CubaBrief: EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell’s Potemkin village visit to Cuba. Cuban military training in Belarus and ‘contract soldiers’ fighting for Russia in Ukraine.

The official visit of the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell to Cuba from May 25 to May 27, 2023 was a Potemkin village affair divorced from reality.

Mr Borrell on May 26th highlighted that the “EU is the first trade, investment and cooperation partner in Cuba. During my visit I have had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the more than 700 European companies in the country. The EU-Cuba agreement is key to accompanying the process of economic modernization.”  This prioritizing of economic engagement over human rights began in 2016, and seven years later, despite the large European presence, and debts forgiven, Cuba remains an economic basket case backing Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Nor did he mention that in December 2015 it was announced that Spain would forgive $1.7 billion that Havana owed it, passing off the cost to Spanish taxpayers. The 2015 debt restructuring accord between Cuba and the Paris Club, according to Reuters, “forgave $8.5 billion of $11.1 billion, representing debt Cuba defaulted on in 1986, plus charges.” The bulk of that forgiven debt was paid off by European taxpayers.

Nor did it change Cuba’s affinity for backing policies hostile to European interests. Although Mr. Borrell reiterated the European Union’s “clear position on the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine – a threat to global stability and security” and that Cuba during its G77 presidency has a special role and responsibility in the multilateral arena, in defense of the United Nations charter”, the actions of Havana make a mockery of his appeal.

One week prior to his arrival in Cuba, a high ranking Belarusian military official,Valery Revenka tweeted on May 18, 2023 that Cuban military personnel will carry out military training in Belarus with photographs of him meeting with his Cuban counterpart.

On May 24, 2023 Havana voted against the World Health Organization resolution condemning Russian attacks on Ukrainian health systems. It was one of nine “No” votes against the Europe backed resolution.

Also on May 24th, the eve of Borrell’s arrival it was revealed in Russian media that “14 contract soldiers left Ryazan for Russian military units, including several citizens of the Republic of Cuba.” Since Moscow’s new attack on Ukraine in February 2022 the Castro regime has been engaged in a diplomatic and propaganda campaign supporting the Russian invasion. It has now escalated to Cuban soldiers fighting with their Russian allies.

Engagement with dictatorships for the sake of interaction, without prioritizing democratic and human rights principles, can devolve into complicity. This was not the first time an EU official has favored the dictatorship in Havana over the interests of the Cuban people and of the European Union.

The EU Ambassador to Cuba, Alberto Navarro was accused by 16 European Members of Parliament of siding with the Castro ‘regime that neither respects nor defends human rights’ when he co-signed an open letter that asked Biden to “personally take executive action” to lift business and travel restrictions on Cuba. The letter also urged the U.S. to “stop being a hostile neighbor” to Cuba and to “stop interfering in our domestic affairs.” It repeats talking points of the Cuban dictatorship that are divorced from the reality that it is the regime in Havana that is responsible for the internal blockade placed on Cubans by communist central planning.

Politico’s Hans von der Burchard in his February 25, 2021 article “MEPs urge EU to fire ambassador to Cuba” reported a “cross-party group of 16 MEPs, including senior lawmakers” urged “EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to sack the bloc’s ambassador to Cuba for allegedly siding with the country’s Communist leadership.” Although Borrell said “mistakes were made, but we need to evaluate them on their own terms“, he allowed Ambassador Navarro to complete his four year term that ended on August 30, 2021. Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa from Portugal became the new chief of the EU Delegation in Cuba on September 1, 2021.

Mr. Borrell repeated the same argument as Ambassador Navarro during the current visit, but did not go as far as giving orders to President Biden.

“We cannot ignore that we have differences on various issues […], but the European Union has neither the capacity nor the will to impose changes on Cuba, but we do want to have a framework of dialogue that allows us to talk about everything that unites us and differentiates us without taboos or prohibitions,” said the head of European diplomacy,  clearly betting on the “constructive” and at the same time “critical” commitment to Cuba, as opposed to Washington’s policy of pressure. He even mentioned the speech given in Havana by former U.S. President Barack Obama during his historic visit to the island in 2016 and quoted his words: “The embargo hurts the Cuban people and does not help produce the political changes that are intended.” “Obama said it and I think so too,” Borrell said, recalling that the EU votes as a bloc every year at the UN against the embargo policy.

