Wednesday, October 6, 2010

THE LUXEMBOURG-CUBA CONNECTION





"THE INVESTIGATOR," SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, OCTOBER 4th, 2008

The Investigator has undertaken an extremely dangerous mission into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg--dangerous to the heart and liver.

Snuggled intimately between France, Germany and Belgium, this "giant microstate" provides the richest delicacies of each. And if that's not entirely true, one can effortlessly venture into all three neighboring countries during a single day, sample their respective goodies, and return to cozy Hotel Parc Beaux Arts in time for a mug of Oberweis hot chocolate before bedtime. Which explains why foreign intelligence services keep large, if largely undeclared, stations in the Duchy--a strategic launching pad for black ops across borders.

In the 1960s and 1970s Luxembourg was known only as a gateway to Europe from the United States on inexpensive Icelandair. Much has changed--starting with Findel International Airport, which moved earlier this year into a state-of-the-art terminal.

The Duchy's main business--banking--is booming. With 155 banks, it now quietly rivals Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Monaco as a dinero depository. Money likes quiet. Luxembourg's low profile obliges.

As if to accentuate such subtlety, the royal palace, prime minister's office and parliament and justice ministry buildings occupy a theme-park-like pedestrian zone--on the periphery of Luxembourg Ville's quaint old town-refreshingly unfettered by guards and gates and security cameras. "We'll keep it going like this as long as we can," a senior government official told The Investigator. They like tourism, too.

Luxembourg's constitutional monarchy is presided over by Grand Duke Henri. The grand duchess is Cuban-born Maria Teresa Mestre, whose mother's uncle, Fulgencio Batista, was Cuba's military dictator--until Fidel Castro rolled into Havana, seized power and, while promising free elections, became a dictator himself. The duke and duchess met at the University of Geneva and married on St. Valentine's Day 1981.

Six years ago last April 1, as if to celebrate April Fool's Day in Havana, the grand duchess journeyed to Cuba for the first time since her family fled in 1959 when she was three years old--a private pilgrimage, with two of her five children.

The Cubans--its people and leadership--were so enchanted by the presence and grace of Maria Teresa they spontaneously elevated her visit into a state occasion. It is believed she even had her eardrum eroded by El Presidente.

A certain intelligence agency from Cuba's large neighbor to the north, which monitors such things, was taken by surprise (as usual) by Maria Teresa's popularity with the Cubans; as surprised as the grand duchess herself. The spooks continued to watch in awe as property that once belonged to the Batista family was quietly reinstated into Maria Teresa's name.

Consequently, someone in Washington actually had an imaginative idea: Could she...? Would she...?

Secret representations were made through appropriate back-channels to the Luxembourg government, encapsulated around this question: If such a scenario could be orchestrated, would they be supportive of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa succeeding Fidel Castro and his bother Raul?

Luxembourg's mandarins recoiled in horror. From their perch, such a suggestion was simply too politically sensitive to address. But they also knew that Maria Teresa is rather strong-willed--and proud of her Cuban roots.

"She would love it," a Luxembourg insider whispered to The Investigator. "And she usually does what she wants."

Maria Teresa knows how to fight and win the big battles. One such victory was marrying Henri over the objection of his father, Grand Duke Jean, who, with Henri's grandmother, stood opposed to their union on the grounds that Maria Teresa was thought to possess African blood. (Her great uncle, the Cuban dictator Batista, was rumored to have been mulatto.)

After four years of waiting out resistance, nuptials prevailed. Time and again thereafter, Maria Teresa stood up to her over-bearing mother-in-law, Josephine, once speaking openly to reporters about the friction between them.

The grand duchess has visited Cuba regularly since April 2002.

Her youngest child is now 16.

Buzz of marital problems with Grand Duke Henri provoked Maria Teresa--on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary--to remark to Luxembourg's news media that marriage is "an interesting journey."

A journey that may, in the minds of a few covert planners, be interesting enough to land the grand duchess back in her homeland to lead Cuba into the 21st century, which, thus far, has eluded its imprisoned population.

Asked by The Investigator about the grand duchess, Frank Calzon, director of Center For a Free Cuba, in Washington, D.C., replied, "She's a European and not significant."

However, a source within the intelligence community pointed out that "when it comes time to compromising on a leader, you can be sure it won't be someone from the Free Cuba anti-Castro community--it will be someone both sides can agree on."