2006 Spy Conference Wrap-up
Courtesy of Metro Magazine Online Archives
Castro and Cuba: The Inside Story
Fidel Castro. The cigar-smoking Cuban dictator is one of the best-known and most controversial world figures of recent history. Castro turns 80 on Aug. 13, setting off speculation on what will happen “after Fidel,” a subject in the news and under scrutiny by diplomats and intelligence officers worldwide. It is also a topic to be explored during the annual Raleigh International Spy Conference from Wednesday to Friday, Aug. 23 to 25, at the NC Museum of History. The 2006 event, titled Castro and Cuba: The Inside Story, offers a stellar lineup of former intelligence officials, scholars and commentators.
The experts will evaluate Castro’s 47-year regime, using the latest dispatches from the Castro front, and will explore what the future holds. The conference is presented by Bernie Reeves, editor and publisher of Raleigh’s Metro Magazine (www.metronc.com), and the N.C. Museum of History (ncmuseumofhistory.org).
The conference speakers will divulge new revelations from the intelligence world, from the Cuban Revolution and the Bay of Pigs to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Castro’s role as the “bridgehead” for the KGB-led Non-Aligned Movement of Third World nations, which included the deployment of Cuban troops in two dozen countries as surrogates for the Soviets. The conference will address attitudes from Cuban-American refugees and the intelligence community, delve into the culture of Cuba and estimate what will happen to Cuba’s relationship with the United States after Castro.
Speakers for the fourth annual Raleigh International Spy Conference are:
Gene Poteat — former CIA science and technology operative who participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He will disclose new information, including revelations from his firsthand experiences about what really happened when the United States and the Soviets came close to nuclear war in Cuban waters. Poteat, retired from the CIA, is currently president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
Brian Latell — Castro expert and former CIA officer who served as a national intelligence officer for Latin America. He is author of the recent book After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader. Latell is a senior research associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.
Tim Naftali — author and scholar at the University of Virginia and expert on the Cuban Missile Crisis who had “unusual” access to KGB materials from the Havana residentura from 1959 to 1963. Naftali’s new book on Nikita Khrushchev, written with former KGB officer Aleksandr Fursenko, is due out in October 2006 and contains new information about Castro and the Soviet Union.
Don Bohning — Latin American editor for the Miami Herald from 1967 to 2000 and author of The Castro Obsession: US Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965. He will discuss Castro from the Bay of Pigs onward, based on personal observation and a career covering Cuba for the Miami Herald.
Humberto Fontova — Cuban-born columnist and author who emigrated to the United States in 1961. He received his Master of Arts in history from Tulane University and writes books and articles about Castro’s influence on the American Left. He is author of Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant.
Art Padilla — former vice-president of the University of North Carolina system and professor of business management at NC State University. An expert on leadership styles, Cuban-born Padilla will deliver a background presentation on Cuban culture and an examination of Castro’s “destructive” leadership style.
To register for this important event, access www.raleighspyconference.com or call the Spy Hotline at 919-807-7917. The conference fee is $250 per registrant. Reduced registration is $175 for seniors (55 or over) and $145 for educators, students and the intelligence community. The fee includes all six sessions, the keynote address and admission to the evening gala on Thursday, Aug. 24. Additional gala tickets are available to conference attendees for $35 per person. Hotel information is available at www.raleighspyconference.com.
Schedule of Events
Wednesday, Aug. 23
Registration and cocktail reception
Art Padilla - Cuban Culture and Castro’s “Destructive Leadership Style”
Thursday, Aug. 24
Don Bohning - The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert War Against Cuba
Tim Naftali - Castro and Khrushchev: New Revelations of the Special Relationship
Gene Poteat - The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Firsthand Account
Humberto Fontova - Castro: Favorite Tyrant of the American Left
Friday, Aug. 25
Speakers’ Panel - Castro and Cuba: Then and Now
Keynote Address - Brian Latell - After Fidel: What Next for Cuba and the United States?
My Usual Charming Self – September 2006
Castro and Cuba
By Bernie Reeves
Castro isn’t coming back. His brother Raúl, now the successor in Cuba, became an executioner when the revolution took over in 1959. He is chief of the military, the departments of the interior—including the secret police—and the manager of the highly effective espionage service, although Fidel is believed to have a hand in planning covert activities. Since the turn-over, Raúl has added the operations of the Communist Party of Cuba (he was an early recruit) to his list of offices. Old Castro political devotee Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, is keeping Cuba afloat with cheap oil, but the two freeze-dried socialists are unsuccessful so far in influencing the rightward political trend in Latin American nations.
