Friday, January 28, 2011

Confidential cable: Brazilian official urged that the U.S. lift the embargo

U.S. government relations with Cuba are intimately tied to America's chances of improving relations with other nations in the Americas, a senior policy adviser to the president of Brazil told U.S. Ambassador Clifford Sobel.

A confidential January 2009 U.S. embassy cable recounted Sobel's encounter with Marco Aurelio Garcia, shown in the photo (source of image: Terra magazine).
The Ambassador asked how central discussion of Cuba would be, in Garcia's view, to establishing relations with the region. "You can't talk about Latin America," he responded, "without talking about Cuba." It has become a "sign" for the region. Garcia urged a "strong" U.S. overture to Cuba "without conditions," such as removing the embargo. It would be, he said, a small price to pay for a large gain. On the one hand, he said, the Cubans would be astounded and embarrassed, and the United States would gain the moral high ground. On the other, he stressed that, on the basis of his long relationship with Cuba and knowledge of Cuban history, he was certain the Cubans would never agree to a proposal that had explicit conditions attached. The Ambassador asked if Raul Castro's proposal for a prisoner exchange, made during his December 18 visit to Brasilia, was the Cubans' own idea. Garcia said his impression was that it was Raul's idea, that is was spontaneous and had not been vetted inHavana. "Raul is a military man," Garcia said. "He understands the correlation of forces."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New OFAC regs are out

Corruption Currents, a Wall Street Journal blog, reported today that a draft of the new Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, regulations are out. Download 37-page PDF.

Washington lawyer turns reporter in coverage of Posada Carriles trial

Jose Pertierra. Source of photo: Embassy of Venezuela

Some of the most detailed, colorful and insightful coverage of the Luis Posada Carriles trial comes from a lawyer, not a journalist.
Jose Pertierra's reports from U.S. District Court in El Paso appear first on the pro-Castro CubaDebate website and are reprinted by CounterPunch and other publications. In his latest dispatch, Pertierra recounts the testimony of FBI informant Gilberto Abascal.
Pertierra has a longtime interest in the Posada Carriles case. He represents the government of Venezuela in its request that Posada Carriles be extradited to Venezuela to face charges there.
Pertierra was born in Cuba, but grew up in the United States. He graduated from Georgetown University in 1979 and was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar on Dec. 7, 1984. His law firm is Pertierra & Toro, at 1010 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.
Among notable past clients:
  • Juan Miguel Gonzalez, father of Elian Gonzalez, the shipwreck victim who was the center of a nasty U.S.-Cuba custody dispute.
  • Jennifer Harbury, wife of Efrain Bamaca, a Guatemalan peace activist who was tortured and murdered in Guatemala.
Pertierra's willingness to defend leftist causes has drawn enemies. About a decade ago, someone blew up the lawyer's Honda Acura while he was defending Harbury, according to a 2009 profile in CubaNews. He wasn't in the car at the time.
Interestingly, Pertierra must file disclosure statements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. According to the Justice Department:
FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Politics along the roadside

Billboards near Havana.

Judge has second thoughts about her decision

U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone on Tuesday agreed to reconsider her decision to throw out the testimony of Gilberto Abascal, a star witness in the case of Luis Posada Carriles.
The court record - what's available to the public, at least - doesn't make clear what happened. It simply says:
Text Order GRANTING 589 Motion for Reconsideration as to Luis Posada Carriles. For the reasons set forth in the record on January 25, 2011, the government's motion is granted. Entered by Judge Kathleen Cardone.
Since the trial began on Jan. 11, at least 11 new documents and other items have been sealed in the case. These include:
  • four documents
  • three motions
  • two exhibits
  • one order
  • one proposed order
There are another 11 minute entry documents - part of the official record containing details about what's going on in court - that aren't available in the electronic records.
Courts are allowed to seal documents to safeguard national security and protect the rights of defendants. I wonder if all the sealed files in this case - which amount to hundreds of documents and thousands of pages since the 2007 - should have been shielded from the public.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Prosecutors ask judge to admit testimony of controversial FBI informant

Prosecutors today asked U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone to reconsider her ruling throwing out the testimony of Gilberto Abascal, their star witness against Luis Posada Carriles.
Abascal, an FBI informant, has drawn condemnation from some Cuban exiles who say he has also reported to Cuban intelligence agents. He was aboard a shrimping boat called the Santrina that went to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in 2005 to pick up Posada Carriles and smuggle him to Miami.
Cardone's ruling on Monday is damaging to the government's case against Posada Carriles. In a document filed Tuesday, prosecutors wrote:
The testimony of Mr. Gilberto Abascal clearly establishes that the individuals who sailed on the Santrina in March 2005 did conspire to sail to Mexico and smuggle the defendant back into the United States.

Vamos a la playa

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Catholic Church "mostly avoids challenging" the Cuban government

According to this 2008 confidential memo, Cuba's Catholic Church:
has neither the strength nor the inclination to challenge the GOC beyond the occasional criticism when GOC policies conflict with Vatican doctrine on issues such as gay rights.

Confidential memo: Cuba using youth to combat corruption

This 2006 confidential memo discusses the Cuban government's use of some 30,000 young social workers to fight corruption.

Confidential memo: "Trickery has become a way of life"

According to this 2006 State Department cable, Cuba has become a state on the take."

Immigration official: Posada Carriles lied, broke the law

U.S. immigration officials found in August 2006 that Luis Posada Carriles had lied, broken the law and traveled with a fake American passport.
Nearly five years later, his case still isn’t settled.
Posada Carriles, 82, is on trial this month in El Paso, where he faces perjury, immigration fraud and other charges.
The anti-Castro militant must certainly feel betrayed. He served in the U.S. military. He was a CIA operative. He was an insider who worked with the U.S. government to undermine Cuba’s socialist government and leftist organizations that supported Cuba.
Now U.S. authorities are pursuing Posada Carriles, accusing him of lying to immigration authorities – one of the very skills that the CIA once taught him so that he’d be able to travel undetected.

Buen día

Wake up, wake up...
There's nothing like Cuban coffee in the morning.

Vintage American cars in Cuba

  A Ford Mercury

I shot these photos about six blocks from where I lived in the seaside town of Tarara, east of Havana.
A Dodge

Ford made the Edsel from 1958 to 1960. The car never caught on, and Ford lost millions of dollars.




Scenes from Trinidad

Here are a few photos taken in the town of Trinidad in the province of Sancti Spíritus.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

¡Coño!

