CubaBrief: President Biden Bows to Cuba’s and Venezuela’s Blackmail on Migrants. Mr. Biden talks the talk on human rights, but his actions fall short. There is still time to do the right thing.

The Castro regime is a criminal enterprise running a failed state that murders fleeing refugees, engages in terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and trafficking in intelligence stolen from the US and sold or bartered to America’s enemies.  A dialogue that does not candidly state the existing reality on the ground in Cuba is doomed.The Castro regime is a state sponsor of terror, working in collaboration with Iran, North Korea, and Syria for decades.  Furthermore, Havana openly backs Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Havana has also demonstrated proficiency in the art of political blackmail.

 The Wall Street Journal columnist Mary O’Grady in her January 8th column “Biden Bows to Blackmail on Migrants” made an observation missed by most.

“The Cuban military dictatorship has unleashed three destabilizing rafter crises since taking power in 1959. They occurred in 1965, 1980 and 1994-95, all years when a Democrat was in the White House. During the Obama administration, more than 120,000 Cuban migrants found their way to U.S. ports of entry from 2014-16, mainly via Central America. There was no attempt by Fidel Castro to flood American shores with desperate balseros during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush despite their hard-line policies against Cuba. Donald Trump faced caravans arriving at the southern border starting in 2018 but by the end of 2019, the numbers of migrant “encounters” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection had dropped precipitously.”

Think about it. Every American President who has sought to make unilateral concessions to improve relations with Cuba has had a migration crisis weaponized by the Castro regime.In the case of the Biden Administration the concessions made to the Cuban dictatorship in May 2022 was followed by an even greater surge in migrants. The regime correctly perceived that the White House would not take actions against Havana. Biden shutting off the right of Cubans to apply for asylum on the U.S. border means that the only means for Cubans to leave the island requires the permission of the dictatorship. This consolidates regime control over the populace.

Crescencio Marino Rivero: Castro’s prison chief

During the Obama administration, this had unintended consequences, as journalist Juan O. Tamayo reported in The Miami Herald in 2012, that  human rights violators from Cuba were not only getting visas but also gaining residency in the United States:

“Former Cuban provincial prisons chief Crescencio Marino Rivero made headlines over the past month amid allegations that he abused some prisoners and ordered guards to abuse others before he moved to Miami two years ago. But uncounted hundreds of other Cubans with nasty pasts are also living here, including State Security officers, snitches and collaborators, judges, policemen and members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the neighborhood watch groups.”

The US Embassy in Havana  denied visas to Cuban dissidents such as poet Rafael Alcides because they are viewed as a greater risk to remain in the US than  a loyal communist apparatchik.
As a result, victims of communism were less likely to seek refuge in the United States, while their oppressors were able to retire in sunny Miami with generous benefits.

Listening to Juan S. Gonzalez, President Biden’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere in the National Security Council in the Americas Quarterly podcast should give one pause. In the conversation, the idea of reduced American influence in the region is treated as a positive element. Below is the exchange on the Biden Administration’s Cuba policy. 

Question [Brian Winter ,editor-in-chief Americas Quarterly. ]: “Might we say more changes in the U.S. position on Cuba?

Answer [Juan S. Gonzalez , senior director, Western Hemisphere, National Security Council]: “Yeah, first it is a privilege to work with Senator Dodd, great to have him on the team. I have been working with President Biden – you know- for over 10 years. He may listen to me, but he respects Chris Dodd as a colleague. And… That has really added a lot of energy and muscle to our approach from the White House. On Cuba, what I will say, our policy has changed. It has taken some time, but our policy has changed. And what I mean by that. We made good on the policy overlap we did on May 17th where we eased group travel. We now have eliminated limits on remittances. Western Union is now operating,but it’s not under a military entity. We are also … we opened the embassy, the consulate in Havana to full operations. It has taken us a while to get there. And we have passed regulations to support Cuban entrepreneurs.Those policies are incredibly important and the scope of that is what our approach to Cuba is going to be. It is different than what President Obama did, it is very different than what the previous Administration did, People compare it to Bush II, I think we are going much farther than that. We have a president who feels strongly on the matter of human rights. We can’t let human rights advance by themselves. We also have to engage with the Cubans. That does not mean we are ignoring concerns. We are directly engaging. Dodd will drive the positive agenda.”

Gonzalez in this conversation repeats the same mistake of the Obama Administration. He confuses the Cuban dictatorship with “the Cubans.”  Embracing the Castro dictatorship is the antithesis of embracing the Cubans.

On January 11th the State Department informed Congress that the Biden Administration will hold a “Law Enforcement Dialogue” with Havana between January 18-19, 2023 in Havana, Cuba. The title of this upcoming meeting between Washington and Havana is deceptive. There can be no “Law enforcement dialogue” because the rule of law does not exist in Cuba, and thus law enforcement does not exist by definition.

