Dollars for Cuban anti-govt groups flow from Miami

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Cuban news media are charging the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba with being a bagman for groups seeking to overthrow Cuba’s government.

Beginning May 19, Cuban news broadcasts have focused on e-mail communications, video and audio recordings, signed receipts and photographs testifying to a Cuban woman’s arrangements over two years with contacts in Miami to send money to Cuba to fund destabilization projects.

Five years ago, Cuban security services documented similar violations of Cuban law by malcontents accepting money and goods handed out by the U.S. Interests Section. Over 70 of them went to jail, convicted at trials enlivened by testimony from agents who posed as dissidents.

This time terrorist Santiago Alvarez, presently jailed in Miami, surfaces as paymaster. And Michael Parmly, head of the U.S. Interests Section, is accused of being a courier.

The Cuban woman, Marta Beatriz Roque, was herself jailed in 2003 and later released for health reasons. The documents show she sent e-mails from computers at the U.S. Interests Section, the embassies of Slovakia and the Czech Republic and the Hotel Commodore, yielding lucrative results. Every month Roque received $1,500 which she kept, $2,400 which she funneled to Laura Pollen for the anti-government “Ladies in White,” and smaller amounts for others including Jorge Garcia and Vladimir Roca, leader with Roque of the “Agenda for the Transition.”

The Ladies in White, mostly wives of those jailed in 2003, conduct regular public protests in Havana. President Bush received one of them, Elsa Morejon, at the White House in January. He joined Roque, Pollen and Garcia for a video conference in early May.

The money arriving in Cuba comes from the Legal Rescue Foundation in Hialeah, Fla., based in the office of Santiago Alvarez. The foundation was set up two years ago to fund legal expenses for terrorist Luis Posada, recently arrived from Mexico on Alvarez’s yacht.

Over decades Alvarez, a wealthy developer and CIA veteran, launched armed attacks inside Cuba. He organized a failed assassination attempt against Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama.

Detained since 2005 for storing weapons destined for Cuba, Alvarez had jail time added for refusing to testify at Posada’s trial on immigration charges. Alvarez’s father worked for Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and his grandfather organized the 1929 murder in Mexico of Cuban Communist Party founder Julio Mella.

Marta Beatriz Roque sent cajoling, flattering and complaining e-mails imploring colleagues in Miami to extract money from “our friend,” Alvarez. She helped mobilize couriers, among them U.S. diplomats Robert Blau and Parmly, who transported money on at least three occasions. Cuban news reports displayed one Parmly e-mail to Roque reassuring her that her cell phone costs were covered: “These things can be arranged among friends ... This house is always open to you all.”

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormick characterized the payments as nonpolitical humanitarian aid to families of political prisoners, allowable for private donors.

Speaking to reporters, Cuban Foreign Ministry official Josefina Vidal focused on Parmly’s role in solidifying ties between terrorists in Florida and “counterrevolutionaries in Cuba.” In her view, the outrageousness of the U.S. actions signals a possible attempt to provoke Cuba into closing the Interests Section.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque contradicted the State Department’s claims. The money goes to mercenaries, not for humanitarian aid, he asserted at a press conference. He denounced U.S. officials in Cuba who “encouraged, financed, organized, directed and monitored counterrevolutionary activity in order to destabilize.”

The foreign minister condemned Bush administration hypocrisy evidenced by money lavished upon counterrevolutionaries while Cuban American remittances to families in Cuba face restrictions.

So far there are no signs of prosecutions on the way. U.S. and European critics of the 2003 trials and sentences are silent. Back then, the imprisoning of dissidents (mercenaries though they may have been) led the European Union to impose sanctions, a decision that will be revisited in June.

Analyst Nelson Valdes emphasizes that while private donations set off the present storm, U.S. destabilization of Cuba is funded largely through public monies to the tune this year of $45 million. Beneficiaries include right-wing exile groups, Eastern European anti-Cuban politicians and “money oriented ‘civil society’ promoters.” Only a fraction ends up in Cuba, he says. Intelligence agencies secretly send additional monies to the island.