This word appears on the stairs right below a spot where some people bump their head on the ceiling while walking up the stairs to the studio of Cuban artist Jose Fuster.
Coño is a popular word in Cuba. Online dictionaries offer a variety of translations, including:
  • Damn!
  • Goddam!
  • Shit!
and
  • F--k! (with blanks filled in, of course)

Embassy cable: Raul Castro worried about mass migration, food shortages

Raul Castro worried that Cubans would abandon the island en masse if Cuba's travel restrictions were lifted, according to a June 2008 State Department cable.
Castro also said that strengthening the Cuban peso against the convertible Cuban peso could "spike inflation in Cuba and lead to devastating food shortages."
See entire cable below.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Searching for truth in the Posada Carriles case

Anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles is on trial because he allegedly lied to U.S. immigration authorities in 2005 and 2006.
He was indicted in 2007, but got off on a technicality. U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone threw out crucial tapes and transcripts of his 2006 naturalization interview and then dismissed the indictment.
In 2008, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Cardone was wrong and should not have tossed out the indictment.
Prosecutors filed a new indictment against the former CIA operative in 2009 and this time they charged him with:
  • Two counts of perjury
  • One count of obstruction of proceedings
  • One count of naturalization fraud
  • Seven counts of making a false statement in a naturalization proceeding.
Posada Carriles is back before Cardone, the same judge who threw out the 2007 indictment.
The appeals court decision makes clear to me that 1) Cardone shouldn't have dismissed the indictment and 2) prosecutors have a strong case. It's fairly obvious that Posada Carriles lied. But that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be convicted.
The defense can claim a lot of things:
  • He was confused, he didn't understand, he may have lied, but they were small lies, lies that don't matter.
  • He's a patriot, he loves the United States, he's loyal, he served in the U.S. military.
  • He fought communism, he risked his life, he's a hero, he's a warrior.
  • He's been wounded, his health is poor, he's frail, he's an old man.
  • He's an immigrant, he's a victim, prosecutors were unfair, the government is conspiring against him.
The defense can claim all that - and more. But if this case is simply about who's telling the truth, then the government should win.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Judge orders journalist to produce Posada Carriles painting

The photos aren't good enough.
U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone ruled Tuesday that California journalist Ann Louise Bardach must bring a painting - and not just pictures of it - to El Paso when she testifies in court.
The author of the painting is Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative on trial this week in El Paso.
Posada Carriles gave Bardach the painting when she interviewed him in 1998. His dedication read:
To my friend Ana, who understands our cause for a free Cuba.
See photos of painting here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

CubaDebate uses Facebook in fight with YouTube

Facebook page supporting CubaDebate

Two Facebook pages - here and here - have sprung up asking Google to reestablish CubaDebate's YouTube channel.
Facebook took down a third page, a screenshot of which is shown above, which prompted some pro-Castro bloggers today to complain that both Google and Facebook are censoring CubaDebate.
The trouble began after CubaDebate posted part of a video showing incoming Congressman David Rivera at a fund-raiser for anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sen. Menendez: Travel rule changes are "lifeline" to Castro regime

From Sen. Robert Menendez in Newark, N.J.:
I am deeply disappointed by President Obama's decision today to extend an economic life line to the Castro regime. This gift to the Castro brothers will provide the regime with the additional resources it needs to sustain its failing economy, while ordinary Cubans continue to struggle under the weight of more than fifty years of economic and political oppression.

The decision to permit additional travel to the island and allow nearly unlimited resources to flow to the regime is bad policy and will only serve to prolong the repression of the Cuban people. These changes, purportedly taken in hope of advancing a democratic opening on the island, ignore the reality that it is not U.S. policy, but Cuban policy, that is responsible for the Castros' political and economic tyranny. This opening will do no more to advance political freedom in Cuba then our economic engagement with China has done for political dissidents in that nation. You can't buy political reform.

The fact that the Administration offered this concession to the regime despite their continued imprisonment of an American citizen is simply outrageous. Unless new efforts are undertaken to limit the impact of these policy changes, the sole result will be to enrich the Castro regime and enhance the political and economic impoverishment of the Cuban people.

New Cuba travel rules: Devil's in the details

The new regulations on travel to Cuba are supposed to be published within two weeks. I am curious how federal authorities will define "senior Cuban government officials or senior members of the Cuban Communist Party."
The White House announcement says anyone in the United States will be able to send $500 per quarter to "non-family members in Cuba to support private economic activity, among other purposes."
But the money can't go to senior government officials or senior members of the Communist Party.
I wonder what makes someone a senior official. How old do you have to be? How many years do you have to be in government?
It seems like a silly rule. If U.S. officials are trying to channel money to people who want change, some older people want that, too. And some young Cubans are strong government supporters. So age doesn't always define one's views.
Another thing that will need to be further defined is "purposeful travel." The White House announcement describes that as "religious, cultural, and educational travel." The idea is to promote non-tourist travel. But how do you prevent someone on "purposeful travel" from veering off to Varadero?

Phil Peters applauds Obama for keeping it simple

From Phil Peters at the Cuban Triangle:
President Obama has finally decided to replace President Bush’s regulations governing American travel to Cuba, and he has a better idea: fewer restrictions, simpler regulations, and more citizen contact – but no tourism. (See details in the post below.)

My preference is for Americans to have the same freedom to travel to Cuba as they do to every other more-or-less imperfect country on the globe.

We don’t get that with President Obama’s action today, and many parts of his Cuba policy remain unchanged from those of President Bush, and counterproductive. But this is a big improvement, and it builds on the Administration’s complete removal of restrictions on Cuban-American travel and its easing of gift parcel rules.

Anya Landau: Obama breaks with failed policy

This is just in from the New America Foundation:
Anya Landau French, director of the New America Foundation’s U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative, commented: “These new travel rules will make it possible for thousands of Americans to connect with and help a broad spectrum of Cubans at a crucial moment of change on the island. These regulations reflect President Obama’s campaign pledge of pragmatic engagement with the rest of the world, including Cuba, and will demonstrate to our allies and detractors around the globe that his Administration is able to break from the failed policies of the past.”

Capitol Hill Cubans: Obama gave in to Castro's "blackmail"

From the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC:
At the time of the Castro regime's worst economic and political crisis in recent history -- and in defiance of the will of the U.S. Congress -- the Obama Administration has made a policy decision to bail it out.

As such, the Obama Administration has succumbed to the Castro regime's blackmail. It's nonsensical and irresponsible to ease travel to Cuba for Americans while an American is being held hostage by the Castro regime for the last 13 months without charges, trial or due process.

Such appeasing and accommodating policies will only embolden the dangerous behavior of the Castro regime and further endanger American lives.

Congressman Jeff Flake praises White House decision

Here's Flake's reaction from Tucson:
Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, a long-time proponent of the repeal of U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba, today praised the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase travel to Cuba for Americans by expanding travel opportunities for academic research and educational, cultural, and religious travel, as well as increasing the number of international airports eligible for flights to and from Cuba.

