Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bisa Williams moving on. New Cuban Affairs chief.

Musical chairs continues at the State Department. Deputy Assistant Secretary Bisa Williams, who traveled to Cuba in September to meet with Cuban officials, is expected to be the next U.S. ambassador to Niger.
Williams will replace Bernadette M. Allen, the American ambassador in Niger since March 2006. DiploPundit announced the news on Dec. 1. I'm just catching up.

Bisa Williams with Jonathan Farrar, current head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Williams is now acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central America, the Caribbean and Cuba in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The State Department Web site also lists her as head of the Office of Cuban Affairs.
Actually, that office has a new boss: Ricardo Zuniga. He worked at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana when I was based there, and he and I sometimes crossed paths.
In 2003, Zuniga worked with former Interests Section chief James Cason to distribute aid to Cuban dissidents, which some analysts say helped triggered the March 2003 arrest of 75 activists, journalists and others.
In 2003, Zuniga was among the nominees for the State Department's Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award "for exceptional achievement in the field of human rights and democracy."
The award "recognizes the work by officers of foreign affairs agencies abroad" and "is intended to pay tribute to outstanding research and reporting on human rights and democratic developments."
A friend and fellow Cuba watcher who knows Zuniga described him like this:
Ricardo is from Honduras. He is not optimistic about internal change in Cuba and no fan of the Castro oligarchy.
He is a long term career State Dept. professional. I am sure he will follow whatever Obama and Hillary decide and not be too proactive. In other words, I doubt he will self-start any marked flexibility in OFAC rules or regulations under his watch at State.
...overall, a sincere and nice guy....wish there were more like him in the US govt.

Luis Posada Carriles: I don't remember, I don't recall

Lawyers for Luis Posada Carriles complained on Dec. 11 that prosecutors didn’t provide enough detail in their perjury accusations against their client. U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone ordered prosecutors to provide more detail. And on Saturday, prosecutors did just that.
Acting U.S. Attorney Michael J. Mullaney filed a 20-page document that spells out at least 27 instances in which Posada Carriles made false or misleading statements.

A few things stand out:
• Posada Carriles’ strategy in dealing with immigration authorities: Admit nothing, claim he can’t recall or doesn’t understand.
• Posada Carriles' surprising claim that the Cuban government – and not him or any other anti-Castro activists – planted 33 pounds of C-4 explosives in Panama near where Fidel Castro was speaking in 2000.
• The historical importance of Posada Carriles’ candid interviews with Ann Louise Bardach on June 17-18, 1998, in Aruba. These are a critical element in the government’s case against him. What Posada Carriles confessed to Bardach with certain pride in 1998 has come back to haunt him. The interviews were part of a five-part series on militant groups that the New York Times published between May and July 1998. Bardach and Larry Rohter reported the stories.
The court document filed Saturday lists five alleged lies on Posada Carriles’ June 13, 2005, immigration form I-589, along with what prosecutors say are the facts.

1) Question: What other names have you used?
Posada Carriles: N/A or Not Applicable.
Fact: He used the names or aliases “Ramon Medina,” “LOBO,” “SOLO,” “Manuel Enrique Castillo Lopez,” “Francisco Rodriguez Mena,” “Jose Rivas Lopez,” “Bambi,” and “Ignacio Medina,” among others.

2) Question: List each entry to the U.S. beginning with your most recent entry.
Posada Carriles: At the “Mexican Border” on “3/26/2005.”
Fact: He entered via Florida on March 18, 2005.

3) Question: “Are you fluent in English?”
Posada Carriles: “No.”
Fact: He is fluent in English.

4) Question: “Provide the following information about your residences during the last five years.”
Posada Carriles: “Does not remember” the “Number and street,” “City/Town” and “Department, Province or State” in which he lived in Panama.
Fact: He had to have recalled he was in prison in Panama during that four-year period.

5) Question: “Have you, your spouse, or child(ren) ever ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in causing harm or suffering to any person because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or belief in a particular political opinion?”
Posada Carriles: “No.”
Fact: Posada Carriles has taken violent action against others in opposition to their political opinions.

Fidel Castro and Luis Posada Carriles. Source of photo.

Prosecutors also say Posada Carriles “knowingly and willfully gave false, evasive and misleading testimony, and withheld information” while testifying under oath during an immigration hearing in federal court on August 30, 2005. In the document, I counted 22 instances in which Posada Carriles is accused of lying or giving evasive or misleading testimony.

1) Question in English: And isn’t it true that during the series of interviews with Miss Bardach, that you admitted that you were involved in the planning and preparation of those bombing attacks in Cuba that occurred in 1997?
English translation of Posada’s response in Cuban Spanish: I cannot answer with a yes or no. I will need to clarify that.
The interview was done in English, a language that I do not know.
Question in English: Now, you are not completely illiterate, uh, in English, is that correct?
Posada Carriles: No, It’s not completely unknown to me, but I have difficulties with my ear . . . when I hear it, I can’t capture it well.
Fact: Posada Carriles understands English.

2) Posada Carriles said of the Bardach interview: There—there were illegal recordings made of—that interview.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew Bardach was recording portions of the interview with his consent.

3) Question in English: And at—at times the interview was also in Spanish, is that correct?
Posada Carriles: No.
Fact: The interview was at times conducted in Spanish.

4) Question in English: Did Ms. Bardach ever tell you why specifically she came to talk to you about anything?
Posada Carriles: No, sir.
Fact: Bardach interviewed Posada Carriles under mutually agreed-to terms about many anti-Castro activities, including among other things, the 1997 bombing campaign in Cuba.

