CIA, Spies and Videotapes – Cuba exposes US programme of subversion
First published in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! April/May 2011, No. 220
‘The majority of Cubans support Castro…There is no effective opposition…The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [from the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship… to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.’ Lester D Mallory, US government official, 6 April 1960.
‘Our objective is to accelerate the development of an opposition in Cuba’ Livingston Merchant, US government official, 14 January 1960.
‘[W]e see very little evidence that the mainline dissident organizations have much resonance among ordinary Cubans…Despite claims that they represent "thousands of Cubans”, we see little evidence of such support.’ Jonathan Farrar, Head of the US Interest Section in Havana, 15 April 2009.
During a state visit to Chile on 21 March 2011, US President Obama announced: ‘we’ll continue to seek ways to increase the independence of the Cuban people, who I believe are entitled to the same freedom and liberty as everyone else in this hemisphere.’ The ways sought by the US administration have been amply exposed since January 2011 through two court cases and by four Cuban agents. US policy has evolved, adapted and expanded, but the objective has remained unchanged since 1960 - the destruction of Cuba’s socialist revolution. Helen Yaffe reports.
While the US blockade has attempted ‘to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government’ (Lester D Mallory, US government official, 6 April 1960), the programme of fostering internal dissent was kept secret from 1959 to 1990. However: ‘In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the financial and logistical support to Cuban dissidents became public and was integrated into US law’ (Salim Lamrani, Znet, 15 March 2011).
Programmes were run by the CIA until 1987 when Cuban authorities used evidence from 27 undercover agents to expose illegal activities and the use of diplomatic status as a cover for CIA operations. Subsequently, government-funded organisations have been used to promote internal opposition: the US Agency for International Development (USAID), National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House. US imperialism’s ‘unwavering support for human rights, democracy, and the open market system’ (Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba website) is backed by serious money. US President Bush’s administration of 2001 to 2008 ‘invested’ $166 million in pursuing capitalist restoration. The Obama administration has allocated $60 million to this end from 2009 to 2011.
The innovation since 2008 has been the use of private contractors commissioned to carry out destabilisation programmes in Cuba. Projects and funds have been filtered through European NGOs which, under the guise of defending ‘human rights’ and promoting ‘democracy’, serve the imperialist war against socialist Cuba.
Recent European funding recipients include:
Polish Lech Walesa Institute - provides access to technological resources and training to Cuban counter-revolutionaries and shares experience of the collapse of the socialist bloc and the so-called ‘colour revolutions’.
Serbian OTNOP – youth opposition movement set up with funds from NED in 1998, it also receives funds from USAID and promotes ‘peaceful marches’ among Cuban youth and artists.
Czech People in Need and Slovakian People in Peril – provide technology and training, organise oppositional seminars and international support for the tiny Cuban opposition. People in Need received $200,000 from USAID in 2010.
Slovakian Pontis Foundation – provides access to technology and communications apparatus, prepares ‘leaders’ for transition and gives money to the families of opposition prisoners. Pontis had received $108,000 from the IRI leading up to September 2008.
Spanish Solidarity with Cuba – Sends telecoms equipment to the island for subversive activities, provides personnel and technical advice and cultivates counter-revolutionaries as bloggers, journalists and ‘independent’ trade unionists. Between September 2008 and December 2009 they received $615,000 from IRI.
Imperialist hypocrisy is astonishing! First, for 50 years the US has tried to economically suffocate Cuba through the illegal blockade, which has cost Cuba $236 billion. Then it invests millions of dollars in creating an internal opposition to the revolutionary government. Second, having obstructed Cuban telecommunications through the US blockade, prohibiting Cuba from connecting to the Caribbean optic fibre cable circuit, the imperialists turn internet access into a tool for creating the impression of an internal opposition in Cuba and to encourage such an opposition to emerge.
Two court cases
Luis Posada Carriles – the CIA’s own terrorist
On 10 January the trial of CIA-trained terrorist Luis Posada Carriles began in El Paso, Texas. He is being prosecuted by the US government on 11 charges of perjury, obstructing justice and false testimony, accused of lying to immigration officials about his entry into the US in March 2005.
Carriles has been on the CIA payroll on and off since 1959. He was imprisoned in Venezuela for the bombing of a Cuban civilian aeroplane in 1976 which killed 73 people, and in Panama for the plan to blow up a university auditorium during the visit and speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000. He escaped from prison in Venezuela and was pardoned by the outgoing President of Panama. In 1998, New York Times journalist Ana Bardach cited Carriles as boasting about his responsibility for the bombing campaign against Cuban hotels in 1997 which claimed the life of Italian tourist Fabio Di Celmo. ‘We just wanted to make a big scandal so that the tourists don't come any more’, Carriles told Bardach. ‘The Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I sleep like a baby.’ He also said: ‘The CIA taught us everything. They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb trained us in acts of sabotage.’ In El Paso, however, Carriles is not on trial for terrorism, but for lying to immigration officials.
The prosecution case ended in late March after calling 23 witnesses. Almost daily updates are provided by Cuban-born, Washington-based lawyer Jose Pertierra (see http://en.cubadebate.cu). Pertierra represents Venezuela’s extradition order against Carriles who became a Venezuelan citizen while working as a ‘paid asset’ of the CIA in Venezuela from 1968 to 1976. The US has refused to extradite Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba for trial, claiming he would face torture in those countries. Pertierra responded: ‘The only evidence I have seen of torture in Cuba comes from the US military base at Guantanamo Bay.’ The real issue is the information which Carriles could reveal about his work for the CIA which, in addition to terrorism against Cuba, includes the dirty war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Carriles has threatened to release his memoirs if anything happens to him.
