Thursday, April 25, 2013

Indictment in Ana Montes case (Updated)

When Defense Intelligence Agency official Ana Belen Montes pleaded guilty to spying for Cuba in 2002, she spared the government a trial that could have disclosed details about her spying career.  Good for the government, bad for those curious about her case.

One mystery is closer to being solved: how she was recruited.  A 2004 indictment, unsealed today (AFP), accuses former USAID employee Marta Rita Velazquez of introducing Montes to a Cuban official in New York in 1984 when both were graduate students in Washington.  Along the Malecon has the Justice Department statement.

Other new details on the case came in this article from the Washington Post Magazine, where reporter Jim Popkin succeeded in getting Montes’ sister and former boyfriend to go on the record for the first time.  He also got access to what seems to be the CIA’s post mortem on the case, and to a letter Montes wrote from prison, where she continues to display the defiance that characterized her statement in court.

Popkin also recounts the investigation that led to her capture, led by DIA counterintelligence officer Scott Carmichael.  Carmichael wrote a book about the experience, reviewed here.  Found posted at her desk, Carmichael reported, is this couplet from Henry V:

The king hath note of all that they intend
By interceptions which they dream not of.

Update: Why would Velasquez flee to Sweden?  Because its extradition agreement with the United States does not cover crimes related to espionage, according to a Justice Department spokesman quoted in today’s Washington Post.  The agreement is here.  Also, the Swedish foreign ministry says that she is married to a Swedish diplomat, that her husband "is not guilty of criminal activity," that there has been no U.S. request for extradition, and that such a request would be turned down.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Odds and ends

  • AP: Following the Boston bombings, Cuba issued a statement of condolences that rejects “all acts of terrorism.”  Statement here.

  • With the coming departure of the Songa Mercur rig for Vietnam, University of Texas energy expert Jorge Pinon tells the Sun-Sentinel that Cuba’s deep-water oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico is “for all practical purposes, over.”  Earlier this month, Cuba held a conference on heavy oil and horizontal drilling (where a well is sunk onshore and bends a few kilometers horizontally to reach near-offshore deposits), a sign that there’s a continuing focus on getting more out of deposits that have been producing for decades (Xinhua).

  • In Foreign Policy, American University Professor William Leogrande looks back at years of lobbying by Cuba hard-liners and compares them to those who wielded the “Who lost China?” card in the 1950’s.

  • El Pais has a Havana travel guide.

  • An Australian researcher records Cubans singing songs of their African ancestors and finds the village in Sierra Leone from which their ancestors were taken as slaves.  A remarkable story in the Atlantic.

  • Our friend Mauricio gets on his high horse to slam Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa for citing a 1998 intelligence community report that found that Cuba’s military capability to be “residual” and “defensive.”  The report is discredited, he argues, because it was drafted by Ana Belen Montes, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuba analyst who was later found to be a Cuban agent and is now in prison.  But who’s naïve here?  Mauricio would have us believe that the entire intelligence community, which had access to the same information as Montes, was hoodwinked by her.  And if the report was so slanted, why was it never revised by President Bush and his people in the seven years they were in office since her arrest?

  • Ana Alliegro, the associate of former Rep. David Rivera who vanished last fall when she was due to appear for an FBI interview regarding Rivera’s campaign finance shenanigans, is found by Miami New Times to be running a hair salon in Granada, Nicaragua under a new name, Ana Sola.

  • A reader asks if there’s a way to clean up spelling errors in comments once they are published here.  Sorry, there isn’t. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Everyone wants to be Cuban

Federal proscutors in Miami brought 20 cases of immigration fraud yesterday involving foreign nationals who allegedly posed as Cubans to take advantage of the separate U.S. immigration policies that favor any Cuban national. 

The cases include individuals who were apparently in the business of helping would-be immigrants to obtain fake documents that would show that they are Cuban.  There is so much fraud of this type that the U.S. Attorney’s office has a special effort to fight it, called Operation Havana Gateway.

There were three cases where the individuals claimed that they were born to Cuban parents (see cases 14, 17, and 18), intending to take advantage of a ridiculous Bush Administration policy that allows anyone born to a Cuban parent anywhere in the world to be treated as a Cuban national if they wish to immigrate to the United States.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Bay of Pigs today

On the anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Granma takes note of “the first big defeat of the empire” and runs an interview with pilot Enrique Carreras Rolas, who went on to attain the rank of General.  In El Nuevo Herald, veteran Julio González-Rebull recalls his comrades in the invading force – “heroes, martyrs at times forgotten by many” – and reflects:

“What a deep pain we feel when we know that communist Cuba has tagged us as mercenaries and even here in our exile capital, Miami, indoctrinated recent arrivals – after all that is what they were taught since childhood – and others of bad faith, have to have it explained to them who we were, who we are, and why we went to the invasion.”

In Diario de Cuba, Diego Trinidad writes a thorough history of the plan and the operation, wherein President Kennedy thoroughly betrayed a force that the United States recruited, trained, and sent into battle.

Today the landing site is a peaceful stretch of beach.  In the surrounding area there’s a museum and many monuments to Cuban police, reservists, and soldiers who died in battle.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A bullet dodged, for now

The election of Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles would have brought cutbacks, if not an eventual end, to the economic relationship with Cuba that has been so beneficial to Cuba and has made Venezuela a bulwark of Cuba’s energy security. 

But it was close but no cigar for Capriles.  With Nicolas Maduro winning the presidency by a small margin, Cuba breathes a sigh of relief.  Raul Castro sent his congratulations, using a politician’s poetic license to call it a “transcendental victory.” 

It’s an important victory in that chavismo lives on without Chavez.  Maduro will emerge from his celebration to face tough challenges in domestic policy, and his slim victory margin now adds a bundle of political challenges.  Capriles has refused to accept the result, he has called for a recount, and protests have begun.  Inside his own movement, Maduro will naturally face questions about why he almost blew it, and whether he is the best horse to ride for the long term.

So Cuba’s sense of relief is surely colored by concern.  The current economic reform program, to the disappointment of many, is not a crash program designed by a government that perceives an immediate emergency.  Rather, it is based on a need to make strategic adjustments so that Cuba’s economy, social project, and political system will function in a new historical era.  Call it historical urgency, perhaps accentuated by Sunday’s near-miss in Caracas.