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Column 070615 Brewer

Monday, July 6, 2015

With respect to Cuba: Is Obama Guileful, Duped or a Dim Bulb?

By Jerry Brewer

An interview with Pedro Riera Escalante, a cashiered former Cuban spymaster now living in exile, as regards to U.S.-Cuba détente

On July 1, President Barack Obama formally announced that the United States and Cuba have agreed to open embassies in each other’s capitals. 

President Obama stated, "This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas."

He continued to say that, "later this summer Secretary (John) Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.” He did acknowledge somewhat contritely that, "Not everyone is on board with the U.S.-Cuba thaw."

In announcing his own trip, Secretary of State John Kerry stated: “This will mark the resumption of embassy operations after a period of 54 years. It will also be the first visit by a Secretary of State to Cuba since 1945. The reopening of our embassy, I will tell you, is an important step on the road to restoring fully normal relations between the United States and Cuba. Coming a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, it recognizes the reality of the changed circumstances, and it will serve to meet a number of practical needs.”

While this controversial hype on establishing a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations sounds promising, there is much history and a factual basis to believe that the players in this agreement may have easily duped each other and created a false sense of security by quite possibly ignoring the intelligence and true motives of a knee-jerk and intentionally weak quid pro quo agreement.

Perhaps much of this naïveté and public doubt can simply relate to John Kerry’s recent remarks, when he said that, “The resumption of full embassy activities will help us engage the Cuban government more often and at a higher level, and it will also allow our diplomats to interact more frequently, and frankly more broadly and effectively, with the Cuban people.”

The decades of oppression and violence, as well as civil and human rights violations, by Cuba's Castro regime against its people, plus the failed economic system and misery caused by forced Communist doctrine, can most certainly create sincere doubt that the Cuban citizenry will not continue to be intensely controlled and monitored. Nor will the door to capitalism see the light of day on the distressed island, as evidenced by the record of documented statements by both of the Castro brothers on these subjects.

A U.S. embassy on the island will be a convenient means for Cuba’s aggressive and savvy security apparatchik and spy services to keep close tabs on issues of interest, and to isolate and contain U.S. diplomatic movement by intense overt security and covert tradecraft.

Pedro Riera Escalante served the Castro regime as part of Cuban intelligence for nearly 24 years (1969-1993); in Mexico City, under the guise of a diplomat, from 1986-1991. Riera was the Group Chief of Section Q-1, in charge of operations against the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

He was placed there, at the highest level of Fidel Castro’s government, via the head of the General Directorate of Intelligence, or DGI (today Directorate of Intelligence, DI), General of Division Luis Barreiro Carames; and after a proposal by Brigadier General Matos Ezequiel Suarez, 2nd Chief of Intelligence for foreign counterintelligence. 

Riera told this interviewer: “I was sent to develop and implement the same methodology that was developed for the recruitment of CIA officers, which had been approved as the official doctrine for (Soviet/Cuban) Intelligence.”

Riera eventually denounced the Fidel Castro dictatorship and was imprisoned. He called for a shift towards respect for human rights and democracy, before, during and after his sentence to prison in Cuba. His revelations of his orders from Cuba, and his actions in the secret war that has pitted Cuba versus the U.S. for decades in intelligence and espionage tradecraft, reveal a continuing process of Cuban subversion in this hemisphere.

Brewer: “What was the mission and importance of the Cuban DGI intelligence service during the period of your service?”

Pedro Riera Escalante (PRE): “The first priority of the DGI, from 1969 through 1993, was penetration and opposition to the United States government and the CIA.

“In my opinion it continues right now. The United States was always considered the main enemy, and the policy of Fidel Castro was to maintain, at all costs, the confrontation and to prevent normalization of relations, this insofar as having a powerful foreign enemy served Castro to justify his economic failures and his foreign policy of supporting guerrilla movements in other countries.

“At one of the previous times, when they were close to the resumption of relations with Cuba, during the administration of Gerald Ford, Castro in late 1975 broke off [talks] due to the Cuban military intervention in Angola. In 1977, with the entry of Cuban troops in Ethiopia, again the process that was developing with Jimmy Carter ground to a halt. During the Reagan administration Cuba's military expansion accelerated in Angola, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

“The facts prove that during most of the years since 1959 the policy of Cuban military intervention in different parts of the world has been the principal obstacle for the normalization of relations between the two countries.