The Castro regime funded, trained, and provided logistics to Puerto Rican terrorists that killed Americans in terror bombings in New York City in the 1970s, and has harbored them in Cuba for decades. It has not reformed itself.

The silence of the United States before crimes of the Castro regime does not help.

The failure of the U.S. Embassy in Havana to call out the October 28, 2022 premeditated massacre of eight Cubans, including a two year old girl by the Cuban coast guard off Bahia Honda, but instead repeat over Twitter the regime narrative that it was an “accident.”

It may have ingratiated Embassy staff with the Castro dictatorship, but distanced them from the Cuban people.

One can repeat the mantra of human rights, but actions speak louder than words. President Biden fist bumped the Saudi prince who ordered the dismemberment of journalist  Jamal Khashoggi in July 2022. This was the same prince Mr. Biden had earlier called a pariah

It appears that this administration has embarked on the same shameful path in Cuba, but they can still course correct.

President Biden should request that all political prisoners in Cuba be released. Over a thousand have been identified, but the full number remains unknown. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been allowed by Havana to visit Cuba’s prisons since 1989.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana can side with the Cubans, and not their oppressor, denouncing the October 28, 2022 massacre, demand a full investigation, and that the survivors and victim’s family members not be threatened for speaking out.

El American, January 11, 2023

Biden Administration to hold dialogues with Cuban regime’s security forces

The State Department has informed Congress that the Biden Administration will hold dialogues with Cuba. The discussions will take place on January 18 and 19 in Havana

By Vanessa Vallejo

The State Department has informed Congress that the Biden Administration will hold dialogues with the “government of Cuba”. The discussions with the security forces of the Cuban regime will take place on January 18-19 in Havana, Cuba. On the U.S. side, the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Justice will co-chair the dialogues. 

In the email sent to Congress this January 11, the State Department informed that these meetings are the first “Law Enforcement Dialogue” between the United States and Cuba since 2018. The State Department adds: “These discussions enhance U.S. national security by improving coordination with Cuba on U.S. law enforcement priorities.”

The U.S. delegation will include representatives from the Department of State’s Bureaus of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and Office of the Legal Adviser (L); the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Havana will also participate.

In the email, the State Department states that after the dialogues it “will be available to brief members or staff on the U.S. delegation’s discussions with the Government of Cuba.”

Regarding these dialogues, John Suarez, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba told Americano: “The title of this meeting scheduled between Washington and Havana is misleading. There can be no “Law enforcement dialogue” because the rule of law does not exist in Cuba therefore  neither does law enforcement by definition. The Castro regime is not a government, but a criminal enterprise running a failed state that engages in terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and trafficking in intelligence stolen from the United States and sold to its enemies. Instead, President Biden should request that all political prisoners be released from Cuba’s prisons.”

Vanessa Vallejo

Deputy Editor in Chief. Economista. Podcaster. Analista política.

Spyscape, January 8, 2022

How Cuba Became the Intelligence Broker of American Secrets


The CIA viewed Havana’s intelligence services as ‘lightweights’ up until the 1987 defection of Major Florentino Aspillaga, a high-ranking Cuban officer from the DGI intelligence service established by Fidel Castro with help from the KGB.

“From New Year’s Day in 1959, when Castro won power, until the summer of 1987, they were viewed as bush-league amateurs, Latino lightweights in the conspiratorial sweepstakes of superpower espionage,” Brian Latell, a retired CIA analyst, writes in Castro’s Secrets (2012). 

And that was exactly how the cunning Cubans wanted to be perceived – it allowed Havana to spy freely under the radar. Aspillaga’s defection was a game changer, however. Up until that point, the Americans had grossly underestimated the Cubans.

“We never imagined that little Cuba could run an intelligence service that was world-class,” Latell said.

Aspillaga: How a Castro’s spymaster escaped 

Major Aspillaga, barely 40 when he defected, blew a hole in Castro’s strategy, however. Aspillaga was Cuba’s Czechoslovakian intelligence chief in June 1987 when he drove an embassy car across the border from Bratislava into Austria and then introduced himself to US embassy diplomats in Vienna.

This was the era of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika, just a few years before the USSR collapsed.

Aspillaga was a high-level ‘walk-in’, an unexpected gift, and the Americans were all ears. He revealed that Fidel Castro’s seemingly impoverished island of sugarcane, sangria, and vintage Chevys was punching far above its weight in intelligence matters.

Reportedly, Cuba had been training officers in Moscow since the 1960s under the tutelage of the KGB secret police and had developed a sophisticated network.

In interviews described by the Washington Post as “intensive debriefings”, Aspillaga told the CIA that nearly every spy the CIA had recruited in Cuba since the early 1960s was a double agent loyal to Castro. This had been the case since the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961, he maintained.

