korabelnikov visited Cuba to discuss the continuing Russian
operation of the Lourdes facility.
Defense experts agree the base could significantly boost Russia's
ability to spy on America during a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.
Ivan Konovalov, head of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Trends
Studies, estimated that the Lourdes base was used to acquire at least
50% of the Soviet Union's radio-intercepted intelligence from the U.S.,
according to Reuters.
Same old Cuba
July 21 - Are those who would
normalize U.S. relations with Cuba intelligent enough to decode the
signal being sent by an agreement to reopen a Russian “signals
intelligence” base there?
Cuban dictator Raul Castro and Russian President Vladimir Putin
reportedly struck the deal in Havana this month (though Mr. Putin later
denied it). Russia supposedly gets to reopen the electronic spying post;
Cuba gets off the hook for about 90 percent of its Soviet-era debt to
Russia — about $32 billion, according to The New York Times.
Ironically, debt played a role in Mr. Putin's closure of the base in
2001 — because Congress linked its abandonment with restructuring of
Russian foreign debt. Technological updates to the listening post in
Lourdes, outside Havana and about 150 miles from Florida, could bolster
its former capabilities.
At its height, says The Times, Lourdes monitored the U.S. Navy, the U.S.
space program and “microwave transmissions of telephone conversations in
the southeastern United States” while facilitating communications with
Russian spies in America. Heading Cuba's armed forces in 1993, Mr.
Castro claimed Lourdes then produced 75 percent of Russia's strategic
intelligence on the U.S.
Questions abound over what's left of the old Lourdes facility and to
what extent it can or will be constituted, given Russia's struggling
economic situation. Thus, whether this spate of power projection is real
or faux remains difficult to discern. But the signal for Castro
apologists should be that the more things appear to change in Cuba, the
more they stay the same.
Russia to reopen Cuban mega-base to spy on America
July 16 - Information from
Moscow and Havana have
reportedly reached an agreement on reopening the SIGINT facility in
Lourdes, Cuba - once Russia’s largest foreign base of this kind - which
was shut down in 2001 due to financial problems and under US pressure.
When operational, the facility was manned by thousands of military and
intelligence personnel, whose task was to intercept signals coming from
and to the US territory and to provide communication for the Russian
vessels in the western hemisphere.
Russia considered reopening the Lourdes base since 2004 and has sealed a
deal with Cuba last week during the visit of the Russian President
Vladimir Putin to the island nation, reports Kommersant business daily
citing multiple sources.
“I can say one thing: at last!” one of the sources commented on the news
to the paper, adding that the significance of the move is hard to
The facility in Lourdes, a suburb of Havana located just 250km from
continental USA, was opened in 1967. At the peak of the cold war it was
the largest signal intelligence center Moscow operated in a foreign
nation, with 3,000 personnel manning it.
From the base Russia could intercept communications in most part of the
US including the classified exchanges between space facilities in
Florida and American spacecraft. Raul Castro, then-Defense Minister of
Cuba, bragged in 1993 that Russia received 75 percent of signal
intelligence on America through Lourdes, with was probably an
overstatement, but not by a large amount.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the base was downscaled, but
continued operation. After Russia was hit the 1998 economic crisis, it
found it difficult to maintain many of its old assets, including the
Lourdes facility. In Soviet times Cuba hosted it rent-free, but starting
1992 Moscow had to pay Havana hundreds of millions dollars each year in
addition to operational costs to keep the facility open.
An additional blow came in
July 2000, when the US House passed the Russian-American Trust and
Cooperation Act, a bill that would ban Washington from rescheduling or
forgiving any Russian debt to the US, unless the facility in Lourdes is
Moscow did so in 2001 and also closed its military base in Vietnam’s Cam
Ranh, with both moves reported as major steps to address Americans’
concerns. But, in the words of a military source cited by Kommersant,
the US “did not appreciate our gesture of goodwill.”
No detail of schedule for the reopening the facility, which currently
hosts a branch of Cuba’s University of Information Science, was
immediately available. One of the principle news during Putin’s visit to
Havana was Moscow’s writing off of the majority of the old Cuban debt to
Russia. The facility is expected to require fewer personnel than it used
to, because modern surveillance equipment can do many functions now
With the Lourdes facility operational again, Russia would have a much
better signal intelligence capability in the western hemisphere.
“Returning to Lourdes now is more than justified," military expert
Viktor Murakhovsky, a retired colonel, told Kommersant. “The capability
of the Russian military signal intelligence satellite constellation has
significantly downgraded. With an outpost this close to the US will
allow the military to do their job with little consideration for the
space-based SIGINT echelon.”
N. Korean freighter, fresh from stop in Havana, raises suspicion as it
runs aground off Mexican coast
July 15 - A North Korean
freighter has run aground near a port in eastern Mexico, just days after
a stop in Havana that sparked comparisons with another Pyongyang vessel
seized last summer with a large and illegal shipment of Cuban weapons.
The 6,700-ton Mu Du Bong, built in 1983, ran aground Monday on a reef
off the port of Tuxpan in the Gulf of Mexico, according to shipping and
salvage industry officials. There was no immediate information on
whether the freighter docked or planned to dock in Tuxpan.
The ship had sparked suspicions before its mishap because its Caribbean
voyage seemed similar to that of the Chong Chon Gang, seized by Panama
last summer as it prepared to cross the Panama Canal on its way home to
North Korea. An estimated 240 tons of weapons were hidden under hundreds
of thousands of sacks of sugar.
Both freighters sailed in Cuban waters and stopped in Havana, but their
exact locations were mysteries for days because there were no reports
from their location transponders, as required by safety regulations. The
Chong Chon Gang had turned off its transponder to hide its location, a
U.N. investigation later found.
The Mu Du Bong crossed the Panama Canal into the Caribbean June 15. Its
transponder signaled on June 25 that it was near the port of Mariel, and
on June 29-30 that it was in the port of Havana, according to an article
in Forbes magazine that first reported its voyage.
For the next nine days the freighter’s transponder fell silent, Forbes
reported. It started working again July 10, showing the ship was in
Havana and then sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, according to Forbes.
The Miami Herald El
Nuevo Herald Español
Major League Baseball All-Star Game: The Cuban Baseball Invasion
July 15 - What's Behind the
Rise of Stars Like Yasiel Puig, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Abreu
For decades, Cuban baseball stars have existed in something of a
parallel universe. Tales of their exploits tantalized Major League
Baseball teams, but because of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, scouts
rarely saw them. And because many never left the island, most fans never
heard of them.
