The Miami Herald
CIA officer named to Cuba-Venezuela
By Pablo Bachelet, [email protected]
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
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,''
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
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
Planning for land claims after Fidel
A Nebraska university
has prepared a two-year study on how to
deal with thousands of property claims in
By Frances Robles. [email protected]
Posted on Fri, Oct. 05, 2007.
| The full report
| Creighton University Cuba property claims
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
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
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
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
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
''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
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
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, [email protected]
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
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
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
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
''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.''
PRAISE FOR CUBASES
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
''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
Posted on Tue, Oct. 02,
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
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
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.