“Now, thanks to President Obama closing his eyes to Cuban intervention in Venezuela and internal repression against democratic opponents and dissidents in Cuba, what has been conceded completely is that the United States has accomplished the restoration of diplomatic relations.

“In all those years the mission of the DGI, until 1968, was to train [and] support guerrillas and urban guerrilla movements materially and politically in most countries where they existed.

"From 1968 to 1975, the Department of National Liberation was separated from the DGI [and] charged with support to guerrillas in different parts of the world, under the command of Comandante Manuel Piñeiro.

“The missions of the DGI, with respect to the United States from 1969 to 1989, were developed by three sub-leaderships … and military intelligence, they being charged with penetrating the United States government, first the State Department, embassies, universities, media, [and] diplomatic mediums in Washington and New York. In 1985, it may have been (Cuba's military intelligence) that recruited the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency official, Ana Belen Montes.

“[Two DGI] sectional departments, Q-1 and Q-2, [were] in charge of work against the CIA.  The first with three directorates, subdivided into sections: penetration of CIA headquarters by infiltration or the introduction of agents recruited at universities and directed to join the CIA; penetration in third countries; [and] harassment operations dedicated to propaganda and psychological war against the CIA, therein a fundamental pillar was the former CIA officer and Cuban intelligence agent Philip Agee, who died in 2008.

“There were also other former officers, like John Stockwell, the ex-chief of station of the CIA in Angola during the war; [and] Phil Roettinger, a CIA officer who played an important role in Guatemala in 1954, who died in 2002.

“Following instructions from Cuba’s leadership, I contacted Phil Roettinger during my time in Mexico approximately between the years 1988-1990, and traveled to the city of San Miguel de Allende and visited him at home in order to coordinate his activities and a trip to Cuba with a group of senior officials of the CIA and the armed forces, supporters of improving relations with Cuba.

Since the 80s the DGI had two important programs to influence government policy of the United States towards Cuba. (…) The Section responsible for the United States was directed to contact, recruit and use State Department officials, journalists and prominent personalities in different mediums in order to exert influence actions on the United States government in favor of improving relations with Cuba.

"Moreover, Section Q-1 was in charge of harassment [and] directed to denounce CIA plans and reveal the identity of CIA officers through the actions of Philip Agee and his publication Covert Action and a group of disgruntled CIA officers who travelled to Cuba and took action or did publications favorable to the interests of Cuban Intelligence.

"[Several] wrote books revealing information, means and methods of the CIA, violating their contracts with the CIA, which were used in some manner by Philip Agee or the DGI, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously.

"I attended to Philip Agee in Cuba during the years 1974 and 1975, to advise and support him in developing his book ‘Inside the Company: CIA Diary,’ and later I contacted him in late 1989 when his book became the centerpiece of the ‘Moncada’ operation, aimed at recruiting the secretary of the CIA's deputy chief of station [in Mexico City]. [Information from that first contact] revealed data on the most important counterintelligence operation carried out by the Station in order to recruit a Cuban intelligence officer; the facts I knew subsequently allowed me to verify that the information was true and the operation continued, and finally allowed intelligence heads to take preventive measures with the implicated Cuban intelligence officers.

"Double agent Donato Poveda located in the Office of Merchant Marines in Tokyo in 1974-1976 provide misinformation to the CIA on troops and military equipment being transported on Cuban civilian ships into battle in the war in Angola.”

BREWER: “How much of this was the doctrine of Russia and their collaboration?”

PRE: “They developed and initiated special espionage tradecraft and operations for Cuban officials with access to information from interests of the CIA located in Cuban missions abroad that were directed so that the CIA would recruit [them] to misinform, know their means and methods, and study and engage officers that they attended in order to recruit them. In early 1976 I received the task to draft the first tradecraft methodology for the DGI, for which I was provided records of all tradecraft developed empirically or with basic past concepts; advice from the KGB was an important leg-up in the work, we considered Soviet Intelligence our teachers.

"Colonel Victor, Section Chief of tradecraft of the KGB, along with Colonel Pavel Yatzcov, lectured me several times on Soviet methodology…. From the notes I took during these conferences, and analyses of the four most important [operations] developed to that date by Cuban intelligence, in Japan, Spain and Mexico. I compiled the first methodology.  “The first two successes of the new methodology were the projections and recruiting so that the CIA would recruit [two] agents.

The CIA harassment work developed with Philip Agee was prepared in coordination and with the support of the KGB.

BREWER: “What do you think of the mutual opening of embassies between Cuba and the U.S.?”