5) Question in English: Okay. May I, uh, back up just to clarify for the record? Sir, you acknowledged that you were interviewed by Miss Salazar in August of 1998,
and, uh, the purpose of the interview was to clarify, uh, for the record, your interview with the, Ann Bardach of the New York Times, is that correct, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: I did not know that it was for that. She simply interviewed me.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew that Maria Elvira Salazar interviewed him to clarify the interview that he gave to Ann Louise Bardach of the New York Times.

6) Question: Isn’t true that the only retraction that the New York Times made was any reference you made that . . . any reference you made to the Cuban American
National Foundation, uh, having provided the funds in support of the Cuba, of the, uh, Cuba bombing campaign?
Posada Carriles: The—they also said that the difficulties that I have with the English language had caused that—that detail also in all the interview.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew the New York Times retraction had nothing to do with any language difficulties in the Bardach interview.

7) Posada Carriles: And, all those things caused to—to do a report but it—it wasn’t saying the whole truth.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew knew that the New York Times story accurately reported the substance of his statements to Bardach and accurately reported his involvement in the 1997 bombings in Cuba.

8) Question in English: Well. Let me be a little more specific. Isn’t it true that you told Miss Bardach that the purpose of the bombing campaign in Cuba was to generate publicity, uh, which would frighten away tourists from visiting Cuba? Did you tell her that, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: It could be that, that had been the purpose, but that doesn’t have to be. That does not mean that I was the [unintelligible].
Question in English: Isn’t it true that you told Miss Bardach, that you were involved in the planning and preparation for that bombing in Cuba?
Posada Carriles: I do not remember telling her that.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew the purpose of the bombing campaign was to frighten away tourists and he knew he told Bardach he was involved in the bombing campaign.

Ann Louise Bardach. Credit: Dawny Rothenberg

9) Question in English: Isn’t it true that you admitted to Miss Bardach that you have used the name Solo?
Posada Carriles: I do not remember telling her that either.
Fact: He admitted to Bardach that he used the name “Solo.”

10) Question in English: Isn’t it true that Miss Bardach had a copy of the fax, which is party of Government’s Exhibit One, Attachment A, and when you were shown that fax, you acknowledged or you admitted to Miss Bardach that you wrote the contents of that fax?
Posada Carriles: I do not remember that.
Fact: Posada Carriles told Bardach he was the author of the fax.

11) Question in English: And you also saw a male by the name of Jose Burgos in Guatemala in 1997, is that correct, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: I do not—do not know that man, that is to say, I do not remember that.
Question in English: Who else was with you and Jose Francisco Pepe Alvarez when you would, uh, gather at the business location of Antonio Alvarez?
Posada Carriles: From what I can remember, no one.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew Jose Burgos and remembered meeting him in Guatemala in 1997.

12) Question in English: Bardach. You discussed with her how you became a leader of the Cuban Exiles, uh, Clandestine Military Wing, plotting to kill Fidel Castro. Is that
Posada Carriles: Miss, let me clarify something. I did not read the interview. That happened many years ago and I don’t remember those things.
Fact: He read an account of the Bardach interview and falsely claimed a lack of recall.

13) Question in English: Did you not tell Miss Bardach that you were proud of the series of hotel bombings last year, uh, against Cuba?
Posada Carriles: I do not remember that.
Fact: Posada Carriles spoke with pride when recalling his role in the 1997 bombings.

14) Question in English: Sir, when you were interviewed by Miss Bardach, you stated that the FBI agent who had phoned Mr. Alvarez in Guatemala, Jorge Kiszinski, and that’s K-I-S-Z-I-N-S-K-I, you described the FBI agent to Miss Bardach as a very good friend whom you had known a long time. Is that correct, yes or no?
Question in English: The question is did you, did you tell her that he was
a good friend of yours?
Posada Carriles: No, I don’t remember having said that.
Fact: Posada Carriles has described Jorge Kiszinski as a good friend.

15) Question in English: All right. Well you were involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out the bombing in, the bombings in Cuba?
Posada Carriles: No.
Question in English: Now, you . . . do you . . . are you stating that the comments made by Ann Louise Bardach in the New York Times article, that you were involved in soliciting others, other individuals to engage in these bombings is not true?
Posada Carriles: I am saying that it is not true.
Fact: Posada Carriles knew he was involved in soliciting individuals to carry out the bombing campaign and he admitted his involvement to Bardach.

16) Question in English: Did you arrange for anyone, uh, when you were in Guatemala, did you arrange for anyone else to send Raul Cruz Leon to Cuba to set off bombs in 1997?
Posada Carriles: No.

17) Question in English: Did you, did you or anyone that you met with in Guatemala make arrangements for an El Salvadorian by the name of Otto Rene Rodriguez Llerena, and that’s spelled L–L-E-R-E-N-A, to go to Cuba in 1997 and set off bombs?
Posada Carriles: No.
Fact: Posada Carriles had arranged for Raul Cruz Leon and Otto Rene Rodriguez Llerena, among others, to conduct the 1997 bombing campaign in Cuba.

18) Question in English: You acknowledged to Miss Bardach that Raul Cruz Leon worked for you, isn’t that correct?
Posada Carriles: That also has an explanation . . . it has an explanation. To Mrs. Bardach, no.
Question in English: That’s your explanation, that you—
Posada Carriles: No—no—no, I thought it was something else. I thought it was something else.
Question in English: Did you ack . . . did you acknowledge to Miss Bardach or anyone that Raul Cruz Leon worked for you?
Posada Carriles: From what I can remember, no.
Fact: Posada Carriles acknowledged to Ann Louise Bardach and Maria Elvira Salazar
that Raul Cruz Leon was hired by someone who worked for him to participate in the 1997 bombing campaign in Cuba.