“I commend the White House for taking positive measures to allow more Americans to travel to Cuba, this effort has been a long time coming,” said Flake. “I have always felt that the best way to promote democracy in Cuba is to allow American values to be displayed there, and more travel to the country by Americans will do just that. This is a great day for all Cubans and Americans alike.”

The White House announcement on Cuba travel

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
January 14, 2011
Reaching Out to the Cuban People

Today, President Obama has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to take a series of steps to continue efforts to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. (Link to this announcement)

The President has directed that changes be made to regulations and policies governing: (1) purposeful travel; (2) non-family remittances; and (3) U.S. airports supporting licensed charter flights to and from Cuba. These measures will increase people-to-people contact; support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.

The President believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens. These steps build upon the President’s April 2009 actions to help reunite divided Cuban families; to facilitate greater telecommunications with the Cuban people; and to increase humanitarian flows to Cuba.

Sarah Stephens: Asks Cuban-American lawmakers not to interfere with president's actions

Here's a statement from Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which supports President Obama’s executive order expanding travel to Cuba:
This is an important step forward for our Cuba policy.
At a time when Cubans are changing their system in fundamental ways, it is a good idea to have greater engagement, more Americans traveling to Cuba, and more opportunities to learn from each other as everyday Cubans reshape their lives and their country.
It is my hope that Members of Congress who represent Cuban Americans – a community that can travel to Cuba without any limits at all – will not make efforts to thwart what the president has done. This step authorizing non-tourist travel is a basic and positive step to take at this time.
The president is to be commended for taking this step to improve our policy and, ideally, to move forward on reforming U.S.-Cuba relations.
We will continue to press for the freedom to travel to Cuba for all Americans.

WOLA: This is most important change to travel ban in 20 years

A statement from the Washington Office on Latin America:
Today, President Obama issued an executive order easing restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba. This is a positive step toward changing a failed policy.

"This is the most significant relaxation of the travel ban in the last two decades" said Geoff Thale, WOLA Program Director. The changes significantly ease regulations on travel to Cuba for educational, religious and cultural exchanges. They also permit "people-to-people" travel, allowing licensed groups to travel to Cuba for interchange with the Cuban people. The Clinton Administration authorized this sort of travel in the late 1990s, a move reversed by the Bush Administration in 2003.

Frank Calzon: Treasury Department details to be released after 5 p.m.

From Frank Calzon, of the Center for a Free Cuba:

The Treasury Department decision expected to be released after 5:00 pm today in which Treasury facilitates the travel to Cuba and the expending of dollars on the island by American college students, by religious groups, and the sending of a couple of thousand dollars a month by Americans to anyone in Cuba regardless of family ties, is being presented as a way to help the people on the island. Unfortunately, every economic transaction in Cuba of any significance is government-controlled, and almost all of those funds will be spent in Cuban government hard currency stores that sell items at very high prices.

Did talks about Alan Gross trigger White House announcement?

Just when we need a leaked U.S. embassy cable, there's zilch from Wikileaks czar Julian Assange.
I'd like to know if Cuban officials gave the State Department any assurances that they're going to get moving on the Alan Gross prosecution, and whether that influenced the timing of today's announcement that the White House is loosening the travel restrictions to Cuba.
All sides may deny such a thing, but we know from reading the embassy cables that there's almost always a public version of what's going on and a private one.

White House announces new Cuba policies. Anti-Castro forces react

Pack your bags. After weeks of rumors, the White House is loosening travel restrictions to Cuba.
Cuba Central reported these details on the changes:
The White House announced today a long-awaited decision by President Obama to expand travel to Cuba – and increase support for the Cuban people – in fundamental and important ways.

* The President expands travel opportunities for academic research, educational travel, cultural travel, and religious travel;
* Return of people-to-people programs to essentially where the rules were at the end of the Clinton administration;
* The President allows all Americans to send financial support to the Cuban people, which will allow them to expand private sector activity at a time of restructuring in the Cuban economy and the Cuban system;
* The President expands the number of airports that can serve the Cuban market;
* The rules explaining each of these changes will be issued in a matter of weeks.

Secret cable discussed Iceland's position on Cuba

When Iceland attended the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Havana in 2006, officials weren't cozying up to Cuba. They were lobbying for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, this secret U.S. embassy cable says.
Thordur Bjarni Gudjonson, acting political director at Iceland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is quoted as saying his government would:
look for chances to influence any final NAM declarations "in a positive direction."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Judge not worried about Posada Carriles' "hot potato" status

Luis Posada Carriles in Miami

Luis Posada Carriles' defense relies, at least in part, on politics and persuasion. Lawyer Arturo Hernandez evidently hopes to persuade the jury that his client's courage, his quest to free Cuba and his past service to the U.S. Army and the CIA somehow erases other mistakes he's made.
No doubt, Posada Carriles believes that the U.S. government has betrayed him.
Hernandez told jurors on Wednesday that authorities arrested Posada Carriles only after he slipped into the United States in 2005 and gave a press conference in Miami, embarrassing the federal government.
"He's a hot potato for the government," Hernandez said.
But the hot potato strategy may not work. U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone made it clear in May 2007 that she didn't care whether Posada Carriles was a "hot potato" or not.
Posada Carriles had landed in Cardone's court after he was indicted on immigration fraud and other charges. Cardone threw out that case because she said federal authorities "engaged in fraud, deceit, and trickery" when they conducted a routine naturalization interview with Posada Carriles to help build their criminal case against him.

In dismissing the indictment, Cardone said she was more concerned with justice than political hot potatoes. In a 38-page decision, she wrote:
As with each and every defendant who comes before this Court, Defendant in this case is entitled to certain rights under the United States Constitution. This Court will not set aside such rights nor overlook Government misconduct because Defendant is a political hot potato. This Court’s concern is not politics; it is the preservation of criminal justice.

Luis Posada Carriles mingles with supporters


Luis Posada Carriles in Miami from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.


Here is a short video clip of Luis Posada Carriles mingling with friends and supporters after the Dec. 9, 2010, presentation of Orlando Bosch's memoirs in Miami.

Witness for prosecution a double agent?

