Former State Department employee Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, are being held without bond on charges of spying for Cuba.
A strange case of alleged spying on behalf of Cuba has popped up in Washington, raising fascinating questions about personality, motivation and Cuba’s goals in espionage.
The case involves Kendall Myers, now retired from the State Department’s intelligence branch, and his wife Gwendolyn, a former computer specialist at Riggs National Bank.
The couple is portrayed as enthusiastic converts to the cause of protecting Cuba against the United States and providing information to the Cuban government for years.
They were caught by a sting in which an FBI agent posed as a Cuban operative and asked them to return to the fold after several years of avoiding spy activities.
The magistrate who denied bail in the case indicated, as reported by the Washington Post, that they were caught red-handed.
The judge also noted that Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, had marked on their calendar a yacht trip to the Caribbean in November with no return date, indicating a possible escape plan.
“To put it bluntly, the government’s case seems at this point insuperable,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, in an opinion issued after a hearing in U.S. District Court.
Former colleagues of Kendall Myers are obviously upset, as the Post also reported:
“The bureau people are very angry about it. Really angry. But also bewildered,” said Wayne White, who worked on Middle Eastern issues in the bureau for a quarter-century before retiring in 2005. “This seemingly intelligent and urbane person was convinced that Castro’s Cuba was this terrific place?”
Among the interesting side notes to the case is the fact that Myers has an interesting pedigree. He has a PhD from John Hopkins and is a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell.
My friend Jeff Stein points out another interesting sidelight to the story, reported by The American Thinker.
A writer for the Web site noted that Gwendolyn Myers’ position at Riggs Bank, a prominent Washington, D.C. bank which folded several years ago, could have been more valuable to Cuban intelligence than the State Department link:
She could have provided valuable information on her own to the Cubans. At that time Riggs bank was the premiere banking institution in the Washington metropolitan area. It had branches in many big embassies, laundered money for people and governments, had CIA officials on its payroll and otherwise was the repository of significant amounts of information which would be of considerable use to Fidel.
Fidel Castro, for his part, said last week he knew nothing about the couple, and thought their arrest was related to opposition in the United States to a political opening toward Cuba.
He expressed doubt that any of it ever happened, but if it did he admired the Myers for what they might have done.
“The confrontation with the United States is of an ideological character and has nothing to do with the security of that country. Don’t you all find the whole story about Cuban espionage quite ridiculous?”
– Peter Eisner
Photo courtesy of Flickr user aylaleia under a Creative Commons license.
June 9, 2009
Police clash with indigenous protesters in Peru
Peru has seen clashes between indigenous protesters and police.
Alan Garcia, the president of Peru, appears to be a prizewinner for spouting some of the most inopportune, politically incorrect statements we’ve seen this month.
Garcia faces a revolt by an indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon, where protesters have clashed with police over mineral rights issues. About two-dozen police and 30 civilians have been killed, and hundreds of people have been wounded.
There’s no question that the leader of the protest, Alberto Pizango, is out to capitalize on government mistakes. He called a government attack on protesters last weekend “genocide” and is rallying discontent among impoverished Peruvians.
Even in translation, and even allowing for connotations and social context, Garcia’s response is wooden. He rejected the indigenous protest as subversion in terms tinged with ethnic intolerance:
Estas personas no tienen corona, no son ciudadanos de primera clase que puedan decirnos 400 mil nativos a 28 millones de peruanos tu no tienes derecho de venir por aquí, de ninguna manera, eso es un error gravísimo y quien piense de esa manera quiere llevarnos a la irracionalidad y al retroceso primitivo.
These people don’t wear a crown, they are not first class citizens who can tell us, 400,000 natives to 28 million Peruvians, ‘you don’t have the right to come here at all’; this is a very grave error and anyone who thinks that wants to lead us into irrationality and a primitive retreat.
The larger context is the kind of racial intolerance that is too often evident in Peru and its neighboring countries. Garcia’s predecessor was the country’s first indigenous president, Alejandro Toledo, who rose from poverty to attend Stanford University and work at the World Bank. That didn’t stop the Peruvian elite from sneeringly referring to him as “El Cholo” — not necessarily a positive term.
Peruvian violence often has undertones of class warfare: The advance of the Shining Path in the 1980s was a blend of Marxist theoreticians reaching out and cultivating recruits among the dispossessed poor.
Peruvians hear Garcia and many don’t like it. One response on a Web site:
Que son ciudadanos de primera? que yo sepa,no hay nadie superior a nadie por que todos nacemos y morimos igual,la clasificacion y division de personas en rangos sociales(nobleza,burguesia y plebeyos)son cosas que ya no exipten eso quedo atras hace ya mucho tiempo.
Who are first class citizens? As far as I know, no one is superior to anyone else because we all are born and die the same way; the classification and division of people by social rank (nobility, bourgeois and plebians) are things that no longer exist…that was left behind a long time ago.
No surprise that Garcia has a sinking popularity rating — down to around 33 percent, according to recent polling.
– Peter Eisner
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jake G under a Creative Commons license.
June 5, 2009
OAS lifts ban on Cuba after compromise with U.S.
