October 5 , 2007

The Miami Herald

CIA officer named to Cuba-Venezuela post

By Pablo Bachelet, Posted on Fri, Oct. 05, 2007.

WASHINGTON -- Timothy Langford, a career CIA officer, has been appointed as the new Cuba and Venezuela mission manager for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- a position that coordinates information gathering for areas considered top priorities.

Langford, 48, spent 25 years dealing with Latin American issues at the CIA. He holds a master's degree in Latin American studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the national intelligence office, said Langford took his new position Oct. 1 but declined to elaborate on his previous assignments within the CIA.

President Bush suggested the creation of the Cuba and Venezuela post after Fidel Castro became ill. The then-intelligence chief, John Negroponte, appointed Norman Bailey, a former Reagan administration official and Cold War expert to the post.

But Bailey was dismissed by new director Mike McConnell in February, a move that raised concerns among Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart that the intelligence community was downgrading the importance of Cuba and Venezuela.

Patrick Maher, a 31-year CIA veteran and national intelligence officer for the Western Hemisphere, held the Cuba-Venezuela mission manager position on an interim basis.

McConnell ''wanted to make certain he had the best person to fill this position,'' Feinstein said.

Langford's appointment brings the team of mission managers back up to five, with three country specialists -- Iran, North Korea, Cuba-Venezuela -- and two managers for counterterrorism and counterintelligence issues.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence coordinates the intelligence work of 16 U.S. government agencies.

Langford is seen as a person who combines analytical skills and operational experience.

''I think he's a good fit for this position,'' said Brian Latell, a former CIA Cuba analyst and now a researcher with the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami. "You have to work very effectively with operative and analytical people. That's often a difficult bridge.''

Planning for land claims after Fidel is gone

A Nebraska university has prepared a two-year study on how to deal with thousands of property claims in Cuba.

By Frances Robles. Posted on Fri, Oct. 05, 2007.

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* Document | The full report
* Document | Creighton University Cuba property claims report

Pedro Miyares has been listening to his 88-year-old father's mantra for more than four decades: When Fidel Castro falls, you have to go back to fight for the family farm.

The Miyares family lost a home and a 2,248-acre rice farm and cattle ranch in Manzanillo to Fidel Castro's revolution, and they want to get them back.

''That land was an inheritance that was in our family for 200 years,'' Miyares said. "That's very sentimental for us.''

Now a Jesuit University in Nebraska has prepared a 277-page report to help the United States and Cuba wrestle with the thorny issue of property claims should Cuban communism end.

Shortly after the socialist revolution took place in 1959, Castro not only nationalized virtually all foreign-owned properties but also confiscated homes, land and businesses belonging to Cubans who eventually fled to Florida.

Released Thursday by Creighton University, the federally funded report recommended the United States help choose judges for a special Cuban court tasked with compensating Cuban families who lost their property to the Castro government.

It also suggests a separate international tribunal to hear the claims of American companies and citizens who lost property and had their claims certified by the Washington-based Foreign Claims Settlement Commission during the 1960s and 1970s.


Created in 1967, the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission worked for six years and certified nearly 6,000 claims totaling $1.8 billion by U.S. citizens who lost everything from old Chevrolets to rum distilleries.

The money to pay the claims -- likely some three to four cents on the dollar -- would come from financing by the United States and the international community that would help trigger economic development in a post-Castro Cuba.

While some hailed the report as proof that the highest levels of the Bush administration are paying attention to a key issue, the Creighton University report was met with skepticism by some experts, who condemned it as another example of American presumptive meddling in what will ultimately be another nation's decision to make.

''What I have seen so far is the U.S. has handed the government of Cuba a stick with which to beat the United States for its presumptuousness to seek compensation for people who don't have a right to make international claims,'' said Washington lawyer Robert Muse, who represents some of the largest U.S. claimants against Cuba.

''Nothing in international law even remotely supports this,'' he said.

