ZNet | Central America & Caribbean

Terrorists Arrested In Miami

by Jane Franklin; Saturday, December 10, 2005

Among the many terrorists in Miami, two have finally been arrested. Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat were picked up on November 18 and 19 and charged with possession of numerous weapons, including fully automatic machine guns along with ammunition, grenades along with a grenade launcher, explosives along with blasting caps. Serial numbers on some of the guns had been filed off. A briefcase held a pistol along with a silencer. In addition, Santiago Alvarez is charged with attempting to receive a counterfeit passport in his name--a Guatemalan passport even though he has no claim to Guatemalan citizenship. Alvarez is a legal permanent resident of the United States who has retained his Cuban citizenship.


Osvaldo Mitat is a Cuban-American. At the time of his arrest, he said, "Unfortunately, you guys are doing your jobs and we got caught with a bunch of guns. I love the United States....These guns were not meant to be used against this country."


There is of course no mystery about which country they were going to be used against. Santiago Alvarez is a real estate mogul with plenty of cash to finance attacks against Cuba. Like his good friend, notorious terrorist Luis Posada, Alvarez left Cuba soon after the Revolution of 1959. And, like Posada, he has been waging a campaign of violence against the island ever since. For example, on October 12, 1971, aboard a speedboat under cover of darkness, terrorists machinegunned the fishing village of Boca de Samá, killing two people and wounding three others, including two sisters, 15-year-old Nancy and 13-year-old Angela Pavón, who were asleep at the time of the raid. Nancy Pavón's foot had to be amputated. Recently, at a speech given by Fidel Castro, she sat among victims of terrorists who have killed and maimed Cuban citizens and other people for four-and-a-half decades. According to Cuban intelligence, Alvarez was aboard that speedboat.


The CIA knows who these terrorists are. The CIA trained them. As Luis Posada told New York Times reporters in 1998, "The CIA taught us everything--everything....They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage." Even as the Bush Administration claims to be waging a war on terror, terrorists have continued to wage their war against Cuba with impunity.


Alvarez has been a financial backer and spokesman for Luis Posada. Alvarez says he buys Posada's paintings. He admits the paintings aren't very good but says that's how Posada makes his living. In the year 2000 Alvarez must have bought some very expensive paintings to finance Posada's attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama City. Thanks to Cuban intelligence agents, the plot was exposed to Panamanian police, who arrested Posada and his team of assassins, saving the lives of some 1500 people, mostly students, who might have been blown up along with Castro in the university auditorium where Castro spoke.


While Posada was in prison in Panama, Santiago Alvarez sent three Cuban Americans to Cuba in 2001 with weapons, explosives, and cash. They were quickly arrested. Cuban officials videotaped a phone call to Alvarez made from jail by one of the invaders, who asked Alvarez for instructions about possible targets: "The other day you mentioned the Tropicana business. You want me to do something there?" Alvarez answered, "If you want to do it, so much the better; it's all the same to me. You sneak in through a window with a couple of cans and that's that." The Tropicana nightclub is popular with both Cubans and tourists, and those cans of course would have contained explosives.


Cuba has broadcast that videotape and published the transcript. Fidel Castro has challenged the FBI to use its super-technology to analyze the voice on the tape for themselves and do something about it. But at the very time when Cuba videotaped that phone call, the FBI in Miami was busy prosecuting five Cubans on trial as spies because they had infiltrated terrorist groups in Miami in order to prevent precisely the kind of attacks that Alvarez was promoting. The Cuban Five were convicted and remain in five different prisons in the United States.


When Luis Posada and three of his fellow assassins were suddenly pardoned last year by Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso as she was about to leave office, Santiago Alvarez arranged for two planes to fly them out of Panama before other officials realized that they were being freed. The three Cuban-Americans returned to Miami to be welcomed as heroes (for more about the murderous records of these three as well as Posada, see "Terrorist Network Operating Openly in the United States" at <http://www.janefranklin.info>).


Posada, however, is a naturalized citizen of Venezuela, and he is wanted by Venezuela for escaping from prison in 1985 while awaiting trial for the midair bombing of a civilian Cubana airliner, killing all 73 people aboard. As he bragged to New York Times reporters, he has from time to time illegally entered the United States. Last March, Cuban authorities, always well aware of Posada's whereabouts because he is likely at any moment to be planning assassinations, announced that Santiago Alvarez had smuggled Posada from Mexico into Miami on a boat, the Santrina, owned by Alvarez.


Posada surfaced, got himself detained, and has asked for political asylum. It is possible that he will be turned loose to walk free in Miami. Now, however, the spotlight has been trained on terrorism not just by Posada but also by his friend Alvarez who is being held without bail because the judge considers him a danger to the community. On December 2 a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, issued an indictment of Alvarez and Mitat. The U.S. Attorney's Office has requested that the case be transferred to Fort Lauderdale. Naturally the lawyers for Alvarez and Mitat want the case to remain in Miami.


On August 9, 2005, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta unanimously recognized the fact that the city of Miami is so intolerant toward Cuba that it is unfit as a site for the trial of the Cuban Five--or of any case involving Cuba where the defendant is not in favor of overthrowing the Cuban government. They ruled that "empaneling [an impartial jury] in this community was an unreasonable probability because of pervasive community prejudice."


The decision's corollary is also true: the city of Miami is so tolerant toward those who carry out attacks against Cuba that it is unfit as the site for the trial of any defendant in favor of overthrowing the Cuban government since empaneling an impartial jury would be an unreasonable probability because of pervasive community prejudice.

Unfortunately, in October, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided to hear the case of the Cuban Five en banc so, at least for the time being, that original decision is not law. However, the original decision does indeed reflect the reality of Miami.

If the U.S. Attorney is serious about a change of venue, the trial of Alvarez and Mitat could actually put some terrorists behind bars. For one thing, one of the Cuban-Americans who was aboard Alvarez's boat last March in Mexico--Gilberto Abascal--appears to be the informer who played a crucial role in the arrests of Alvarez and Mitat. He knows whether or not Alvarez was smuggling Posada into Florida aboard the Santrina. That could add another charge to the current list and expand to other protagonists. This story has only begun to unfold.




Historian Jane Franklin is the author of Cuba and the U.S. Empire: A Chronological History.

E-mail: JaneFranklin@hotmail.com