US diplomat accused as link between dissidents

Campaign News | Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The United States' top diplomat in Havana allegedly delivered private funds from a Miami exile jailed on weapons charges to a leading dissident on the island, Cuban officials said Monday.

Cuban state security officials released a series of emails at a new conference purporting to show that dissident Martha Beatriz Roque received $1,500 a month from Santiago Alvarez, who is serving a 30-month prison sentence in South Florida on weapons possession charges. A benefactor and associate of reputed anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, Alvarez also served 10 months for refusing to testify against Posada Carriles.

Alvarez's exile group, Fundacion Rescate, also reportedly sent money to dissident Jose Luis "Antunez" Garcia and Laura Pollan, a member of the Ladies in White dissident organization, Cuban officials said.

Cuban officials said emails and other evidence, which they said they would release on Cuban television this evening, showed that the outgoing head of the U.S. Interests Section, Michael Parmly, served as a personal emissary for Roque, allegedly picking up cash in Miami and delivering it to Cuba.

An email between Roque and a man in Miami referring to Parmly by the code name "little crib" reportedly confirmed the diplomat's direct involvement in funneling private funds to Cuba's tiny opposition movement, the government said. No further evidence was provided.

The U.S. Interests Section said in an unattributed statement Monday that officials had not seen details of the Cuban government allegations but that American diplomats are expected to abide with the U.S. embargo against Cuba and other laws relating to foreign assistance to Cuba.

"It is longstanding U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people, specifically to provide assistance to families of political prisoners who are treated poorly by their own government," the statement said. "We permit U.S. private organizations to do so as well."

The statement added, "This assistance has no political purpose, but is intended to address the day-to-day needs of families who are struggling to survive in the current system."

Cuba has accused U.S. officials of providing federal funds to dissidents in the past, but this is the first time it has accused that American diplomats of acting as couriers for anti-Castro militants.

"We have obtained irrefutable proof about a qualitatively new event, different from the well-known and already denounced flow of financial and material support to the domestic counter-revolution from the U.S. government and its diplomats in Havana," said Josefina Vidal Ferreira, head of the North American department of the Foreign Ministry. "It is the unusual and scandalous fact involving the participation of diplomatic officials in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana as emissaries in the transfer of money from terrorists living in U.S. territory and counter-revolutionaries in Cuba."

There was no immediate comment from Parmly or Roque but the U.S. Interests Section press office said a statement was forthcoming.

Cuban officials said Roque allegedly wrote a letter of support to U.S. District Judge James Cohn, who presided over Alvarez's case. Emails showed that Roque was angry when the original copy of the letter was lost at the U.S. Interests Section. Cohn reduced Alvarez's sentence from 46 to 30 months.

U.S. officials have acknowledged sending to Cuba books, radios, taperecorders and items purchased with government money but they have always denied handing out cash to support the island's small opposition.

Copyright C 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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