Hazel Press

In Cables: Bildt, Parmly, USAID and Cuba

July 09, 2014

WikiLeaks' Cablegate material further clarifies Anna Ardin's contacts and activities in Cuba. A U.S. Interests Section Havana (USINT) cable 06HAVANA23547 (November 2006) reveals that Ardin's thesis 'field tutor' Miriam Leiva (of the opposition movement Ladies in White) was in contact with USINT and was supported by bodies (Support Group for Democracy and Cuban Democratic Action) that were funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID):

The Ladies in White - relatives of political prisoners - are in disarray over how to respond to the GAO report. Miriam Leiva told us (U.S. Interests Section Havana) November 28 [2006] that at the group's monthly gathering on November 18, she was "lynched" by other key members over a Ladies declaration she drafted, with what she believed to be the group's consent, in support of certain Miami-based groups.  The declaration partly states (unofficial translation): "We Ladies in White are grateful for the medicine, clothes and food that our Cuban brothers in the exile community and friends from various countries have sent our prisoners and family members, through various groups, including the Support Group for Democracy and Cuban Democratic Action."

Ardin's thesis (April 2007) described her working relationship with Miriam Leiva in these terms:

I owe Miriam greatly for the help she has given, having provided me with, addresses, phone numbers and other input for this thesis, but maybe it was my frequent visits to her and her dissident husband Oscar Chepe's home that upset the authorities.

However, it is more than likely that it was Ardin's so-called investigation into Manuel Cuesta Morúa's Corriente Socialista Democrática Cubana (CSDC) that “that upset the authorities”. Ardin's thesis states:

CSDC is the most influential social democratic (or democratic socialist) party. They claim to have 150 members apart from their Red de Ciudadanos (citizen network). The party was founded in 1991 and since 1996 their leader has been Manuel Cuesta Morúa. Most activities are performed in the broader social democratic assemblage Arco Progresista (AP, the ProgressiveArc33) also led by Cuesta Morúa. The majority of the activists in AP are also members of CSDC, and I will investigate CSDC because it is the most apparent party structure within AP and the documents most apt for investigation belong to CSDC.

Two or three groups of young people [from Sweden] linked to the group that [Ardin] headed came to Cuba between 2003 and 2005, up to twice a year. They brought the economic aid and took the reports. Then they informed us by e-mail, or in their next visit, of their assessment: always positive. The last economic aid was brought over by Anna herself in mid-2005.

Cuesta Morúa's description (from a 2010 Cuba Nuestra interview) of Ardin's academic investigation is somewhat different and uses the terms: “economic aid” and “reports”:

Cable 06HAV details the fallout (within Cuba) from a highly critical U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (November 2006) into the misuse of “democracy assistance” by Cuban grantees. According to the report, the assistance program was run by the U.S. Department of State (which employed USINT to “distribute aid provided by some grantees”) and USAID. Clearly, the 54-year embargo against Cuba by the U.S. means that the government of Cuba has reservations about such assistance. Further, donations from foreign interests to either political parties or candidates is illegal in the U.S. Sweden and Cuba. While the GAO report does not mention Sweden's role in the U.S. program, it does describe the rationale behind Sweden's enrolment:

Given the Cuban government’s repressive policies and opposition to U.S. democracy assistance, grantees employed a range of discreet delivery methods that varied in terms of security, flexibility, and cost.

Sweden's involvement in Cuba was dramatically exposed in 2012 after Oswaldo Payá (a prominent Cuban political activist) was killed in a car crash while travelling with two young politicians, Aron Modig and Ángel Carromero from Sweden and Spain, respectively. Associated Press has reported that Modig admitted giving “$4,900 for Paya's organization” and that he had “helped organize dissident youth wings.” Havana Times quotes Modig stating that “we don’t perform these types of activities in any other country.” Carromero has since alleged that Payá's death was no accident.

 

Ardin's involvement in “these types of activities” ended in October 2006 (Ardin claims she “[got] out of Cuba very fast”, while Cubainformación has reported that she was expelled) amid the aftermath of the GAO report. In the same way that Modig helped fund and organise Payá, Ardin worked with Cuesta Morúa. However, there was a hitch for Ardin, in that Cuesta Morúa was not willing to be organised by Sweden. Cuesta Morúa:

In political terms, this means that she could not find a way to explain in Sweden that her work in Havana was in trouble, and at the same time she felt powerless to control what we were doing.

