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Posted May 23, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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Cuban sting shows US diplomat handing over cash to dissidents

Cuba has accused Washington of illegally funding opposition groups on the island after conducting an elaborate sting on a dissident who met a US diplomat.

The government published emails, letters, videos and audio tapes which purportedly showed a political activist, Martha Beatriz Roque, receiving monthly payments from Michael Parmly, the head of the US interests section in Havana.

“We have a right to know all about this dark drama,” said Felipe Pérez Roque, the foreign minister.

Cuban agents spied on the dissident for months, filming her, bugging her home and mobile phones, hacking into her emails and sifting through her rubbish.

The communist authorities said the diplomat delivered mail including three monthly cash payments of at least $1,500 (£750) intended for other dissidents.

The money allegedly came from Fundación Rescate Jurídica, a Miami-based group headed by Santiago Alvarez, a Cuban-American businessman once convicted in the US of conspiring to collect weapons to overthrow Fidel Castro.

Another dissident, Laura Pollan, has acknowledged receiving at least $2,400 from the group via Martha Beatriz Roque. She said the money was split among members of the Ladies in White, a group that demands freedom for political prisoners.

The foreign minister said the payments violated Cuban, US and international law and cited the 1961 Vienna convention, which prohibits diplomats from breaking the laws of a host state or interfering in internal affairs. The dissident, Roque, said she would comment after the authorities had finished making the allegations, which have aired on state media all week.

The US state department denied wrongdoing, saying it had long provided humanitarian aid to opposition leaders, but did not respond to the specific accusations.

In a separate development, President George Bush announced a slight loosening of the US trade embargo to allow Americans to send pre-paid mobile phones to relatives in Cuba, saying it would give Cubans a greater chance to speak out. Raúl Castro, who has taken over from his ailing brother Fidel, recently lifted a ban on ordinary Cubans possessing mobile phones.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 23, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I have been following this story but thought it would go away since I don’t believe much I read from the tightly controlled state press in Cuba but now that the Guardian has picked it up and added some juicy cold war tidbits to the news, I felt I had to post it.

    Regardless of this information, I still support Marta’s overall goal but I don’t support any involvement with the US Interests Section, Michael Parmly, Congresspeople from Miami, President Bush or Vaclav Havel.

    I guess her strategy is to get WAY out onto the international stage that all her actions get noticed? We’ll see if that’s a good strategy for her.

    As you can read from this article, it must not be much fun being her.

    I wonder if Michael Parmly’s reassignment has anything to do with this story.

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  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 24, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    Now, both those 2 articles you posted a week or two ago, about the Ladies in White and about Beatriz, make sense to me. As to Bush and his “slight loosening of the US trade embargo,” it only seems like he’s just trying to piss off Raul et.al. Allowing phones to be sent means that only the most expensive phones—unlocked, quad band phones—will be able to be used in Cuba since American phone frequencies won’t work in Cuba.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 24, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    And, the more I think about it…. if “prepaid” is a condition of sending American phones to Cuba, wouldn’t a prepaid American phone have an American phone number? In that case, the card wouldn’t last very long since calls from Cuba would be considered long distance.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on May 24, 2008 by Curt

    Marta Beatriz Roque deserves to have her ass thrown back in jail for accepting money from those terrorists in Miami.  She supports a “Yankee Invasion” and is an obstacle for advancing democracy in Cuba. I fully support the Cuban Government in those allegations against her.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on May 25, 2008 by bernie with 199 total posts

    Curt your 100% right.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on May 28, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    I have to point out a contradiction.  You say that you support Marta Beatriz Roque’s “overall goal” but not any involvement by “US Interests Section, Michael Parmly, Congresspeople from Miami, President Bush or Vaclav Havel”.  While I pretty much agree with you, I wanted to point out that it seems that such people as Ms. Beatriz Roque can’t keep themselves from accepting funds from the U.S.  Under Cuban law this makes them elligible to be charges as mercenaries. 
    This is a drama that will continue to play out…

  7. Follow up post #7 added on May 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Thanks but where’s the contradiction. I support her overall goal of freedom for the Cuban people but not her tactics like taking money or talking with anyone from the US.

    I have openly supported Oswaldo Paya.

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  8. Follow up post #8 added on May 28, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    She would never be able to do any of the things that she does without U.S. support.  Point blank.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on May 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Why not? Paya does. Antunez does as far as I know?

    You say that because she is not popular with the other dissidents?