Furthermore, in the three decades since Fidel Castro took power, Cuba’s intelligence service had reportedly fielded four dozen double agents in a world-class operation under the nose of the CIA, according to Brian Latell who interviewed Aspillaga over several days.

Cuba’s expanding spying network

Not content with just stealing American secrets, Cuba began ‘trafficking’ US intelligence to American enemies in the years before the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, according to Chris Simmons, a former US Army officer, Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, and author of Castro’s Nemesis (2022).

What started as a way to inflict damage on the US developed into a more sophisticated system of trading American intelligence in exchange for favors or money. That might mean trading secrets for commodities like oil, money, political influence, or a seat at the table in negotiations, Simmons said.

Former FBI Special Agent Peter Lapp, the lead investigator on the Ana Montes Cuban spycatcher investigation and author of Queen of Cuba, doesn’t consider trading secrets to be ‘selling’ or ‘trafficking’, however.

“I think the Cubans bartered the intelligence they got from Montes, Marta Velazquez, Kendall Myers – and others yet to be identified – to use that for influence or a commodity. Maybe it’s oil, or maybe some kind of grain or something, but I wouldn’t say they ‘sell’ it.”

Cuba’s intelligence revolution

Havana’s foreign intelligence services are still ranked among the half-dozen top agencies globally, according to intelligence experts. “They are pound-for-pound one of the best intelligence services in the world,” Lapp said.

So much so, Cuba has reportedly trained other nations on the best way to organize their intelligence services – much like during the Cold War when Moscow’s KGB helped train Havana’s DGI (later renamed the Direccion de Inteligencia).

According to a 2019 Reuters report, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez turned to his close confidant, Fidel Castro in late 2007 for advice on how to update Venezuela’s intelligence services although neither country has acknowledged details of an agreement or Cuban involvement.

As for Major Florentino Aspillaga, he was targeted for assassination, as he feared, with the first attempt in London in 1988. When CIA analyst Brian Latell interviewed him, however, Aspillaga was living quietly as an American citizen with a new identity.

Americas Quarterly, January 9, 2023


AQ Podcast: The White House’s Juan Gonzalez on Mexico Relationship, Venezuela and More

January 9, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden is in Mexico this week, at a time when the administration is facing a host of issues around Latin America. In this special episode, Brian Winter and the White House’s Juan Gonzalez discuss a number of them: disputes with the Mexican government over energy policy; changes in the Venezuelan opposition; new developments in the relationship with Cuba; expectations for Brazil’s incoming government and what, if anything, defines Biden’s approach to Latin America today.


Juan S. Gonzalez is senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council.

Brian Winter is the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly.

Supplemental reading: 

AQ Podcast: “A Make-or-Break Moment For Mexican Democracy”

Mexico: When Trade and Energy Policy Collide by Leonardo Beltran

A New Era for US-Colombia Relations by Cynthia J. Arnson

From Bad to Worse: Nayib Bukele’s Split with Washington by Stephen McFarland

Photo Essay: Stories from Cuba’s New Exodus

AQ Podcast: Denise Dresser on Mexico-US Relations and What AMLO Really Wants

Tags: AQ Podcast, China, Joe Biden, Russia, Summit of the Americas, U.S. Policy

The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2023


The Americas

Biden Bows to Blackmail on Migrants

The administration rewards Venezuelan trafficking with 30,000 new visas.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Jan. 8, 2023 5:19 pm ET

The Cuban military dictatorship has unleashed three destabilizing rafter crises since taking power in 1959. They occurred in 1965, 1980 and 1994-95, all years when a Democrat was in the White House. During the Obama administration, more than 120,000 Cuban migrants found their way to U.S. ports of entry from 2014-16, mainly via Central America.

There was no attempt by Fidel Castro to flood American shores with desperate balseros during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush despite their hard-line policies against Cuba. Donald Trump faced caravans arriving at the southern border starting in 2018 but by the end of 2019, the numbers of migrant “encounters” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection had dropped precipitously.

This partisan dichotomy is worth noting in light of the human train-wreck at the southern U.S. border since President Biden took office. Is the migrant crisis merely a spontaneous flood of huddled masses yearning to breathe free, or is it an organized assault on U.S. law and order similar to Castro pranks of old?

[ Rest of article ]

From the archives

Fox News, January 2, 2017


Published January 2, 2017 2:06pm EST

Removing Cuba from U.S. terror list is personal, painful for some

By Elizabeth Llorente , | Fox News

Man whose father was killed by terrorist shares story

Joseph Connor tells his story of his father being killed by a terrorist being harbored in Cuba.

For many people, it was another headline about Cuba in a week of symbolic and substantive changes in relations between the United States and its Caribbean adversary.

The White House announced Tuesday that it was taking Cuba off the list of states that support terrorism. Obama administration officials said that Cuba had met key criteria for being delisted, including not supporting terrorism in the last six months, and a pledge by Cuban President Raul Castro that it would not do so in the future.