Raúl is well known to be an un-recovered alcoholic rarely seen in public. Some experts hold out hope that he will soften the grip of tyranny on the Cuban people because he allegedly cares about his family—at least in public. More realistic analysts predict that Cuba under Raúl will be an even more repressive regime, leaving only repression where once the revolutionary rhetoric from Fidel diverted the pain of the Cuban people.
If you attended the Fourth Annual Raleigh International Spy Conference Aug. 23-25, presented by Metro Magazine, in partnership with the North Carolina Museum of History, you knew this already from the keynote session delivered by Brain Latell, former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America and author of the timely new book: After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro’s Regime and Cuba’s Next Leader.
Latell played psychic tag with Fidel for two decades. Cuban agents followed the CIA officer and attended classes he taught at Georgetown University, passing on opinions and information to Fidel, who would include responses to Latell in his speeches.
Art Padilla, professor of management at NC State University—and an expert in leadership styles—made it clear Castro is a “destructive” dictator who worshipped Mussolini and obscured his troubled legitimacy with his peculiar and paranoid personality. Don Bohning, former Latin American bureau chief for The Miami Herald (and author of The Castro Obsession: US Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965) explained how this paranoia developed during the series of covert and overt operations by the US to oust Fidel, beginning with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, through CIA’s Operation Mongoose—that included bizarre plans to assassinate Fidel—to the modern era of embargoes, radio broadcasts and efforts to organize Cubans to overthrow the regime.
University of Virginia scholar Tim Naftali, author of books on the Cuban Missile Crisis and counter-terrorism in the modern age (and recently appointed director of the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA) had access to secret KGB files from the Havana rezidentura. At the Raleigh conference, he divulged information from his upcoming biography of Khrushchev, including the revelation that Castro did not ask for nuclear missiles for Cuba. It is now known that the Soviets were concerned about loss of face in Berlin and Laos. They wanted missiles in Cuba as a show of strength in the geo-political battle of gamesmanship that dominated the Cold War era.
Gene Poteat, former scientific and technology officer for the CIA, was on the ground during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Drawing on recently declassified data, he related the events that conspired to bring the super powers the closest ever to nuclear war in the waters off Cuba—with the US going to Def Com 2, the last stage of readiness before launching nuclear weapons. The Soviet submarines sent to Cuba during the face-off of the great powers were ill-equipped and their commanders not told the mission. It was a chilling moment when US warship officers ordered the Soviet subs to surface 90 degrees East or be shot out of the water, not knowing the U-boat torpedoes were nuclear-tipped, each capable of annihilating an area 30 miles wide.
Poteat represents a prevalent view in the CIA that the promise by President John F. Kennedy not to invade or interfere in Cuba as part of the bargain to force the Soviets to remove the missiles was unnecessary, resulting in the nearly intolerable situation that allowed Castro to operate a communistic dictatorship only 90 miles away from US territory. Poteat also dropped a bomb shell. During the Missile Crisis, the US developed false electrical signals that make an enemy think he is being attacked. In 1964, while the Cuban crisis was still a hot issue, President Lyndon Johnson dispatched B-52 bombers to Haiphong, officially launching the Vietnam War, using as justification an attack on two US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. According to new information and Poteat’s research, there was no attack. The ships were bombarded with false electrical charges designed to simulate an attack.
Humberto Fontova says it like it is about Castro and Cuba. Why, the historian and writer wants to know, do certain American celebrities—most notably in Hollywood–admire Fidel? In his book (Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant), Fontova doesn’t get why a regime that does not allow political parties, religious opportunity, free speech, freedom of movement—that controls all media, employs a sinister network of families spying on each other and rounds up and imprisons and executes dissidents—is worshipped by these famous people. The truth needed to be aired and Fontova took no prisoners. And one prisoner of Castro spoke up. Andres Gonzalez, now in his late 20s, was born in Cuba blind at birth. He was picked up and held in isolation for three days and coerced to leave Cuba. To ensure he would not criticize the regime, his wife was held hostage under house arrest for three years, terrified every moment. Gonzalez and his family live in Raleigh now, living testimonials to Fontova’s thesis.
The timing and quality of speakers at the Raleigh Spy Conference convinced C-SPAN to film the entire event. As soon as air dates are available, they will be posted on www.raleighspyconference.com.