Nor was it the first time for EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, in Moscow on February 5, 2021 in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Borrell responded to the Lavrov’s whataboutism on Cuba by echoing the Russian position against the United States embargo that drew criticism from his partners in Europe.

One year later, Russia invaded Ukraine and Vladimir Putin threatened nuclear war against the European Union and the United States for supporting Ukraine.

During his visit to Cuba Borrell also criticized the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism by the prior Administration, something that, he said, “is causing serious and unfair problems to the development of economic activities on the island.”

Cuba is linked to terrorism around the world, and this includes Borrell’s home country. The first ETA cadres were trained in Cuba. In 1964, members of the Basque terrorist group received training in Cuba on kidnappings, subversion and sabotage. From Cuba it has operated as a sanctuary for the terrorist gang responsible for more than 850 murders in Spain. In 2000, During the X Ibero-American Summit in Panama, Fidel Castro was reluctant to support a resolution condemning ETA.

To engage in an effective dialogue one must deal with reality, not wishful thinking. Removing Cuba from the list of terror sponsors in 2015 did not alter Havana’s behavior. The Castro regime continued to sponsor and harbor terrorists, but Obama Administration concessions to the regime, and downplaying its outlaw status was not limited to terrorism. The Obama Administration also politicized the Trafficking in Persons report in 2015, drawing the criticism of experts in the field, to downplay Havana’s dismal record in the trafficking of human beings. Evidence exists of high level officials involved in trafficking.

Mr. Borrell and Mr. Obama are doubly wrong. They were wrong to not respond more strongly when Putin first invaded Ukraine in 2014. Appeasement encourages more impunity, not less. They are also wrong when they claim that  “embargo hurts the Cuban people”. On Mr. Obama’s watch when sanctions were repeatedly loosened, the regime legitimized by his state visit, the human rights situation in the country worsened, the economy became more militarized, Cubans suffered more at the hands of the dictatorship, and U.S. diplomats began to suffer brain damage. The Biden Administration loosened sanctions on Havana in May 2022, and conducted a law enforcement dialogue with a lawless regime while repression has worsened in Cuba on his watch with over 1,000 + new political prisoners, and a mass exodus of over 350,000 Cubans have entered the United States. The regime has used this exodus to infiltrate Castro regime henchmen into America.

During his visit to the island Mr. Borrell announced that “the European Union will send a special human rights envoy to Cuba this year to discuss the aftermath of anti-government protests in July 2021, but the EU’s top diplomat said it will not ‘impose’ demands on the Communist-run Caribbean nation.”  This will not help Cubans on the island, and will only encourage the dictatorship to act with greater impunity against the Cuban people. 


Periodico Digital, May 27, 2023

Breaking news

Borrell Defends in Cuba The Active Presence of The European Union and Its Human Rights Agenda

The High Representative for European Foreign Policy criticizes the US embargo and the inclusion of the island in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism

The High Representative for Foreign Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell, reiterated this Friday in Havana his strategic commitment to maintain an active presence on the island and advance in cooperation and high-level bilateral dialogue as the best mechanisms to contribute to changes in Cuba, in the face of the US embargo policy. After concluding the third Joint Council, held as part of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and the European Union, Borrell announced for the end of November the “important” visit of the EU special representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, one of the concrete results of his trip, which, he said, marks “the beginning of a new cycle of dialogues” between Brussels and Havana.

“We cannot ignore that we have differences on various issues […], but the European Union has neither the capacity nor the will to impose changes on Cuba, but we do want to have a framework of dialogue that allows us to talk about everything that unites us and differentiates us without taboos or prohibitions,” said the head of European diplomacy,  clearly betting on the “constructive” and at the same time “critical” commitment to Cuba, as opposed to Washington’s policy of pressure. He even mentioned the speech given in Havana by former U.S. President Barack Obama during his historic visit to the island in 2016 and quoted his words: “The embargo hurts the Cuban people and does not help produce the political changes that are intended.”

“Obama said it and I think so too,” Borrell said, recalling that the EU votes as a bloc every year at the UN against the embargo policy. He also criticized the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism by Donald Trump, from which the Biden administration has not removed it, something that, he said, “is causing serious and unfair problems to the development of economic activities on the island.” The embargo, he said, “hinders the living conditions of Cubans and undermines the necessary process of reform and modernization.”

