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Tuesday, December 15, 2009


"U.S. Contractor" detained in Cuba

The headlines a few days ago warned Americans about the latest "provocation" by the Cuban government. "Cuba Detains a U.S. Contractor " warned The New York Times. "Cuba detains contractor for U.S. government" according to the Washington Post. And all he was doing, as the subhead in the Post says, was "handing out mobile phones, laptops to activists." I mean, it's an outrage right?

Um, no. The Post tells us that "the contractor...works for Bethesda-based Development Alternatives...that...was awarded a government contract last year to help USAID 'support the rule of law and human rights, political competition and consensus building' in Cuba." In other words, he (or she) is a contract employee of the U.S. government, every bit as much as Blackwater employees in Iraq or any other, performing work under contract to the government. We get a bit of "misdirection" from the Post who then tells us that "Under Cuban law...a Cuban citizen or a foreign visitor can be arrested for nearly anything under the claim of 'dangerousness.'" But it's not "dangerousness" which is in question here, it's espionage.

The Times takes a different tack. After a long detour to discuss the American media's favorite Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez (read an in-depth analysis of her here), and to talk about Cuba's "hard-line tactics" and "draconian laws," it finally gets around in paragraph 11 (past the point where it will appear in most papers that pick up the story) to the essence of the matter, referring to "the contractor’s covert conduct — which included entering Cuba on a tourist visa without proper documents." Note that word "included," by the way, but even if all (s)he did was to enter Cuba on a tourist visa while carrying out "business" (promoting subversion) under a U.S. government contract, that's a serious offense in any country. It's called being an "unregistered agent of a foreign country," and in this case, it's a foreign country whose stated policy is "regime change" towards Cuba. Hardly a benign situation.

Here in the United States, five Cuban men (the Cuban Five) are serving long prison sentences (eleven plus years already and counting) for being unregistered agents of Cuba. Were they trying to pass out money to antiwar groups or leftist political parties, doing their bit to promote the overthrow of the U.S. government? Hardly, they were infiltrating right-wing terrorist groups and trying to (and succeeding) prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba. Heroic acts. Unarmed, they could easily have lost their lives on that mission. Instead, they lost their freedom to the U.S. government.

So don't cry for me Argentina. And don't cry for some U.S. contractor who was caught while trying to promote the overthrow of the Cuban government. And don't think for a second (s)he's going to be charged with "dangerousness."

By the way, in what I've written above, I'm taking the report at face value that this company and this person is simply a "contractor" doing work under a contract with the U.S. government. Eva Gollinger, who is quite well-informed on these matters, has a different take. She claims, based among other things on their record in Venezuela, that the company, DAI, is actually a CIA front organization, and that the person apprehended is therefore a CIA employee. And who am I to disagree?

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