19) Question in English: Now do you recall, are you stating that you do not recall that you . . . of telling Miss Bardach that you planned the bombing.
Posada Carriles: That I . . . I don’t recall having said that.
Fact: Posada Carriles stated to Ann Louise Bardach that he had planned the 1997 bombing campaign in Cuba and recalled having stated it to her.

20) Question in English: When you entered the United States through Mexico, uh, in March of 2005, you did not present yourself for inspection to an Immigration officer at
that time. Is that correct, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: Yes, it is correct.
Question in English: After you entered the United States, you traveled by bus from Houston to Miami, is that correct, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: It is correct.
Question in English: Isn’t it true that you encountered, you were encountered by an Immigration officer while en route to Miami?
Posada Carriles: It is correct.
Question in English: And at that time you failed to identify yourself to Immigration officers during that encounter, is that correct?
Posada Carriles: They didn’t ask me for [unintelligible] . . . they didn’t ask me the, oh, yes, it is correct.
Fact: Posada Carriles entered the United States through Florida, not Mexico.

21) Question in English: Alright. Regarding your . . . the incident in Panama for which you were convicted of danger to security, the charges in that case revolved around you and
co-defendants who were in possession of 33 pounds of C-4 explosives in a vehicle, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: No, that is not correct the—the —the explosive was found in a—in a place, in one of those. Yeah, and it was planted by the Cuban government, and they put it there.
Question in English: Isn’t it true that you and your co-defendants were in Panama because you had devised a plan to assassinate Fidel Castro when he was scheduled to
appear at the Ibero American Summit on the campus of the University of Panama?
Posada Carriles: We were in Panama to— to . . . pick up an official . . . or a Cuban General that was going to desert.
Fact: Posada and his co-conspiractors were in Panama to try to assassinate Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American Summit in 2000.

22) Question in English: But, isn’t it a fact that you spoke to the FBI Legal Attache on November 22, 2000, and stated that you, in fact, planned to . . . planned the attack, however, abandoned the plan after determining that there would be, that there would have been too much collateral damage, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: I do not recall any of that.
Question in English: So, in the process of talking to you, did you state that the plan was to attack Fidel Castro, but it was abandoned . . . but you abandoned the plan after determining that there would have been too much collateral damage?
Posada Carriles: No—from what I can remember, no. From what I can remember—
Question in English: What did you say to the FBI?
Posada Carriles: Nothing, I didn’t tell them anything, I don’t, I don’t remember talking to them, only greeting them, “We are from the FBI,” a tall man, two came and they left.
Question in English: All right so, you didn’t talk to anyone, uh, with regard to your, the purpose of your presence in Panama? So, it’s basically you don’t recall whether you made that statement, yes or no?
Posada Carriles: I don’t—don’t remember, I repeat, that I don’t remember having talked about that with the FBI, nor with anyone else.
Fact: Posada Carriles did talk to an FBI legal attache in Panama and told him he and his co-conspirators had intended to assassinate Fidel Castro but abandoned the plan for fear of collateral damage.

The number of instances of alleged lies or misleading testimony comes to 27.

For some reason, all this reminds me of the Peter Gabriel song, "I don't remember."
I got no means to show identification
I got no papers show you what I am
You'll have to take me just the way that you find me
What's gone is gone and I do not give a damn
I don't remember, I don't recall
I got no memory of anything at all
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cuba Trade Expo is off

The Cuba Trade Expo set for March 18 to 20 has been scrapped. Here's the announcement from event organizer Jonathan Bedard:
Due to unforeseen circumstances, I regret to announce that we have canceled the 2010 CubaTradeExpo scheduled for March in Miami. We will keep you posted on future Expos, which we are now considering holding in different venues, such as Washington, D.C., or Boston. Thank you very much for your continued interest.
I don't have any other information right now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is ex-CIA operative a criminal or just confused and forgetful?

Prosecutors say Luis Posada Carriles "unlawfully and knowingly" lied to immigration officers in 2006. But a court document filed today shows that defense lawyers may try to portray the 81-year-old as simply "confused or suffering from a faulty memory."
Posada Carriles' trial is scheduled to start March 1 in El Paso. Authorities accuse the accused bomber of perjury, naturalization fraud and other crimes.
Defense lawyers today asked U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone to admit evidence of Posada Carriles' prior relationship with the CIA. That's important, they say, because it would allow them to explain that Posada Carriles has "used several passports and identifications with different names from different countries...with the blessing and at the behest of the CIA."
Indeed, the lawyers say, Posada Carriles freely admitted to immigration officers that his aliases included the names Ramon Medina and Franco Rodriguez. And if he didn't mention he had also used a Guatemalan passport in the name of Manuel Enrique Castillo Lopez, it was because he was confused or forgot about it.
As this defense argument goes, Posada Carriles may have committed certain acts, but he didn't have a "guilty mind."
His lawyers say testimony about his CIA connections will establish his "state of mind" and allow the jury to hear evidence of his routine use of false names.
Prosecutors say such testimony is irrelevant to the case. According to a document filed Jan. 10: the defendant's relationship with the CIA terminated more than 30 years prior to his unlawful entry into the United States, he has no rational basis to assert that he believed that the terminated relationship afforded him a carte blanche to violate the law during his naturalization proceedings.
The defendant has not yet proffered evidence that, following his termination as a CIA asset, he was ever given authority to enter the United States illegally or to make false statements in his naturalization proceedings, and, of course, we are aware of none.
Finally, the defendant may seek to claim that the latitude he may once have possessed, via his relationship with the CIA, to employ false immigration documents for the purpose of entering or leaving the United States or other nations confused him into believing that, on the occasions alleged in the indictment, it was likewise permissible to do so.
This tactic would be meritless.
Declassified documents dated October 1976 linked Luis Posada Carriles to the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people that same month.
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friend says accused bomber isn't a criminal

Luis Posada Carriles as a young man. Among his past aliases: Ramon Medina, Lobo and Solo.

