Luis Posada was born in Cuba in 1928. He became a pediatrician in Havana. An opponent of Fidel Castro, Posada was a leading figure in JURE, a political party led by Manolo Rey. He took part in the Bay of Pigs. According to Gaeton Fonzi, the author of The Last Investigation, Posada was a former lieutenant in the United States Army, where he took an intelligence staff officer course.
Posada worked for the Central Intelligence Agency until 1967. He then moved to Venezuela where he became chief of security and counterintelligence in the secret police, Dirección de los Servicios de Inteligencia y Prevención (DISIP).
In 1971 Posada worked with William C. Bishop and Antonio Veciana in the plot to assassinate Fidel Castro on a visit to Caracas on 31st November. As well as providing all the credentials necessary to get the assassins into Venezuela, Posada also planted phony documents so that if the two men were killed, the trail would lead to two Russian agents in Caracas. After the fall of President Carlos Andre Perez, Posada started his own private security agency.
On 25th November 1975, leaders of the military intelligence services of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay met, with Juan Manuel Contreras in Santiago de Chile. The main objective was for the CIA to coordinate the actions of the various security services in "eliminating Marxist subversion". Operation Condor was given tacit approval by the United States which feared a Marxist revolution in the region. The targets were officially leftist guerrillas but in fact included all kinds of political opponents. Posada soon became involved in this undercover operation.
In October, 1976, the midair explosion of Cubana Flight 455 flying out of Barbados killed all 73 people aboard. This included all 24 young athletes on Cuba's gold-medal fencing team. Police in Trinidad arrested two Venezuelans, Herman Ricardo and Freddy Lugo. Ricardo worked for Posada's security agency in Venezuela and admitted that he and Lugo had planted two bombs on the plane. Ricardo claimed the bombing had been organized by Posada and Orlando Bosch. When Posada was arrested he was found with a map of Washington showing the daily route of to work of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean Foreign Minister, who had been assassinated on 21st September, 1976.
Herman Ricardo and Freddy Lugo were both sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. He escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 as a result of a bribe from Jorge Mas Canosa, the head of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), an organization created under Ronald Reagan. The organization received substantial federal funds for running Radio and TV Marti, in order to transmit propaganda to Cuba.
In the 1980s Posada was accused of being involved in importing large quantities of cocaine into the US in support of the Contras in Nicaragua. According to Peter Dale Scott, the author of Cocaine Politics (1992) Posada was second in charge of a major Contra resupply operation at Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador. He was recruited by Felix Rodriguez, a long-time CIA operative who was with the Bolivian forces that captured and executed Che Guevera.
Posada gave an interview to the New York Times (July 12th, 1998), where he admitted to planning a series of bombings in Cuba. He also revealed that he had received $200,000 in US government funding via the Cuban American National Foundation for these attacks.
Posada continued to take part in terrorist attacks on Cuba. In November 2000 Posada and three colleagues, Guillermo Novo, Gaspar Jiménez and Pedro Remón, were arrested and imprisoned after trying to assassinate Fidel Castro at the University of Panama. In August, 2004, President Mireya Moscoso of Panama, pardoned Posada, Novo, Jiménez and Remón for their role in attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Posada was interviewed by Dollan Cannell for his documentary, 638 Ways to Kill Fidel Castro (2006). So also was Orlando Bosch. He was asked if he and the CIA were involved in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455. Bosch replied that he was not allowed to talk about such matters. He was therefore not able to answer “yes” or “no”. He then pointed out that he had been accused of organizing the placing of bombs on three Cuban planes. He then went onto to justify this action by claiming that as far as he was concerned he was a soldier carrying out orders in a war against Castro.
The film then showed a clip of George W. Bush making a speech where he says “people who harbour terrorists, are also terrorists”. This was followed by an explanation of how the Bush family had protected Bosch and Posada over the years. Wayne S. Smith then appeared on camera to argue that by his own definition, Bush was a terrorist.
