This cable is a response to a survey about security, political violence, terrorism and the capabilities of Cuban authorities.
Date: 2009-02-27 21:20:00
Source: US Interests Section Havana
Destination: R 272120Z FEB 09
FM USINT HAVANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4178
INFO CIA WASHINGTON DC
DIA WASHINGTON DC
FBI WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T HAVANA 000132
DEPARTMENT FOR DS/TIA/ITA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2024
TAGS: ASEC, PTER
SUBJECT: USINT HAVANA RESPONSE TO SPRING 2009 SEPQ
REF: STATE 013023
Classified By: RSO TEDD ARCHABAL FOR REASONS 1.5 (C, D)
1. (SBU) Post responses are keyed to the Spring 2009
Security Environment Profile Questionnaire (reftel). There
has been no significant change to the security or threat
environment in Havana since our last submission.
2. (U) DEMONSTRATIONS
A. (SBU) No. The Government of Cuba (GOC) maintains almost
total control over all organizations on the island. The most
autonomous large organization is the Catholic Church, which
wields limited autonomy. Any group demonstrating against the
United States would be doing so at the GOC's behest, or at a
minimum with their approval. The U.S. Interests Section
(USINT) doubts whether any ethnic or religious groups in Cuba
would demonstrate, at their own initiative, against the
i. (SBU) Demonstrations have taken place in the last 12
months. The last was held in June / July 2008 at the Jose
Marti Anti-Imperialist Plaza (see below) in commemoration of
the Cuba Five. The event was peaceful but USINT employees
had some trouble arriving at work because the road adjacent
to the Interests Section where employees park was closed.
ii. (SBU) Periodically, the GOC sponsors rallies at the
Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Plaza adjacent to the Interests
Section but they tend to be in commemoration of Cuban
revolutionary anniversaries and are not strictly
Anti-American in nature. There have been four rallies in the
past year - the most recent a celebration of the 50th
anniversary of Cuba's revolution on January 3, 2009.
iii. (SBU) Between 2,000 and 3,000 persons.
iv. (SBU) U.S. foreign policy as it relates to Cuba.
B. Demonstrations are generally peaceful
ii. (SBU) As reported in the Fall 2008 SEPQ, an individual
scaled the perimeter fence at USINT's Refugee Processing
Annex in April 2008. The incident was not considered a
violent demonstration and was handled administratively. In
October 2008, an intruder scaled a perimeter gate at the
Chief of Mission's Residence and gained access to the home.
The individual did not threaten anyone but was later
identified as the same man who harassed two female FTE
employees outside USINT. The matter was referred to the
Ministry of Foreign Relations.
C. (C) Unknown. Impromptu protests have been reported
through various means yet the GOC actively tries to suppress
information that any demonstrations have occurred. It is
conceivable but not likely that one of these demonstrations
could escalate to violence and spread to other parts of the
city and/or country.
3. (U) MACRO CONFLICT CONDITIONS
4. (U) HOST COUNTRY CAPABILITIES
A. (S) Varies among agencies/units. The regular police
patrolling Havana are ubiquitous but appear to have limited
training and outdated equipment. Directly outside the USINT
perimeter gate, four armed officers from the National Police
Force (Policia Nacional Revolucionaria) and between 10-12
unarmed officers from the Specialized Protective Services
unit (SEPSA) provide 24-hour guard service. Periodic
requests to meet with SEPSA and/or PNR supervisors are
denied. In addition, USINT strongly believes that SEPSA is
charged with the dual mission of protecting USINT's perimeter
and providing counterintelligence information to the Ministry
of Interior (MININT). Pursuant to two residential security
incidents in the past six months, RSO requested MININT
assistance and observed their personnel conducting basic
crime scene investigations (photographs, fingerprints,
footprints) but little in the way of witness or neighborhood
interviews. Cuba does, however, have well-trained,
professional paramilitary forces that would be utilized to
protect USINT assets should a crisis warrant their
deployment. Such a deployment would likely require a
high-level political decision by the GOC.