"Nobody knew the level of talent," said Cuban baseball historian Peter
For anyone who doesn't know by now, Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game in
Minneapolis will serve as a crash course. It will feature five
Cuban-born players, the most in 40 years, and three of them are major
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who will start for the
National League, has been the game's most compelling player since
debuting a little over a year ago. Chicago White Sox rookie first
baseman Jose Abreu leads the majors with 29 home runs. And Cincinnati
Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman possesses one of the game's best arms,
averaging a major-league-high 100.1 mph on his fastball, according to
the statistics site FanGraphs.
Their presence at this year's game, along with Oakland Athletics
outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez,
reflects a burgeoning pipeline—albeit one that still is perilous for
U.S.-bound Cuban players over a half-century since the embargo started.
Twenty-two Cuban-born players have made their debut in the majors since
2010 alone, double the number that did between 2005 and 2009. And teams
are making increasingly bigger bets on players they have barely seen. In
early 2012, the A's signed Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal.
Months later, the Dodgers signed Puig for $42 million over seven years.
Last fall, the White Sox signed Abreu for $68 million over six.
"It's like when the first guys went to California to prospect for gold,
and word got back that there was a lot of gold in California," said
Logan White, the Dodgers' vice president for amateur scouting.
Like many evaluators, White has long viewed Cuba as a largely untapped
reservoir of talent. The success of the Hernandez half-brothers,
Cuban-born pitchers Livan and Orlando, reinforced that belief in the
late 1990s. What has changed since then is teams' ability to assess each
player's potential—sometimes by looking at videos posted on YouTube—and
the number of top players leaving Cuba.
Since the embargo began, most players who have left Cuba to play in the
majors have done so after the prime of their careers. But several
factors have pushed current Cuban stars to leave closer to the height of
their earning power. Among them: a sagging Cuban economy; the snowball
effect of Cuban players succeeding in the majors and earning ever bigger
paychecks; and the development of intricate smuggling networks through
which players leave the island.
To avoid being subject to the MLB draft, which would substantially
reduce their earning potential, Cuban players must first establish
residency in a third country.
"Guys know what to do now," said White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto, who was
born in Havana but grew up in Florida. "There's a protocol. You go to a
third country and get a visa and you're able to sign as a free agent,
whereas before, it was more of an issue."
That protocol comes with high costs and considerable danger.
Joe Kehoskie, a consultant and former agent who represented Cuban
players, said that until the mid-2000s, players would leave in one of
two ways: while competing for Cuba at an international tournament or on
the same boats any other Cuban would use to attempt to reach South
Florida. Then they would hire an agent, who would get a 5% cut of their
Now, Kehoskie said, professional smugglers have aligned with a handful
of U.S.-based agents to target ballplayers before they even decide to
leave. He said some players receive advance payments with the
expectation that if they ever decide to leave, they will do so using the
smuggler-agency alliance that paid them—for fees as high as 35% of their
MLB contract. "The lines between agents and smugglers have been blurred
almost to the point where they're nonexistent," Kehoskie said.
A spokesman for the players' union, which certifies agents, said it is
"very concerned over the use of illegal activities that threaten the
safety of players and their families."
Players can go around the smugglers by fleeing at international
tournaments. By all accounts, Cuban authorities have become more lax in
their efforts to stop them. But few players choose to do so. "A lot of
guys are scared," Nieto said.
According to an ESPN The Magazine account of his 2012 journey from Cuba
to Mexico, Puig, the Dodgers star, has received death threats over
unpaid debts to smugglers with ties to a Mexican drug cartel. Puig
declined to comment. In a separate matter, three people were indicted in
Miami in December on federal charges of conspiring to smuggle, kidnap
and extort Texas Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin during his 2010
journey from Cuba to the U.S. via Mexico. That case is scheduled to go
to trial next year.
"It's an ugly business," Bjarkman said. "It's involving MLB in, if not
sanctioning, then at least looking the other way on human trafficking."
An MLB spokesman said the league is "extremely concerned" about the
trafficking of Cuban players and is discussing ways to combat the issue
with the players' union and the U.S. State Department.
Meanwhile, baseball continues to reap the benefits of Cuban players who
have already arrived. Unlike prospects from other Latin American
countries that sign as teenage amateurs and require seasoning in the
minor leagues, Cespedes and Abreu both signed at age 26, after several
years in the Cuban National Series, Cuba's main league, and went
straight to the majors.
"These are guys who have played professional baseball for a long time,"
said Athletics assistant general manager David Forst. "They're smart and
Many also play with an exuberance that reflects both where they are from
and, according to Nieto, how they got here.
"Imagine you've done the hardest part, which is risk your life," he
said. "Once you get here, everything else is a bonus."
The Wall Street Journal
More than 100 Ladies in White arrested by Castro's Gestapo
July 14 - Cuban authorities
arrested an unusually large group of about 100 dissident marchers on
Sunday, breaking up a march by the Ladies in White opposition activists.
Shouting "Freedom! Freedom!," the women offered no resistance as they
were put on buses by dozens of police and plainclothes agents of the
only communist-ruled country in the Americas.
A group of about 100 government supporters, who arrived along with the
authorities at the scene in Havana's Miramar district, angrily shouted
"Viva Fidel, Viva Raul" as the women were whisked away.
The women's group, formed in 2003 by wives and relatives of political
prisoners, marches with the government's permission every Sunday in the
Cuban capital after hearing mass at Santa Rita parish church.
Since theirs is the only group that has government permission for a
regular protest, arrests are few and infrequent.
But on Sunday, dozens of police moved in and surrounded the large crowd
of marchers two blocks from the church after they headed toward the sea
instead of along their usual route on Miramar's Quinta Avenida.
"The Ladies in White are growing and increasing their base in society...
and this is really dangerous for (the government's) legitimacy. That's
why they are cracking down so hard," said dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua.
Award-winning fellow dissident Guillermo Farinas agreed.
"I think the Cuban government is pulling out all the stops to keep the
Ladies in White from growing. That explains so many arrests on Sunday,"
added Farinas, the 2010 European Parliament's Sakharov Prize winner.
The Ladies in White won the prize in 2005.
Sunday's march coincided with the 20th anniversary of an incident in
which 37 people, including 10 children, drowned trying to flee the
communist-ruled island in a tugboat.
The tugboat sank after being intercepted by four Cuban vessels, which
survivors said doused the boat with a water cannon and rammed it.