Support for Cuban positions on this issue, key for the Government of Havana, was combined by Borrell with a fiery defense of the democratic values of the EU and its conception of human rights, in which obviously the differences with Cuba are many. The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy referred to civil liberties and the right to demonstrate, saying that in talks with his counterparts he addressed the issue of “the situation created before, during and after” the mass protests of 11 July 2021, after which hundreds of people were arrested and sentenced. “That’s what Eamon Gilmore will talk about when he comes to have a human rights dialogue in November,” he said. Within the “respectful” dialogue with Cuba, Borrell mentioned another of the “differences” that separate him from Havana, the war in Ukraine, requesting Cuba’s support now that the island presides over the important Group of 77 and China “and has a special responsibility in the multilateral sphere.”

For the EU it is important to explain its vision of the conflict, he said, because the community bloc hopes to “count” on Cuba to “promote respect” for the “sovereignty of Ukraine.” Since the beginning of the war, the Cuban government has avoided talking about an invasion and has supported the position that the US and NATO played a key role in the origin of the conflict, subscribing to Russian positions, although abstaining in the UN votes on most of the resolutions promoted by Moscow. In that sense, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Anayansi Rodríguez, who accompanied Borrell after the bilateral meeting, defended that her country advocates “a serious diplomatic solution” and opposes sanctions against Russia. He also said “that history will demand accountability” from the United States for its “military doctrine outside NATO’s borders.”

Borrell, who during his stay on the island held meetings with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, on Friday again supported the more than 700 European companies working on the island in the current moments of serious crisis, and supported with emphasis the emerging private sector and new Cuban small and medium-sized companies.  which, he observed, “are growing at a very rapid rate since their creation was authorized.” The objective of the EU, he said, “is to help develop their capacities so that they become key factors in the economic and social development of Cuba, as they are in Europe,” offering to “accompany” Cuba in its “process of economic and social reforms from a relationship of mutual respect, which has no other objective than to contribute to improving the lives of Cuban citizens.” (https://elpais.com/internacional/2023-05-26/borrell-defiende-en-cuba-la-presencia-activa-de-la-union-europea-y-su-agenda-de-los-derechos-humanos.html)

https://newsinamerica.com/en/breaking-news/2023/borrell-defends-in-cuba-the-active-presence-of-the-european-union-and-its-human-rights-agenda/

Saltwire, May 26, 2023

EU to send human rights envoy to Cuba, but will not ‘impose’ demands

By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA (Reuters) – The European Union will send a special human rights envoy to Cuba this year to discuss the aftermath of anti-government protests in July 2021, but the EU’s top diplomat said it will not “impose” demands on the Communist-run Caribbean nation.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, on a visit to Cuba this week, said EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore would visit the island in late November “to analyze the situation created before, during and after the demonstrations and arrests.”

Hundreds of Cubans remain in jail after the protests, the largest since former leader Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Rights groups, the European Union and the United States have all critiqued Cuba’s response to such protests as heavy-handed and repressive. Cuba’s government said those jailed were guilty of assault, vandalism and sedition.

Borrell said the European Union, Cuba´s top trade partner, would stop short of making demands on the government despite disagreements over human rights.

The 27-member EU has repeatedly rejected the United States´ Cold War-era trade embargo, and Washington putting Cuba on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“The European Union has neither the capacity nor the will to impose changes in Cuba, but we do want to maintain a framework that allows us to talk about everything that unites and divides us without taboos or prohibitions,” Borrell said.

Cuba´s support for Russia in the Ukraine war has become another flashpoint in its relationship with the EU.

Cuba, a long-time political ally of Russia, has called for a peaceful solution but has said the United States, not Russia, is responsible for the war. Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022 in what Moscow described as a necessary decision to protect its security.

Borrell said Cuba, which this year holds the presidency of the G77 group of developing nations, had a special role in defending international law in Ukraine.

“Ukraine is the victim and Russia is the aggressor,” Borrell said. “We hope to count on Cuba in its capacity as defender … of the basic principles of international law.”

European businesses, from Spain, Germany and France, among others, are top investors in Cuba, and a major source of tourists and humanitarian aid.

Russia however, has beefed up commercial ties with Cuba since the start of the Ukraine conflict, signing multiple business deals while shipping cargoes of wheat and petroleum products to the cash-strapped island in recent months.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood, additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; editing by Grant McCool)

https://www.saltwire.com/cape-breton/news/eu-to-send-human-rights-envoy-to-cuba-but-will-not-impose-demands-100857726/


The Washington Stand, May 15, 2023

Henchmen of Castroism Are Taking Advantage of the U.S. Border Crisis (Part 3)

By Yoe Suarez  May 15, 2023

The United States has opened its arms to Cuban exiles since 1959, but the current crisis on the southern border and the lack of control in legal migration processes attract servants of the socialist tyranny and violators of human rights to the same country where the regime’s victims found refuge.

