Cuba's Never-Ending Story?

Portia Siegelbaum is a CBS News producer based in Havana.
This could be Cuba's "Never-Ending Story."

For one week now Cuba has been revealing apparently warm links between local dissidents, U.S. diplomats posted in Havana and a Miami businessman, Santiago Alvarez, now jailed in the U.S. on weapons charges.

Today Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque demanded that Washington investigate and take steps to stop what he described as the illegal behavior by these diplomats, including Michael Parmly, the head of the U.S. Interests Section, America's lone diplomatic outpost in communist Cuba.


Michael Parmly, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, appears during an interview.

He's especially ticked off because Parmly himself allegedly hand-carried cash from Alvarez's NGO, the Fundacion Rescate Juridico, in Miami to dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque in Havana.

Alvarez is considered a terrorist because of his involvement with an attempted bombing in Havana in the 1990s. The person sent by him to place the bombs was captured by state security and, under their watchful eyes, engaged Alvarez in a taped phone conversation. It in, the Miami businessman is heard saying the bomb should be placed in the famed Tropicana nightclub where it can do the most damage. Also not in his favor is Alvarez's close friendship with Luis Posada Carriles, charged with the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana civilian airliner that killed all 73 people on board.

For three nights running Cuban state television has rolled out video, intercepted phone conversations and e-mails to prove their point:

This "scandalous" behavior and "obscure drama," the foreign minister charged today, violates Cuban and U.S. laws and international conventions. In particular, he said, it goes against the 1977 bilateral accord that established Cuban and U.S. Interests Sections in the corresponding capitals. And he demanded Washington investigate and provide answers.

Perez Roque, however, has to be aware that there is little chance of the Bush Administration doing that. As he himself noted, President Bush delivered another of his hard-line speeches railing against the Castro regime just yesterday.

"It was a decadent show, an irrelevant and cynical speech, an act of ridiculous propaganda," … by an "exhausted leader" engaged in "packing his bags" to return to his ranch, the foreign minister said.

Meanwhile, Parmly, as scheduled, winds up his tour of duty in Havana this summer. It's unlikely that this latest dust-up between the two countries will be resolved by then. The State Department has already announced that his replacement will be Jonathan Farrar, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Based on his past statements, there is absolutely no reason to believe that Farrar disagrees with the President's policy on Cuba.

According to the Cuban foreign minister, his government has repeatedly conveyed its accusations to the U.S. government. They are still waiting for what they would consider an adequate response. Observers suggest they might now consider delaying the granting of a visa to Mr. Farrar as a way of showing their displeasure.