Cuban agents of insidious, ‘psychological’ intimidation
July 14 - A man who threw a
party for a friend in a punk-rock band that has been critical of Fidel
Castro says that he has been the target of a ‘psychological’ campaign of
Oscar Casanella, a 35-year old cancer researcher in Havana, says he just
wanted to have a party for Ciro Díaz, a close friend who plays in a
Problem is, Díaz is lead guitarist for Porno Para Ricardo, a band whose
expletive-filled lyrics include attacks on Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel
Castro: “The Comandante wants me to applaud after he’s spoken his
So Casanella’s party turned into an example of how Cuba’s communist
system tries to grind down the citizens it finds objectionable, starting
out with low-level threats and ratcheting up the pressure if the targets
refuse to change their behavior.
Cuban police and State Security agents can beat dissidents, arrest them
for brief periods to harass or intimidate them, search their homes,
seize their phones and computers, listen in on their conversations, and
throw them out of school.
“But they also have psychological pressures, like anonymous phone calls
in the middle of the night, a car that comes too close, an agent who
stands there just to make sure you know he’s watching you,” dissident
Guillermo Fariñas told a Miami audience last year.
Casanella said Díaz, a friend since high school, called him at the end
of a trip to Europe to say that he was returning to Havana on Dec. 6,
2013, a Friday. Casanella promised him a welcome-back party at his own
home that Saturday.
“That’s where the Kafka-esque machinery started,” wrote Lilian Ruiz, who
first reported the case July 4 on Cubanet, a Miami-based portal for news
On the Thursday before the party, four elderly men and women he did not
know approached him as he left his home in the Plaza neighborhood of
Havana and threatened him, Casanella told el Nuevo Herald on Thursday.
“They said, ‘You cannot have any activities or parties these days,’ that
other people could harm me, and they also could harm me,” he said. He
asked what right they had to threaten him, but they refused to identify
themselves and walked away.
Casanella said he presumed the four knew about the party from State
Security monitors of Diaz’s telephone calls or perhaps his own. He has
attended meetings of the dissident group Estado de SATS but said he does
not consider himself to be a dissident.
He phoned police the same night to report the incident but got nowhere,
he said. When he went to his nearest police station Saturday, officers
refused to write down his complaint. But they called in one of the men
who had threatened him “and in front of me told him to stop and treated
him like a little child.”
Neighbors later told him the four were former officials of his
neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a
pro-government watchdog organization, who were operating as a sort of
auxiliary to State Security, said Casanella.
He walked out of the police station thinking the harassment would stop.
But as he arrived home, two men in civilian clothes identified
themselves as State Security agents and asked to talk to him inside the
house — but refused to show any IDs.
“They looked more like delinquents than officers, and I said no,”
Casanella said. The men then turned up the threats. “They said they
could mess up my life, mess up my family, put me in jail, that I could
think whatever I wanted, but not say it.”
The party nevertheless went on that Saturday, the researcher said, with
about 50 people dancing and drinking plus four men in civilian clothes
watching the front and back of the house and a neighbor writing down the
license plates of all the cars parked outside.
The pressure went up another notch Monday when Casanella returned to
work at the National Oncology and Radiology Institute, where he’s
studying for his doctorate. Supervisor Pedro Fernández Cabezas warned
him that he could lose his job. His work environment “turned hostile,”
and he was left out of a new project. Continue reading
The Miami Herald
who provides credit to the Castro brothers, loses his shirt
July 12 - Russia has written
off $32 billion of Cuba's outstanding debt, which represents the main
bulk of the funds the Caribbean republic obtained from the Soviet Union
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the debt write-off Friday, the
Kremlin said in a statement, after the country's parliament approved the
The move comes as Mr. Putin arrived in Havana to meet with Cuba's top
officials as part of his tour of Latin America. He is also set to meet
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brazil this weekend.
Russia's generosity appears to follow strategic rather than commercial
interests, says Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba expert at the University of
Miami. Mr. Putin, he said, was interested in obtaining a berth for
Russia's fleet at the port of Mariel which opened earlier this year on
the island's north coast.
"Russia also wants to put a space tracking station in Cuba, which can
double as an electronics listening facility aimed at the U.S.," Mr.
The port, financed by Brazil, is seen by Havana as crucial to its
economic future, as it seeks to accommodate the larger ships expected to
pass through an expanded Panama Canal. The sleepy town of Mariel was the
site of the 1980 exodus that saw 125,000 Cubans leave the island for the
In forgiving the debt, Russia follows Mexico, which last year agreed to
forgive $478 million of Cuban debt.
At the time, a top Mexican official said that while there was no chance
Cuba could repay its debt, Mexico was interested in reviving moribund
trade ties with the island in a bid to counterbalance growing Brazilian
influence in Cuba, which lies astride the Gulf of Mexico, and is close
to Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.
The debt forgiveness is the latest step in a Cuban-Russian
rapprochement. For decades, Cuba depended on the former Soviet Union,
which provided billions of dollars in aid, mainly in the form of
subsidized oil exchanged in payment for high-price Cuban sugar. After
the U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1991, the Cuban economy plunged, with the
island's gross domestic product contracting by at least 35%.
As Soviet subsidies disappeared, Cuba entered a "special period" of
scarcity and hardship, which forced then-President Fidel Castro to
grudgingly allow the use of U.S. dollars on the island as Havana
scrambled to survive.
Since 1999, Cuba has largely depended on Venezuela, which sends nearly
100,000 barrels of subsidized oil products daily and grants other
economic benefits worth at least $6 billion.
In exchange, Cuba has sent tens of thousands of doctors, sports
trainers, security advisers and other technicians to Venezuela. The
Communist island also leans heavily on remittances sent from Cuban
émigrés and exiles living abroad.
In recent years, Cuban President Raúl Castro has begun a cautious
overhaul program, which, among other things, has increased the number of
jobs and professions which Cubans are permitted to perform.
The Wall Street Journal
Could Google provide Internet access in
July 11 - Eric Schmidt and
other Google executives traveled to Cuba where they met with members of
the Internet community and the government. Google is providing Internet
access in a few US Cities and is considering others -- might they
provide Internet access in Cuba?
Consider the following:
•Cuba has very little domestic backbone infrastructure, but they could
afford to extend Internet connectivity via satellite.
•Google has satellite projects that could serve Cuba.
Of course, both governments would have to agree for Google or any other
satellite ISP to connect Cubans. I believe that, if the Cuban government
would agree, the US would as well.
But, the Cuban government has feared the Internet since the time of
their first IP connectivity in 1996. At that time, there was high level
debate about the Internet. The hard liners, led by Raúl Castro, argued
against the Internet while others argued for a "Chinese" approach of
supporting Internet use while censoring content and surveilling users.