Prosecutors say former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles lied about how he traveled the United States in 2005.
They contend that his friends climbed onto a shrimping boat, went to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, picked up Posada Carriles and took him to Miami.
Defense lawyer Arturo Hernandez conceded Wednesday that "Posada went to Isla Mujeres, but only to receive $10,000 from a benefactor. He then returned to Guatemala and paid a smuggler to escort him through Mexico, into Texas."
The shrimping boat was stranded for several hours after trying to make a shortcut around navigational buoys. A Mexican reporter who was worried that the boat, called the Santrina, was causing undersea marine damage rushed out to see what was going on. She didn't know that the boat might have contained Posada Carriles. But her newspaper documented the boat's arrival, with photos, and later reported that the Santrina had left for Miami.
Narco News reported that five men were on the boat when it arrived, and six left.
Hernandez apparently plans to attack the credibility of a government informant named Gilberto Abascal, 45, who was aboard the boat when it went to Mexico.
Gilberto Abascal
The Associated Press said Wednesday that Hernandez told jurors that Abascal had "received at least $150,000 to provide false information and that he had even spied for the Cuban government."
Abascal once worked as a painter for Posada Carriles supporter Santiago Alvarez, who owned the Santrina.
FBI agents interviewed Abascal after the Santrina reached Florida. Abascal "volunteered information that POSADA had not been brought into the United States on ALVAREZ' boat...," according to a March 27, 2005, FBI report.
Abascal later changed his story.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lawyers tangle over Posada Carriles' gift to journalist



Gift from anti-Castro militant to journalist

Luis Posada Carriles gave journalist Ann Louise Bardach a 33-by-27-inch painting in 1998. His dedication reads:
To my friend Ana, who understands our cause for a free Cuba. Luis Posada. 8 June 1998.
On Jan. 10, the U.S. government served a subpoena on Bardach:
requiring her to produce, among other things, “physical objects given to you by Mr. Posada.” The subpoena does not specifically identify the painting as an object that she is required to produce, but counsel for the United States, Timothy J. Reardon, III, has advised counsel for Ms. Bardach that his intention in issuing the subpoena was to require her to bring the painting to trial.
Bardach's lawyer, Thomas Julin, wrote on Wednesday that Bardach ought to be able to submit photos of the painting so that she does not have to transport it from her home in California to the courtroom in El Paso, Texas. Julin's motion read:
Mr. Reardon refused to agree that photographs of the painting could be produced in lieu of the painting or substituted in the record for the painting if the painting were offered in evidence. He has indicated that he wants the painting placed in the evidentiary record and maintained in evidence until the conclusion of the case.
Ms. Bardach can testify that the attached photographs accurately depict the painting and the photographs may be enlarged to demonstrate the actual size of the painting to the jury. The framed painting is 33 inches by 27 inches or approximately six square feet. The photographs of the painting depict both sides of the painting prior to its being framed, including the dedication on the reverse side of the painting. The dedication is now partially obscured by the frame, so the photographs provide a clearer and better depiction of the painting than the framed painting itself.
Requiring Ms. Bardach to transport the painting from Santa Barbara, California, to El Paso, is unreasonable and oppressive because
  • the painting is irrelevant to any material issues in this case
  • the photographs provide an adequate substitute for the painting
  • transportation of the painting creates a significant risk that it will be damaged or lost
  • introduction of the painting into evidence and maintenance of it in the record in this case would deprive Ms. Bardach of her personal property for a substantial period of time in the absence of any justification for doing so.

Lawyer: U.S. paid informant up to $200,000 to testify against Posada Carriles

Luis Posada Carriles is an "extraordinary man", but lied repeatedly while applying for U.S. citizenship, prosecutor Timothy Reardon told the jury on Wednesday.
Reardon said it's true that the anti-Castro militant has dedicated his life to fighting for freedom his homeland, but this trial is not about that.
It's "about choices and he chose to lie" to federal authorities, Reardon said, according to EFE, the Spanish news service.
The defendant's lawyer, Arturo Hernandez, denied that. He said Posada Carriles "substantially told the truth" and he has "always been on the side of" the United States.
But, he contends, Posada Carriles has been the victim of the questionable testimony of an unreliable informant named Gilberto Abascal, who has allegedly received from $100,000 to $200,000 to testify in the case, EFE quoted Hernandez as saying.
Background on Abascal is here.
The trial resumes Thursday.

Bikini-clad Sarah Palin a hit on Cuba blog

Sarah Palin?

A photo posted today on Yohandry's Weblog, a pro-Castro blog, caught my eye. It's a candid shot of a bikini-clad Sarah Palin - or so it seems. And Yohandry Fontana writes that it has gotten more hits than any other image on his blog.
But the photo looked peculiar to me, so I enlarged it in Photoshop to take a closer look.
Notice the lack of shadows around Palin's eyes and under her chin, which contrasts sharply with the dark areas below the subject's elbows and below her gun. The neck appears too narrow for the body. And the head doesn't quite have the right proportions, either.
It looks like a fake.
So I did some Googling and found that all this is old news. Right Wing News reported in September 2008 that the photo is evidently not Sarah Palin, and some enterprising soul tracked down the original image of a woman holding the gun.
Compare the faces below and see if you agree.



If the photo were genuine, shadows like these below the woman's arm ought to appear around Palin's eyes. But they don't.

Check out the real photo, however, and the shadows appear.

Posada Carriles' lawyer: Warns of unfair trial

Lawyers for Luis Posada Carriles said Wednesday he can't receive a fair trial if he can't challenge the overall reliability of Cuba's judicial system.
Prosecutor Timothy Riordan III on Tuesday objected to defense lawyers' plans to condemn Cuba's handling of criminal and other cases going back 50 years.
The Miami Herald quoted Riordan as saying:
This is not the History Channel . . . The regime in Cuba is not the defendant in this case.
Defense lawyers filed a motion Wednesday explaining their need to present evidence about what they describe as Cuban authorities' tendency to distort and fabricate evidence for political reasons. They wrote:
...the type of evidence that the Defendant seeks to introduce is classic impeachment evidence. More specifically, the evidence is admissible under Rule 406 as well as potential 404(b), on the following six grounds:
  1. The evidence demonstrates the habit or routine of the Government of Cuba to fabricate evidence
  2. The evidence demonstrates the habit and routine of the Government of Cuba to influence the testimony of witnesses through unfair trials and violent acts
  3. The evidence demonstrates that the documentary evidence from the Government of Cuba is unreliable and inauthentic under Rule 902
  4. The evidence demonstrates the “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation and plan” of individual witnesses from various departments under the control of the Government of Cuba to fabricate evidence and create false documents as dictated by the Cuban communist regime
  5. The evidence demonstrates that the United States recognized that evidence from the Government of Cuba is unreliable and fabricated, that the Cuban judicial system unfairly convicts individuals with false and fabricated evidence and coerced testimony
  6. The Government of Cuba, through propaganda and official statements, as a habit and routine, disseminates false information and assertions both inside and outside Cuba.
U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone said Tuesday she was leaning toward rejecting the defense argument, but wanted to hear more from the defense.
Defense lawyers object to prosecutors' plans to call three witnesses from Cuba. Two are police officers and another is a medical examiner. They are expected to discuss Havana bombings linked to Posada Carriles.
The defense lawyers said:
Here, the Defendant seeks to admit evidence showing that the underlying motive, opportunity and plan of the witnesses from the Cuban State to falsely provide testimony and evidence identifying Luis Posada Carriles as having some involvement in the Havana bombings. The exclusion of evidence to show that the witnesses and officials producing the evidence have fabricated or falsified the evidence in other matters will deprive the defendant his right to confrontation and a fair trial.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CIA: Posada Carriles "of good character, very reliable"