This is part three of a four-part series. Read part one and part two.

Repressors Yesterday, Agents of Influence Today

The married couple of Ivette Bermello and Edgerton Ivor Levy crossed with their son in the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits in a boat. They arrived in the southern keys in 1993, pretending to seek political refuge. They were actually part of the Wasp Network, a Cuban group of spies that monitored military installations and contributed to the murder of four Americans who were guiding rafters to the mainland.

However, as soon as Levy arrived in the United States, he turned himself in to the FBI and operated as a double agent. During the fall of the Wasp Network, at the end of the 1990s, the couple was a key piece in the trial that sentenced five of the agents to long prison terms, including several life sentences. Barack Obama, in his second term, freed them.

Years later, Levy explained, in an interview, that the FBI and other U.S. security agencies did not evaluate Castro’s capabilities fairly.

In 1987, Ana Belén Montes, a promising Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, visited the El Paraíso military base in El Salvador. Weeks later, the Marxist guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) attacked the facility, leaving 69 dead, including U.S. Sgt. Greg Fronius. Montes had passed information to the Cuban regime, for which she spied, and Havana had sent the intelligence to its FMLN allies.

In 2002, Montes was sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison. She was released in 2023. This same year, the Biden administration extended invitations to high-ranking Castro soldiers to tour U.S. ports, something “extraordinarily imprudent,” according to Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

When another member of Congress, David Rouzer (R-N.C.), questioned the Cuban visit to the port of Wilmington, the State Department avoided speaking about security concerns, telling the media that the Biden administration had “repeatedly asked the Cuban government, in public and in private” to “immediately and unconditionally [release] all political prisoners.”

For John Suárez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, the response “does not address security concerns, nor the regime’s history of involvement in and sponsorship of terrorism, or recent high-level visits to Cuba by Russians, Chinese, and Iranians.” Suárez questions: “Does this mean that if the regime releases political prisoners it will have more access to the United States and its port security?”

For human rights activists, the sons and daughters of exiles from the Cuban Marxist Revolution, Biden’s openness is “deeply worrying.” Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst, experienced something similar decades ago. “Cubans were underestimated for more than a quarter of a century,” he wrote in his memoir. Washington thought they were dealing with amateurs until 1987, when agent Florentino Aspillaga Lombard defected and revealed Castro’s espionage capacity. The Cuban regime developed one of the top six foreign intelligence services, according to Latell, with achievements in handling double agents and counterintelligence that “have been unparalleled.”

Suárez recalls that agents at the service of the Cuban regime “have penetrated the Pentagon, the CIA, USAID, and the State Department, they have caused soldiers to die abroad, they have shaped Washington’s foreign policy, and they have written evaluations of threats from hostile countries that underestimate the dangers they pose to the union.”

The case of Carlos Lazo, who arrived in Florida in 1991 on a raft and assumed refugee status, is one of the most iconic among agents of influence. Since 2020, he has led the Bridges of Love initiative for the end of the sanctions against the regime, something that would oxygenate the dictatorship by allowing it access to international credits. Lazo, a veteran of the U.S. Army, is applauded by leftists in power on the island, which received him at the Palace of the Revolution.

But the homage in the socialist court was not well received by all. In 2021, Edmundo García, an old spokesman for Castroism on Miami radio, revealed in a bizarre broadcast his anger with Lazo, who was received by “the president [Miguel Díaz-Canel] like a king.”

García also addressed his message to Raúl Castro and to the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), Álvaro López Miera, whom he also blamed for “abandonment” of the regime after sending it on “a mission” to the United States. “I have never been a traitor, I have never stopped being a revolutionary. I would never have come here if the need had not been explained to me many times,” he revealed.

Would he be annoyed by a change among the agents of influence in Havana?

Lazo’s initiative attracts a variety of anti-embargo fauna, such as Uberto Mario, a Miami resident and former member of the political police, who shared the same car as the professor in a protest against U.S. sanctions in February of this year.

Could Castro’s henchmen, spokesmen, and collaborators entering through the southern border join the movement?