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  10. Follow up post #10 added on May 28, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    But Marta’s whole thing is that she is down with Bush.  My only real point here is that she walks an extremely thin line between being perceived as a traitor and being perceived as a freedom fighting dissident.  I’m not even really that interested into getting into the finer points (this would never be tolerated in the U.S., etc).  The reason I raised this issue is because I believe it is going to be one that continues to play out, and both sides must worry about how they spin it.  I’m not personally bothered by Marta B R, nor am I really bothered by people in the U.S. who’ve been accused of being Cuban agents.  But these are sensitive issues for both governments and I anticipate such topics coming up in any future dialogue between the two sides.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on May 28, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    Saw this on a link from the Miami Herald.
    I’m not totally clear; I thought it already WAS illegal for Cubans to accept $ from foreign governments.

    Detailed News
    World - Politics
    EFE: 27/05/2008-19:39:00

    Cuban wants to punish dissidents who got money from U.S.
    Havana, May 27 (EFE).- A Cuban legislator who is also editor of the Communist Party daily Granma proposed at a session of parliament that the authorities make it illegal for dissidents to accept money from foreign governments.

    Lazara Barredo asked the Attorney General’s Office “to punish those individuals who receive money from a foreign power to subvert internal order,” Granma reported Tuesday.

    The lawmaker presented his proposal Monday at a meeting of parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, a week after the Cuban government reported that U.S. diplomats were acting as couriers to bring money to the dissidents.

    Raul Castro’s government accused officials of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, including its head, Michael Parmly, of giving opposition member Martha Beatriz Roque and others of the opposition money from a foundation directed by Santiago Alvarez, currently behind bars in the United States for arms trafficking.

    The interests section announced that it will continue giving “humanitarian aid” to Cuba’s roughly 225 political prisoners and their families.

    Barredo’s proposal implies a revision of the 1999 Law for the Protection of National Independence and the Economy.

    That statute, denounced by critics as the “gag law,” was applied for the first time against several of the 75 members of the opposition who were sentenced in the spring of 2003 during the biggest wave of repression against dissidents in recent years.

    Last week, Laura Pollan of the Ladies in White group, comprising relatives of the “Group of 75,” told Cuban state television that her organization received money through Roque, who said the funds came from the Judicial Rescue Foundation.

    The Miami Herald has confirmed that the Miami-based foundation is linked to Santiago Alvarez, the prime benefactor of anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, who is accused in the deaths of 73 people aboard a Cuban airliner destroyed by a bomb in 1976. EFE

  12. Follow up post #12 added on May 28, 2008 by arteest with 103 total posts

    The thing I don’t understand is how there even IS a US Interests Section in Havana.  Perhaps it’s like Guantanamo where, even though the lease is up, the US persists in staying?

  13. Follow up post #13 added on May 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    There is an interests section in Vedado that is inside of the Swiss Embassy. I’m pretty sure that it used to be the US Embassy but now the Swiss run it and we have a couple floors there.

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  14. Follow up post #14 added on May 28, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Accept money from foreign governments, yes… from citizens in Miami, No.

    That’s why the US response was “Go through diplomatic channels” and not through Granma.

    Maybe Parmly gave money to Marta BR but probably just a couple thousand so it’s more about the propaganda than an actual US government-to-Marta pipeline.

    Cuba consulting services

  15. Follow up post #15 added on May 28, 2008 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Dissidents in all dictatorial regimes encounter lot of problems for their daily live and therefore needs a lot of help.
    Marta Beatriz Roque received monetary help from Cuban exiles in Miami. What is the problem with that??
    Castro received a lot of help (including a lot of money) from Cuban exiles when he was preparing the invasion and later during the guerrilla war. I had not heard any noise on that regard or anybody here on this blog asking to throw Castro in jail because he received money from the Cuban exiles.
    I can understand that the Castro government once again is using this issue to push their propaganda machine against the internal dissidents but I can not understand how people that have no idea whatsoever of the Cuban internal situation is freely talking that Marta should be thrown in jail.
    In addition to that, that kind of comments shows your true feelings and your lack of judgment. You are ok with throwing Marta back in jail simply because she stands strong for what she believes?
    It is extremely simplistic to write these opinions in a blog when you have no idea of the hardships that Lady and all the other dissidents (whether you agree with them or not) had endured for the last 50 years in Cuba.
    Marta and the other dissidents had not been prosecuted because they are common delinquents; they have been prosecuted because they had openly indicated their dissatisfaction with the Castro regime, as simple as that.
    Many of you, originally from first world countries can not understand this and tend to believe that because they had been jailed they are delinquents. But this is NOT the case.
    Their only offense had been to think independently and to say what they think.
    I personally do not agree with many of Marta’s opinions but respect her (and all the other dissidents) because even when she had been given the opportunity many times to leave the Country she instead decided to fight for what she believes inside of Cuba.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on May 28, 2008 by abh

    Well I don’t know if the last comment was meant for me, but my point is that they’re walking a fine line.  I don’t know what Beatriz Roque’s career aspirations are but somehow I don’t think bending over backwards to kiss George Bush’s ass (the mock vote for Bush was especially ridiculous) wins her points with anyone in her country.  Maybe her about face with regards to the travel restrictions is her new strategy to bring her more in line with her countrymen.  I also may not agree with her, I may support her right, but I recognize the reality in her country and she may be figuring it out too late.  The dissident movement is not powerful partly because people like her have made it so easy for the government to brand them as traitors.