While the report recommends a mechanism for compensating Cubans who lost property, international law makes it clear that the United States has no say in the cases of Cuban families who were not U.S. citizens when they lost their property.

Those thousands of families would have to settle their claims directly with Cuba -- and should not get their homes back if people are currently living in them, the report said.

''While claims by this group are not supported specifically by either domestic or international law, politically and economically their claims should not be ignored,'' the report states. "If the property claims of the Cuban American exile community are left unresolved their political and economic power could be turned against stabilizing a new government in Cuba.''

Researchers also cautioned that they anticipate resistance from Cuba's large black population, who may resent a mostly white exile community coming back to reclaim land or money.

After two years of study and $375,000, the Creighton report underscored the difficulty the Cuban government will have settling old scores and making compromises that will satisfy not just nostalgic families like the Miyareses, but multinational corporations with millions at stake.


When the grant to study the property problem was first announced, Cuba experts were stunned to see the U.S. Agency for International Development offer it to academics with no background in Cuba policy or property issues.

The university's only expertise, critics said, was being the alma mater of former AID administrator Adolfo Franco.

The $750,000 grant was eventually cut in half, which reduced how much the university could research, said lead investigator Patrick Borchers, vice president for academic affairs.

''We tried our very best to look at this from the outside,'' he said in a telephone interview. "We hope we've done enough research and given enough backup so when time comes to talk about this, whoever is in charge and in position to make policy decisions will have the benefit of our thinking on it.''

Ultimately, he agreed that there would be little the United States could do to force creation of the tribunals if a democratically-elected Cuban government did not go along with it.

''Cuba is a sovereign nation,'' he said.

But Miyares was philosophical about reclaiming his family's property: "If they give us something, it's always better than nothing.''

Judge: Cuban girl to spend more time with dad

A judge granted a Cuban father the lion's share of time with his daughter, days before the judge is to decide who gets permanent custody of the girl.

By Carol Marbin Miller And Tere Figueras Negrete, Posted on Thu, Oct. 04, 2007.

Days before she is set to determine whether a 5-year-old girl would be harmed by returning to Cuba with her father, a Miami judge dramatically revised the girl's living arrangements Wednesday, ordering that she spend the lion's share of her time with her father.

The new custody schedule was the recommendation of Julio Vigil, the girl's court-appointed therapist, who said Wednesday that the youngster, in a tug of war between her Cuban father and her Coral Gables foster parents, appears to have accepted the possibility that she may be returned to her father.

''This has been a very telling transition I believe the child has made -- not only intellectually, but emotionally,'' Vigil told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen of the child's latest visit with her father, Rafael Izquierdo. "She didn't cry. She didn't raise her voice. She did not show any distress.''

The girl appeared ''playful'' with her dad, ''combing his hair,'' Vigil added. "She did indicate she would miss her [foster] family. But she did accept the idea. . . . She said she would send her brother pictures.''

The judge ordered that the girl spend weekdays with Izquierdo and weekends with her foster parents -- reversing the schedule that had been in place for months.

The girl's foster parents did not object to the new schedule.

Cohen insisted, as she has done repeatedly in recent days, that she has yet to decide who will raise the youngster permanently. But she asked Izquierdo to assure her that, should he prevail, he will not abruptly take the girl from Miami without allowing her time to say goodbye to her foster family.

''If I make a decision to send her back, promise me you will help make a smooth transition here and help deal with the emotional'' consequences, the judge said. "Will you stay here and help us transition, and not just get on a plane?''

''Yes,'' Izquierdo replied. "I promise you that.''


Still, the girl's foster parents, Joe and Maria Cubas, said they fear the curly-haired girl may not fully understand that going to live with her father permanently may mean a complete separation from them and from her 13-year-old half-brother, whom the couple has adopted.

