Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Cuba demands US response in 'funds from diplomat' case

DPA AND AP , HAVANA

Cuba demanded on Thursday that the US respond to its accusations that the US' top diplomat in Havana carried cash to political opposition leaders on the island.

The communist government has released e-mails, letters, videos and audio tapes it claims prove US Interests Section chief Michael Parmly carried funds to activist Martha Beatriz Roque, who allegedly passed them on to other dissidents.

“We have a right to know all about this dark drama,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, who is not related to the dissident. “”We exhort President [George W.] Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the government of the United States to respond, to cease to avoid the questions that are floating in the air.”

The State Department has denied wrongdoing, saying it has long provided humanitarian aid to opposition leaders in Cuba. Parmly and Roque have refused to comment on the specific accusations.

Perez Roque refused to say what Havana will do if Washington doesn’t respond further, but said “these facts violate Cuban laws, violate US laws and violate the norms of international law.”

Perez Roque specifically mentioned the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which bans diplomats from breaking the laws of the receiving state or interfering in its internal affairs.

Cuba says Roque handled monthly payments of at least US$1,500 from Fundacion Rescate Juridica, a Miami organization opposing Fidel Castro. The group is headed by Santiago Alvarez, a Cuban-American businessman once convicted in the US of conspiring to collect military-style weapons to overthrow Cuba’s government.

Another prominent dissident, Laura Pollan, has acknowledged receiving at least US$2,400 from Fundacion Rescate Juridica via Martha Beatriz Roque. She says she split the money among several members of the “Ladies in White,” a group that demands freedom for Cuban political prisoners.

Cuban agents have filmed Roque for months, bugging her home and cellular phones, hacking into her private e-mail accounts and even going through her garbage to support Cuban claims that Parmly picked up mail for her on at least three trips to the US.

Cuban officials say the mail contained cash, but they have not provided any direct evidence of that.

On Wednesday, Bush announced a small exemption to the US trade embargo that will let Americans send pre-paid cell phones to relatives in Cuba.

But he ignored calls by Roque and other dissidents to allow Cuban Americans to send unlimited amounts of money to relatives on the island.

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