PRE: “First of all, the reciprocal opening of embassies benefits the Cuban government and hurts the Cuban people's struggle for the democratization of the country. It can benefit U.S. sectors and entrepreneurs interested in the Cuban market. But by no means is this opening and the development of tourism going to produce an impact that helps the democratization of the country, insofar as what the government has done has been to intensify repression, which is going to increase its income and strengthen it in order to be able to repress better.

"And I want to point out that this statement is made not because I believe the embargo should continue, and that relations should not be normalized. I have always been in favor of these, but with conditions that guarantee the Cuban people will truly benefit and on a base of real democratic opening and not one of trickery.

"Fidel Castro and Raul have said in years past that, when the hostile policy of the United States would end and relations normalized, the relationship could bring about openings in Cuba, but none of this has happened. To the contrary, repression has intensified, they have changed their ways of great trials and convictions to brief detentions, but all of the repressive system continues intact and will be strengthened in order to have total control over the new North American diplomats that arrive in the country.”

BREWER: “Do you think that Cuban espionage will proliferate in the US with their new embassy on U.S. soil?”

PRE: "As is known, espionage is a state policy, and it will continue, they might be more careful, but it will be perfected.

"Moreover, in recent years the degree of penetration of Cuban intelligence within the US government is very high. As well, I am convinced that after years the fruits of dozens of agents who were recruited while studying at universities in order to later penetrate the CIA and the State Department must have harvested fruits. When I contacted the CIA in Mexico in 1999 and 2000, to seek political asylum, the CIA counterintelligence officials were convinced that they had a spy within the CIA and it was not the case of Ana Belen Montes in the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"My opinion is that Ana Belen Montes was used in a very risky way, putting her life at risk in order to exert favorable influence towards Cuba's in the US government, but Ana Belen did not belong to the CIA.

"All those agents within the US government and the CIA should have provided valuable information so that Raul Castro would have firsthand information and impose his principles in the negotiations with Obama."

BREWER: “Do you think Cuba will end/curtail surveillance/monitoring of the new US embassy in Cuba?"

PRE: “Of course the current monitoring will be increased. All Cuban personnel now working in the Interests Section work for Cuban State Security. All housing for officials may have microphones and other devices installed. All records of refugees that have been and are being processed are first reviewed by Cuban personnel who are security agents that [give] detailed information to officials.”

BREWER: “Is Cuba's mission in Venezuela a threat to the US and Venezuela, and other democracies in the Americas?”

PRE: “The Government of Venezuela is acting in full coordination with the Cuban government. Its repressive bodies and armed forces are under the control of Cuban officials. Venezuela is not a danger to the United States today, but it could become one; in these times it is a government in a situation that poses a danger for having brought the nation's economy to crisis, and it is losing more popular support on a daily basis.

"They have established a very effective repressive system to weaken the opposition and impede them from reaching government office. Castro will guarantee oil and revenue in Venezuelan dollars at all costs; supporting these with all his intelligence resources in order to keep President [Nicolas] Maduro in power, or the generals who remain loyal to Castro in case of crisis.

"The danger to the United States is how far will it allow the Cuban government and Cuban intelligence in Venezuela to continue giving orders to repress its people; in this lies the danger. As well, how far will Maduro go in his military alliance with Russia?"

BREWER: “Any comments or warnings to the U.S. on this diplomatic interaction between the U.S. and Cuba?”

PRE: “The image and foreign policy of the United States have apparently improved, with President Obama defining his new policy of establishing relations and rejecting the politics of aggression and pressure that were ineffective; and his position against the embargo.

"Obama has acted in accordance with Castro and his interests, but against the legitimate interests of the Cuban people, the facts will demonstrate that the Castro regime will not stay in power forever, and in the present and future it will show that this regime will not change its dictatorial essence as long as the Castro brothers are in power, even while the United States has changed its policy and even eliminated the embargo.

"Obama, apparently, must have been tranquilized by Raul Castro's promise that he will not continue to rule when his current mandate ends, but he will guarantee that his may persist even after, like what happened in China after the death of Mao; and with normal relations with the US, the struggle of the Cuban people for freedom and democracy will be more repressed, difficult and painful.

"I am confident that the US Congress will make the best decisions, so that the embargo will be lifted only after Raul Castro eliminates the embargo on the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people. The embargo was unproductive and it was an erroneous policy that punished the Cuban people, but after so much time it would be more erroneous and more punishing on the Cuban people to suspend it without Raul Castro making a real democratic opening in Cuba.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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