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Undersecretary of State Mendrala's ties to pro-Cuban regime activists questioned

Albert Fonse posted on his social media a complex web of relationships between lobbyists in favor of the U.S. government's understanding with the Cuban regime and Mendrala

Activistas cuestionan vínculos de Puentes de Amor con Mendrala y el Havin Bank
Activistas cuestionan vínculos de Puentes de Amor con Mendrala y el Havin Bank | Collage: ADN Cuba

May 19, 2022 2:39pm

Updated: May 20, 2022 10:09am

Cuban activist Alberto Ortega Fonseca, brother of political prisoner Roberto Pérez Fonseca, questioned on Wednesday the links between the anti-embargo initiative Puentes de Amor, a London-based bank of the regime, and Emily Mendrala, the Biden Administration official in charge of Cuban affairs and regional migration.

Ortega Fonseca is an active fighter for the freedom of Cuban political prisoners, in particular his brother Roberto Perez, who is sentenced to 10 years for demonstrating in July 2021 and breaking a portrait of the late dictator Fidel Castro. Fonse is among the family members of prosecuted demonstrators who reject the Biden Administration's May 16 measures towards Cuba, which critics say will favor the regime more than the Cubans.

Albert Fonse posted on his social media a complex web of relationships between lobbyists in favor of the U.S. government's understanding with the Cuban regime and Mendrala, current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. One of the people mentioned in the post was Collin Laverty, U.S. president of Cuba Educational Travel and founding director of Puentes de Amor, an anti-embargo initiative led by Carlos Lazo, a Cuban-American activist linked to campaigns of the communist government in Havana.

Mendrala and Laverty worked at The Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), a think tank that promotes U.S.-Cuba engagement. Laverty is on the Board of the Directors of Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) where Emily Mendrala was CEO before joining the Biden Administration.

A few days after the anti-Castro protests of July 2021 in Cuba, Carlos Lazo took a photo with Undersecretary Mendrala in Washington and delivered her a document with the petition for the lifting of the embargo and other measures. The meeting was reported by Cuba's official press, which is controlled by the Communist Party.

Salomé García Bacallao, a member of the Justice 11J Political Detention Task Force, reacted to the announcement of the measures this week by posting an image of Emily Mendrala with anti-impoundment lobbyist Carlos Lazo.

García Bacallao claimed that Mendrala is "one of the main responsible for the policies of rapprochement with the Cuban regime. Overlooking the lives of more than 1,000 political prisoners". 

Similarly, Fonse posted on Twitter a photograph of Mendrala and Laverty and wrote, "meeting with the leadership of the Cuban Dictatorship and U.S. congressmen when the two worked together at The Center for Democracy in the Americas."

Albert Fonse posted on Twitter that Laverty's partner is Marla Leyanet Recio Carbajal, owner of the event organizing company Havana Reverie and sister Roy Luis Recio-Carbajal, "director of the Dictatorship's Havin Bank.”

Havana International London Bank (Havin Bank) is the only Cuban bank founded and established outside the island since its creation in the United Kingdom in 1972 by Castroist officials linked to the Ministry of the Interior and the Central Bank of Cuba. Roy Luis Recio-Carbajal is its current director, according to Open Corporates and public records of the British government.

In 2017 his sister, Marla Recio, was among the four Cuban "cuentapropistas" who signed a letter accusing then-President Donald Trump of hindering the development of private businesses in Cuba. A report by Miami's America Noticias pointed to Marla Recio as a person "lovingly committed" to Laverty, who is an active opponent of Trump's measures against the Cuban regime.

According to Diario de Cuba (DDC), Carlos Lazo operates his Puentes de amor initiative as an NGO, in conjunction with employees of Cuban-American businessman Hugo Cancio. It is registered as a non-profit entity in the business directory of Washington State, where Lazo resides.

"The license to operate was granted in November 2020, and in addition to Lazo, it is managed by Nadia Delgado, a Cuban resident in Seattle and his sister-in-law; Collin Laverty and Milena Recio," adds DDC. The independent media states that Milena Recio "is a Cuban journalist who was working when the license of Puentes de amor was issued as editor of the media OnCuba, owned by Hugo Cancio, which is accredited in the Island and has its headquarters in Havana."

Cancio is also the owner of the online sales platform Katapulk, a company authorized in the commercial registry of the Cuban government.