The Organization of American States has voted to rescind the ban on Cuba’s membership. Photo: OAS
The Organization of American States has voted to rescind the ban on Cuba’s membership in the largely U.S.-financed, Washington-based assemblage, but don’t stop the presses (or click the send button) on that one. Nothing has happened — not quite, not yet.
The decision was a perfect compromise at the end of an OAS meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras this week. The definition of a perfect compromise? Neither side is particularly happy.
Thirty-three of the 34 members of the OAS want to bring Cuba in from the political wilderness and have diplomatic relations with Cuba. But the United States pays for 60 percent of the OAS budget, and OAS headquarters is an august building about a block and a half from the White House. Attention must be paid.
Opponents of the Cuban government in Washington immediately called for a re-examination of providing $47 million toward the OAS budget for the next fiscal year.
The compromise vote to end the Cuba ban came after the United States managed to get a little codicil added to the declaration, in diplomatic speak:
The participation of Cuba in the OAS will be the result of a process of dialogue to be initiated at the request of the Government of Cuba and in compliance with the practices, goals and principles of the OAS.
Apparently, Cuba can only rejoin the OAS if it meets democratic and human rights guidelines, part of the OAS charter. In any case, Cuba hailed the OAS decision as historic, but said it isn’t interested in rejoining, for now.
Nevertheless, the reaction from Havana was triumphant. This was the online headline of Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party:
Fidel and the Cuban people have been absolved by history
The case is left in President Obama’s very full court. U.S. policy, despite some changes in recent months, is pretty much where it was before George W. Bush took office. Opponents of Cuba in Congress will make lots of noise if the Obama administration moves quickly to end the 47-year U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
Here’s what William Leogrande, Dean of the American University School of Public Affairs, said, quoted by the Miami Herald:
It was a ”perfect compromise” — with both the United States and its ”antagonists,” chiefly the leftist governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua — declaring victory.
[…] if the United States had failed to accept a compromise it would have left “with a resolution that made no mention of any underlying principles and with the creation of deep animosity toward the U.S.'”
– Peter Eisner
June 3, 2009
“Left versus right” labels should be left aside in Latin America
Cuba is not a member of the Organization of American States. Photo: OAS
The wittiest of the Marxes (Groucho, not Karl) said famously, “I wouldn’t join a club that would have me as a member.” It is an often-used quote that fits well with news about Cuba coming from a meeting this week of the Organization of American States in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
Hillary Rodham Clinton faced a harangue from OAS members demanding that Cuba be invited to become a member of the organization. A New York Times piece about the meeting said this:
On one level, it seems a sterile debate: Cuba has said often and loudly that it does not want to rejoin the organization. But on a deeper level, the meeting has showcased Latin America’s resurgent political left, which has seized on Cuba as an issue with which to press the United States.
How much does this involve the misapplication of those overused words, “left versus right?” It can also be argued that all of Latin America yearns for a different relationship with the United States under the new presidency of Barack Obama. Cuba has diplomatic and trade ties with something like 170 countries around the world — left, center and right.
Back in Washington, the dominant move for a change in stagnant and stymied Cuban relations comes from the offices of Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, who only Rush Limbaugh might try to label as a leftist. Lugar doesn’t support OAS membership for Cuba, but he calls for rethinking U.S. relations with Cuba.
The OAS is a sideshow compared with appeals from Lugar and others, including U.S. businesses looking to open Cuba as a lucrative new market. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans and even a majority of the Cuban-American community in the United States support an end to the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo of Cuba.
So whether or not Cuba is invited to join the OAS, the focus is on Washington: How quickly and to what extent will the Obama administration promote the changes that appear close at hand?
– Peter Eisner
For more, watch Martin Savidge’s interview with Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations: Clinton outlines conditions for Cuba entry to OAS.
June 1, 2009
U.S. watches from sidelines as power shifts in El Salvador
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets children upon her arrival in El Salvador, where she will attend the inauguration of Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes.
An extraordinary event is taking place in El Salvador today — the peaceful exchange of power between two leaders whose parties were once adversaries unto death.
Mauricio Funes becomes the new president of El Salvador, succeeding Antonio Saca. Funes is the standard bearer of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), which waged a guerrilla war against the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government in the 1970s and 1980s.
Saca is completing a five-year term. His party, ARENA, the National Republican Alliance, was closely linked to death squads during the FMLN insurgency.
Twenty years ago, the news pages in El Salvador and in the United States were soaked with stories of bloody attacks and assassinations of priests and nuns and people caught in the crossfire. The supposition by some at the time — spouted by then-President Ronald Reagan — was that El Salvador, along with Nicaragua, was a domino in the communist march toward the Texas border.
Tens of thousands of deaths (civilians took the highest losses) and billions of dollars of U.S. aid later, the war is a troubling memory. Funes was a reporter during the civil war, and unlike other current FMLN leaders, was not a combatant.
Dominoes then, the Central American wars can only be remembered as a loss of life and resources, never won, never lost, but evolving into peace only when the United States backed off and the fighting stopped.
What will we be saying in 20 years about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which preoccupy American foreign policy now, and where lives and billions of dollars are also draining away?
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in El Salvador for the inauguration. Will she be thinking of the comparison?
– Peter Eisner
Photo courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Department of State under a Creative Commons license.