"..The reputed godfather of Cuban exile violence, Luis Posada Carriles, may finally face a modicum of accountability for his many crimes," Peter Kornbluh writes in an interesting backgrounder, "Former CIA Asset Luis Posada Goes to Trial."
Kornbluh writes with authority and it is no wonder. His organization, the non-profit National Security Archive at George Washington University, has one of the country's best collections of declassified documents on Cuban exile violence, the CIA, the Cold War, U.S. intervention in Latin America and other topics.
As the Posada Carriles trial got underway in El Paso, the National Security Archive posted CIA records covering the defendant's "association with the agency in the 1960s and 1970s."
The organization reported:
CIA personnel records described Posada, using his codename, “AMCLEVE/15,” as “a paid agent” at $300 a month, being utilized as a training instructor for other exile operatives, as well as an informant.
“Subject is of good character, very reliable and security conscious,” the CIA reported in 1965. Posada, another CIA document observed, incorrectly, was “not a typical ‘boom and bang’ type of individual.”
There's also insightful information on the blog Mambi Watch, which has followed the Posada Carriles case for many years.
The blog has fresh information giving readers a sense for the depth and kind of support that Posada Carriles has in South Florida. Recent posts are entitled:
Mambi Watch also cited a YouTube video showing Rep. David Rivera voicing support for Posada Carriles at a fund-raising event for the anti-Castro militant.
Another interesting clip dates to 2006, when Ann Louise Bardach reported that boxes of evidence against Posada Carriles had been removed from an FBI storage room and evidently destroyed. She wrote:
Among the documents that disappeared was the original signed fax that Posada had sent to collaborators in Guatemala in 1997, complaining of the U.S. media's reluctance to believe reports about a series of bombings in Cuba, which he hoped would scare tourists and investors away from Castro's island....
Without the materials that were removed from the evidence room, which also included cables and money transfers between Posada and his collaborators in the Cuban bombings, a criminal prosecution of Posada is severely hobbled.

"We planted the bomb...and so what?"

From the garage

As the Luis Posada Carriles trial gets underway, I've been digging through boxes in the garage to look for material.
I found a 2000 edition of the book, "¿Pusimos la bomba... y que?" first published in 1981. The author, Venezuelan journalist Alicia Herrera, interviewed Orlando Bosch and other anti-Castro militants while they were in jail in Venezuela. She claims that they admitted carrying out the 1976 bombing of a Cubana plane that killed all 73 people aboard.
While at the prison, Herrera met with Bosch, along with Venezuelans Hernan Ricardo Lozano and Freddy Lugo, who were charged with placing plastic explosives on Flight 455.
Herrera recently told a Cuban radio station how the first confession came about:
Freddy tells me that while he, Bosch and Hernan Ricardo were in the patio of the San Carlos Prison, where they would go to exercise or get some sun, they would argue. They had strongly discussed the issue of the plane and in a state fury Hernan Ricardo screamed in front of the soldiers and officials: We Placed the Bomb and So What?
That's where she got the title for her book: "We planted the bomb... and so what?"
In his memoirs, Posada Carriles said he warned Bosch not to talk to Herrera because he believed she was connected to a Cuban spy ring. His book reads:
I advised Bosch, but he didn't believe me and says, smiling:
- Luis, you're seeing spies everywhere.
I insist and tell him:
- Orlando, this is serious. At least, if you don't believe me, be very careful.
- I always do that, Bosch replied.

Posada Carriles and the "History will absolve me" defense

After Fidel Castro's disastrous attack on the Moncada barracks in 1953, the government of Fulgencio Batista put him on trial.
But Castro turned the tables. He effectively put the Batista government on trial. He said it was an "illegal government" and that's why his attack was justified.
Castro's ended his speech with the words: "History will absolve me." His speech became a rallying point of the revolution. Castro was freed from jail and forced Batista from power in 1959.
Now it appears Luis Posada Carriles wants to take a similar "history will absolve me" approach, putting the Cuban government on trial to justify his actions. His lawyers argued that Cuba has a history of falsifying and making up evidence, and so any testimony from Cuba is tainted.
Prosecutors today filed a motion objecting to such a strategy. They wrote:
A defendant is entitled to vigorously present his defense and to challenge the credibility of any witness or the veracity of evidence presented against him. However, to allow the defendant on this record to conduct a public trial of the alleged prior bad acts of another government would be of no probative value to the issues in this case and, consequently, would serve only to confuse the jury.
Lawyers for Posada Carriles threaten to use such a strategy if prosecutors follow through with plans to allow witnesses from Cuba - two police officers and a medical examiner - to testify that the anti-Castro militant was behind a string of bombings in Havana.
Posada Carriles' potential defense strategy - invoking what's known as Rule 404(b) - is unusual.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I took down the Bardach transcripts

Over the weekend, California writer Ann Louise Bardach asked me to remove a court document from Along the Malecón.
She said she believed I was violating her copyright to the document, which was a partial transcript of her conversations with anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles in 1998.
I decided earlier this evening to voluntarily take down that transcript and another one, for now, and I want to explain why, particularly since I've been a critic of secrecy in the Posada Carriles case.
For starters, here is the initial email that Bardach sent me at 10:46 p.m. on Jan. 8:
DNS Admin
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View CA 94043
dns-admin@google.com +1.6502530000 Fax: +1.6506188571

The text of the notice should be as follows:

My name is Ann Louse Bardach. A website that your company hosts, blogspot.com, is infringing on a copyright owned by me.

A transcript of my interview of Luis Posada Carriles that I conducted for The New York Times was copied onto your servers without permission. The original transcript for which I own the exclusive copyright is unpublished. The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found at:
http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/2011/01/dispute-over-accuracy-of-posada.html

This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.

Please also be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice. Under US law a service provider, such as yourself, enjoys immunity from a copyright lawsuit provided that you act with deliberate speed to investigate and rectify ongoing copyright infringement. If service providers do not investigate and remove or disable the infringing material this immunity is lost. Therefore, in order for you to remain immune from a copyright infringement action you will need to investigate and ultimately remove or otherwise disable the infringing material from your servers with all due speed should the direct infringer, your client, not comply immediately.

I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that rights my company owns are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I am the owner of the copyright involved.

Should you wish to discuss this with me please contact me directly.

Thank you.