In 2005 Posada began living in Miami. The governments in Cuba and Venezuela applied to have him extradited. The US refused these requests, claiming he would not receive a fair trial in either country. Soon afterwards US authorities charged Posada with the relatively minor offences of lying to immigration officials about how he entered the US and his role in the Havana bombings.
In April 2011 Bosch was released by the US authorities after he was found not guilty on all 11 counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and immigration fraud. The head of Cuba's parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, denounced the trial as a "shameful farce" and accused the judge, Kathleen Cardone, of not allowing jurors to see crucial evidence. He added: "There were things the jury did not know."
We asked Bosch about Antonio Veciana, whom he called "a good friend." He said he knew that Veciana was instrumental in organizing the assassination plot against Castro in 1971. "We do not call it an assassination attempt," said Bosch. "We call it a 'justice action'." More significant, he was familiar with the details of the plot. "That was the best chance we had, Castro in Chile. There were these two guys right in front of Castro with the machine gun hidden in the camera. Right in front of him with a machine gun from here to there, but these two guys, these two - I want to qualify them - bastards, were in front of him and one was scared and the other was chicken. Right in front of Castro!" Bosch shook his head in dejection, his shoulders sagged with the weight of his sorrow for the lost opportunity.
Although Bosch knew all about the failed "justice action," he said he did not learn of the details from Veciana. "A friend told me exactly what happened," said Bosch. Al Gonzales and I assumed that "friend" was his prison pal and co-conspirator in the airline bombing, Luis Posada. Bosch, however, said he wasn't aware of Veciana being involved with any American intelligence agent in the planning, and that Veciana had never mentioned a Maurice Bishop to him. "This Bishop you ask about, I do not know," he said. "But I believe it could be true because Veciana is an action man and to do all the things he did you have to have a lot of connections, and that's not too easy."
The candid assessments offered by Orlando Bosch were in striking contrast to what we got from Luis Posada. He strolled into the room casually self-assured, a good-looking guy in his late forties, tanned and tall with no hint of prison pallor. His brown hair was trimmed and styled, his shirt tailored, his trousers sharply creased. Prison life seemed to agree with him.
Posada put his feet up on the desk, smiled and admitted to very little. Yes, he said he knew Antonio Veciana but not well, may have met the man twice briefly. No, he wasn't involved in any plan to assassinate Castro. "Veciana is like most Cubans," he said. "They talk too much and make up stories." '
Posada was deliberately vague about the chronology of his association with the CIA. "All Cubans work for the CIA," he laughed. He admitted taking the Agency's secrecy oath after leaving Fort Benning but said he didn't remember when he left the Agency's employ.
He laughed again.
What we didn't know at the time was that Posada was a major figure in an international game of intrigue then in progress. It was more than intrigue, it was a kaleidoscope of deceptive allegiances among the world's most cunning intelligence operatives. Only years later, when time and more probing cleared some of the fog, would I be able to glimpse the larger pattern. It is, of course, in that larger pattern where men on the level of David Atlee Phillips leave their marks.
The records, for instance, indicate that Luis Posada was dropped by the CIA in 1967. However, I would later learn that it was in the summer of that same year when Posada was drinking a beer with a friend at the Centre Vasco, a popular Basque restaurant on Miami's Calle Ocho, when a strange man in a dark suit approached him. Where the man came from or who sent him, Posada claims he doesn't know, but the man brought with him an offer for Posada to join DISIP. The offer came at a time when Castro, his eye on Venezuela's rich oil reserves, had dispatched scores of his own covert agents to organize the country's leftist guerrillas and the CIA was tracking that activity very closely.
Q. Have you ever... either fabricated or assisted in the fabrication of an explosive or placed or assisted in the placement of an explosive that blew up an airliner? Have you ever done that?