(It seems Fidel Castro was ambivalent).
The hard liners won in 1996, but what about today? Schmidt reports that
a "number of the people" he spoke with said "the eventual model of Cuba
would be more like China or Vietnam than of Venezuela or Mexico." If
some of those were young government officials, there may be a glimmer of
The Internet in Cuba
Cuban ‘dissident’ says he was really an
July 9 - A Cuban lawyer has
confessed that he was a State Security collaborator for the four years
he spent portraying himself as a dissident and harshly attacking two of
the country’s most active opposition groups.
Ernesto Vera, 34, had been accused of being a collaborator last year but
his confession cast a rare spotlight on how State Security agents
recruit informants and pays them thousands of dollars to discredit
dissidents and generate rivalries among them.
Vera also pointed a finger at five other Cubans who in his view have
been suspiciously critical of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and the
Ladies in White, the largest and most aggressive dissident groups on the
"My mission within State Security was to disparage and discredit UNPACU,
especially its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, and the Ladies in White,”
Vera told El Nuevo Herald by phone Wednesday from his home in the
eastern city of Santiago De Cuba.
But he sat for a 44-minute video taped confession to Ferrer earlier this
month because he was “disgusted with so many lies, the double life and
faking a friendly relationship with people I hated so much.”
The two men shook hands at the end of the video.
State Security began the slow work of recruiting him as “Agent Jorge”
after he was fired as a law professor at a medical school in Santiago,
he said. Until then, he had only been on the periphery of dissident
People who identified themselves as dissidents arranged to meet him in
public places. But they were State Security agents and their meetings
were videotaped — recordings then used to blackmail him into becoming an
informant in 2010, Vera said. They also threatened to kill his mother
and make it look like an accident unless he cooperated.
“I am ashamed to say I was a coward,” he told the Herald, confirming
that he had recorded the talk with Ferrer and written a three-page
confession dated July 5 and published Tuesday by UNPACU.
“All of my attacks on José Daniel Ferrer and the Ladies in White were
ordered by State Security,” he said. They were part of a one-two punch,
“to discredit the dissidents and lessen the impact of the repression
when it came.”
The lawyer said he falsely accused Ferrer of stealing money sent by
supporters abroad and abusing his wife. He and another infiltrator also
sparked the biggest schism within the Ladies in White, causing about 30
members in Santiago to break with the main group.
Vera said he wrote the attacks with information and photos provided by
State Security Col. Ernesto Samper. He was paid several thousand dollars
over four years so that he could send his columns abroad by the
Internet, which costs $6-$10 per hour in Cuba.
Samper also gave him specific instructions to send his columns attacking
UNPACU and the Ladies in White to Miami exile Aldo Rosado Tuero,
administrator of the anti-Castro blog Nueva Accion, and assured him that
Rosado would publish them.
Rosado, a steadfast critic of Ferrer and long-time radical opponent of
the Castro government, said Wednesday that he was not a Cuban agent and
accused Ferrer and Vera of joining forces with State Security to attack
Vera’s confession was not a surprise because Ferrer had unmasked him in
October with hard evidence. State Security is known to target almost
every dissident group on the island nation for infiltration, and has
even reportedly started a few.
One knowledgeable Miami exile said he was concerned with Vera’s
identification of other agents of State Security, also known as G2. “The
guy who says he was G2 now can say someone else is G2 and create a lot
of problems,” said the author. He asked to remain anonymous because of
the sensitivity of the topic. Read more
The Miami Herald
Sen. Robert Menendez seeks probe of alleged
Cuban plot to smear him
July 7 - Sen. Robert Menendez
is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S.
investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to
smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes,
according to people familiar with the discussions.
In a letter sent to Justice Department officials, the senator’s attorney
asserts that the plot was timed to derail the political rise of Menendez
(D-N.J.), one of Washington’s most ardent critics of the Castro regime.
At the time, Menendez was running for reelection and was preparing to
assume the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations
According to a former U.S. official with firsthand knowledge of
government intelligence, the CIA had obtained credible evidence,
including Internet protocol addresses, linking Cuban agents to the
prostitution claims and to efforts to plant the story in U.S. and Latin
The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report
provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable
to the FBI’s counterintelligence division, according to the former
official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been
briefed on the matter.
The intelligence information indicated that operatives from Cuba’s
Directorate of Intelligence helped create a fake tipster using the name
“Pete Williams,” according to the former official. The tipster told FBI
agents and others he had information about Menendez participating in
poolside sex parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing at the
Dominican Republic home of Salomon Melgen, a wealthy eye doctor, donor
and friend of the senator.
A spokesman for the Cuban
Interests Section in Washington, which functions as the island’s U.S.
diplomatic outpost, did not respond to requests for comment.
The allegations against Menendez erupted in public in November 2012,
when the Daily Caller, a conservative Web site, quoted two Dominican
women claiming Menendez had paid them for sex.
The FBI investigated the prostitution claims but was unable to
corroborate them. Last year, three Dominican women who had initially
claimed to reporters that they had been paid to have sex with Menendez
recanted their story.
Investigators in the Justice Department’s public-integrity division
continue to probe whether Menendez used his position to benefit Melgen’s
business interests, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.
The April letter from Menendez’s attorney to the Justice Department has
not been made public. The attorney, Stephen M. Ryan, confirmed that he
sent the letter but declined to comment on its contents.
“It is deeply disturbing that a foreign government whose intelligence
service is an enemy of the United States might try to influence U.S.
foreign policy by discrediting an elected official who is an opponent of
the Cuban regime,” Ryan said.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment. Spokesmen for the Justice
Department and FBI declined to comment on whether their offices were
made aware of the intelligence information or whether they took any
actions as a result.
There was no indication that the information gathered by U.S.
intelligence officials alleging Cuba’s role in the Menendez case had
been fully investigated or proved. Continue reading
The Washington Post
stalled, Cuba resists speedier path to free enterprise
July 7 - Raul Castro told
parliament on Saturday the communist country's market-oriented reforms
must remain gradual, a clear signal he would resist calls to accelerate
change in order to address an underperforming economy.
He also praised Cubans for "defeating imperialism" by resisting U.S.
aggression ever since the 1959 Cuban revolution.
Since taking over for his ailing older brother Fidel in 2008, Raul
Castro, 83, has enacted widespread reforms such as turning state
enterprises into private cooperatives, freeing Cubans to work in small
private businesses, and reducing the role of the state in everyday life.
