CubaBrief: Latin America leads global decline in democracy with the Castro regime’s help. Al Qaeda terrorists caught trying to enter United States from Colombia

The negative impact of Cuba in Latin America continues to be largely overlooked despite glaring evidence, and this cognitive dissonance is having a regional impact that affects tens of millions of lives.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported on January 21, 2020 that global democracy continues in retreat with the worse global score since 2006, and the decline was driven by sharp regressions in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, according to the report Latin America was the worse performing region in 2019. Latin American News Dispatch reported that “Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are at the bottom of the ranking, defined as authoritarian regimes.”

Dictator Raul Castro and his vassal Nicolas Maduro

Dictator Raul Castro and his vassal Nicolas Maduro

Nicolas Maduro on January 20, 2020 in a public setting recognized that Raul Castro and Dagoberto Rodríguez, the Cuban Ambassador in Venezuela, are in control of the South American country. Agents of the Castro regime have also been playing an important role in Nicaragua, backing Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship.

Media scrutiny has recently focused on the presence of Middle Eastern terrorists in Venezuela, but no one has connected the dots on the regime that first began to reach out to these groups and arm and train them in Havana in the 1960s and 1970s. Many continue to underestimate the Castro regime’s role in the democratic declines in the Western Hemisphere, or the dictatorship’s continuous role in sponsoring terrorism.

Cuban diplomats plotted bombing attack in NYC

Cuban diplomats plotted bombing attack in NYC

On February 13, 2016 Vice News reported that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been warned that the Iranian-linked Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah was setting up an operational base in Cuba to carry out attacks in Latin America that might also involve attacks on American diplomatic posts or banks there.

Newsweek reported on December 18, 2017 that the “Islamist militant group Hezbollah exploded into a major cocaine trafficker for the United States over the past decade—and it happened under President Barack Obama’s watch to help score a nuclear deal with Iran.”

Tom Rogan writing today in the Washington Examiner is on point when he observes that “Cuban security officials are a critical ingredient of Nicolas Maduro’s ability to retain power,” and that “more must be done to up the temperature on Caracas and Havana.”

On a more troubling note, three Al Qaeda operatives, that entered Colombia from Venezuela, were caught with Colombian passports trying to enter the United States on January 23, 2020.

The Cuban Studies Institute on August 29, 2019 issued a staff report “Cuba’s Continuous Support for Terrorism” revealing that “[m]anaged by Cubans and Venezuelans sympathetic to Cuba, Venezuela’s immigration system, “Misión Identidad,” facilitates the entry of Cuban agents into Venezuela. Cubans also control SIME (Servicio de Identificacion, Migracion y Extranjeria, Caracas) which facilitates the travel of drug organizations, Colombian guerrillas, and Islamist terrorists. Cuba also has on the island duplicate Venezuelan forms and stamps to issue passports and identifications to these groups.”

Cuba, like North Korea, should not have been taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and like North Korea, should be returned to the list.  This would subject the Castro regime to greater scrutiny. Furthermore, Venezuela should be added to the list to lower the possibility of a future tragedy.

Washington Examiner, January 24, 2020

Counter Venezuela’s move to consolidate Cuba

by Tom Rogan

Cuban security officials are a critical ingredient of Nicolas Maduro’s ability to retain power. So, as the Trump administration increases pressure on Venezuela’s pretender president, it must also do the same against Cuba.

It’s an important concern in that Venezuela’s pretender president Nicolas Maduro this week doubled down on his relationship with Cuba.

Pledging to continue exporting oil to the energy-dependent Caribbean nation, Maduro portrayed a determination to evade escalating U.S. sanctions. Front and center here is Maduro’s effort to rebuild his PetroCaribe energy network. Established by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, PetroCaribe involves Venezuela’s provision of subsidized oil to Caribbean nations in return for their provision of skilled labor and political support. But years of underinvestment, gross corruption, and U.S. sanctions have smashed PetroCaribe. Cuba is now feeling the pain with mass energy shortages.