The foster parents are insisting that Cohen ''tell the truth'' to the girl by making it clear that she may not see her brother or foster family for many years if she returns to Cabaiguán, in Central Cuba, with her father.

Failing to prepare the girl, said the Cubases' lawyer, Alan Mishael, "will be viewed by her as a betrayal by everybody she has placed trust in in this case.''

The Department of Children & Families, the Cubases and the girl's court-appointed guardian ad litem are asking the judge to give Joe and Maria Cubas permanent guardianship.

They say returning the girl to Izquierdo would be emotionally damaging because the girl has bonded with her foster family.

Pointing to a wooden plaque hanging above Cohen's head that reads ''We Who Labor Here Seek Only Truth,'' Cubas pleaded with Cohen to level with the girl and make clear that there's a distinct possibility she will be told to leave her Coral Gables family behind, perhaps forever.

''I believe it is fundamentally unfair, and harmful to her emotional well-being, for her to not be told the truth about what is in store for her,'' Mishael said.

But the judge accused Mishael of advocating a confrontation with the girl to gain a strategic advantage in his argument that she would be emotionally harmed if taken away from the foster family.

'If we lay a bombshell on her and say, 'You know, you're not going back [to the Cubases],' she falls apart,'' the judge told Mishael. 'And you come back and say, 'Look, the child fell apart.' I'm not going to get sucked into that trap. I'm one step ahead of you guys.''

A few moments later, Ira Kurzban, one of Izquierdo's attorneys, criticized the Cubas camp for wanting to tell the girl in blunt terms that if she goes to Cuba she will not return to their home anytime soon, and asked that Cohen turn the girl over to his client immediately.

''They are willing to sacrifice this child psychologically, and that what's troubling me,'' said Kurzban. "They are willing, for strategic reasons, to push this child over the edge.''

Kurzban also asked the judge to strike from the court record what he called ''false and scurrilous'' claims made by the Cubas family Tuesday that the girl told Joe Cubas she was made to look into a camera with Izquierdo and his wife and say that she wanted to return to Cuba.

The girl, Cubas said, claimed that Kurzban's wife and fellow attorney was operating the camera -- a claim she denies.

On Wednesday, Cohen said she believes the girl may well have told a story about being forced to speak in front of a camera, but, she added, "I don't believe it happened.''


Cohen declined to give Izquierdo full custody and said she disagreed with Kurzban's criticism of Joe and Maria Cubas.

''I think the Cubases have been wonderful caretakers for this child,'' she said, adding that the couple allowed the girl to make an emotional attachment to them at a time that many experts say is crucial to a child's future ability to form bonds.

Calling Izquierdo to the podium, she told him that despite the rancor of the legal battle, he should be grateful to Joe and Maria Cubas.

''You need to find it in your heart to thank these people,'' she said.

"They have provided this little girl something that no amount of money can buy.''

Answered Izquierdo: "I know.''

Cuban diplomat: Mexico immigration accord needed

Posted on Tue, Oct. 02, 2007.

MEXICO CITY -- A sharp increase in the number of Cubans migrating to the United States through Mexico requires a new immigration accord between Mexico and the communist-run island, Cuba's ambassador to Mexico said Tuesday.

Manuel Aguilera de la Paz told reporters that such an agreement is one of the few remaining issues that needs to be resolved before the two countries can fully normalize relations.

Aguilera de la Paz said both countries want migration to be "legal, orderly and not dangerous for immigrants.''

In a new trend, more Cubans -- about 10,000 in the past year -- are now emigrating to the United States by traveling to Mexico and then north to the U.S. border, compared with the 7,693 who tried to reach Florida directly in the same period.

Relations between Mexico and Havana deteriorated under former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who criticized Cuba's human rights record. Both countries recalled their respective ambassadors for a few months in 2004, and relations have been tense ever since.

President Felipe Calderón has said he wants to normalize relations with Cuba, and Aguilera de la Paz said the Mexican leader could visit the island once full ties have been restored.


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