Luis Posada Carriles was not responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane that killed all 73 people aboard, one of his longtime friends said Wednesday.
Posada Carriles has "definitely gotten a bum deal," but he hopes to prevail at his perjury trial that begins in El Paso in March, his friend Alberto Pardo Herreros said:
He’s prepared for the worst and expects justice to be done. That’s how it works. Let’s hope there is justice.
There’s law and there’s justice, so I hope justice is done, OK?
Prosecutors accuse Posada Carriles of perjury, obstruction, naturalization fraud and making a false statement in a naturalization proceeding. A hearing in his case is set for Feb. 5 and the trial is scheduled to start March 1.
Cuban-born Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative, has been fighting Cuba's socialist government for decades. He was trained at Fort Benning in Georgia and was involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Since then, authorities in Venezuela, Panama and Cuba have connected him to a series of covert actions, including the 1976 downing of the Cubana airliner, a 2000 plot to kill Fidel Castro and a string of bombings in Havana in 1997.
Posada Carriles slipped into the United States on March 18, 2005, without going through any customs or immigration inspections, and filed for asylum on April 19, 2005. He failed to appear for an asylum interview on May 17, 2005, saying he was too ill, but he managed to hold a press conference that day.
Fed up, U.S. authorities arrested him and began proceedings to deport him.
On Jan. 11, Posada Carriles' lawyers filed a court document saying that the defendant planned to travel from South Florida to his trial in El Paso aboard a private charter jet.
The document identified Herreros as the man who owned the plane and was paying for the trip.
Herreros asked that questions about the plane be directed to Posada Carriles' lawyers.
On Jan. 25, defense lawyer Arturo V. Hernandez told me the plane trip plans were being revised because the jet was undergoing maintenance.
I asked Herreros how he wound up supporting Posada Carriles. He said:
It’s a very personal thing. I’ve known him for quite a while. Let’s say over 10 years.
I said that perhaps Posada Carriles and his supporters believe that news organizations have treated him unfairly. Herreros said:
Of course. He’s definitely got a bum deal there. He’s an anti-Castro man, what can I tell you?
It doesn’t jibe with, it doesn’t go along with our times now, especially with the administration now.
Herreros was referring to the Obama administration. There's no doubt, I told Herreros, that some anti-Castro activists believe Barack Obama has been soft on Cuba's socialist government. Herreros said:
Whoever told you that, they’re completely right.
I said some people may regard Posada Carriles as a hero. Herrero said:
It’s not a question of hero, it’s a question of standing for the right beliefs and political view. It’s not a question of being a hero.
He has fought quite a bit for what he believes is a good cause, which being center right or extreme right, whatever he is.
I think he’s what they call center right. In other words, he’s not a communist, let’s put it that way. I know he’s not. That I know.
Posada Carriles will be 82 on Feb. 15. His doctor says he can't go to his trial in El Paso by car from Florida because his health is too fragile. Herreros said:
He’s up in age and he’s also not in very good health.
But, Herreros said, Posada Carriles is in good spirits.
Herreros was a gentleman when I talked to him by phone tonight. I appreciate that, especially since I called him out of the blue. He apologized for not knowing all the answers to my questions. He said:
I’m sorry I cannot give you more details.
And he defended his friend, saying he shouldn't be held responsible for the 1976 plane bombing.
It's a controversial issue. Cuban officials want Posada Carriles prosecuted for the bombing.
Hernan Ricardo, a Venezuelan who worked for Posada Carriles, and one of Ricardo's subordinates, Freddy Lugo, "placed the bombs on the plane before it took off from Barbados," National Security Archive senior analyst Peter Kornbluh testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Nov. 15, 2007.
Kornbluh said Posada Carriles, a CIA-trained demolitions expert, knew about the bombing in advance, and was found in possession of a "terrorist target list - essentially a scouting report on potential sites related to Cuba."
In addition, Ricardo and Lugo called Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, another anti-Castro militant, after the plane went down. The bombers' coded message said:
A bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed.
Kornbluh said:
...this is a crime that absolutely deserves both a historical and judicial accounting.
But Herreros said he doesn't believe Posada Carriles is guilty. He said:
It’s a very gray area. I don’t think he was ever connected with such a criminal act as they accuse him.
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Owner of plane denies any link to Luis Posada Carriles

