The communist governments of China and Cuba issued statements on Thursday and Friday denying a report in the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, that the Castro regime had agreed to allow Beijing to install a secret “spy base” on the island.
China is one of Cuba’s top benefactors, believed to be second in influence on the Cuban Communist Party only to Russia. Cuba is a member of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global plot to ensnare poor countries in predatory loans nominally meant to be used in building new infrastructure, and a vocal supporter of the Chinese regime at the United Nations and other forums. In 2021, the news site ADN Cuba published photos that appeared to show members of China’s People’s Armed Police, its repressive anti-riot forces, training Cuban “black berets,” their analog on the island. The “black berets” were pivotal in the violent suppression of anti-communist protests throughout Cuba in July 2021.
China announced a deal in January through the BRI to gift Cuba $100 million in “donations” for unspecified reasons.
The Wall Street Journal claimed on Thursday that Havana and Beijing had agreed to elevate their relationship through a secret plot to build a “spy base” China would use to gather “signals intelligence” in the region, presumably most important for espionage against America. America has a critical military facility on Cuba, the Guantánamo Bay military facility, which it has maintained since the late 19th century.
“Officials familiar with the matter said that China has agreed to pay cash-strapped Cuba several billion dollars to allow it to build the eavesdropping station, and that the two countries had reached an agreement in principle,” the newspaper reported. “Officials declined to provide more details about the proposed location of the listening station or whether construction had begun.”
The Cuban Foreign Relations Ministry (Minrex) responded to the report with an infuriated tirade attacking the existence of the Guantánamo Bay facility. Calling the report “totally untrue and unfounded,” Castro regime Vice-minister of Foreign Relations Carlos Fernández de Cossio condemned America for “illegally occup[ying]” Guantánamo, a topic not germane to the content of the Wall Street Journal report:
“We reject all foreign military presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the numerous military bases and troops of the United States,” Fernández de Cossio declared, “and especially the military base that illegally occupies a portion of our national territory in the province of Guantánamo.”
The official accused Washington of “frequently” generating “slanders” against the communist rogue state – citing the documented attacks on Americans in Cuba and China dubbed “Havana syndrome” and the documented prodigious presence of Cuban military officers in Venezuela.
“All of them are fallacies promoted with the malicious intention to justify the unprecedented reinforcement of the economic blockade, destabilization and the aggression against Cuba, and to deceive public opinion in the United States and around the world,” the official declared. “US hostility against Cuba and the extreme and cruel measures that provoke humanitarian harm and punish the people of Cuba cannot be justified in any manner.”
Like Cuba, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the alleged “occupation” of Guantánamo Bay despite its irrelevance to the possibility of a secret Chinese espionage operation being established in Cuba.
“It is well known that the US is an expert on chasing shadows and meddling in other countries’ internal affairs. The US is the global champion of hacking and superpower of surveillance,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Friday in response to a question about the Wall Street Journal report.
“The US has long illegally occupied Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay for secretive activities and imposed a blockade on Cuba for over 60 years,” Wang said, adding:
The US needs to take a hard look at itself, stop interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs under the pretext of freedom, democracy and human rights, immediately lift its economic, commercial and financial blockade on Cuba, and act in ways conducive to improving relations with Cuba and regional peace and stability, not otherwise.
Wang did not deny the Wall Street Journal report, stating only, “I am not aware of what you mentioned.”
Contrary to the communists’ protests, America’s presence in Guantánamo Bay is legal and the product of a treaty Cuba voluntarily agreed to in 1934. As per that treaty, America agreed to pay $4,087 a year in rent to the Cuban government to use the land. Prior to the 1934 deal, America had maintained a presence in Guantánamo since 1898, when the Spanish-American War ended and in the early days of the Cuban Revolutionary War against Spain.
The Castro regime has refused to pay the rent checks from Washington since the 1959 communist coup against then-President Fulgencio Batista.
China is the only government implicated in the Wall Street Journal report to not directly deny it. The administration of leftist President Joe Biden, through the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, appeared to deny the report on Thursday despite Kirby himself being quoted in it.
“I’ve seen that press report. It’s not accurate,” Kirby told MSNBC. “What I can tell you is that we have been concerned since day one of this administration about China’s influence activities around the world, certainly in this hemisphere and in this region. We’re watching this very, very closely.”
“While I cannot speak to this specific report, we are well aware of—and have spoken many times to—the People’s Republic of China’s efforts to invest in infrastructure around the world that may have military purposes, including in this hemisphere,” Kirby told the Wall Street Journal in comments quoted in the original version of the story. (The newspaper has since updated it to reflect his denial on MSNBC.)