Mon May 19, 2008 2:56pm EDT
By Jeff Franks
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba on Monday accused the United States' top diplomat in Havana of ferrying money from a private anti-Castro exile group in Miami to a dissident in the Cuban capital.
Officials disclosed e-mails they said showed Michael Parmly, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, acting as a go-between for at least one payment from a group headed by Santiago Alvarez, a Cuban American jailed in the United States on weapons charges, to Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque.
Parmly was "a facilitator of payments, of contacts and remittances from a terrorist based in Miami to counter-revolutionaries in Cuba," Josefina Vidal of the Cuban Foreign Ministry said at a news conference.
She described his behavior as "scandalous" and called for the U.S. government to investigate illegal activities at the Interests Section. The U.S. does not have an embassy in Cuba because the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
A diplomat at the Interests Section said, "It is long-standing U.S. policy to provide humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people, specifically to provide assistance to families of political prisoners who are treated poorly by their own government.
"This assistance has no political purpose, but is intended to address the day-to-day needs of families who are struggling to survive in the current system," the diplomat said.
The U.S. government openly provides federally-funded support for dissident activities, which Cuba considers an illegal act.
But this is the first time Cuba has charged the Interests Section with funneling money from a private exile group directly to dissidents.
Dissidents denied they were receiving money through Parmly, who is due to end his mission in Havana this summer, and said the Cuban government's charges were a fabrication.
"This is just another fast one by the government, because the Americans do not give us any money at all," said Noelia Pedraza, a member of the Damas de Blanco protest group whose husband Ariel Sigler is serving 20 years in prison. The Cubans also accused Damas de Blanco head Laura Pollan of receiving money from Alvarez.
Alvarez, a wealthy developer, pleaded guilty to weapons charges in 2006 and was sentenced to four years in prison after federal agents found a cache of weapons, including machine guns, explosives and hand grenades, at a Miami area apartment complex.
Cuban officials said the e-mails and notes they intercepted showed that the foundation run by Alvarez sent money to Roque, a well-known dissident, and that Parmly brought the cash from Miami.
They also played audio tapes of what they said was Roque speaking to people in the Interests Section and said they would reveal more proof of their charges in coming days.
Alvarez is a long-time associate of Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile now living in Miami who has been accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban Airlines jet in which 73 people died.
(Editing by Michael Christie and Anthony Boadle)
JG: After reading every report published by the news agencies in the United States, and the reports in the top two Cuban newspapers, it is very clear that these so-called "dissidents" are nothing more than mercenaries at the service and pay of the United States government. They perform today the same kind of mercenary activities as the scum which invaded Cuba at Playa Giron in 1961. They are ass kissers of Uncle Sam!
Cuba has a right to choose its own different path, and the Cuban people have amply demonstrated during the last 49 years that they support their government and reject and condemn any interference by Yankee imperialism in the internal affairs of the Caribbean island.