World Jet Inc., 1020 West Cypress Creek Road, Fort Lauderdale. Photo credit: Google Maps
Don Whittington of World Jet Inc. denied Tuesday that there were ever any plans for Luis Posada Carriles to use his Hawker 700 jet. He told me:
That's not true. I'm not involved. Nor do I give a shit.
On Jan. 11, lawyers for Posada Carriles filed a court document saying that Posada Carriles planned to travel to his trial in El Paso aboard a Hawker 700 jet, tail number N49RJ.
On Monday night, defense lawyer Arturo V. Hernandez told me those plans will have to be changed because the plane is undergoing maintenance.
Whittington said he doesn't know why his Hawker jet was named in the court document in the first place. He said:
It's not true. End of story.
The document said that a man named Alberto Herreros owned the Hawker 700 and planned to pay for the flight.
Whittington said he does not know Herreros and has no interest in defending Posada Carriles. He said:
He's nothing to me. I personally think they should hang him.
I asked Whittington why a plane with tail number N49RJ was listed in the court document. He said that could be "old information." Perhaps someone else was using that tail number. He said:
I would have to see some court records.
I told Whittington I'd e-mail him the document.
I appreciate that he called me to give me his view on the story. I also told him that I think he has led quite a life, the stuff of movies.
Whittington said he works hard and plays hard, and has no interest in Hollywood. He said:
I don't have time for that.
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Canadian journalist says he's no "lackey"

Jean-Guy Allard. Photo credit: Luis Laya

Arturo V. Hernandez, a lawyer for Luis Posada Carriles, referred to Canadian journalist Jean-Guy Allard as a "paid lackey."
Allard responded to that today, saying:
Mr. Hernandez hates me it seems. I'm quite pleased. I have observed quite a number of lawyers like him through the years. He is quite typical of this business.
I frankly think that if there were less court bums like him, life would be safer on the street and drugs wouldn't be available in any downtown bar. Anyway, as these guys lie as they breathe, I'm absolutely convinced that this plane owner Herreros is just one other member of this same circuit and that the flight was simply canceled because of the media attention. Period.
Luis Posada Carriles was quite well described by ICE officer Robert Jolicoeur at the beginning of this case before Bush trained "antiterrorist" attorneys from Washington took hold of the situation. He is a terrorist, nothing else. Most of the time, he worked under CIA orientation, that's for sure. He also was an FBI regular informant. He's just one more sample of the "contractors" hired by the US for its dirty moves against Latin America. And he has the lawyer that he deserves.

Posada Carriles may have to find another ride

Here's the Hawker 700. Photo credit: World Jet Inc.

Luis Posada Carriles had planned to travel to his upcoming trial in El Paso aboard a British-made jet known as a Hawker 700.
But those plans have changed because the corporate jet is undergoing maintenance, said Arturo V. Hernandez, one of the defendant's lawyers.
A court document filed Jan. 11 said that a man named Alberto Herreros owned the Hawker 700 and had agreed to pay for Posada Carriles' trip.
I posted that document on Jan. 18. Two days later, Canadian journalist Jean-Guy Allard wrote that Herreros was the same Alberto "Al" Herreros who had been tied to drug smuggling and the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s. Asked about that accusation, Hernandez replied:
With regard to Mr. Herreros, I know nothing about him, other than that he was willing to provide us travel on a private charter at minimal expense. Apparently, that offer is no longer viable, as the plane is in maintenance and can not be used for that purpose.
Hernandez also discounted reports by Allard, who writes for state-owned media in Cuba. Hernandez said:
As to Jean Guy Allard, I think he should be the subject of some media scrutiny as he passes himself off as a journalist when he is nothing more than a paid lackey of the longest running tyranny of this and the last century.
Allard's response to that is here.
I asked Hernandez in an e-mail how Posada Carriles will travel to his trial, if not on the Hawker 700. I have not heard from him on that question.
I couldn't find the name Herreros in more than 100 pages of Federal Aviation Administration documents linked to the Hawker aircraft.
Instead, there are such names as Reginald "Don" Whittington, a fabled ex-drug smuggler and former Le Mans race car driver who piled up fortune in cash and gold in the 1980s before going to prison, and World Jet Inc., Whittington's company, which some journalists have loosely tied to CIA rendition flights.

Don Whittington

Whittington did not respond to a request for comment late Monday.
A photo on World Jet Inc.'s Web site shows a Hawker 700 with tail number N49RJ.
FAA's Web site shows the plane's owner as Mountain Aviation LLC, at 204 E. 22nd St. in Cheyenne, Wyo.
The Cheyenne company doesn't appear to me to have anything to do with another firm called Mountain Aviation, with offices in Salt Lake City and Boise. I spoke with Travis Atwood, manager of the Boise office, and he told me his company doesn't own any planes with the N49RJ tail number. He laughed and said:
It wouldn't be any of ours. We've got no Contra-connected, gun-smuggling, drug-smuggling planes in our fleet.
I dug further into FAA files to try to understand more about the N49RJ plane. Some 100 pages of registration documents are here and 36 pages of airworthiness documents are here (You can view or download the documents; select print and an option to download should appear).
I'm no expert at deciphering FAA documents, but the records seem to show that a company called Mid-America Distribution Inc. in Kansas City, Mo., imported the plane from Russia in 1999.

This document, in Russian, is part of the FAA file. I wonder if Posada Carriles, an avowed anti-communist, would have minded riding a plane that was once used in Russia, considered "enemy territory."