With such a historical background, John Suárez advises that “Washington should not underestimate the current entry of repressors into the country.” The failure to control the southern border is a prime opportunity for Castroites to enter U.S. territory and then mutate into agents of influence.

Between 2021 and 2022, the Cuban Institute for Press Freedom (ICLEP) reported the arrival in the United States of at least 12 communicators who served as spokespersons for the dictatorship media until shortly before crossing the border. None apologized for the reputation assassinations against human rights defenders that they carried out in state media or for their participation in propaganda for Castroism.

One of them was the announcer Yunior Smith Rodríguez, “famous for denigrating independent reporters and opponents of the regime on Cuban Television,” confirmed Normando Hernández, who chairs ICLEP.

The military Ernesto Alemán, head of Information Technology of the Technical Department of Investigations in Havana, has also arrived in the United States.

Although the United States seems to be the most desirable destination for the henchmen, the truth is that in other nations, such as Russia (one of the few countries that do not require a visa for Cubans), there have been reports of regime collaborators fleeing the economic disaster there. Mario Alberto Céspedes Pérez is one of them, who went from ratting out dissidents in Cuba to being beaten and hunted with dogs by Belarusian policemen when he tried to cross into the European Union.

The writer and journalist Alberto Méndez Castelló, one of those watched by Céspedes Pérez in the town of Puerto Padre (Las Tunas Province) forgives his repressor, but it bothers him to see others like him living “very well established [lives] in the United States, Canada, Spain, or any country; not fighting for the freedom of Cuba, but living, without fear, the freedoms of democracy against which they themselves fought in Cuba.”

“I do not hold grudges or plan reprisals against any of my persecutors because, inside the dungeons, I was a free man,” says Méndez Castelló. “Every day that I spent on hunger strike in the cells, my stomach was sick, yes, but my heart was full of freedom — much more than my persecutors — who today are belches from the regime that used them and then spit on them.”

Read part four

** The author would like to thank the Cuban Studies Institute and Cultura Democrática for their contributions to this investigation.

Yoe Suárez is a writer, producer, and journalist, exiled from Cuba due to his investigative reporting about themes like torture, political prisoners, government black lists, cybersurveillance, and freedom of expression and conscience. He is the author of the books “Leviathan: Political Police and Socialist Terror” and “El Soplo del Demonio: Violence and Gangsterism in Havana.”

Topics:Human Rights, Socialism, Communism, International Religious Freedom

https://washingtonstand.com/commentary/henchmen-of-castroism-are-taking-advantage-of-the-us-border-crisis-part-3

Office of Congressman Christopher H. Smith, May 12, 2023

Implementation of the Trafficking Victims Protection

Remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)

May 12, 2023

This hearing of the Subcommittee on Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations will come to order.

Today we will examine the ever-worsening exploitation of vulnerable persons by human traffickers and discuss U.S. efforts to combat this heinous crime.
This is the 41st congressional hearing I have chaired on human trafficking, and I am looking forward to hearing from all of our amazing leaders here today, especially the survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Congress approved and the President signed historic legislation that I authored—the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. This bipartisan landmark law created a comprehensive whole-of-government initiative to combat sex and labor trafficking in the United States and around the world. It also established many new programs to protect victims, prosecute traffickers, and prevent human trafficking in the first place—the three Ps.

Looking at the progress made over the years, it is hard to believe that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was met with serious opposition at the time—dismissed by many as a solution in search of a problem.

Most people at the time associated trafficking with drugs and weapons—not human beings. Reports of vulnerable persons—especially women and children—being reduced to commodities for sale were often met with surprise, incredulity, or indifference.

Top administration officials even testified against major provisions including sanctions and even the need to create the trafficking in persons (TIP) office arguing that exposing and sanctioning countries with egregiously poor records on human trafficking would be “counterproductive”.

As a matter of fact, when our bill was stalled and languishing and presumed dead, I invited victims of sex trafficking to inform and motivate.

Brave victims made the difference. They made clear that delay was denial.

It took over two years to muster the votes for passage and my bill was finally signed into law on October 28, 2000.

Within a year after enactment no-one was arguing anymore  that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s integrated three P’s strategy—prevention, protection for victims and prosecution of the traffickers—was flawed, unworkable, unnecessary, or counterproductive.

The bill included a number of “sea change” criminal code reforms, including treating as a victim of trafficking—and not a perpetrator of a crime—anyone recruited, harbored, transported, or obtained for the purpose of a commercial sex act or for labor services who had not attained the age of 18 or through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act radically reformed the way the US responded to human trafficking—and it has pushed states and other countries to do the same.