But the news hit Joseph Connor, a Wall Street executive and father of two, like a punch in the gut.

To Connor, Cuba is the place that is protecting William Morales, a Puerto Rican nationalist convicted in connection with bombings in New York in the 1970s, one of which killed the New Jersey resident’s father.

Morales was in the group known as the Armed Forces of National Liberation or FALN, and was believed to have been the mastermind of a bombing that occurred in 1975 at Manhattan’s Fraunces Tavern, where Connor’s father, Frank, was having a meeting with clients.

“There was a duffle bag, there were 50 sticks of dynamite, it was meant to kill a lot of people,” Connor said. “The Obama administration is opening a relationship with a Communist country that is still sponsoring terrorists. The thought that Cuba can be considered to not be a sponsor of terrorism while they give asylum to terrorists – it’s dismissing my father’s life.”

Morales was part of a group that was planting bombs all around New York City. He was convicted and sentenced to about 90 years, but escaped from Bellevue Hospital, where he was under police custody, by going down a rope fashioned from elastic bandages that was three stories long. The Washington Post called it “one of the most publicized [escapes] in U.S. history.”

He ended up in Mexico, which then handed him over to Cuba, where Fidel Castro, who gave sanctuary to several U.S. fugitives, welcomed him as a freedom fighter.

A Washington Post reporter caught up with him in 2002, where he was “sipping a cappuccino in a chic hotel lobby in Havana.”

“Only once I met Fidel Castro,” Morales told the Washington Post. “It was at a reception and I said to him, ‘Thank you.”

The notion of Morales and others who’ve killed people in terrorist acts in the United States living without a care and being treated as celebrities in Cuba gnaws at Connor.

“Morales has been sponsored as a guest by Cuba since 1988,” said Connor, 49. “It’s a travesty that the U.S. would even considering removing Cuba from the state sponsor of terror list.”

The most well-known fugitive in Cuba is Joanne D. Chesimard, a former member of the Black Panthers who is on the F.B.I.’s list of most wanted terrorists for killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973. Chesimard also escaped – from prison – in 1979 and fled to Cuba, which welcomed her with open arms.

Now, U.S. officials are saying that Cuba has agreed to talks about fugitives.

Cuban government officials have not commented.

“We see the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of an embassy in Havana as the means by which we’ll be able, more effectively, to press the Cuban government on law enforcement issues such as fugitives. And Cuba has agreed to enter into a law enforcement dialogue with the United States that will work to resolve these cases,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

The dialogue is also expected to address cooperation on more routine crimes, officials said.

A Cuban government spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday, but Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, recently ruled out any return of political refugees.

Still she said Tuesday night that “the Cuban government recognizes the president of the United States’ just decision to take Cuba off a list in which it should never have been included.”

Cuba was put on the list in 1982 because of what the U.S. said were its efforts “to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism.”

That included support for leftist guerrilla groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the Basque separatist movement ETA in Spain. The State Department terror list entry for Cuba also noted the protection it has given to fugitives wanted in the United States.

Connor, who was only 9 years old when his father was killed, has devoted nearly all his life to keeping his father’s death from being forgotten, and to pressing for the return of Morales. He has gone to the probationary hearings of some who remain in prison to make sure they stay behind bars.

Most of the FALN members who were part of Morales’ group were given clemency by President Bill Clinton.

“Fourteen of them got clemency and walked out of prison,” Connor said.

Often, when he is in church, he makes his father a promise. He promises not to let his death be in vain.

“I say ‘Dad, I’m trying to do the right thing.’”

“Morales and FALN were Communists, Marxists, they were targeting corporate executives, people they saw as the bourgeois,” Connor said.

But that was not who his father was, he said.

Frank Connor came from an Irish immigrant family that worked at blue collar jobs in the hope that their son would have a better life.

Frank Connor went to City College, graduated from Fairleigh Dickenson, and got his job at a Wall Street bank where his mother was on the maintenance staff.

“My grandmother wanted my father to have a good, safe job,” Connor said.

Some people have told Connor to move on, to live his life.

“But this is my life,” he said.

The Cuban government has not given any indication that it will return the fugitives. The Castro regime has argued that the United States harbors Cuban exiles who have been responsible for what the Communist government says are terrorist acts against it.

Even if the regime were to promise to return the fugitives someday, Connor is skeptical.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “We’re the most powerful country in the world, yet we can’t negotiate. I’m not going to buy that two years down the road, these guys will be returned.”

Connor said he won’t stop pushing for Morales to pay for his crimes.

“He has not served his time in prison,” Connor said. “He was arrested, charged and convicted and sentenced.”

It’s unfathomable to him not to keep fighting for justice for his father.

“The way I view it is, my father’s life and his death have been used for politics way too long.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.