Bills of sale show the plane was sold:
* To World Jet Inc. on Aug. 31, 1999 (bill of sale),
* To Mountain Aviation on Aug. 17, 2000 (bill of sale),
* Back to World Jet on May 27, 2002 (bill of sale),
* Then back to Mountain Aviation on Feb. 25, 2009 (bill of sale).
I skimmed through these documents and it looks like the transactions were made "for and in consideration of $1..." which indicates to me that these were paper transfers that changed the name of the owner, but kept the plane within the same circle of interests.
To be clear, I'm not accusing the plane's owners of any kind of wrongdoing. I'm only trying to understand more about the story behind the story and who supports Posada Carriles, who has dedicated his life to toppling Cuba's socialist government and is considered a hero by some.
I would love to hear what Posada Carriles thinks about all this. I'd like to hear from Alberto Herreros, too. I don't know how to locate him. He is evidently one of Posada Carriles' contemporaries - in his 80s.
World Jet and Whittington have also been controversial. This nine-page U.S. Court of Appeals document contains details of past accusations against Whittington. It cites a DEA sworn statement alleging that Whittington and his brother, William, had "pled guilty to federal criminal charges" in 1986 after authorities accused them of smuggling drugs from 1977 to 1982.
Don Whittington was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He pleaded guilty to laundering drug money and investing the proceeds, records show.
Before his arrest, authorities say, Whittington had piled up millions of dollars in riches, including at least 220 pounds of gold.
Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen has reported accusations that World Jet planes have been involved in CIA rendition flights. I don't know that those accusations have been proven.
There have also been claims of drug trafficking. In a thinly-sourced story in 2007, journalist Daniel Hopsicker suggested that Whittington paid for a Gulfstream jet that crash-landed in Mexico carrying nearly four tons of cocaine and heroin. Hopsicker's story is intriguing, but I don't think he established Whittington's involvement, at least I wasn't convinced. His accusations rely on second-hand material: an aviation executive's conversation with a pilot named Greg Smith.
That name, by the way, is familiar. FAA files I examined while looking for information on the Hawker include a document signed by a pilot named Gregory D. Smith. He is a "trusted pilot" who does work for the CIA and FBI, and has been linked to CIA rendition flights, the transportation of Colombian drug traffickers, and a Gulfstream that crashed in Mexico with a multi-ton load of illegal drugs, according to Narco News.
As for the Hawker, one Web site shows it's for sale in case you're in the market for a corporate jet. It's a 1977 plane, but its interior was redone in 2004.
International Bluebook base price: $990,000.
Make an offer, the Web site says.

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page
A story in AutoWeek about the Whittington brothers

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Going barefoot

No shoes now

When I lived in Cuba, I often wore sandals while at home - or I went barefoot. But on Tuesday Monday and Tuesday I'm going shoeless for another reason.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Texas judge to accused bomber: You're not fooling me

A billboard in Havana

A Texas judge on Friday denied defense lawyers' motion to throw out one of two perjury charges against Luis Posada Carriles.
Prosecutors accused Posada Carriles of lying to an immigration officer who questioned him on Aug. 30, 2005, in El Paso.
The officer asked Posada Carriles if he had "solicited" the help of others to bomb hotels in Havana in 1997. The defendant said:
I am saying that is not true.
It's pure word play. Posada Carriles' lawyers aren't admitting or denying involvement in the bombings, which killed one man. They're simply saying the defendant never "solicited" anyone. So Posada Carriles was telling the truth, they say, when he said the statement wasn't true.
But U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cordone did not buy that argument, saying Posada Carriles was clearly answering the question and denying involvement in the bombings.
It would appear, then, that prosecutors must prove that Posada Carriles was involved in the bombings to be able to prove he lied under oath. That doesn't seem like an easy proposition.
The August hearing was held to decide if Posada Carriles should be removed from the country or granted asylum.
U.S. officials contend he lied about his involvement in the 1997 bombings and about arranging for Salvadoran Raul Cruz Leon to transport explosives to Cuba. That led to the two perjury counts.
American authorities also accuse Posada Carriles of obstruction, saying he has made "false, evasive and misleading testimony," and has falsely claimed he didn't understand or remember to try to mislead officials.
As part of his defense strategy, Posada Carriles has tried seize upon imprecise translations of questions to prove that he hasn't lied.
But I don't think this slippery old fox is quite that dumb. And the judge apparently didn't think so, either, in denying his motion today.
I think Posada Carriles probably knows by now that the more he testifies under oath, the greater the possibility he'll be nabbed for perjury.
That's likely why he dropped his bid to become a U.S. citizen in August 2005 and undergo further questioning under oath.
He remains in a tight spot. But it may not be easy for prosecutors, either. They may have to use more than words and unproven accusations to link Posada Carriles to the Havana bombings. They may need evidence.
And it's unclear to me just what proof they have, whether they sought out Cuban officials and whether the most important documents in the case will be disclosed to the public.
The trial is set for March 1 in El Paso. Activists who want Posada Carriles prosecuted for the 1987 crimes and the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner say they'll be there to protest.

Posada indictment
Judge Cordone's Jan. 21 denial of motion
33-page court docket showing filings in the case since January 2007
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Behind the scenes at Yoani's shop

Ted's the one in the middle

New York professor Ted Henken translated Yoani Sanchez' Jan. 19 story about how she keeps her blog going and who supports her.
His handiwork is at El Yuma, complete with photos.
And in case a hack attack should wipe out El Yuma, or a tray of mojitos falls into the vital inner workings of Blogger, a text-only back-up version is here.

Along the Malecon's Yoani & digital revolt page

When Reinaldo was more famous than his wife

Here's the first picture I took of Reinaldo Escobar

There was a time when Reinaldo Escobar was more well known than his wife, the now-famous blogger Yoani Sanchez.
I interviewed Escobar in December 2004 for a story that summed up that year for Cuba.
Escobar told me that the world had seen Leninism, Maoism and Stalinism, so why not start a new -ism - Fidelism. Escobar said of Fidel Castro:
He has been in power for 46 years, longer than Lenin or Stalin. He has total legitimacy to launch Fidelism. Whether it will be successful or not is another question.
At the time, Escobar was editor of Consenso, a Havana magazine critical of the government.
We spoke for a while and I took some pictures of Escobar and of the view from his apartment.