  17. Follow up post #17 added on May 29, 2008 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    It is obvious that all the dissidents are walking on a fine line. Every day they wake up guessing what the government may be planning that day.
    Just remember the spring of the 75, which by the way, was not the only event where a bunch of professionals and academics were thrown in jail for speaking against the Castro government, that was simply the better know event. In fact during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s there were many events like that where people was savagely beaten and even killed by the dictator’s police but nobody even heard of that.
    Just remember that while the world was lamenting because Nelson Mandela was in jail for so long, Cuba had the dubious honor of having in jail the World’s longer serving political prisoner. He was not a traitor, he simply disagree with Castro.
    Cuba also has the dubious honor of having one of the World’s largest political prisoner’s populations and the largest if considered according to the Cuban population levels.
    The dissident movement is not powerful because in Cuba there is no freedom of speech or freedom of meeting or freedom to create a political party or an association. Therefore everybody is afraid of meeting or giving their true opinions. People are simply afraid.
    They are even afraid to speak to their relatives, or on their own homes because they know that there may be microphones planted on their houses.
    Many people consider the dissidents very brave people and even heroes but most of them are afraid that somebody may heard them saying that.
    One of the few thinks that the Cuban government is good at is in controlling their own people flagrantly violating all their human rights. To make it easier they have converted the human rights violations in Laws. For instance to watch Satellite TV is against the law and may be punished with losing the house where you are watching TV.
    The Castro regime had successfully used the strategy of calling anybody who disagrees with them traitors, very successful if we have in consideration that for many years the world media (CNN and many more) repeated once and again only the regime’s version of events.
    Lot of people from around the world (with no real knowledge of the Cuban reality) were also convinced that when Castro says that this person is a traitor is because he probably is. Well, guess what you all were wrong!
    This people are not traitors, they simply do not have the money or the power to access to the world media to sell their message.
    They simply disagree with Castro and they would like a future of human rights for their children. Is that a crime??
    Some of them are ok with Bush, other may even hate Bush, but the fact is that all of them are against Castro. Not against the person, but against what he represents. He represents 50 years of oppression and humiliation for the Cuban people.

  18. Follow up post #18 added on May 29, 2008 by abh with 244 total posts

    Fine, I’m not interested in having the same argument over and over again.
    My point is this: do you think dissidents who are accepting money from the U.S., especially if that money came from questionable sources (i.e. Cuban exiles who plot the violent overthrow of the government) will ever get a place “at the table” of future discussions, agreements, compromises, etc?  In other words, will these folks have any legitimacy as the Cuban reality develops and changes? 
    You may or may not have noticed that I don’t really enjoy arguing over and over who’s worse, U.S. or Cuba, Bush or Fidel.  I’ve had that argument too many times in both countries, and it hasn’t ever gotten me anywhere.  Instead I feel it’s valuable to ask such questions that I posed above to stimulate discussion.  After all, is it not true that if I was accepting money from the Cuban government to foster a dissident movement here in the U.S. against my own government that I would be prosecuted aggressively and watched in many of the Orwelian ways that you describe the Cuban intelligence apparatus engaging in?  Now again I’m not interested in arguing which is worse, I’m soley interested in dealing with reality here in 2008 where many people are still in a cold war mentality.  To be honest, I’ve had it up to here with the ancianos who are talking about stuff I have no idea about.  For god’s sake we’re dealing with a Bush regime that is straight out of the faschist playbook of the 1930s and a Cuban regime that is straight out of the communist playbook of the 1920s.  Time to move on!
    I’m looking for leaders in both countries who will push the discussion into the new era.  Clearly Obama has been tapped as representing this camp in the U.S.  Who is his Cuban equivalent?  Raul?  Somehow I doubt it.  His daughter?  Lage?  I think both of those people will have more sway within the circles of power than Marta B-R & camp.  After all, there is no chance of another revolution in Cuba.  If there is one thing you can be sure of when you talk to the youth of that country it’s agreement in that statement.  It seems to me that change will come from within.  If my analysis is flawed let me know but I think Marta has just about as much sway in Cuba of ending the regime as Cindy Sheehan had in ending the war.

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