Thanks to this Act, thousands of human traffickers have been prosecuted and jailed. Most countries in the world have responded to this gross violation of human rights and have enacted
anti-trafficking legislation. Yet there is more that must be done to strengthen the US and international response to these crimes, as more than 27 million people are still being trafficked today.

That is why I’ve authored four additional laws to combat human trafficking—including TVPA reauthorizations in 2003 and 2005, International Megan’s Law in 2016, and in 2019 my good friend Karen Bass and I wrote the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act.

This is a pivotal time for Congress to be focused on human trafficking, as the U.S. faces a crisis at our southern border that has resulted in countless victims—especially women and children, being exploited while traffickers take advantage of the chaos. With the expiration of Title 42 last night, it is more important than ever that we examine what must be done to stop this crime and rescue and tangibly assist the victims.

In 2015, I chaired a congressional hearing to demand accuracy and accountability when designating tier rankings pursuant to the finding of the TIP report. Egregious violators—14 countries—including China, Cuba, Oman and Malaysia were given unearned passing grades under the tier system.

The TIP office got it right only to be overruled by higher ups.

In 2016, I chaired another “accountability” hearing entitled—Get It Right This Time: A Victims-Centered Trafficking in Persons Report.

I said then and I reiterate now, the power of the Trafficking in Persons Report, a mainstay of the TVPA rests on its credibility. And the credibility of the report rests on its accuracy. We must get the report right—no fudging, no favors to nations based on other agendas—or we risk losing one of the most effective tools we have. Grade inflation for certain favored countries undermines credibility and demoralizes victims and anti-human trafficking advocates as well as countries. In the coming days, I plan on reintroducing the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act – which has been significantly informed by survivor input and includes a Survivor Empowerment approach to victim services. This bill will strengthen and
expand U.S. anti-trafficking programs, including ramping up prevention and protection efforts against trafficking of children, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure it is
enacted.

I look forward to hearing from two distinguished panels of leaders including the Trafficking in persons Ambassador-at-Large Cindy Dyer and Deputy Assistant Administrator Walsh about current State Department and USAID anti-trafficking efforts, including at the southern border.


https://chrissmith.house.gov/uploadedfiles/2023-05-12_trafficking_hearing_remarks.pdf

The Daily Signal, January 13, 2023

Security

Commentary

Biden’s Misguided Cuba Policy, Havana’s Master Spy, and the Danger of Wishful Thinking

By John Suarez January 13, 2023

The Biden administration’s Cuba policy—a return to that of the Obama administration, based on a misreading of history and misinformation spread by agents of influence in Washington—does not bode well for U.S. interests.

The reality is that Cuba’s dictatorship is a criminal enterprise that has spent more than six decades destabilizing democracies in the Americas and succeeded in ending them in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

Without well-placed spies in Washington, that would not have been possible.

Ana Belen Montes, a 17-year spy for the Fidel Castro dictatorship, served 20 years of a 25-year prison sentence and was released on Jan. 6 from a federal prison facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Officially, the reason for the shortened prison stay was due to good behavior. Montes, a Puerto Rican, has moved to Puerto Rico.

Unrepentant, Montes repeated the same narratives she advanced while working for the Castro dictatorship in her first statement out of prison.

Montes, 27 at the time and a Johns Hopkins University master’s degree student working for the Justice Department, was recruited by Cuban intelligence in 1984. In 1985, she began working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency after graduating.

She worked for Cuba, a state sponsor of terrorism, through 17 years spying for Havana, and her analyses downplayed Havana’s threat. Montes whitewashed Havana’s six-decade record of terrorism (including on U.S. soil), drug trafficking, brutality against Cubans, repression in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and genocide in Ethiopia.

Along with Montes at DIA, Havana’s Directorate of Intelligence successfully infiltrated the CIA, the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, conducting influence campaigns, burning spies, and passing secrets to Havana that were then sold to other enemies of America.

Montes revealed secrets that led to the deaths of 65 Central American soldiers, and at least one American soldier. In March 1987, Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front guerrillas killed Greg Fronius, a 27-year-old American soldier, because Montes leaked secrets to Havana.

In June 1985, they brutally killed four U.S. Marine embassy guards, two other American civilians, six Salvadorans, and citizens of other countries as they sat at a sidewalk cafe near the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador.