Then he changed t-shirts, something about not wanting to be a human advertisement, I think.

Along the Malecon's Yoani & digital revolt page

Pardon my pop-up

A box started popping up today whenever I call up my blog. I didn't put it there. Anyone know what that is and how to get rid of it?
Something similar happened in August 2009 while I was in Cuba.

Florida Republican to Cuban people: We will protect you

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen would like to see Fidel Castro dead
Source of high-resolution photo: the congresswoman's official Web site.

The jailing of a U.S. subcontractor who "was working on the island is further proof that the regime’s tyrannical and anti-American policies persist," U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The Florida Republican made the comment after meeting with Jonathan Farrar, chief of the American mission in Havana.
Cuban authorities jailed American subcontractor Alan Gross on Dec. 4. They accuse him of illegally distributing laptops and other equipment, but have not charged him with a crime - not publicly at least.
Ros-Lehtinen met with Farrar in Washington. After the meeting, her press office quoted her as saying:
My discussions with Mr. Farrar confirmed reports that repression on the island has only increased over the past few months, making it clear that U.S. overtures to the regime remain unanswered.
The U.S. must stand firm: democratic change in Cuba must come first, before any further efforts to change or weaken U.S.-Cuba policy.
We must redouble our efforts to precipitate a transition to democratic rule in Cuba so that the Cuban people and our nation can feel safe and secure without the looming threat posed by the Cuban tyranny.
Ros-Lehtinen, 57, was born in Havana and is a well-known foe of Fidel Castro. In the 2006 British documentary, 638 Ways to Kill Castro, she was quoted as saying:
I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people.

Posada Carriles' money man linked to drug smuggling

The man who is reportedly paying for Luis Posada Carriles' charter flight to El Paso in February once ran a company linked to drug trafficking and covert aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, a 1988 document shows.
Alberto "Al" Herreros, former president of Vortex/Universal, is cited in the "Kerry Report," which identified six companies that "had been owned and operated by convicted or suspected drug traffickers and were linked to the Contras."
Miami-based Vortex/Universal was one of those companies. Herreros was company president and Michael Palmer was vice president.
Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro militant who is accused of immigration fraud and other crimes, goes on trial on March 1.
When I reported on Jan. 19 that Herreros was paying for his charter flight to El Paso, I had no information on Herreros.
In a story published today, Jean-Guy Allard said Herrero's full name is Alberto "Al" Pardos Herrero, 82.
Some details of Herreros' exploits can be found in the Kerry Report, excerpts of which are posted in the CIA's electronic reading room. According to the report:
Herrero's associate, Michael Palmer, signed a contract with the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office, or NHAO, in November 1985.
Palmer agreed to transport supplies to the Contras, who were fighting against the left-wing Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
The FBI was investigating Palmer for drug smuggling at the time, the Kerry Report said, and "a federal grand jury was preparing to indict him in Detroit." But that didn't faze officials at the State Department, who paid more than $806,000 to known drug smugglers, by one estimate, so they'd carry humanitarian aid to the Contras.
The Kerry Report said Congress authorized the aid "in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges." In other instances, the "traffickers were under active investigation."

The Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations published the Kerry report in December 1988. It said Palmer described Herreros as an informant - "a law enforcement source of information." And it said Palmer:
also reportedly said that both he and Herreros were doing 'sting/scam' operations for DEA in April 1986.
The Kerry report cites an April 28, 1987, DEA memo alleging that Herreros was "criminally associated" with a plane that "had been implicated in the suspected drug smuggling incident involving Palmer in Mexico."
The El Paso Intelligence Center alleges that Herreros bought the plane, with tail number N3434F, "for $125,000 in cash for the purpose of marijuana smuggling."
The Executive Intelligence Review gave another view, reporting in 1998 that Herreros had worked as a gun runner in Africa. Details are here.
I do not know Herreros' side to this story. Nor do I know definitively that the Alberto Herreros cited in federal documents as Posada Carriles' benefactor is necessarily the same Herreros accused of Contra, drug and weapons ties.
But it's a fascinating case, the stuff of movies - a purported freedom-fighting, marijuana-smuggling, gun-peddling character with possible ties to the CIA who helps fly his old friend to a Texas courtroom.
If the term "shadowy" is ever appropriate, this is it.
If you've got more information or insights into the case, please drop me a line.
If you'd like to read a bit more about what the Kerry Report said about Al Herreros, click here.

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Have ex-CIA operative's lawyers been to Cuba?

The crime scene

Have lawyers for Luis Posada Carriles visited Havana to investigate the 1997 Hotel Copacabana bombing?
This summer, the defendant's lawyers said they wanted more time before the trial because they might have to travel to Cuba to interview Raul Cruz Leon, accused in the September 1997 Hotel Copacabana bombing. Defense lawyers said then: may be necessary for defense counsel to travel to Cuba for the purpose of inspecting original records, interview of witnesses and inspection of crime scene.
So did it ever happen?
Earlier this week, the Cuban press reported that the 126-room Hotel Copacabana has reopened after a three-year-long renovation project unrelated to the bombing.
The project isn't quite finished. Seventy rooms were redone and are now open. Workers haven't finished an additional 56 rooms, but expect to finish this summer.
I've visited the hotel dozens of times over the past 15 years. Last time I was there, it had a beautiful pool next to roped off swimming lanes in the ocean waters.