C. (S) Yes. Corruption in Cuba is an accepted means of
survival. The average Cuban makes about $18 a month, and low
and mid-level police officials earn similar salaries. In
short, Cuban law enforcement is confronted with serious and
widespread corruption. Some things that are considered
corrupt in the United States such as conflict of interest,
double dipping and influence peddling are integral parts of
Cuba's standard operating procedures.
D. (S) Yes. Both the Directorate of Intelligence and the
Directorate of Counterintelligence of MININT are professional
and capable services. They are highly effective at
penetrating networks on the island and actively pursuing
individuals they believe to be terrorists. One must note
that the GOC believes opposition groups in Cuba are
terrorists sponsored by the United States.
E. (C) No. There is very little cooperation and the GOC
generally does not respond to requests for information.
G. (S) As mentioned above, the GOC posts armed police and
unarmed security guards along the perimeter of the Interests
Section and Refugee Processing facilities, and outside the
COM residence. In September 2008, USINT's Refugee Program
Coordinator was threatened, in writing, by one of the "Group
of 75" freed political prisoners for delays in processing his
refugee case. RSO Havana immediately forwarded a diplomatic
note to the Ministry of Foreign Relations requesting
assistance but did not receive a response until almost one
month later. In addition, RSO Havana attempted to meet with
SEPSA supervisors to increase security outside the Refugee
Processing Annex but was told to send the request to MINREX.
Attempts to meet with SEPSA and MINREX liaison officers are
H. Very good
5. (U) ANTI-AMERICAN TERRORIST GROUPS
6. (U) OTHER INDIGENOUS TERRORIST GROUPS
7. (U) TRANSNATIONAL TERRORIST INDICATORS
A. (C) Yes. We have reliable reporting indicating the
presence of ELN, FARC and ETA members here in Havana. That
said, they are unlikely to conduct terrorist operations in
B. (C) The specific activities of these groups are largely
unknown but Post was able to corroborate that ETA members
assisting the FARC had spent time in Cuba and some even had
family members in country. There is little chance of any
operational activity given the need for safehaven.
C. (C) Yes. The GOC allows these groups to enjoy R&R in
Cuba and receive medical care and other services (NFI).
Reporting also indicates that the GOC is able to influence
the FARC. The Cuban Communist Party International Department
(PCC/ID) has close relationships with the Clandestine
Communist Party of Colombia (PCC) which serves as the
political wing of the FARC, and to some extent the ELN as
D. (S) Yes. The Al Ma'Sumin (Shia) Islamic Center located
in Havana has established ties with, and receives support
from, the Government of Iran.
F. (C) Very little threat. Although the GOC maintains
diplomatic ties with these states and many of these states
maintain a diplomatic presence/embassy in Havana, we have
seen no evidence that the GOC allows hostile intelligence
service to plan terrorist, anti-U.S. operations in Cuba.
Conventional wisdom in the diplomatic community is that the
GOC is anxious to avoid giving the United States a rationale
to conduct counterterrorism operations against it. Moreover,
the GOC guards its own prerogatives jealously and would not
want a foreign service or organization operating on its soil
even if relations between the GOC and that organization or
service were excellent. Post gauges the most immediate
threat from hostile intelligence services to be from a
G. (C) Very little threat. It has long been assumed that
firearms are difficult to procure clandestinely in Cuba but
previous reporting (2005) claimed evidence of criminal
elements obtaining weapons (NFI). Another potential threat
includes AWOL soldiers or deserters who have kept their
weapons and used them in criminal acts. Two historic
examples bear mention. In one, a group of three hijacked an
aircraft and in the other a group hijacked a ferry with both
trying to go to the United States. Nevertheless, tight state
controls in Cuba make arms smuggling and possession of
explosives more difficult that in neighboring countries.
Source of cable: El Pais
Note: Wikileaks shows this link for this cable, but it leads to a document about Russia, not Cuba.