On May 19 the Cuban government accused Michael Parmly, outgoing head of the US Interests Section in Havana, of supplying opponents of the government with money from Cuban American right-winger Santiago Alvarez Fernandez-Magrinat, who is currently serving a 46-month prison sentence in the US for illegally stockpiling weapons.
According to the government, dissidents such as Martha Beatriz Roque, José Luis Garcia and Laura Pollan were receiving money from a Miami organization called Fundación Rescate Juridico (“Legal Rescue Foundation”), which is reportedly headed by Alvarez. The Cuban political police intercepted emails and telephone calls during the past two years between Roque and Carmen Machado, a woman said to be Alvarez’s assistant. The government also displayed receipts it says opposition members signed for money they received from the foundation.
On May 23, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque charged that Parmly, who was scheduled to leave his post this summer, personally carried out “at least three operations of supplying the money.” Perez Roque said this violated the May 30, 1977 Bilateral Agreement that established the Interests Section, and he called on the US government to respond to the charges.
Alvarez is a longtime associate of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “asset” Luis Posada Carriles. The US has charged that he smuggled Posada into the US in a shrimping boat in March 2005; his current prison sentence stems from apparent plans for armed attacks on Cuba. The Cuban government says it has a tape of Alvarez in 2001 advising one of his associates on a planned attack with explosives against the Tropicana nightclub. Martha Beatriz Roque is an economist who has figured prominently in the opposition. She was one of 75 dissidents sentenced to long jail terms in 2003, but she was released for health reasons in July 2004.
Cuba’s accusations came as US politicians were focusing on Cuba. The likely candidates for the November presidential elections—Sen. John McCain (R-AR) and Barack Obama (D-IL)—were both visiting Miami during the week. McCain supports the hardline policies of US president George W. Bush, while Obama says he favors dialogue with Havana and the easing of some restrictions on Cuban Americans’ visits and remittances to Cuba. On May 21 Bush announced that recent changes by the Cuban government were a “cruel joke” but said his government would now allow people in the US to send cellphones to Cuba, since Cuban president Raul Castro is easing Cuban restrictions on owning cellphones. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 20, 21, 22, 23)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 25
See our last post on Cuba, McCain and Obama.