/s/ Ann Louise Bardach

Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington
BardachReports.com
After I received the email, I consulted with a journalism professor, a law professor, a veteran investigative reporter and the operator of a website on copyright issues. I also called the Legal Defense Hotline of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
No one I talked to felt that it was clear case of copyright infringement. Several people pointed out that the transcripts, after all, had been filed in court; it wasn't as if I were publishing a leaked document.

Posada Carriles: One bullet hit just inches "north of the navel"

A former CIA operative now on trial in El Paso narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 1990.
Luis Posada Carriles had been living in Central America, where he helped supply the Contras, a U.S.-supported paramilitary militia that fought against the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
After the Iran-Contra affair broke, Posada Carriles moved from El Salvador to Guatemala, where he thought he'd be safe. But on Feb. 28, 1990, assassins nearly killed him.
Writing in his 1994 memoirs, Posada Carriles said that day had started like most others. He put on a coat and tie, got into his car and left his apartment building at 8:30 a.m.
Waiting nearby, he said, a man fired at him, missing. According to Posada Carriles' account, here's what happened next:
Posada Carriles hit the accelerator. Other men fired from behind and from his right side, hitting his car, but missing him.
Posada Carriles grabbed his 9 mm Beretta and continued driving. A white pick-up with two men riding in the back chased him. Posada Carriles slammed on the brakes and suddenly the pursuing truck was right alongside him. He jumped out of the car and exchanged gunfire with the assailants. He writes:
I see that the two men collapsed, but feel that I've also been hit with several bullets. I felt deep pain in the left arm, the chest and my jaw was numb. I was bleeding profusely, but didn't lose consciousness.
By then, the pick-up had taken off. Posada Carriles said he managed to drive to a gas station about three kilometers (1.8 miles) away. He wrote:
Blood covered my body and flooded my shoes. Near the gas station, some four blocks away, was a hospital. A woman got out of a car, put her hand on me and prayed for me.
Posada Carriles later blamed Cuban agents and their Guatemalan accomplices for the assassination attempt.
But the anti-Castro militant, who had been shot 12 times, somehow survived.

Posada Carriles vowed to die fighting for Cuba

Los Caminos del Guerrero

As jury selection begins today in the perjury and immigration fraud trial of Luis Posada Carriles, it is worth pointing out that the former CIA operative was once a U.S. government ally.
The passages below - translated from Spanish - appear in Posada Carriles' 1994 book, Los Caminos del Guerrero:

Through the long years of struggle for freedom in Cuba, Cubans have never given up, nor have they stopped fighting to banish the tyrant and conquer their beloved homeland.
Many have lost their lives in the attempt and others suffered and suffer long, cruel years in prison in the terrible Cuban prisons and other countries.
Rebelliousness and just and necessary war has been fought over time. As long as the infamous tyranny that subjugates the Cuban people exists, there will always be a patriot who, risking everything, will know to fight it.
Landings on the island, sabotage, systematic and persistent attacks on the regime, with all that has been available to the Cuban warrior, has characterized the long struggle.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Luis Posada Carriles: Selected court documents

From federal court files:
Question: Have you EVER advocated the overthrow of any government by force or violence?
Posada Carriles: Many times