In February 1996, Montes facilitated a meeting between U.S. government officials and retired U.S. Navy Adm. Eugene Carroll to relay recent Cuban threats, allowing the now-deceased Carroll—who had become a left-wing anti-military activist—to shape public opinion in favor of Cuba while negatively portraying the anti-Castro Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue.  

U.S. counterintelligence officer Scott Carmichael wrote in his book “True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba’s Master Spy” that he believed that that was a “influence operation”—a covert attempt to influence public opinion.

In 1997, Montes drafted a Pentagon report claiming Cuba had a “limited capacity” to harm the U.S., which Castro referred to as “an objective report by serious people.”

Montes was chosen as a team leader to examine the effectiveness of U.S. Air Force bombing in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Officials feared that, given Havana’s long history of selling secrets to enemies of the U.S., if Montes obtained the Pentagon’s war plans for Afghanistan and gave them to Havana’s Directorate of Intelligence, the Castro regime would pass them on to the Taliban.

That hastened her arrest on Sept. 21, 2001.

The “most damaging non-human intelligence she provided to the Cubans,” according to retired FBI agent Peter Lapp, was information about “a U.S. secret satellite program” that was so sensitive “that prosecutors were banned from using it had the case gone to trial.”

Although the information was unrelated to Cuba, investigators believe Castro passed it on to other regimes hostile to the United States. According to DIA analyst Chris Simmons, selling secrets is a profitable business for Havana.

Montes’ claims that Cuba posed no threat persisted in Congress for a decade after her arrest, in order to justify removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

During her tenure in Washington, the following facts were buried:

  • Cuba was first added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism in March 1982. The State Department confirmed that Havana was using a drug ring to smuggle arms and money to Colombia’s  M-19 terrorist group.

  • M-19 members stormed Colombia’s Palace of Justice in November 1985. Eleven of Colombia’s 25 Supreme Court justices were among the hostages killed. Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s current president, was an M-19 member in the 1980s.

  • “In the Arab world, some 3,000 [Cuban advisers] can be found in Libya and Algeria, among other things training terrorists and Polisario guerrillas,” wrote John Hoyt Williams in The Atlantic in 1988. 

  • On Feb. 24, 1996, Havana carried out Operation Scorpion, using intelligence provided by the Wasp Network in the U.S., which led to the killing of four Brothers to the Rescue members in international airspace.

According to Simmons, the former Defense Intelligence Agency spy catcher, the Wasp Network (“La Red Avispa” in Spanish) “was the largest foreign spy network to operate in the United States.”

This spy network also targeted U.S. military facilities, planned to smuggle arms and explosives into America, and assassinate a retired CIA agent.

The post-Castro regime in Cuba has continued to sponsor and harbor terrorists to the present day, despite vehement denials, and shows no signs of abating.

The record shows Montes was a traitor who supported a terrorist regime that killed Americans and U.S. allies while harming U.S. interests

She should have been sentenced to life in prison, but instead struck a deal and was sentenced to 25 years and last week was released early. At minimum, given the harm she caused and her lack of repentance, Montes should not have been released before serving her full sentence.

The State Department announced Thursday, less than a week after her release, that it was resuming a “law-enforcement dialogue” with the stated goal of bringing “transnational criminals to justice.”

Then-President Donald Trump ended the “dialogue” initiated by President Barack Obama in 2015. During the initial three-year dialogue, none of the terrorists or fugitives from American justice held by Havana were handed over to the U.S.

The phrase “law-enforcement dialogue” is inaccurate. In Cuba, there is no rule of law. To keep power, there is a dictatorship and a repressive security apparatus. There is no such thing as “law enforcement.”

That was evident during the nationwide protests on July 11, when political police beat down, clubbed, and shot nonviolent protesters in the back. That became clear when Cuban witnesses who had documented that criminal behavior were tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Where might this Biden thaw lead to? On Oct. 14, 2016, the Obama administration issued a presidential directive on “United States-Cuba Normalization,” which included a problematic instruction.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will support broader United States government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with intelligence community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.

Reading this presidential directive from 2016, it’s clear that the Biden administration is using it as a blueprint for its unfolding Cuba policy, which ignores the nature of the regime in Havana and threatens not only American lives and property, but also the fate of democracy in the Americas.

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https://www.dailysignal.com/2023/01/13/bidens-misguided-cuba-policy-havanas-master-spy-and-danger-of-wishful-thinking/