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Accuser of WikiLeaks' Assange is linked to Cuban dissidents

One of the two Swedish women whose complaints led to the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been identified as a supporter of Cuban dissident groups.

A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks meanwhile reported that Brazilian officials had said that Brazil's investment in expanding the Cuban port of Mariel was based "on the assumption that Cuba and the United States will eventually develop a trading relationship."

Anna Ardin's links to Cuba were posted in several Web sites Tuesday after Assange was detained in London on a Swedish extradition request so that he could be questioned on allegations of sex crimes against Ardin and Sofia Wilén.

Ardin visited Cuba about four times between 2002 and 2006 as a representative of Swedish social democrats, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, head of Cuba's Arco Progresista, a social-democratic dissident group.

She later wrongly alleged that some European funds for Cuban dissidents had been mishandled, Cuesta Morua said by telephone from Havana. He was told that she was born in Cuba, he added, but never confirmed it with her.

Ardin has written for Asignaturas Cubanas, a Cuban exile magazine published in Sweden, and her 2007 master's thesis at Uppsala University was titled, "The Cuban multi-party system. Is the democratic alternative really democratic and an alternative after the Castro regime?"

She could not be reached for comment on this story, and Cuban exiles in Sweden who knew her said was keeping a low profile because of Assange's detention Tuesday. He declared that he will fight the extradition request.

Two left-of-center websites also alleged that she was close to Cuban exile author Carlos Alberto Montaner and the Ladies in White, female relatives of political prisoners. One site noted that Montaner has "CIA links'' and that the Ladies in White ‘‘receive U.S. government funds."

The websites portrayed Ardin's links to Cuba as evidence of a U.S.-backed plot to smear and jail Assange.

Montaner told journalists that he did not recall ever meeting Ardin and dismissed the CIA allegation as Cuban propaganda. Ladies in White spokeswomen Berta Soler and Laura Pollán said they did not know Ardin.

Ardin's Cuba links were first reported Sept. 14 by CounterPunch, a liberal newsletter co-edited by Alexander Cockburn, a steadfast critic of U.S. foreign policies.

A Sept. 9 2009 cable by the U.S. embassy in Brazil, made public by Assange's whistle-blower website, meanwhile, noted that two senior Brazilian foreign policy officials had discussed their government's view on Cuba with a visiting Obama administration official.

The Brazilians "laid out their view that Raúl Castro is more pragmatic and less ideological than Fidel, with a focus on getting short-term economic results," the cable reported.

"They see Cuba as taking a path similar to that of Vietnam under Raúl, whom they acknowledged was a transitional leader," it added. "In their view, Brazilian support for Cuba and efforts to ‘create a new niche' for Cuba in the hemisphere open additional space that Raúl needs to engage the United States."

The hosts also noted that a large Brazilian investment to expand the port of Mariel west of Havana "only make sense on the assumption that Cuba and the United States will eventually develop a trading relationship."

A 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Madrid reported that visiting Florida Sen. Mel Martinez had met with Cuban dissident Hector Palacios, then in Spain undergoing medical treatment after five years in prison.

"Palacios said U.S. assistance was not reaching the dissidents," the cable reported. "He noted the irony of being jailed as an agent of U.S. imperialism when the actual amount of USG [U.S. Government] funding was minimal."

"He said they ran into problems doing things as simple as finding the small amounts of money needed to bring dissidents from one part of the island to another to attend demonstrations," the dispatch added.

Another cable from the embassy in Madrid in 2008 reported on a meeting between Spain's right-of-center Prime Minister José Maria Aznar and Thomas Shannon, then Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

"Aznar praised President Bush's strong stance in support of a democratic transition in Cuba," the dispatch said. "He said we needed to monitor carefully the steps Raúl Castro was taking, some of which were in the right direction."

"Nevertheless, both the U.S. and the EU [European Union] needed to stay on the record as promoting democratic transition and openly supporting civil society and the dissidents," the cable added.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred incorrectly in the third paragraph to "charges of sex crimes." Assange has not been charged with a crime.

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