Cuba accuses US diplomats of providing money to dissidents

May 20th, 2008 - 5:01 am ICT by admin  

Havana, May 20 (DPA) Cuba has accused the top US diplomat in Havana of providing money from exiled groups in the US to dissidents on the communist island. The Cuban government said Monday that Michael Parmly and other US diplomats acted as “vulgar couriers” by passing the money on to the dissidents in the form of letters.

Santiago Alvarez Fernandez-Magrina, an anti-Castro activist jailed in the US for illegal possession of firearms, provided the money that was sent through the US Interest Section in Havana (USINT), Cuban officials charged.

“From his comfortable prison, he manages to send money and material assistance to mercenaries in Cuba, with the support of USINT boss Mr Michael Parmly,” Josefina Vidal, head of the North American Department at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference in Havana.

Vidal called for Washington to “profoundly investigate” the allegations, and to “take measures in order to correct the behaviour and the attitude of its diplomats in Havana.”

The Cuban government lists Alvarez Fernandez-Magrina as a terrorist and associates him with Luis Posada Carriles, who lives in the US and is wanted by Cuban authorities for allegedly plotting to kill former leader Fidel Castro.

Similar allegations in 2003 led to arrests and high prison sentences for 75 dissidents, including Martha Beatriz Roque. Some 55 of these dissidents are still in prison, although Roque was released for health reasons.

The charges come as the US was planning to launch a public affairs initiative to champion the cause of jailed dissidents in Cuba. On Tuesday, the US State Department was to launch a “Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People”.

Also Tuesday, a US group called the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five was expected to launch a campaign to free jailed Cubans charged with espionage in the US, and to extradite Posada Carriles to Venezuela, where he is wanted for terrorist activities.

In less than a month, the European Union is to debate the possibility of permanently lifting sanctions against Cuba. The US refuses to consider lifting harsh sanctions unless there are far- reaching democratic reforms in the Caribbean island 100 km off its coast.

In Havana at the press conference, Manuel Hevia, the director of Cuba’s Centre for Historical Investigation on State Security, showed e-mail exchanges and phone conversations that he said constitute “irrefutable evidence” of the involvement of Parmly and other diplomats as “envoys” for the transfer of money.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States provides humanitarian assistance to families of imprisoned dissidents and also allows private organizations to send money. He did not say if the private money flows through the US Interest Section.

“We believe that this is a prudent humanitarian gesture, and certainly consistent with our policy,” McCormack said. “And it’s been ongoing for quite some time.”

According to Cuban officials, the e-mails show ties between dissident Martha Beatriz Roque and Alvarez Fernandez-Magrina, through the Miami-based organization Fundacion Rescate Juridico. The foundation is also said to have given money to dissidents Laura Pollan and Jorge Luis Garcia.

The “profound and well-documented investigation” shows the “open interference of the United States government in Cuba’s internal affairs,” Vidal stressed.

Cuba describes dissidents within its borders as counterrevolutionaries or mercenaries in the service of countries like the United States.

The authorities in Havana accuse Alvarez Fernandez-Magrina of carrying out “pirate attacks” in the 1960s and 1970s, and of having taken part in an attempt to murder Cuban leader Fidel Castro during an international summit in Panama in 2000, among others.

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