Cuba: U.S. passed dissidents private funds

/ Source: The Associated Press

Cuba has documented proof that U.S. officials on the island are delivering private funds to political dissidents in order to undermine the communist government, Cuban officials said Sunday.

Although Cuba has accused U.S. officials of funneling federal funds to dissidents before — a charge Washington has repeatedly denied — Sunday's accusation is the first to suggest American diplomats are acting as couriers to deliver privately donated cash, outside Washington's auditing oversight.

Cuban Foreign Ministry and State Security officials made the accusation in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press ahead of a detailed accusation they plan to outline at a news conference on Monday. They gave no further details.

An official from the U.S. State Department's U.S. Interests Section in Havana declined to comment on Sunday and said authorities at the American mission were unlikely to respond until they had seen a detailed denunciation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have authorization from Washington to speak with the media.

More details expected Monday
The Cuban officials — Josefina Vidal Ferreira, director of the Foreign Ministry's North American Department, and Manuel Hevia Frasquieri, director of Cuban State Security's Historic Investigations Center — declined to name the American officials they accuse of acting as couriers.

They also withheld the name of a "noted terrorist of Cuban origin living in U.S. territory," whom they claim provided the funds. They declined to say how much money was allegedly involved or who received it.

"It's a scandalous deed that shows just how far the United States is willing to go to subvert the internal order," Vidal said. Giving dissidents private cash marks a "qualitative difference" in the way financial support is being channeled to the political opposition on the island, she said.

Cuba's government has documented proof that officials at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana were involved, Hevia said, suggesting that some of that evidence would be presented, along with other details, at Monday's late morning news conference.

Cuba has accused officials at the American mission of providing U.S. government funds and material support to the island's tiny opposition for years. U.S. officials have acknowledged sending books, radios, tape recorders and other items purchased through the U.S. Agency for International Development, which receives government funding, but they have always adamantly denied giving dissidents cash.

During a 2003 crackdown, Cuba charged 75 opposition members with being "mercenaries" working with U.S. officials to overthrow the communist system and sentenced them to long prison terms. Twenty of the original 75 have been released — 16 on medical parole and four into forced exile in Spain.

U.S. officials and dissidents denied those charges.