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Fidel's Red Club

Toby Westerman

National Review's cover story of April 11, 2005 correctly identifies the dangers posed by the Marxist duo of Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba, and Hugo Chavez, President and would-be tyrant of Venezuela. There are, however, significant omissions in the otherwise fine article, which need to be addressed.

Chavez and Castro embrace

Chavez and Castro
Neither Castro nor Chavez could hold on to power without the financial and military backing of Russia and China. Moscow considers Havana its "key" partner in Latin America, and China regards Cuba to be one of its closest allies. During Castro's 2003 trip to China, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao declared that the Chinese people "profoundly admire" Castro for his defiance against the U.S. during what is described as a "difficult time of change in the world's balance of forces."

Both Moscow and Beijing are ready to ensure continuation of the present Cuban regime following the long-anticipated death of Castro.

The value of Cuba to Russia and China is not merely as one of several Latin American friends, but Havana is also a very significant intelligence asset. Cuba's sophisticated, well-trained intelligence services carry on a continuing espionage war against the U.S., with information gained in its spy efforts having great value to Moscow and Beijing.

U.S. counter-intelligence efforts have had some success against Cuba's concerted spying. The espionage convictions which followed gave the public an unusual view of the Cuba's intelligence threat against the United States. Unfortunately, the media usually gives little publicity to those convictions.

The highest ranking individual to be convicted of working for Cuba was Ana Belen Montes, who until her arrest, was the senior Defense Department analyst for Cuban affairs. Montes confessed to spying for Cuba from 1985 to 2001, when she was arrested. Cuba expressed its appreciation for her efforts. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque described Montes as "compelled by her ethics and an admirable sense of justice."

Montes' "ethics" and "sense of justice" resulted in the identification - and probable murder - of four U.S. agents, and compromised other restricted information.

The largest Cuban ring exposed by the U.S. to date is the "Wasp Network," a name adopted by members of the spy group. Of the 14 members of the "Wasp Network," five confessed to spying and turned states evidence, four fled to Cuba, and five were convicted in 2001.

The "Wasp Network" was engaged in surveillance of U.S. aircraft, infiltration of the U.S. Southern Command, acquisition of information on U.S. military personnel, identification of vulnerable entry points into Florida for smuggling arms and explosives, began preparations for attacks on Cuban anti-communist exile groups, and was complicit in murder.

The Castro government denied that those convicted were plotting against the United States, and claimed that they were only attempting to observe the activities of Cuban political exiles.

Havana has turned a potentially embarrassing spy case into a worldwide propaganda campaign. "Free the Five" groups have been organized in over 100 countries throughout the world, and the extensive FBI case against the Cuban spies is dismissed by Havana as a "political" trial.

In a unique mix, Cuba's espionage efforts combine effective intelligence skills directed almost solely against the United States with complete support from powerful friends and the promise of an international propaganda campaign against any successful counterintelligence investigation.

The United States must recognize the threat from Cuba, its intelligence services, and the nations supporting the longest lasting dictatorship on earth.

Posted April 21, 2005


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