"Nobody is in agreement…It’s that, no one says it and no one takes the risk to say it, to speak the truth. That’s what is happening. In other words, one of the foundations, of what are the regimes in the entire world, in all of history, has been fear and lies. In other words, once you are in fear that's when you don’t take a risk, where you collect yourself and don’t unite…understood? To be in fear is not to offer help to anyone because that signifies risk." -Gorki Águila Carrasco, lead singer, guitarist of the music group Porno Para Ricardo and political prisoner
"Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." --Jose Marti

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cuba sends Spies to US via Academia

The Miami Herald

Jan. 10, 2006

Suspects led low-profile lives

Accused Cuban spies Carlos and Elsa Alvarez lived low-profile lives in the academic community. Colleagues are shocked at the government's allegations.


For most of his 44 years in Miami, accused Cuban spy Carlos M. Alvarez has been a quiet academic, seldom joining public causes or speaking out about conditions on the island where he was born.

But in 1991, Alvarez published a personal account of a return trip to Cuba in the opinion page of The Miami Herald. He blamed the island's communist government for responding to hopelessness among Cuba's people ``with ideological rhetoric and actions framed within rigid and anachronistic political schemes.''

Despite that strong criticism, federal agents say Alvarez and his wife, Elsa, have been secretly spying for the Cuban government for decades, using their academic stature as covers.

It's that contradiction that baffles friends and colleagues.


''I'm shocked that anybody would arrest him. It just can't be anything reasonable,'' said Joan Wynne, an urban education professor who works down the hall from Carlos Alvarez at Florida International University. "Everybody loves Carlos . . . The secretaries love him, the professors love him . . .''

Alvarez, 61, was a lifer at FIU, teaching education classes since 1974 and building a strong friendship with President Modesto ''Mitch'' Maidique, who attended his bond hearing on Monday. Elsa Alvarez, 55, began working at FIU in 1999 as a counselor in the psychological services department.

Together, the two earn a combined salary of just more than $100,000 from FIU. Carlos Alvarez also earned money over the years teaching diversity workshops in the school district. And he conducted psychological screenings for local police departments.


Carlos Alvarez was born in Cardenas, Cuba, in 1944. When he was 17, he left the island. He earned U.S. citizenship in 1972, while he was a 27-year-old graduate student at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Elsa Alvarez, born in Cuba in 1950, came to Miami after she completed high school, according to an application she filed for FIU employment. She earned her U.S. citizenship in 1979.

The couple married in 1980. Together, they have three children, plus two from Carlos Alvarez's prior marriage. Elsa's parents live with the couple in their large cream-colored home in South Miami.

The family is active in St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church -- the same parish that has held several memorial services for the four downed members of Brothers to the Rescue, considered martyrs in the anti-Castro movement.

Alvarez implied in his Miami Herald account that his 1991 trip to Cuba, for an academic conference, was his first since leaving the island as a teenager. He wrote about the surprise and disappointment of seeing ''a depressing human reality,'' people living with shortages and lack of hope.

''My experience with our academic counterparts was, however, intellectually stimulating and humanly rewarding,'' he wrote. "Most of our discussions were remarkably frank and cordial, even though the perspectives were often diametrically opposite.''


Since then, Alvarez has returned several times, both with FIU's Cuban Research Institute and with Puentes Cubanos /Cuban Bridges, a group that promotes direct exchanges between the two countries. Alvarez, a psychologist and expert in conflict resolution, gave workshops on Cuban identity in Havana.

''Carlos is an excellent person, a dreamer, who has sought national reconciliation for many years,'' said Maria Cristina Herrera, founder of the Institute of Cuban Studies and its former executive director. ``I'm sick over this.''

He had not traveled under FIU's license in several years, according to Damián Fernández, director of FIU's Cuban Research Institute. And Puentes Cubanos lost its license to travel to Cuba in 2004, after President Bush tightened travel restrictions, according to Silvia Wilhelm, executive director.

Co-workers said Alvarez is a very friendly, religious family man who has been preoccupied with his wife, who has a bone or muscle disease that has required her to request medical leave in recent months.

''My concern is that people tend to be considered guilty before there's any evidence,'' Fernández said. ``These things tend to stick.''


Citing university policy, FIU put the Alvarezes on administrative leave with pay Monday, the first day of classes for the spring semester. Several supervisors were told to direct questions to FIU's media relations director, Mark Riordan.

Riordan said Alvarez's three classes in the education department were being reassigned. Maidique did not respond to requests for an interview.

Riordan said Alvarez and Maidique have been friends for 25 years, since before Maidique became FIU president. ''He's highly regarded,'' Riordan said of Alvarez. "From what I understand, he's a real gem of a guy.''

Herald staff writers Jay Weaver, Myriam Marquez, Marika Lynch and Scott Hiaasen contributed to this report.

The Miami Herald

Sun, Feb. 03, 2008

Former Cuban spy may lose psychology license


Florida's surgeon general has filed a complaint with the state Board of Psychology against Carlos Alvarez, a psychologist and former Florida International University professor convicted of conspiring to act as an unregistered agent for Cuba.

The administrative complaint is being reviewed by the department's attorneys before it goes to the board, said Eulinda Jackson, a spokeswoman for Ana Viamonte Ros, the state surgeon general and Florida health secretary. Viamonte Ros complaint, filed in December, asks the board to consider penalties against Alvarez, including revocation or suspension of his license, limiting of his practice, a fine or a reprimand.

Viamonte Ros told the board in the eight-page complaint that Alvarez violated rules of his profession for being convicted and failing to advise the board of his guilty plea in a timely manner.

Steven Chaykin, Alvarez's attorney, said the complaint will have no impact on his client, because he did not practice psychology.

''Anyone who has a professional license and is convicted of a felony goes through a similar bureaucratic administrative process,'' said Chaykin. ``Though a suspension or revocation of his license is embarrassing, he did absolutely nothing wrong with his license . . . He didn't practice psychology. He did not have patients.''

Over the years, Alvarez taught diversity workshops in school districts and conducted psychological screenings of cadets for the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County police departments.

Alvarez and his wife Elsa, both former FIU academics, apologized at their sentencing hearing Feb. 27 for giving Cuba information on Miami's exile community.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced Carlos Alvarez to the maximum five-year prison sentence for conspiring to act as an unregistered Cuban agent and Elsa Alvarez to the maximum three years' imprisonment for failing to report her husband's intelligence work.

Viamonte Ros wrote in the complaint that Florida laws require that a psychologist be disciplined if convicted of a crime that relates to the practice of the profession.

''A health care practitioner who manifests such complete and reckless disregard for the law as respondent demonstrated by his activities as an agent of a foreign government cannot be entrusted with the responsibility associated with the practice of psychology,'' Viamonte Ros wrote.

Gov. Charlie Crist named Viamonte Ros, a Cuban American, secretary of the Florida Department of Health in January 2007. In July, she became the first State Surgeon General.

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