Source of photos:

Source of photo: TravelPod

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Behind the scenes at Generación Y

A name that starts with Y

Yoani Sanchez went well beyond her usual three-paragraph post to explain how she manages to publish her blog and who from outside Cuba helps her.
The blogger's carefully worded 2,850-word piece appeared in Penúltimos Días on Jan. 19 and is called Generación Y: el making of.
The story explains the role of Josef Biechele, who some of us Cuba watchers have written about and speculated about. I mentioned Biechele here, for instance.
Sanchez says she has used some of her money from international awards to pay for Internet access in Cuba. And she makes no apologies for earning money from freelance pieces that appear in such publications as TAZ in Germany, Poder magazine in the United States and Imprensa in Brazil.
I think Sanchez is wise to explain how her blog is produced, who is behind it and where she gets some of her foreign support.
Her foes in the Cuban government will not be satisfied, I'm sure. They'll continue to push the idea that she's a foreign-paid "mercenary," a view that I don't believe given the facts I've seen so far.
Anyway, Sanchez does a good job explaining what goes on behind the scenes at Generación Y. Her piece doesn't answer all the questions. She has at least one key supporter who goes unnamed in her piece. She doesn't reveal all the details about her mobile phone and her finances, details that wouldn't even come up in most countries of the world. In fact, if her blog had advertising, I'm sure it could easily pay for itself.
I am curious about the timing of Sanchez' piece. I wonder if she is revealing these details now as a kind of preemptive strike because she thinks Cuban authorities are about to take action against her.
Along the Malecon's Yoani & digital revolt page

A new theory in mysterious deaths of Cuban mental patients

A mental patient at Havana's Psychiatric Hospital wears a South Park t-shirt

Cuban authorities are investigating the tragic deaths of at least 26 patients at Havana's Psychiatric Hospital. They say the deaths appear to be related to record cold weather earlier this month. And they say chronic disease and "natural biological deterioration" may have contributed to some of the deaths.
A friend of mine who does humanitarian work in Cuba has another theory: Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. He wrote:
I read about 24 people dying in a psychiatric hospital due to "exposure" aka hypothermia. I do not believe it! I have been investigating deaths for 30 years. I suspect the true cause of the deaths was that somebody lit up a poorly functioning heater and there was carbon monoxide in high enough levels to kill these people...happens all the time...
I suspect the psychiatrists did not consider the Carbon Monoxide poisoning possibility and the lab at the psych hospital probably can not even test for CO.
It is an intriguing theory. Carbon monoxide poisoning is not always the first cause of death that occurs to investigators. In December 1990, 12 people who were taking part in a bizarre ritual turned up dead in a home in Tijuana, Mexico. I rushed to the scene and covered the story for the Orange County Register, based in Santa Ana, Calif.
Some people suspected murder or suicide in the Tijuana case, but the cause turned out to be carbon monoxide poisoning. The New York Times story about that tragedy is here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TeleSur picks up Posada Carriles story

TeleSur mentioned the Luis Posada Carriles charter plane story on Jan. 19 and put it on YouTube. A lot of Cuba watchers are interested in the saga of the anti-Castro activist, whose trial begins March 1 in El Paso.

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Photos of Alan Gross

I haven't seen many photos of Alan Gross. On this page, I'm posting some photos from cached pages from his Internet sites. In the version above, the lines from the computer screen are visible.
So I smoothed out the lines in Photoshop.
I understand that family members have been reluctant to talk to the press. I don't blame them. It's a sensitive case and I'm sure they want to do everything they can bring Gross home as quickly as possible. I'm sure his friends and family members are worried about him.

Along the Malecon's U.S.-Cuba relations page

Alpha 66's storefront headquarters

While in South Florida earlier this month, I stopped by the Miami office of Alpha 66. I had hoped to interview members of the anti-Castro group. But no one was there. So I guess I'll try again the next time I visit Calle Ocho.

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Comparing deforestation in Cuba and Haiti

The image of Cuba, left, seems to show less deforestation than in Haiti, right.
Source of image: Earth Snapshot.

There are signs of deforestation in 11 of Cuba's 14 provinces, Earth Snapshot. The Web site, which provides daily satellite images of the planet, reports:
Despite green to dark red areas indicating good to high photosynthetic activity, Cuba’s main environmental problem is deforestation and desertification. According to Cuba’s Environmental Agency and the Agricultural Ministry, approximately 76% of the country’s potential agriculture land has some level of damage: erosion, salinity or compression. The phenomenon’s origin is due to exploitation, deforestation (many forests are cut down in order to use the terrain for agriculture or cattle rearing) and an intense and irrational use of natural resources.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Canadian journalist questions Posada Carriles' need for a charter jet

It's just chaos out there...

Jean-Guy Allard, a Canadian journalist based in Havana, put his spin on the Posada Carriles charter jet story. He asks why the defendant's high cholesterol and skin cancer make it necessary for him to fly by charter jet.

Versions of Allard's story, with mentions of Along the Malecon, appeared on the Kaos en la Red site, above, and on:
* Aporrea
* Granma (in Spanish, Portuguese and French)
* the Agencia Cubana de Noticias, or ACN
* Diario Dominicano, a Dominican publication
* the National Committee to Free the Five Web site
* Radio Havana
* Cubavision
* the Web site of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, known as Minrex
* La Jiribilla
* Moncada (in French)
* ISRIA, or International Security Research and Intelligence Agency

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page