Federal authorities filed an indictment against Luis Posada Carriles on Jan. 11, 2007, accusing the anti-Castro militant of immigration fraud, perjury and other offenses. More than half the court filings made in the case since then are sealed, according to this 63-page docket report.
In the spirit of openness and transparency, I am posting here a selection of documents I retrieved from the U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas.
Some of the documents are crucial to the case. Others are less important, but contain interesting details - for instance, a debate over whether transcripts ought to note whether Posada Carriles laughed or giggled during an interview.
Jury selection in Posada Carriles' trial begins Jan. 10. The trial is expected to start Jan. 11. Federal authorities accuse the defendant of immigration fraud, perjury and other charges.
If convicted on immigration fraud alone, Posada Carriles could get up to 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. His lawyer has argued that he should not get any more than six months in jail and may not even have to serve time, under federal guidelines.
The defendant turns 83 on Feb. 15.
Documents filed in his case are below:
  • 2007 indictment - the charges against Posada Carriles
  • 2009 indictment - a new indictment after the 2007 case was thrown out
  • A key document in the perjury trial showing specific instances where prosecutors say Posada Carriles lied
  • 2007 arrest warrant
  • Prosecutors' request that references to Posada Carriles' CIA past be thrown out
  • Posada Carriles' immigration application. One question asks: "Have you EVER advocated the overthrow of any government by force or violence?" Posada Carriles' answer: "Many times."
  • Posada Carriles' family photos and marriage license
  • Letters from people who support Posada Carriles. Supporters include Tomas Regalado, a Miami city commissioner.
  • Documents on Posada Carriles' military record
  • An unclassified summary of Posada Carriles' work with the CIA
  • Appearance bond in amount of $100,000
  • Appearance bond in amount of $250,000
  • A South Florida building offered as collateral to support defense request that Posada Carriles remain free on bond
  • 2007 government brief saying prosecutors would need "three to four full days" to present their case. The amount of time they'll need has since expanded to weeks, not days
  • 2007 document discussing intent to "hide" jurors as they move in and out of the court building so that they won't have contact with protesters. Posada Carriles' lawyer said:
  • ...we have information that there will be protestors during the jury selection procedure. I recalled at -- the last time we were here we did have protestors. And the Court I think, intelligently changed the date or did not publish the date. I don't remember exactly. But we played around with the date of when jury selection was going to take place pretty much to a hide the football kind of thing so we could get the jurors in and out.
  • Prosecutors' recommendation for handling of non-classified, but sensitive materials
  • Aug. 25, 2009 judge's order on handling of non-classified, but sensitive materials, including transcripts of interviews with Posada Carriles. It's a complicated order, but generally, the judge determined the prosecution can keep these materials sealed and the defense can disclose them when necessary for case preparation.
  • Miami Herald and Associated Press motion to intervene in case
  • Government accuses Miami Herald and the Associated Press of requesting sneak preview of sensitive documents, and rejects the supposed proposition
  • Miami Herald and Associated Press reply, saying prosecutors "misstate" the law and "mischaracterize" the facts
  • Motion to quash trial subpoena by Ann Louise Bardach, a journalist who interviewed Posada Carriles and is expected to testify in the case.
  • A list of tapes and exhibits the government plans to use in the trial
  • Statement by Peter Brennan, head of the State Department's Cuban Affairs office, who said Cuban officials would not make available to witnesses who have implicated Posada Carriles in acts of sabotage.
  • Defense statement saying Posada Carriles' past relationship with CIA is relevant to case
  • Defense exhibits, which include intent to use James A. Griffin as an expert witness. He is a consultant to CSI: Miami, on forensic audio and video issues.
  • Defense argument saying that if Posada Carriles lied during naturalization interview, consideration ought to be given to whether his statements are material to the case.
  • Prosecution argument on issue of materiality of his statements
  • Parties agree to redact - or remove - 63 parenthetical notations in interview transcripts. On some points there was disagreement. For example:
  • The words “[laughter]” “[giggles]” and “[chuckles]” appear repeatedly throughout the transcript. The United States proposes to retain these references, and would be amenable to using one uniform term throughout the transcript to reference laughter (e.g., the word “laughter” would be used in every instance, and would replace the words “giggles” and “chuckles” when they are used). The defendant objects to the inclusion of any words describing laughter, including the length of the laughter.
  • A defense motion requesting a delay in the trial because lawyers say the government belatedly introduced hundreds of pages of documents
  • Government list of new evidence - documents - that defense protested
  • The defense response to the government on the issue of belated introduction of evidence
  • Prosecution gives more detail on why material from Cuba should be admitted
  • Judge's denial of motion to continue
  • Defense motion to throw out evidence from Cuba
  • Government's December 2010 request
  • A January 2007 document showing that Posada Carriles wanted to negotiate with the government and end the case early on.
  • Defense motion to exclude FBI's forensic examination of blasting caps and explosives used in Havana bombing
  • FBI's forensic report on Havana bombing material
  • Defense document on jury selection procedures
  • Letters discussing lawyers' travel to Cuba to interview witnesses
  • Judge's order saying certain government evidence needed to be sealed to protect national security
  • FBI interview with Otto Rene Rodriguez, accused of planting bombs in Havana
  • November 2010 defense witness list
  • Government request placing conditions on defendant's pre-trial release
  • Transcript of immigration interview in which Posada Carriles claimed that journalist Ann Louise Bardach illegally recorded parts of their interview and conducted it in a language he does not know - English. He also denied hiring anyone to plant bombs in Havana.
  • A defense motion asking to throw out Posada Carriles' naturalization interview
  • A document giving details on defense criticisms of translation of naturalization interview
  • A court interpreter's statement saying transcripts and tapes of Posada Carriles' naturalization interview was unreliable
  • June 1, 2001 transcript of closing arguments in Brothers to the Rescue case. Posada Carriles' lawyers argued that the testimony showed that Cuban authorities make up and falsify evidence.
  • Posada Carriles' lawyers motion contending that evidence obtained in Cuba is tainted.
  • Posada Carriles' motion further explains need to present evidence calling into question Cuba's judicial system.
  • Bardach motion discussing a painting she received from Posada Carriles
  • Bardach subpoena for gifts she received Posada Carriles
  • August 2006 letter from Raymond Adams, chief of the El Paso District Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to Posada Carriles, denying his application for naturalization 
  • Maria Elvira Salazar's 2008 interview with Posada Carriles
  • 2006 naturalization interview with Posada Carriles
  •  A Jan. 12 motion explaining defense lawyers' need to present evidence about what they describe as Cuban authorities' tendency to distort and fabricate evidence for political reasons.
  •  A Jan. 12 motion in which lawyer Thomas Julin argues that author Ann Louise Bardach should be allowed to submit photos of a painting that Posada Carriles gave her rather than haul it to court from her home in California.
  •  A 2007 decision in which Judge Kathleen Cardone said she was more concerned with justice than political hot potatoes.
  • An August 2006 letter to Posada Carriles denying his application for naturalization.
  • A Jan. 25 government motion asking Kathleen Cardone to reconsider her ruling throwing out the testimony of Gilberto Abascal, the prosecution's star witness against Luis Posada Carriles.
  • An eight-page government motion saying that lawyers for Posada Carriles are painting an incomplete and misleading picture of Gilberto Abascal.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Miami lawyer: Blocked Cuban assets are dwindling

Fidel Castro’s supporters call it theft. But victims of the Cuban government call it justice.
Families whose loved ones have been killed fighting the socialist government have recovered millions of dollars since 2000, tapping into Cuban assets frozen in the United States.
But there’s not much money left to pursue, said Joseph DeMaria, a Miami lawyer who helped recover $47 million in 2006.
“I believe there’s very little left,” DeMaria told Along the Malecon. “I don’t think there’s much upside to chasing these assets anymore. Most of the money has been drained and I think any new money is being created and handled in a way that it’s kept offshore and out of the reach of the United States.”
DeMaria, shown above, is a trial attorney at the Tew Cardenas law firm, which represented the family of Howard F. Anderson, an American businessman executed by firing squad in Cuba in 1961.
DeMaria went after Cuban assets for the Anderson family under a provision of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, which was passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
The act allows people with judgments against “terrorist” parties to pursue the assets of ''any agency or instrumentality of that terrorist party.'' The law also says these assets can be used to satisfy judgments for compensatory damages.
Cuba is considered a terrorist party because it’s on the State Department’s annual list of terrorism sponsors.
The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, issues regular reports on blocked assets. Its 2009 report linked $223.7 million to Cuba. But it’s not a simple matter of pursuing that money because the Cuban government doesn’t necessarily own it, DeMaria said.
“You have a lot of money that goes back and forth between Cuba and the rest of the world,” he said. “And most of that money, because it’s going through the Western Hemisphere, if it’s a wire transfer, it’s going to go through New York at some point.
So what happens is, the banks will spot the word Cuba or Havana and they’ll just automatically freeze the transfer.
So when you see these blocked assets, and people think there’s all this money to grab, a lot of it is blocked under the regulations, but is not available for a victim of terrorism because it’s not Cuban assets. It might be the asset of somebody in London sending money to somebody in Cuba, but it’s caught up in the freeze.
“So you have to take the universe of blocked assets, which could be a few hundred million dollars, and you have to then focus and say, how much of that are Cuban assets? And I believe there’s very little left.”

All eyes on Luis Posada Carriles

Luis Posada Carriles

The Luis Posada Carriles trial is set to begin Tuesday Jan. 11 in U.S. District Court in El Paso. Jury selection starts at 8:30 a.m. on Monday Jan. 10. Judge Kathleen Cardone's scheduling order is below.
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
EL PASO DIVISION
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff,
v.
LUIS POSADA CARRILES,
Defendant.

§§§§§§§§§

EP-07-CR-87-KC

SCHEDULING ORDER

Having heard argument from counsel for both Defendant and the government at the status conference held on June 2, 2010, the Court ORDERS the following schedule in the case:

Jury Selection: January 10, 2011, at 8:30 a.m
Trial: January 11, 2011, at 8:30 a.m.