The reforms have raised expectations for improvements in the economy
while also generating debate within the ruling Communist Party about how
much more free enterprise should be allowed.
Castro said the pace of reforms would remain deliberate.
"The gradual nature of a series of activities that we are approving is
indispensable," Castro told 548 members of the National Assembly in its
one-day, semiannual meeting.
The reforms have created a new class of wealthy Cubans, but a large
majority still lives on $20 a month and overall Cuban productivity has
stagnated. Low salaries remain a chronic complaint, even with free
education, healthcare and a ration card good for a small amount of basic
Castro blamed the 52-year-old U.S. economic embargo of Cuba for much of
the country's economic difficulty, saying the Cuban people deserved a
medal for resisting U.S. hostility.
"We have had success. We have had success in which our people have
played a fundamental role. ... They have resisted and they are defeating
imperialism," Castro said.
The man charged with implementing the reforms, Marino Murillo, told the
assembly more salary increases would be tied to productivity and that
more state enterprises would be turned into private cooperatives in
order to improve efficiency.
For example in the food products and services sector, the government had
authorized 498 cooperatives, of which 249 were functioning, said
Murillo, a member of the elite Poltiburo.
Cuba has also now authorized 467,000 people to work in the private
sector, making them eligible to work in nearly 13,000 businesses, mostly
restaurants, Murillo said.
The assembly meets more to hear updates on the economy and government
activities rather than to approve laws. Special sessions are sometimes
called to pass major legislation, as with a foreign investment law
approved in March.
The Cuban economy grew just 0.6 percent in the first half, forcing the
government to revise down its full-year projection to 1.4 percent from a
target of 2.2 percent established in December, Economy Minister Adel
Yzquierdo told the assembly.
Boots 2 Pitchers After Defection Bids
July 7 - Villa Clara pitchers
Diosdani Castillo and Yasmany Hernandez Romero have been indefinitely
kicked off their club after they recently attempted to defect, according
to Cuban official media.
The Vanguardia newspaper of Villa Clara province said Castillo and
Hernandez tried to leave the island about two weeks ago.
"They will no longer wear the orange jersey following a grave
indiscipline," Vanguardia reported over the weekend.
Villa Clara is the reigning champion of the Cuban baseball league, and
orange is its signature color.
Sports officials announced in late June that Castillo, Hernandez and
several players from other clubs would be left off a national squad that
is set to face a team of U.S. collegians later this month.
All were said to have made "illegal exit attempts." At least one of the
players named, Yasmani Tomas of the Havana team Industriales, was
Cuban ballplayers who leave often hope to compete in the United States,
where potential multimillion-dollar contracts beckon.
Cuba recently began letting some players still in their prime sign
temporary contracts in other leagues such as Japan.
The risk of doing business in a lawless country: Company Defends
Canadian Exec in Cuba Graft Case
July 2 - The company and
family of a Canadian business executive awaiting a court ruling in Cuba
defended him against accusations of graft, arguing that what were in
fact "legitimate commercial transactions" were wrongly characterized as
corrupt at trial.
A two-page statement sent to The Associated Press by the Tokmakjian
Group also complained that company president Cy Tokmakjian's trial,
which ended June 21, was unfairly stacked against him.
It said he was held without charge for two years while the results of
the investigation were kept secret, and then given just two months to
present a defense. Meanwhile 14 of 18 proposed defense witnesses,
including international tax experts, were rejected by the court without
"We are concerned that the outcome of the trial is predetermined given
the reluctance by the Cuban authorities to rectify gross procedural
mistakes," the statement said.
Prosecutors are seeking 15 years for Tokmakjian and 8 to 20 for more
than a dozen others named as defendants. They include two more Canadians
as well as Cuban employees of the company, government officials and
workers at state-run businesses.
On Monday, Communist Party newspaper Granma said Tokmakjian was accused
of corruption to obtain benefits in contract negotiations, unauthorized
financial transactions, illegally taking large amounts of money out of
the country, falsifying documents to avoid taxes and payroll
irregularities. A ruling is expected soon.
Tokmakjian is among a number of foreigners and dozens of Cubans arrested
in 2011 as part of a high-profile crackdown on graft that targeted
multiple businesses operating in the country.
Another Canadian, Sarkis Yacoubian of Tri-Star Caribbean, was sentenced
to nine years in 2013 but freed earlier this year and allowed to return
Saro Khatchadourian, a spokesman for Canada's Minister of State for
Foreign Affairs and Consular, said Ottawa is monitoring its citizens'
legal cases in Cuba and providing them with consular services, but
declined to comment further. Canada's ambassador to Havana attended
Cuban officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment
The statement from the Tokmakjian Group, an international transportation
company based in Concord, Ontario, questioned why an individual was
being held liable for a corporate tax issue, and said any claims were
purely commercial and should have been handled in arbitration rather
than a criminal court.
"A simple and objective reading of recent court decisions will lead to
the conclusion that what is shown as 'corruption' is internationally
accepted business practices," it said. "Commercial activities such as
discounting bills of exchange or providing supplier credit appear as
'evidences of corruption.' Earning profits out of a commercial activity
is considered a 'crime against (the) economic interests of Cuba.'"
Tokmakjian's trial came to a close within days of a new law taking
effect that Cuba hopes will lure much-needed foreign investment.
Officials say it safeguards commercial and personal property rights.
Though Cuban authorities made no details publicly available while the
trial was ongoing, its outcome is sure to be scrutinized by the foreign
business community and likely by potential investors.
"Although no one will (dispute) the legitimacy of Cuba to combat
corruption," the Tokmakjian Group statement said, "this fight against
corruption has been used as an excuse to deprive companies operating in
Cuba of their rights and assets with no compensation."
Expert Says Emails Used to Accuse Maduro Opponents of Assassination Plot
July 1 - A cybersecurity
forensics expert said Monday the emails used by the Venezuelan
government to accuse political opponents and U.S. diplomats of
conspiring to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro last month are fake.
The expert was hired by one of the Venezuelan opposition figures accused
by the government, in an effort to clear his name.
The assassination-plot accusation was first made last month by top
Venezuelan officials and broadcast on all the country's television
stations. Based on a handful of emails, the government accused leading
opponents of the government, including former Venezuelan congresswoman
Maria Corina Machado and newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Colombia
Kevin Whitaker, of plotting to murder Mr. Maduro.
At the time, all of the alleged conspirators, including Ms. Machado and
Mr. Whitaker, denied the Venezuelan charges.
According to Angela Cervetti, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State
Department, "these are false accusations in a long line of baseless
allegations against U.S. diplomats by the Venezuelan government."