This pressure is welcome.

It forces the Cuban communist regime to reconsider the viability of its alliance with Maduro. And that matters because if Cuba removes its support to Maduro’s regime, Maduro has a big problem. After all, Cuba’s DI intelligence service is instrumental to Maduro’s ability to intimidate Venezuela’s military into loyalty. But if the DI goes, the Venezuelan military might just give legitimate interim president Juan Guaido the means to enter power.

Still, more must be done to up the temperature on Caracas and Havana.

While the Venezuelan opposition has had some recent success in isolating Maduro’s export economy from regional partners, Maduro continues to send his tankers to sea. And as long as Cuba can get subsidized oil from Maduro, it will stick with him.

The obvious answer, then, is for the United States to honor Guaido’s legitimate request and prevent Maduro’s tankers from reaching their destinations. Cutting off his lifeline, the U.S. will be able to save Venezuelans from the dystopian nightmare they now suffer and ensure that democracy returns to the nation with Earth’s largest proven oil reserves.

Tom Rogan is a foreign policy focused commentary writer for the Washington Examiner. He holds a BA in War Studies from King’s College London, an MSc in Middle East Politics from SOAS, and a GDL in law from the University of Law. Among others, he has previously written for National Review, The Telegraph, and The Guardian.

SOFREP,  January 24, 2020

Three al-Qaeda terrorists caught trying to enter US with Colombian passports

by Steve Balestrieri

Three members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group were stopped and apprehended trying to fly into Dallas while using passports from Colombia. The three entered Colombia via Venezuela. 

The three al-Qaeda members who are from Syria, entered Colombia in  La Guajira, in northeast Colombia. The three men were able to obtain actual passports as they had documentation experts located in the country. The RCN channel was the first to break the story. 

The three Syrian citizens were able to obtain a civil registry, identity card, and passport in a network detected by the Registry and already investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office. The identities of the arrested terrorists have been released. The first is Al Raefee, whose passport says he was born on January 1, 1974, and whose ID number is 1,221,979,790. Although he is supposedly 45 years old, he was assigned an ID number as if he was under 25.

The second al-Qaeda operative is Tuameh Tuameh, who was born in 1964 and whose ID number is 1,221,979,791. Once again, his ID numbers reflect someone 20 years younger.

And, the final one is Al Harari, who, supposedly, was born on April 1, 1971, and his ID number is 1,221,979,792.

With all three having correlative I.D. numbers despite being born years apart, all being born supposedly in Cartagena and all three issuing their passports on the same day in La Guajira, on November 21, 2016, threw red flags at the Colombian authorities. 

The national registrar, Alexander Vega has led the investigation on the three: He is looking into an official in Ciénaga who would have collaborated in the issuance of these false documents. Meanwhile, the investigations are continuing in the Prosecutor’s Office and in Colombia Migration as they look further into this entire organization.

Julio Borges, Presidential Commissioner for Foreign Affairs of the Venezuelan interim government of Juan Guaidó, said on Twitter: “ One more example that Nicolás Maduro has become the greatest protector and promoter of international terrorism. From Venezuela, irregular groups have total impunity to plan criminal operations. It is a real threat to the free world.”

A few days ago, a Conference Against Terrorism in the Hemisphere was held in Colombia, attended by the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. Guaidó is recognized by several countries in the Western Hemisphere as the rightful president of Venezuela after the re-election of Maduro was deemed invalid.

Authorities in Colombia have condemned Maduro’s regime for destabilizing the region by harboring terrorists from organizations such as al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and even FARC dissidents. Guaido confirmed this information and requested the support of the international community to stop the spread of this danger.

The revelation that these al-Qaeda operatives entered the hemisphere through Venezuela, may just be the tip of the iceberg. 

Steve Balestrieri  served as a Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. He writes for SOFREP and covers the NFL for and his work is regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers.