April 30, 2005
Terrorist Network Operating Openly In The United States
By Jane Franklin
Three years ago, President Bush said that his War on Terror would pursue terrorists "in any dark corner of the world," but no light has been cast on Miami where terrorists for decades have waged a campaign against Cuba of hit-and run attacks, sabotage, infiltration of armed agents, assassination, etc. After the failure of the CIA's 1961 invasion, using Cuban émigrés at the Bay of Pigs, the CIA tried another plan, Operation Mongoose, which also failed after leading directly to the 1962 October Missile Crisis. Then, for years, about 300 agents operating out of a CIA station housed at the University of Miami, with the code name JM WAVE, employed a few thousand Cuban émigrés in efforts to overthrow the Cuban government. These covert activities and the overt trade embargo and travel ban constitute a continuing State of Siege against the island 90 miles from Florida.
To this day, groups with names like Alpha 66 and F4 operate with impunity. They even brag about their exploits on TV. After a raid on a Havana hotel in 1992, Tony Bryant, the head of Comandos L, announced at a televised news conference plans for more raids on Cuba's tourist industry, which was becoming the mainstay of the Cuban economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bryant warned tourists to stay off the island, declaring, "From this point on, we're at war," adding, "The Neutrality Act doesn't exist."
Last year on Channel 41, Oscar Asa, nephew of former Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista, hosted Comandos F4 leader Rodolfo Frómeta, who described continuing plans for armed attacks against Cuba. These days another nation has become a target of U.S.-based terrorists: along with F4 on Asa's program was former Venezuelan Army Captain Eduardo García, who was involved in the 2002 coup that briefly deposed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. García praised Comandos F4 for their help in his continuing efforts to topple the Venezuelan government. They train together in the Florida Everglades.
Among the earliest Cuban émigrés to become CIA agents were Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, two of the most notorious terrorists in the Western Hemisphere. As Posada boasted in 1998 to New York Times reporters, "The CIA taught us everything--everything." "They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage."
When George Bush Sr. became CIA director in 1976, Bosch founded CORU (Commanders of United Revolutionary Organizations), an umbrella group for carrying out terrorist actions against Cuba as well as countries and individuals considered friendly to Cuba. Posada joined CORU in a rampage of bombs in various countries. Their most spectacular success came in October 1976 when two bombs blew up a Cuban passenger jet a few minutes after it took off from Barbados, killing all 73 people aboard. Bosch and Posada, who at one time had both worked with Venezuelan intelligence, were quickly arrested in Venezuela as masterminds of this massacre and tried by military, not civilian, courts.
In his autobiography, Los caminos del guerrero (The Paths of the Warrior), Posada named major financial supporters, extremely wealthy Cuban-Americans, pillars of terror: Jorge Mas Canosa, Pepe Hernández, and Feliciano Foyo. Mas Canosa became the chair of the Cuban American National Foundation founded in 1981 by the Reagan Administration. CANF, the wealthiest and most influential right-wing Cuban-American group, campaigned for Bosch's freedom. On March 25, 1983, with Mas Canosa leading a committee to intercede in his release, the Miami City Commission proclaimed "Orlando Bosch Day." In 1986, Otto Reich, a right-wing Cuban-American politician, was placed in Venezuela as the U.S. Ambassador. Bosch's release was thus assured.
When he was let out of prison the following year, Bosch returned to Miami, where he was detained because of a 1974 parole violation related to his conviction for firing a bazooka in 1968 at a Polish freighter docked in Miami. Greeted in Miami as a hero, Bosch's cause was championed in 1989 by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, on her way to becoming the first Cuban-American in Congress, and Jeb Bush, the president's son who was Ros-Lehtinen's campaign manager. In 1990, President Bush Sr. freed Bosch from detention despite the fact that the Justice Department had ordered that Bosch be “excluded and deported” from the United States.
In his deportation order, Associate Attorney General Joe D. Whitley wrote, “For 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence. He has threatened and undertaken violent terrorist acts against numerous targets, including nations friendly toward the United States and their highest officials. He has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death. His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.”
Living free in Miami, Bosch has continued his terrorist operations. In February 2004 during a long television interview on Channel 22, Bosch justified the bombing of the Cuban civilian airliner and boasted about his role in eleven attempts to carry out military attacks against Cuba in the previous ten years and his three attempts to assassinate President Castro, in Chile, Nicaragua and Spain. Bosch receives ovations in Miami whenever he appears on public stages with high-ranking politicians. He is a celebrity terrorist.
So now it is no wonder that Posada is asking for asylum, which he naturally would expect George Bush Jr. to grant him based on his devoted service, as his lawyer points out, to the CIA. After all, he is no less a terrorist than Bosch. In 1985, nine years after the bombing of the Cuban passenger jet, Posada escaped from Venezuelan prison thanks to a bribe paid by Mas Canosa. Posada went to El Salvador where he helped another Cuban-American CIA agent, Félix Rodríguez, direct aid to the contras in Nicaragua, an illegal operation directed from the White House by Colonel Oliver North.
Rodríguez, another Miami stalwart, was a CIA agent before the Bay of Pigs invasion. He boasts that he was present in Bolivia at the execution of Che Guevara and proudly wears Guevara's watch as a memento. In May 1987, Rodríguez testified to the congressional committees investigating the misnamed "Iran?Contra Affair" about his meetings with then Vice President Bush in 1985 and 1986. When he was asked about "Ramón Medina," Rodríguez boasted that "Medina" was Posada, a "good friend of mine." He testified that he brought Posada to El Salvador because this "honorable man" "deserved to be free." Not another question was asked.
During the period from October 1984 to October 1986 when U.S. aid to the contras was prohibited by the Boland Amendment, Phyllis Byrne, a secretary in Vice President Bush's office, prepared a routine request (April 16, 1986) for Bush to meet with Rodríguez so that Rodríguez could "brief the vice president on the status of the war in El Salvador and resupply of the contras." Soon after that, Byrne prepared a memo (April 30, 1986) to inform Bush about the meeting the vice president would be having on May 1: "Félix Rodríguez, a counterinsurgency expert who is visiting from El Salvador, will provide a briefing on the status of the war in El Salvador and resupply of the contras."
After the illegal "Iran-Contra Affair" was exposed, Posada worked for Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo, keeping an eye on Cerezo’s own military for signs of a possible coup or assassination. In 1997 the Miami Herald reported that Posada had been involved in a bombing campaign that targeted Honduran President Carlos Roberto Reina, who was disposed to improving relations with Cuba. Posada was forced out of Honduras in 1995 amid allegations that he set off 41 bombs there in one year--almost a bomb a week.
In a long interview by New York Times reporters (published July 12-13, 1968), Posada boasted that he paid a mercenary from El Salvador to bomb Havana hotels in 1997, killing an Italian, Fabio di Celmo, and wounding several people before Cuban police captured the bomber. Of di Celmo, Posada shrugged, "That Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Back in 1960, the CIA launched a massive campaign to assassinate Fidel Castro, and Posada, like Bosch, repeatedly tried to kill the Cuban leader. In the year 2000, President Castro attended the Ibero-American Summit meeting in Panama City. Shortly after arriving, he announced that Posada and three other Cuban-Americans were at that very moment preparing to set off a bomb that would kill not only the Cuban president but hundreds of Panamanian people, mostly students, to whom he would be speaking in a university auditorium. Thanks to Cuban intelligence agents, their exact location was given to Panama's police, who arrested them and seized their C-4 explosives, fake passports, etc.
Because Cuban intelligence officials had learned of the plot, more than 2000 people attended Fidel Castro's speech without being killed or wounded. How did Cuba know about the plot and save all those lives? Through Cuban agents who infiltrate terrorist groups. In 1998, a year after Posada's bombing campaign in Havana hotels, Cuban officials received information about terrorism they thought the FBI should know about. They gave that information to the FBI. Did the FBI arrest the terrorists? No, the FBI arrested the Cubans in Miami who had gathered the information and called THEM terrorists. A change of venue was refused.
A Miami jury convicted the Cuban Five, and a Miami judge gave them long sentences: Gerardo Hernández (two life sentences plus 15 years), Ramón Labañino (life plus 18 years), Antonio Guerrero (life plus 10 years), Fernando González (19 years), and René González (15 years). They remain in separate prisons scattered around the United States, awaiting the decision of an Appeals Court. This is their reward for trying to protect people from terrorists. Cuban intelligence agents, of course, continued by necessity to investigate terrorists and were able to stop the major Panama City plot even as the Cuban Five were imprisoned.
Panama did not charge Posada and his gang with attempted murder but only with possession of explosives, illegal association in order to commit a crime, falsification of documents, and danger to public safety. After they were convicted, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, on her way out of office in August 2004, pardoned them. Posada's three co-conspirators were welcomed home to Miami as heroes. These three have hair-raising histories.
Pedro Remón, an Omega 7 member, was charged in 1985 with two assassinations: Cuban-American Eulalio José Negrín, who supported El diálogo (the dialogue) in 1979 with Cuba, was shot to death in front of his young son at his home in New Jersey; Cuban United Nations diplomat Félix García Rodríguez was shot to death as he stopped for a red light in Queens, New York City. It was the killing of the Cuban diplomat that forced the FBI to make some arrests because of international repercussions. Remón plea-bargained to setting off a bomb at Cuba's United Nations Mission and attempting to assassinate Cuban UN Ambassador Raúl Roa Kourí. He was sentenced to 10 years.
Guillermo Novo and his brother Ignacio Novo in 1964 fired a bazooka at the UN General Assembly building where Che Guevara was speaking. In 1979 Guillermo Novo was found guilty of the 1976 car-bomb killing in Washington, D.C. of Orlando Letelier, who had served in the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, and his aide, Ronni Moffitt, but was acquitted in a 1981 retrial. The federal jury found him guilty of two counts of lying to a grand jury. Jorge Mas Canosa then hired him to work in CANF's "Information Commission."
Gaspar Jiménez murdered a Cuban diplomat in Mexico. He was indicted for the 1976 car-bombing of Emilio Milián in Miami but charges were dropped. Milián, a radio commentator who had criticized terrorism by right-wing Cuban émigrés, lost both legs. Jiménez then worked for Dr. Alberto Hernández, Mas Canosa's physician and a financial supporter of Posada. In his interview by New York Times reporters, Posada said that Jiménez was the courier who took money from Mas Canosa to Posada with the message, "This is for the church."
What about Posada? He is still a fugitive and both Cuba and Venezuela want him extradited. In Cuba and other countries (for example, Guyana and Italy), families of Posada's victims await justice, either extradition to Cuba or to Venezuela or a trial in an international tribunal.
According to President Bush, any nation that harbors terrorists is a terrorist state. The United States has obviously already met that criterion, but without much attention being paid. Now, if Posada, whose request for asylum has received worldwide attention, is harbored by the United States, Bush will be blatantly proclaiming that the United States meets his own definition of a terrorist nation.
Historian Jane Franklin is the author of Cuba and the U.S. Empire: A Chronological History.
E-mail Jane Franklin: firstname.lastname@example.org