"Repeatedly and falsely accusing members of the international diplomatic
community will not solve Venezuela's internal problems, nor will it
create the environment necessary for Venezuela to engage its citizens in
a meaningful and genuine dialogue," Ms. Cervetti added.
Last week, Google GOOGL +1.17% released the data on the alleged plot
emails after Pedro Burelli, a former director of Venezuela's state oil
company who lives in Washington, D.C.,went to court to obtain the email
information to clear his name, Mr. Burelli said.
On Monday, Winston Krone, a cybersecurity forensics expert retained by
Mr. Burelli said Google had no record of three of the emails the
Venezuelan government said were written by Mr. Burelli, while it
appeared the government had falsified a fourth, adding words Mr. Burelli
didn't write to an email he did write two years earlier.
"All of the objective, verified evidence is consistent with the
falsification of the emails related to Pedro Burelli in the Venezuelan
government report," wrote Mr. Krone, managing director of San
Francisco-based Kivu Consulting.
"They fabricated all four of the emails they have attributed to me,"
said Mr. Burelli. "I bet anything that's the case with all the other
emails on which they have based this farcical ploy."
A spokesman at Venezuela's Attorney General's office declined to comment
on Mr. Krone's findings.
On Sunday, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega said the alleged
conspiracy was part of a continuing plot to "destabilize" Venezuela
where more than 43 people have died in months of unrest as the
government, human-rights groups say, has violently repressed
demonstrators who took to the streets to protest soaring inflation,
surging crime, and widespread shortages of basic foods.
Most analysts have dismissed the government's assassination-plot claims
as an attempt to divert attention from its growing problems. In recent
days, the embattled Mr. Maduro has also had to face a nationwide
electricity blackout and a widening rift with his party's left wing,
which is disappointed with his leadership.
The Wall Street Journal
Raúl Castro Motors sells 50 cars--yes, 50--in the first 6 months of the
July 1 - Cuban dealers sold
50 cars and four motorcycles nationwide in the first six months of the
year under a new law that removed limits on auto purchases for the first
time in half a century but came with prices so high few people could
Long-frustrated Cubans welcomed the law that took effect in January
until they saw sticker prices were marked up 400 percent or more,
pricing family sedans like European sports cars.
Cuba has said it would invest 75 percent of the proceeds from new car
sales in its woeful public transportation system.
But total sales at the country's 11 national dealerships reached just
$1.28 million in the first six months of the year, the official website
cubadebate.com reported on Monday, citing Iset Vazquez, vice president
of the state enterprise Corporacion CIMEX.
Before the start of this year Cubans had to request authorization from
the government to buy from state retailers, which sell new and
second-hand vehicles, usually former rental cars.
Most of the sales this year appeared to be of the second-hand variety
considering the average sale price of $23,759 per vehicle, including the
A Havana Peugeot dealership was pricing its 2013 model 206 at $91,000
when the new rules came into effect, and it wanted $262,000 for the
Such prices drew howls of protest from the few Cubans who could even
consider buying a car. Most state workers make around $20 a month.
The high prices have also been a complaint of foreign businesses and
potential investors, who need government permission to import a new or
used car without the huge markup.
Cuba only gradually is loosening the auto market. In 2011, it started
allowing its people to buy and sell used cars from each other. Before
then, only cars that were in Cuba before the 1959 revolution could be
freely bought and sold, which is why there are so many U.S.-made,
vintage 1950s cars on the streets.
Giant Chevys and Buicks rumble alongside little Soviet-made Ladas,
another popular brand dating from the era before 1991 when Moscow was
the communist island's main benefactor.
15-year sentence for Canadian businessman
July 1 - Prosecutors are
seeking 15 years in prison for a Canadian businessman who was arrested
in a high-profile crackdown on corruption, Cuban authorities said
The trial of Cy Tokmakjian, president of an automotive and
transportation company, the Tokmakjian Group, concluded June 12 and a
ruling is to be announced "in the coming days," according to an
announcement published by Communist Party newspaper Granma and other
The case is being watched closely by the foreign business community in
Cuba. President Raul Castro's government has said there is no place for
graft in the country, although foreign executives say gifts or cash
payments are often demanded in business dealings conducted with low-paid
Tokmakjian is accused of using corrupt practices to obtain benefits in
business negotiations, carrying out unauthorized financial transactions,
illegally expatriating large sums of money, altering records to avoid
tax obligations and payroll irregularities.
Monday's announcement named for the first time two other Canadian
citizens among the accused, identifying them as Marco Vinicio Puche
Rodriguez and Claudio Franco Vetere. Both could face 12-year sentences.
Also named were more than a dozen Cubans — Tokmakjian Group employees,
government officials and executives at state-run businesses in the
tourism and nickel sectors.
Prosecutors are seeking the toughest prison sentence, 20 years, for
Nelson Ricardo Labrada Fernandez, a former vice-minister of the
now-defunct Sugar Ministry.
The other defendants face possible terms of 8 to 12 years.
The court was also asked to order more than $91 million in compensation
for "economic damage they caused to various Cuban entities and the Tax
Administration," to be paid for in part by money and assets seized
during the investigation.
A number of foreigners from several companies were swept up in the 2011
crackdown. Another Canadian, Sarkis Yacoubian of Tri-Star Caribbean, was
released earlier this year and returned home after serving 2 1/2 years
of a nine-year sentence in Cuba.
The Ontario-based Tokmakjian Group did an estimated $80 million in
business annually with Cuba, mainly selling transportation, mining and
construction equipment. It was the exclusive Cuba distributor of
Hyundai, among other brands, and a partner in two joint ventures
replacing the motors of Soviet-era transportation equipment.
Google executives visit Cuba for first time to promote open Internet
June 30 - A team of top
Google executives is visiting Cuba to promote open Internet access,
according to a dissident blogger who says she met the group in Havana.
The team, led by Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, met with Cuban
officials as well as independent people in the technology and digital
field, according to a report on the independent news website
14ymedio.com, which was started last month by blogger Yoani Sanchez.
Google is on an official two-day visit "to promote the virtues of a free
and open Internet," the report said.
Schmidt appeared to confirm the report when he retweeted a message on
Twitter posted by Sanchez about the visit.
Neither Google nor the Cuban government made any official statement
about the executives' presence in Cuba.
Cuba does not allow open Internet access. Only 2.6 million out of a
population of 11.2 million have Internet access, almost entirely limited
to government-run centers, foreign companies and tourist hotels. Most of
those who do have access are only been able to explore a limited,
state-controlled basket of approved websites.
Schmidt, who was Google's chief executive from 2001 to 2011, is becoming
more visible on issues involving technology and world affairs. His
mandate as executive chairman involves government outreach, thought
leadership and building partnerships and business relationships,
according to the company.
Schmidt was accompanied by Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, as
well as two other staff, Sanchez said.
Google Ideas describes itself as a "a think/do tank that explores how
technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of
conflict, instability or repression," according to its website.
Schmidt and Cohen are the coauthors of The New Digital Age, published
last year, and have a track record of speaking with leaders of countries
that restrict free speech to advocate for a free and open Internet.
Schmidt was the first high-profile tech executive to visit Myanmar last
year in the wake of reforms that prompted Western nations to ease
sanctions following decades of military dictatorship.
The Google delegation in Havana met with students and was given a tour
of Havana's University of Information Sciences on Saturday, according to
Sanchez started 14ymedio, Cuba's first independent online newspaper in
May, although the site has been repeatedly blocked in Cuba.
The Cuban government sought to discredit Sanchez as a paid propagandist
doing the bidding of the U.S. government.
El Pais (Spanish)
before vacationing in a totalitarian country: "Honeymoon in a Cuban
June 17 - A
Cuban hotel, run by Raul Castro's military, charged a British couple
4,000 euros ($5,440) to replace a TV set in their room, that was
allegedly damaged. They were not allowed to go back to their room to
verify that the TV was not working.
The cost was 10 times the
price of the TV.
They were told that the hotel
was run by the military and if they didn't pay they'll go to prison.
Read their story in the
An eyewitness account of Cuba’s shocking wretchedness
June 6 - Neill
Blomkamp’s 2013 science-fiction film Elysium, starring Matt Damon and
Jodie Foster, takes place in Los Angeles, circa 2154. The wealthy have
moved into an orbiting luxury satellite — the Elysium of the title —
while the wretched majority of humans remain in squalor on Earth. The
film works passably as an allegory for its director’s native South
Africa, where racial apartheid was enforced for nearly 50 years, but
it’s a rather cartoonish vision of the American future. Some critics
panned the film for pushing a socialist message. Elysium’s dystopian
world, however, is a near-perfect metaphor for an actually existing
socialist nation just 90 miles from Florida.
I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba — not because I’m nostalgic for a
botched utopian fantasy, but because I wanted to experience Communism
firsthand. When I finally got my chance several months ago, I was
startled to discover how much the Cuban reality lines up with Blomkamp’s
dystopia. In Cuba, as in Elysium, a small group of economic and
political elites live in a rarefied world high above the impoverished
masses. Many tourists return home convinced that the Cuban model
succeeds where the Soviet model failed. But that’s because they never
left Cuba’s Elysium.
I had to lie to get into the country. Customs and immigration officials
at Havana’s tiny, dreary José Martí International Airport would have
evicted me had they known I was a journalist. But not even a
total-surveillance police state can keep track of everything and
everyone all the time, so I slipped through. It felt like a victory.
Havana, the capital, is clean and safe, but there’s nothing to buy. It
feels less natural and organic than any city I’ve ever visited.
Initially, I found Havana pleasant, partly because I wasn’t supposed to
be there and partly because I felt as though I had journeyed backward in
time. But the city wasn’t pleasant for long, and it certainly isn’t
pleasant for the people living there. It hasn’t been so for decades.
Outside its small tourist sector, the rest of the city looks as though
it suffered a catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Katrina or the
Indonesian tsunami. Roofs have collapsed. Walls are splitting apart.
Window glass is missing. Paint has long vanished. It’s eerily dark at
night, almost entirely free of automobile traffic. I walked for miles
through an enormous swath of destruction without seeing a single
tourist. Most foreigners don’t know that this other Havana exists,
though it makes up most of the city — tourist buses avoid it, as do
taxis arriving from the airport. It is filled with people struggling to
eke out a life in the ruins. Continue reading
Castro: How Fidel lived the life of luxury in Cuba, complete with his
own private island
May 21 - Presione aquí
para leerlo en Español:
Fidel Castro lived like a
king with his own private yacht, a luxury Caribbean island getaway
complete with dolphins and a turtle farm, and travelled with two
personal blood donors, a new book claims.
In La Vie Cachée de Fidel Castro (Fidel Castro's Hidden Life), former
bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, a member of Castro's elite inner
circle, says the Cuban leader ran the country as his personal fiefdom
like a cross between a medieval overlord and Louis XV.
Sánchez, who was part of Castro's praetorian guard for 17 years,
describes a charismatic and intelligent but manipulative, cold-blooded,
egocentric Castro prone to foot-stamping temper tantrums. He claims the
vast majority of Cubans were unaware their leader enjoyed a lifestyle
beyond the dreams of many Cubans and at odds with the sacrifices he
demanded of them.
"Contrary to what he has always said, Fidel has never renounced
capitalist comforts or chosen to live in austerity. Au contraire, his
mode de vie is that of a capitalist without any kind of limit," he
writes. "He has never considered that he is obliged by his speech to
follow the austere lifestyle of a good revolutionary."
Sánchez claims he suffered Castro's ruthlessness first hand when he fell
out of favour, was branded a traitor, "thrown in jail like a dog",
tortured and left in a cockroach infested cell, after asking to retire.
Released from prison, Sánchez followed the well-worn route of Cuban
exiles to America in 2008. "Until the turn in the 1990s I'd never asked
too many questions about the workings of the system … that's the problem
with military people … as a good soldier, I did my job and my best and
that was enough to make me happy," he writes.
The book, published on Wednesday, has been written with French
journalist Axel Gyldén, a senior reporter at L'Express magazine. Gyldén
admits Sánchez has a large axe to grind with Castro, but insists he has
checked the Cuban's story.
"This is the first time someone from Castro's intimate circle, someone
who was part of the system and a first-hand witness to these events, has
spoken. It changes the image we have of Fidel Castro and not just how
his lifestyle contradicts his words, but of Castro's psychology and
motivations," Gyldén told the Guardian.
This is not the first time it has been claimed that Castro enjoys great
wealth. In 2006 Forbes magazine listed the Cuban leader in its top 10
richest "Kings, Queens and Dictators", citing unnamed officials who
claimed Castro had amassed a fortune by skimming profits from a network
of state-owned companies. The Cuban leader vehemently denied the report.
Castro's long reign ended in 2006 when he was stricken with what was
believed to be diverticulitis, an intestinal ailment, and handed power
to his younger brother Raúl, who had served as defence minister. He
officially ceded power to Raúl in 2008.
