Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"How is the surf in the south of France?"

This looks like a good news day for Alan Gross as he awaits a Cuban court’s decision in his case.

Why? Because he was not mentioned at all last night on a Cuban television documentary on alleged U.S. efforts to subvert the Cuban government by installing independent satellite Internet networks in Cuba, and his modus operandi are not even remotely in the category of those shown in the documentary. Next to the stars of last night’s show, he’s a piker.

Cubadebate has a writeup, video of the program (Razones de Cuba, with English subtitles, part 1 and part 2), and photos. Granma’s long story in today’s paper summarizes the whole thing.

The documentary spends lots of time establishing the context of U.S. policy toward Cuba over the past 50 years and making other political points: Cuba is not afraid of the Internet, Cuba would accept U.S. assistance that helps rather than subverts, etc.

At the core is a story that alleges the following:

  • Dalexi Gonzalez, a Cuban telecommunications engineer who lives in Havana’s La Vibora neighborhood and had a black-market business, was approached and offered assistance by a neighborhood friend, Marcos, who had moved to Spain. Marcos told Dalexi that a friend would come see him.

  • Dalexi received a visit at his home from Robert Guerra, a Freedom House information technology expert. He asked Dalexi if there was a direct line of sight from his roof to the U.S. Interests Section. He had been looking into Internet connections in Cuba and left some software and other materials with Dalexi. Included was encryption software that makes text appear to be “noise” on the Internet.

  • Marcos sent a secure e-mail (text displayed on the screen) to Dalexi telling him to travel to Baracoa, 850 kilometers away at Cuba’s eastern tip, to pick up some satellite dishes disguised as surfboards. He was to appear as “Alejandro.”

  • That didn’t work out, so Dalexi was sent to a beach just east of Havana where a surf competition was being conducted. Dalexi was to wear a white shirt so he would be recognized by “Barry Fink,” an American who would establish his identity by asking, “How is the surf in the south of France?”

  • “Barry” then gave Dalexi the dishes.

  • Later, back in Havana, Dalexi was sent to what spies call a “dead drop” at a bridge over the Almendares river. There, he was to pick up parts that accompany the dish. He found nothing. The next day, an American tourist, “Margaret,” delivered the parts to his home on Guerra’s behalf.

  • Early in the process, Dalexi said he was not comfortable with these arrangements. “So I became Alejandro for the enemy, and Raul for State Security of my country,” he said.

Again, these are allegations, and the above is a quick selection of story elements. Check it out for yourself.

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