Gold pins go to revolutionary honchos

Havana International Trade Show

Ramiro Valdes, 78, a powerful Cuban vice president, has been in the news lately. A government statement said he'll no longer be responsible for the Ministry of Informatics and Communications, which will allow him to pay closer attention to his old ministry along with the ministries of Construction and Basic Industry.

I shot these photos of Valdes in November 2010 at an awards ceremony in Havana.

Here's a pin - that is gold, isn't it? - reserved for Cuban government bigwigs

Friday, January 7, 2011

Posada Carriles files sealed - again. No sanctions necessary, judge says

U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone on Friday ordered sealed three files in the Luis Posada Carriles case.
It appears that the judge is referring to the following documents, which you can download here (documents have been removed from blog; read explanation why):
ECF (Electronic Case File) No. 559-3: A 58-page transcript of a June 17, 1998, interview that Posada Carriles gave to journalist Ann Louise Bardach while she was working as a reporter on contract with the New York Times.
ECF No. 562-1: A 34-page partial transcript of the same interview. This is defense lawyers' version of the transcript.
ECF No. 559: A 10-page motion in which prosecutors ask that defense lawyers' versions of this and two other interviews be thrown out.
A source close to the case speculated Thursday that the judge may sanction lawyers for making public the transcripts earlier this week even though they had evidently been ordered sealed. But Cardone's order on Friday said no sanctions were necessary. Her order read:
The Clerk SHALL SEAL the following documents : ECF Nos. 559, 559-3, 562-1. Furthermore, the parties have sufficiently explained the situation and no sanctions are warranted.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Did lawyers violate court order in Posada Carriles case?

Federal prosecutors may have violated a court order on Sunday when they disclosed partial transcripts of interviews with anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, a source close to the case said today.
Lawyers defending Posada Carriles followed the government's lead on Wednesday, disclosing their version of one of the partial transcripts.
And now some of those who follow the case closely are wondering if the judge will sanction any of the lawyers just days before the Jan. 10 start of Posada Carriles' perjury trial in El Paso.
"The shit has hit the fan," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers are at odds over the accuracy of transcripts of three key interviews with Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative. They each have their own versions that they'd like to use.
But the transcripts had been sealed, the source said, so most of the fighting over the transcripts has gone on out of public view.
U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone has conducted much of the case in secrecy, and more than 90 percent of the documents filed were sealed at one point.
"The court has been so strict about this," the source said. "There is no question that the judge categorically sealed the records. But the government blatantly broke the seal. Why?"
"This is mind-blowing."
The prosecutors who signed the government's Jan. 2 document discussing the disputed transcripts are T. J. Reardon III, Jerome J. Teresinski and Bridget Behling. I sent an email to all three and will post any response here.
I also sent a message to Arturo Hernandez, an attorney for the defendant.

Posada Carriles: Italian bombing victim had "worst luck ever"

Lawyers for Luis Posada Carriles on Wednesday said it's up to the jury, not the judge, to evaluate disputed transcripts of past interviews with the defendant.
In a document filed Wednesday, the lawyers wrote:
...the Government has not demonstrated that it has suffered any prejudice, and in fact has noted particular areas in the defense Bardach and Salazar transcript excerpts that it contests. The Government will have the opportunity to challenge those areas through cross-examination at trial, because the defense expert will testify to provide the necessary foundation for admission of the defense transcripts for the jury’s consideration.
Also filed Wednesday was the defense's version (transcript removed from site, read explanation) of Ann Louise Bardach's June 17, 1998, interview with Posada Carriles. In these excerpts, Posada Carriles appears to accept his role in a string of Havana hotel bombings that killed Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo in 1997.
From the transcript:
Posada Carriles: In the... in the bombing, in the... in the hotels...we tried, we put small explosives. We don’t... because we don’t want to hurt anybody. Just to make a big scandal. And... that the tourists don’t come... anymore. Why? We can’t put a... put bombs and explosives and blow up the whole...

Bardach: Oh, I understand. So, in other words, with the tourist bombings, it’s because in the book, you know... I read this about how upset you were about the tourism...

Posada Carriles: Yeah.

Bardach: ...So you were saying...so, what you wanted, the intention was to scare off the tourists...

Posada Carriles: Yeah.

Bardach: Not to kill the tourists.

Posada Carriles: Sure.

Bardach: But one, you know one person was killed.

Posada Carriles: Yeah, but, you know what happened?

Bardach: No.

Posada Carriles: Sixty feet away...there was a poor guy... sit down in a... in a... chair...And the bits... small...

Bardach: Shrapnel... tiny piece.

Posada Carriles: ... and took the jugular (Noise.). This is the worst luck ever... It’s sad. Sad, see. It’s sad...it’s not intentional, but we can’t stop because... uhm, right then Italian was sit down (Noise.)... at the wrong time and the wrong place.

Bardach: Poor man.

Posada Carriles: Yes.

Bardach: ... he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Lawyer: Hijacker's sentence may have violated law

Courtroom sketch by Miguel Rajmil/EFE

Convicted hijacker Luis Peña Soltren will appeal his 15-year sentence, which his lawyer described as "grossly unfair."
Peña Soltren, 67, helped hijack a plane to Cuba in 1968 because he wanted to see his father, then spent the next four decades on the island as a fugitive.
U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Tuesday sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison. Two fellow hijackers served just four and seven years in jail.
"There will definitely be an appeal," Peña Soltren's lawyer, James Newman, told Along the Malecón. "Luis’ family members are completely supportive of an appeal. Everyone feels the same: that the sentence was grossly unfair and did not take into account Luis’ full life, as it should have."
Love for his family - not politics - drove Peña Soltren, court documents show. He took part in the hijacking because he wanted to see his father, who was in Cuba and had been in a construction accident.
A desire to be with his loved ones was again a motivating factor in 2009 when Peña Soltren traveled to New York to turn himself in and try to join family members living in the United States.
The judge said he took into account Peña Soltren's actions during the hijacking, which included holding a knife to the neck of a stewardess and a gun to her back, and endangering the lives of more than 100 people.
But Newman said he believes that "the judge’s sentence may not only be excessive, but illegal. The judge appeared to state that Luis was not eligible for parole. Although I have not had an opportunity to research this yet, my gut feeling is that he had no authority to make that provision (based upon the law in effect at the time of the crime, which is what applies here)."
The United States Parole Commission's Rules and Procedures Manual states that offenders are not eligible for parole if they used a firearm during a federal crime of violence on or after Oct. 12, 1984.
The hijacking occurred in 1968 before that rule was adopted.
Newman said "the process of appealing" the 15-year sentence will take nine months to a year.
Asked how Peña Soltren reacted to the judge's decision, Newman said:
I only saw Luis briefly after the sentencing. He was upset, but did not really articulate much to me. He is a very quiet, reserved man, and ordinarily keeps his feelings to himself.