Alan Gross – mercenaries’ mercenary
On 12 March, after a court case involving ten witnesses, nine experts and material and documentary evidence, Cuban judges found US citizen Alan Gross guilty of subversion against the state and the revolution and sentenced him to 15 years in gaol. Entrepreneur and mercenary Alan Gross was contracted by the US company Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), which in 2008 had won a $6 million contract with USAID to ‘advance democracy’ in Cuba. This involved taking communications equipment, satellite phones and laptops with internet access into Cuba to promote subversion whilst posing as tourists. At the time of Gross’s arrest in Havana on 4 December 2009 he had travelled to Cuba as a tourist five times in nine months. Gross had received similar previous contracts with USAID to operate in Afghanistan and Iraq. His employer, DAI, has won more than $2.7 billion in USAID contacts from 2000 to the third quarter of 2009.
Cuba’s Reasons – four agents reveal their work
On the evening of Saturday 26 February, Cuban television broadcast ‘Pawns of Imperialism’, an episode in the series Razones de Cuba (Cuba’s Reasons), detailing close links between the internal counterrevolution, the right-wing exile community and the US government. Evidence of these links was provided by two Cuban state agents who had infiltrated the ranks of the so-called ‘dissident’ movement. The first was Moises Rodriguez, who spent 20 years posing as a counter-revolutionary, working closely with the US Interest Section (USIS) in Havana. The second was Carlos Serpa, who spent ten years posing as an ‘independent journalist’ for Radio Martí and numerous blogs and websites. As President of the Union of Free Journalists in Cuba, an organisation without members, Serpa worked closely with the Ladies in White (relatives of the US-paid opposition imprisoned in 2003), accompanying their processions through Havana.
Rodriguez received instructions directly from functionaries of the USIS, who sent him to the US to meet Carriles and informed him of plans to destabilise Cuba. Both agents explain how the USIS supervises the counterrevolution and had evidence that the Ladies in White receive payment for their activities from another known terrorist Santiago Alvarez, a subordinate of Carriles (see Cuban agents prove US finances dissidents 28 february 2011.html). On the programme Serpa demonstrates how easy it is to launch a media campaign against Cuba. He rings CIA-founded Radio Marti and tells them that he was arrested and detained by Cuban police who confiscated his camera and memory stick. One hour and a half later the ‘news’ is broadcast on Radio Marti with no attempt to verify the claim. The lie becomes fact.
In the second episode, ‘Truths and Principles’, broadcast on 7 March, Dalexi Gonzalez, a Cuban engineer in computer sciences explains how in 2007 he was contacted by a internet security specialist, who visited the island as a tourist and trained him in encrypted communication. In 2008 he was given four satellite antennas camouflaged as surfing boards to enable coded information to be transmitted, to facilitate the installation of clandestine networks serving as a parallel communications system to be used in attempts to fabricate a Cuban ‘uprising’. This is a strategy we have seen in Eastern Europe and more recently in Iran and North Africa.
In ‘Well Paid Lies’, broadcast on 14 March, Frank Carlos Vazquez, explains how soon after setting up the Independent Cultural Centre in 1998 to promote the work of young Cuban artists overseas, he was recruited by CIA officials working under diplomatic cover in Havana. They hoped to foster the emergence of a critical intelligentsia to oppose the government. Twice they organised and paid for him to travel to the US. ‘I met and had work sessions with the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley…we also met with different Latin American and Afro-American Congress people’, Vazquez said. For ten years Vazquez was informing the Cuban state about all their moves and proposals.
The programme ‘Cyberwars’, broadcast on 21 March, describes cyber-war as ‘waged using information, communications, algorithms and bytes. It’s the new form of invasion originated in the developed world.’ In 2009 ‘irregular warfare’ became official Pentagon doctrine and in 2010 the Pentagon approved a $90 billion budget for the US cyber-command. Cuba is a key target of these operations – along with Venezuela, China and Iran. 90,000 people are believed to be employed under the US cyber-war strategy, which includes obstructing the abilities of those countries to defend themselves through the internet. For example, in January 2011, Google removed the CubaDebate’s channel on YouTube, which it owns, eliminating more than 400 videos which had received 1.7 million hits over three years (see FRFI 219).
The documentary revealed the innovative way in which counter-revolutionaries ‘bloggers’ are paid - not via the USIS payroll or cash sent by Cuban exile groups. Instead their payment is awarded via international prizes from corporate agencies. Opposition blogger Yoanni Sanchez has received a total of $500,000 in this way. Film footage showed Yoanni Sanchez entering the US, Polish and Dutch embassies and chatting to a German diplomat and the CIA’s representative in Havana. There were also interviews with some of the hundreds of young Cuban bloggers who, supportive of the Revolution, do not receive prize money nor enjoy internet access in foreign embassies.
In broadcasting these documentaries the Cuban government has shown irrefutable photographic and documentary evidence that imperialist plans to destroy the socialist revolution continue. What also continues is the commitment from young Cubans who, in defence of the socialist Revolution, prefer to serve as agents of the revolutionary government than lackeys of imperialism – regardless of the material awards on offer. Cuba’s response to the counterrevolution is patient and intelligent. Aware of the opposition’s immense resources and its insidious plots, the government maintains direct communication with the Cuban people so that they are capable of knowing their enemies and defending their revolution.