Fidel continued penning columns for the Communist party newspaper Granma
but gradually vanished from public view, fuelling rumours he had died,
only to surface for occasional, fleeting appearances. Raul has made
cautious economic reforms but kept tight control.
Visitors such as Ignacio Ramonet, the French journalist who has
interviewed Castro at length, have depicted an austere lifestyle of
reading, exercise, simple meals and modest home comforts.
But Sánchez, now 65 and living in America, claims Castro enjoyed a
private island – Cayo Piedra, south of the Bay of Pigs, scene of the
failed CIA-sponsored invasion of 1961 – describing it as a "garden of
Eden" where he entertained selected guests including the writer Gabríel
Garcia Márquez, and enjoyed spear-fishing.
The former bodyguard says Castro sailed to the island on his luxury
yacht, the Aquarama II, fitted out with rare Angolan wood and powered by
four motors sent by the Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev. Continue
This is the kind of 'dialogue' that Venezuelans can expect from the
Citizens protesting against the regime on March 28 in Havana's famous
that brainwashing doesn't work?
Dec. 7 - Elian González after
14 years of brainwashing: "Fidel Castro for me is like a father. I
don't profess to have any religion but if I did my god would be Fidel
Castro. He is like a ship that knew to take his crew on the right path"
Ladies in White protest in Havana and stopped from marching in Holguín
Dec. 3 - Video of a protest
by the Ladies in White on Sunday December 1 at Parque Gandhi in Havana
and an attempt to march in Holguin, but were stopped by Castro's police
is brutally attacked by Castro's police for expressing her opinions
Nov. 4 - Anonymous Venezuela
has a warning: This is the future of Venezuela unless they get rid of
Maduro and the other puppets under the control of the Castro brothers.
Sáncez's presentation at Google Ideas Summit
October 26 - Yoani Sánchez
explains how Internet without Internet is used by Cubans inside the
Learn how you can help
promote Internet without Internet in Cuba:
The Real Cuba
Also on Twitter:
@WebPaqsforCuba On Facebook:
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Learn about a new
technology that allows Cubans in Cuba have access to websites banned by
the Castro regime and how you can help:
The Real Cuba
Also on Twitter:
@WebPaqsforCuba On Facebook:
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
another act of repudiation against members of UNPACU
Oct. 9 - This took place in
Cardenas on Sunday October 6, 2013
to see the video
Cuban authorities are worried about web paqs circulating inside Cuba
Sept. 13 - Tweet from Yoani
"Authorities worried because
of "packages" or "combos" with a collection of audiovisuals in the black
As I have said before,
projects like Web Paqs for Cuba are the best way to bypass the
blockade at the Internet, put in place by the Castro dictatorship to
prevent Cubans in the island from knowing what's happening inside Cuba
and in the rest of the world.
You can learn more about Web
Paqs for Cuba and how you can get involved in this project at
La Singularidad Cuba (Español)
The Real Cuba
(English) Twitter and
at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, Luyanó, Havana, Cuba
July 8 - Video taken in April
of this year at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, one of the hospitals for
Cubans who do not have hard currency to pay the Castro brothers.
Very different from the
hospital where they took Micahel Moore and the hospitals that are used
by foreigners who pay with dollars.
Click here to see the video
video shows Bahamian guards brutally abusing Cuban rafters
June 15 - June 15 - This
clandestine video taking inside a Bahamian jail, shows a guard kicking
and insulting Cuban rafters who were trying to reach the United States
and ended up in the Bahamas.
There should be a tourism boycott of the Bahamas, unless the Bahamian
government orders the arrest and prosecution of this brutal thug and
stops abusing Cuban rafters who are risking their lives in search for
Click here to see the video
Yoani Sánchez about the Web Paqs for Cuba project
about Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Visit our page about
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
You can also visit us on
Facebook to find all information about the Internet Web Paqs for Cuba, a
project to help the Cuban people have access to the websites that are
blocked by the Cuban regime.
Make sure to click on 'Like"
as a sign of support
Paquetes Web Para Cuba
daily ABC has an article about the false myth of Cuba's healthcare
Foto de la
versión impresa del reportaje en ABC
March 17 - On Thursday of
last week, Carmen Muñoz a columnist for Spanish daily ABC, called me to
ask for permission to use the photos at therealcuba.com for an article
about the false myth of Cuba's healthcare.
I was able to send her many
of the photos on high resolution to use on the print edition of the
The article was published on
Sunday on ABC and is also on their web page at
Cuban blogger Orlando Luis Pardo about Paquetes Web Para Cuba
Our new page:
Fidel Castro, the
World's oldest terrorist
My interview with
March 29 - I was interviewed by Ed Kasputis, of Baseball PhD, about
baseball in Cuba before Castro and about the two Cubas, the one for
foreigners and the one for regular Cubans.
Ed did a previous program with Mr. Sports Travel of San Diego, CA, about
the five top international baseball destinations and was surprised to
find out that the #1 destination was Cuba.
He received some nice pictures of Cuba and was ready to book a trip when
he saw therealcuba.com and changed his mind.
He interviewed me as part of a program about the new Marlins Stadium and
I was able to talk about baseball in Cuba before Castro and then we had
a long chat about what is the reality of life in Cuba under Castro.
The program lasts 53 minutes, if you are not a baseball fan and just
want to hear my interview about Cuba use your mouse to move the dial to
here to listen
Listen to Fidel Castro
For those who think that the Cuban people chose the system imposed by
the Castro brothers, here are some of the things that Fidel Castro said
and promised when he gained power
photos of Cuba's prisons, missile installations, military bases and
A look at
Havana before the Castro brothers destroyed it
We have new photos of
Havana taken in October of last year
Oct. 9 - A friend sent me around two dozen photos of Havana that he took
at the beginning of this month.
Some of them are very sad, because they show how Havana has been
completely destroyed by this gang of human termites.
Some others are hard to believe, including this one of goats having
"lunch" off the dumpsters on a Havana street.
to see them
Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro
Dec. 17 - Cuba Facts is an ongoing series of succinct
fact sheets on various topics, including, but not limited to, political
structure, health, economy, education, nutrition, labor, business,
foreign investment, and demographics, published and updated on a regular
basis by the Cuba Transition Project staff at the University of Miami.
Click here to learn the truth about Cuba's Health, Education,
Personal Consumption and much more in pre-Castro Cuba.
More photos showing how the Castro brothers
have destroyed one of the world's most beautiful cities
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