When the strings attached to Sweden's "economic aid" proved not to extend to diminishing the CSDC's independence, Ardin's solution was to remove Cuesta Morúa. To this end, Ardin used the Cuban government's version of the GAO report (described by Cuesta Morúa as “misinformation [...] constructed to damage the reputation of the Cuban Social Democratic movement”) to discredit Cuesta Morúa. Despite the experience of two internships at Sweden's embassies in Washington and Buenos Aires (PDF download link), Ardin's political gambit not only failed, it served to increase Cuesta Morúa's independence.

 

While 06HAV says that the grantees' response to the GAO report was a declaration promising to “achieve greater efficiency in the use of these funds”, others had seen enough: “a number of dissidents, including Manuel Cuesta Morúa of the Social Democratic Current, indicated that they did not want any such support”. In rejecting the grants, Cuesta Morúa was ahead of the curve; within eight years, USAID's public image would become so tarnished that it was removed from Cuba democracy programs. In the meantime, USINT's Chief of Mission, Michael Parmly, was displeased with Cuesta Morúa's independence, labelling him a “regime apologist” in a November 2007 cable.

 

Sweden's Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, during the 2006 and 2012 “on-island” foreign policy collapses, is closely aligned to the U.S. This relationship extends far enough to be considered usual. For instance, in February 2007 Randy Scheunemann, the executive director of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (a Neocon NGO), stated: “We recruited Carl Bildt fall of 2002 that he would push for an intervention in Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein.” Bildt also shares a friendship with, and has acted as an apologist for Henry Kissinger. It goes without saying that Bildt was “on the board of Rand Corporation and the International Advisory Board of the Council of Foreign Relations.”

With such ties in place, when U.S. diplomat Casey Christensen stated: “Carl Bildt will likely have more ability to set the foreign policy agenda than any recent Swedish foreign minister”, one wonders where the policy would originate.

 

In May 2006, Cuba's election to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), was described as “a great disappointment to us” by the then Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns. By July, Cuba had become “the most belligerent” of “a number of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Like-Minded Group (LMG) countries” criticising the U.S. at the UNHRC's inaugural session. Clearly, the U.S. had need of an ally on the Council.

 

In March 2007, a USINT cable entitled 'Cuba: Swedes Get Taste of Our World' detailed Bildt's response to the failure of Sweden's Cuba operation.

 

Firstly, Bildt “mention[ed] Cuba at the UNHRC as a country of Human Rights concern”. The predictable fallout from this provocation was seen by USINT “as an opportunity to educate Europeans and HRC members that the ugly face the Cuban HRC representative showed to Sweden and others was not an aberration, but rather the essential character of the regime he represents”. Interestingly, Bildt's “opportunity to educate” came just in time (April 2007) to assist the U.S. in “prevent[ing] any erosion of support for the EU Common Position on Cuba or for the EU's 2003 Restrictive Measures on Cuba and to discourage EU members from accepting continued Spanish leadership within the EU on the Cuba issue.”

 

Secondly, “Bildt mentioned [to the press] that Swedish diplomatic pouches were tampered with in Havana” and then complained to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, who said that they "would look into the matter". The Ministry then denied “any pouch infringement” had taken place and accused “Sweden of launching an anti-Cuba campaign”. Perhaps it was these pouches that “upset the authorities” and caused Ardin to leave Cuba “very fast”, before any accidents could occur?

 

Michael Parmly ends his cable (which was sent to Commander in Chief Southern Command, Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, National Security Council and the Secretary of State) by stating: “We would hope that in Sweden, some of the better organized groups of Cuban exiles might take the opportunity to come to their adopted country's defence - if they haven't already.”

 

The exile community Parmly refers to is linked to publications like Misceláneas de Cuba, which is widely reported to be funded by USAID (they certainly promote USAID publications) and counts Bildt and Ardin as contributors. The links between USINT, Swedish diplomats and Misceláneas were exposed (March 2011) by Carlos Serpa Maceira, a Cuban intelligence agent. The agent's infiltration of USINT is detailed in several WikiLeaks cables.

 

Within four years of Sweden's 2006 intervention in Cuba, the need to find legally secure servers to host the Afghan War Diary would bring the editor of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, into Bildt's domain - at a time when WikiLeaks was about to publish the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate. Since then, Assange had spent four years “detained without charge, in one form or another”, the circumstances of which Bildt does not have “very much to say” about. And yet, the questions Bildt and others must answer, will last forever.