Cuba: US helping to fund dissidents

Senior US diplomat accused of funnelling money to anti-government activists.

    Cuban officials said letters proved the involvement of the US in the delivery of funds [AFP]
    A US diplomat in Cuba said aid to the families of what it called political prisoners was purely to provide humanitarian assistance.
     
    "It is long-standing US policy to provide humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people, specifically to provide assistance to families of political prisoners who are treated poorly by their own government," the diplomat said.
     
    "This assistance has no political purpose, but is intended to address the day-to-day needs of families who are struggling to survive in the current system."
     
    US aid
     

    Michael Harmly is the most senior US
    diplomat in Cuba [Reuters]

    The US does not have an embassy in Cuba because the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
     
    It openly provides support for anti-government activists in the one-party state.
     
    US officials have acknowledged sending books, radios, tape recorders and other items purchased through the US Agency for International Development, which receives government funding.
     
    But this is the first time Cuba has accused US diplomats of helping to deliver money from a private exile group directly to dissidents.
     
    Cuban officials said the funds were sent to political opposition leaders Martha Beatriz Roque and Laura Pollan from a Miami-based organisation called Fundacion Rescate Juridica, which is headed by Santiago Alvarez.
     
    Weapons conviction
     
    Alvarez is an associate of Luis Posada Carriles, who has been accused of carrying out bombings of a Cuban aircraft and hotels.
     
    Alvarez was convicted in 2006 by the US authorities on charges of conspiracy to obtain automatic weapons.
     
    He also received a 10-month prison term for refusing to testify against Carriles.
     
    "One has to wonder if the government of the United States, which has made fighting terrorism the centre of its foreign policy, is aware that its top diplomat in Havana is collaborating with a notorious terrorist," Vidal of the Cuban foreign ministry said.
     
    Cuban dissidents denied they were receiving money through Parmly, who is due to end his mission in Havana this summer, and said the Cuban government's charges were fabricated.
     
    "This is just another fast one by the government, because the Americans do not give us any money at all," said Noelia Pedraza, a member of the Women in White protest group whose husband Ariel Sigler is serving 20 years in prison.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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