Cuba and the 'independent journalists'

May 24, 2008

Cuban officials have produced letters that demonstrate "irrefutable evidence" of the channelling of funds from a convicted anti-Cuban terrorist to Cubans the US has termed "dissidents" and "independent journalists".

Josefina Vidal from the Cuban foreign ministry said the letters show money transfers from a group led by Santiago Álvarez Fernandez, through Michael Parmly (the top US diplomat in Cuba), to "dissident" leaders Martha Beatriz Roque and Laura Pollan. Footage of Roque was shown on Cuban television thanking the group led by Alvarez.

US diplomats in Cuba say they simply provide humanitarian assistance (books, radios, tape recorders and other items) through US government-funded USAID to the families of "political prisoners" and "independent journalists" in Cuba.

However Alvarez is an associate of Luis Posada Carriles, accused of bombing Cuban aircraft and hotels. Alvarez took part in attacks on Cuba in the 1960s and '70s, was linked to the assassination attempt on Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000 and was taped in phone conversations instructing his associate Yosvani Suris to go to the Tropicana Night Club in Havana and plant two cans of C-4 explosives.

In 2006, he was convicted in the US on charges of conspiracy to obtain automatic weapons.

Marta Beatriz Roque was one of a group of so-called journalists, writers and librarians arrested, convicted and jailed in Cuba's "crackdown" on "dissidents" in March 2003. In fact, Cuba convicted her, and the other "dissidents", of taking money from US programs designed to overthrow the Cuban government and constitution.

A number of Europeans and US organisations campaigned for her release. She was released early on health grounds in July 2004.

Some Australian journalists have promoted Cuba's "independent
journalists". In 2005 Fairfax journalist Paul McGeough claimed that "independent journalist" Raul Rivero was jailed simply for expressing opinions critical of the Cuban government. "Rivero's crime was twofold: possession of a typewriter, and a will to dream", McGeough said.

He failed to point out that Rivero was convicted of taking US government money and acting "in the interest of a foreign state with the purpose of harming the independence of the Cuban state". In their 2003 book The Dissidents, Rosa Elizalde and Luis Baez showed detailed evidence of financial support for Rivero from the US Office of Interests in Havana
and the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation.

The CANF backed several terrorist bombings in Cuba, launched from Miami in the 1990s.

Similarly, in 2007, Australian journalist Anthony Loewenstein paid a brief visit to Cuba and announced that Cuban dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe had been jailed for simply "opposing the Castro regime". In fact, Espinosa Chepe had done this for many years, on various internet sites.

What led to his arrest and conviction in 2003 was taking several thousand US dollars from US government programs authorised under the Helms Burton Act, designed to overthrow the Cuban constitution.

Loewenstein has a blogger project (and pending book) almost identical to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) "internet freedom" campaign against Cuba. The US Government specifically funds RSF for anti-Cuban campaigns through the "Centre for a Free Cuba" and the National Endowment for
Democracy (NED).

The NED says it "works with a number of groups that support the work of independent journalists and other media within Cuba ... to foster free press and promote an independent civil society in Cuba". However the NED has been linked to the US-backed 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela and the
2004 coup in Haiti.

While the RSF targets 15 countries in its "internet freedom" campaign, Loewenstein is preparing a book on six of these: Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and China. The US Government has current economic sanctions (for different reasons) against Cuba, Iran and Syria, and maintained
sanctions against China for 50 years.

If one is looking at threats against "independent journalists", according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) those countries with the highest numbers of journalists killed are: Iraq, Algeria, Russia, Colombia and the Philippines — three of these being US allies.

If we are looking at "enemies of the internet", then the US is the main culprit.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the US National Security Agency has the most comprehensive internet surveillance system on Earth, engaging in data mining, targeting, email trawling and chat room surveillance. Under its sanctions regime, the US blocks an internet cable to Cuba, bans those at Cuban sites from accessing US-based services
(such as Google Earth) and has closed down thousands of Cuba-linked sites (including tourism websites) in recent months.

The US government has been directly funding "independent journalists" at home. In September 2006, the Miami Herald reported that 10 Florida-based journalists had been paid by the US government to contribute to anti-Cuba propaganda. Three were sacked by the Miami Herald for their conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, an RSF "cyber-demonstration" against "online censorship" in March this year targeted the same US sanctioned countries. However, the RSF refused to allow online "demonstrators" to post any comments on its website. All that was possible was a "click" on a pre-written slogan,
attacking each of the countries. the RSF said: "Pre-written slogans are made by us ... Each slogan is related to the country you are in."

That's freedom of expression!

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