A Rarified Air Engulfs Cuba

Fernando Ravsberg

Havana by dusk. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES,  April 8 – In 1992, a friend of my kids commented to me saying, “In Villa Clara they honored a dissident.”  I corrected him saying that this person must have been a dirigente (a leader), but he denied it, explaining that it involved “one of those human rights types.”

A few days later I was able to find out that the representative in Cuba of the most hardcore, radical and powerful wing of the exile community was in fact a State Security agent who had infiltrated the ranks of the dissident movement for years.

Two decades have passed but the saga continues.  Every so often there appear new agents though they are people who we know and consider convinced anti-Castro elements.  Nonetheless, in “the next chapter” of this serial they turn out to have been just the opposite.

I know many of them.  I’ve read Dagoberto; I’ve visited Baguer’s home; I’ve had coffee with Yoani; I’ve had discussions with Orrio; I’ve interviewed Collar; I’ve published reports by Elizardo and I was even almost half related with one of the spies.

I also got to know US diplomats who acted in this serial.  My relationship with Kozak didn’t last long; he stopped inviting me to receptions when I suggested lifting the economic embargo to leave Castro without any excuses.

Vicki was more diplomatic; she invited me to eat at her house and explained how I should report on Cuba.  What’s paradoxical is that this woman now defends the same things she criticized when she directed her country’s diplomatic office in Havana.

Cason limited himself to not speaking with me.  Things began to improve with Parmly, who honored us by using the BBC news for their giant electric billboard that streamed messages atop the Interests Section in the Cuban capital.

Meanwhile Farrar recommended us as a reliable source of information in his secret cables.

A recent spate of programs on Cuban television sought to demonstrate that behind all the plots on the island can be found the hand of the United States, while at the same time making it clear that the Cuban government has adeptly controlled the situation.  And they truly did give that impression.

The image of a totally infiltrated opposition is key to keeping it isolated.  As far back as the 1960s it was said that the majority of the heads of the “counterrevolution” were Cuban security agents, and since then, one or another of them has periodically “surfaced” as a prophylactic measure.

Damaging Ties with Washington

But if espionage activity has done damage to the dissident “movement,” much more harm has been done to it through its links with the United States.  A Cuban only has to see the photo of an opponent talking with an American diplomat for their mistrust to be stirred.

Havana's Prado Promenad by night. Photo: Caridad

In this serial, all the threads are related in one or another way to Washington, something that is politically very profitable in Cuba (at least toward that sector of the public that looks at the United States with suspicions that have lingered since the 19th century).

Some know this.  Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, who once fought against Fidel Castro but still lives in Cuba today, refuses to converse with the Americans unless the press is present.  “I don’t have anything to hide from the Cuban people,” he explained to me.

A half century of frustrated attempts demonstrate how difficult it is to get the majority of Cubans to climb on the train conducted by their neighbors from the north.  That’s why the key to cracking this serial is to follow the money to its source.

It goes without saying that not much research is necessary.  US Senator John Kerry has just confirmed that $150 million (USD) was expended on the “promotion of democracy in Cuba,” but he assures that not a dime more will be released if they don’t explain to him the specific uses of that funding.

If that weren’t enough, “added to the stew” was Alan Gross, around whom it’s insinuated that politics prompted “the Cuban government to arrest this “contractor” who was working for the United States government by distributing satellite communications equipment.”

All the alarms have been sounded because John Kerry, as the president of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is also demanding the US Inspector General’s Office to investigate the destination of all those millions.

In previous inspections there appeared invoices for electric saws, chocolate and leather coats “for the dissident movement,” as well as for one distinguished “fighter for democracy in Cuba” – who ultimately wound up in jail for stealing a half million dollars.

“That money will burn the hands of whoever touches it,” prophesied dissident Elizardo Sanchez a decade ago.  This “assistance” is so counterproductive that instead of strengthening the opposition, it weakens it politically, divides it internally and isolates it from the people.

I sometimes wonder what Cuba would have been like without the presence of Big Brother trying to influence in the destiny of the island since even before its birth as a country.  It’s difficult to know, but undoubtedly it would have been a very different nation.

An authorized Havana Times translation of the original published in BBC Mundo.


One thought on “A Rarified Air Engulfs Cuba

  • April 8, 2011 at 8:53 am
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    I find it quite interesting to hear of the amount of money being spent by the U.S. to “promote Democracy” in Cuba. This is in my opinion a typical American style half measure. The United States still does not know nor does it understand the how and why of it’s own embargo.
    We are all trapped in the cycle of inept American Foreign Policy. I cannot help but wonder the positive changes this 150 million dollars could have wrought if it had been used honestly.
    Money can be used as a great equalizer, because with more disposable income comes buying power and this is one of the strongest forces on Earth.
    As usual American mis-management of funds equates to continued animosity on a Global level.

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