A. Say that again?
Q. Have you ever...
A. I'm going o cut it short for you. Yes.
Q. Oh how many different occasions?
Q. When and where?
Q. When, please, sir?
A. 1976. Let me correct myself, so I won't have to do it tomorrow. The craft involved was a communist Air Force plane from the Republic of Cuba.
Q. How many people were on board?
A. There were, including North Korean spies, Gwyenas, Cadres, DGI personnel, and Air Force officers of the Cuban Air Force, and assorted members of the Cuban Communist Party. There is a big discrepancy, which I believe that the government of Cuba is the only one who can come up with the exact figure.
Q. What is the best information you have?
A. According to the Press, which is, to the best of my knowledge, is wrong, 73.
Q. Did you place that explosive device on the aircraft, or did you fabricate it?
A. No, I did not place it, and I did not fabricate it.
Q. What part did you have in that incident?
A. In that incident?
Q. Yes, what did you do?
A. Oh, I was part of the conspirators.
Q. What specific part did you play that resulted in the blowing up of that airplane?
A. Oh, surveillance of the regular flights of that Cuban Air Force plane, providing by a third party the explosives.
Q. Is that to say that you made available the explosives to the people who actually did the manual work through a third person as intermediary?
Q. At the time that you furnished the explosives, did you know that they were going to be used to sabotage or blow up that airplane?
A. Not at the beginning, and the source of explosive, Mr. Williams, was a result of the search that was executed by agents of my division in a house that suspected of being used by foreign intelligence enemies, and there was a lot of material that was seized there, and there was some explosives that they were found there, which were, of course, turned over to the Explosives end and Disposal Division of the DISIP, and that's where - that's from where, later on, the explosives found their way into this Cuban Air Force plane.
Q. Were you responsible either directly or indirectly for the explosives finding their way eventually into the airplane?
A. I share.
Q. Did you know at the time that you -
A. I share the responsibility.
Q. I understand. Did you know at the time that you took whatever steps were necessary in order for the explosives to be put on their path that eventually wound up inside the airplane?
A. Of course.
Q. Did you know that they were going to be used to explode the airplane?
A. Of course.
Q. Dr. Bosch was specifically charged with either perpetrating that incident, himself, or having assisted in putting it together; wasn't he? Wasn't he charged with that in Venezuela?
A. He is still in jail.
Q. My question to you, sir, is whether he was charged with responsibility for that incident?
A. That is why he is still in jail...
Q. Did you ever come to have knowledge of the published passenger manifest indicating the people who, according to the public media, were passengers on that airplane?
Q. Didn't you learn that there were on board several women who ostensibly were traveling as spouses or mates or partners to some of the men on board?
A. They fall in the category of assorted communist party members.
Q. Give me a yes or no? Yes, you did, but...
A. That there were women aboard?
Q. Did you also learn, sir, that there were children under the age of eighteen on board that airplane?
A. I didn't know that there were any children on board.
Q. You haven't learned that?
A. No, I haven't learned that.
Q. If, in fact, there were children under the age of eighteen on board that airplane, would you still regard them as being communist sympathizers under any circumstances?
A. I will consider them - that is preposterous because I have no knowledge about that, but that is preposterous, but to please you, Williams, I will say that they will belong to the Youth Communist Organization, and in due time, they will become full-fledged communists.
Q. Not anymore.
Everything would seem to indicate that terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has taken refuge in Honduras, his traditional lair along with El Salvador.
However, although the national authorities have confirmed that he is being sought, there are no details on his presence and far less on his detention, as was announced ion the Cuban Television Roundtable program.
Meanwhile the United States is keeping quiet on the pardon signed by President Mireyas Moscoso, who released the notorious killer and three of his accomplices serving a prison term for an attempt to assassinate President Fidel Castro during an event at the University of Panama in 2000.
It was stated on the program that Ricardo Maduro, the Honduran president, was forced to acknowledge that Posada had entered the country and that he is a terrorist who has the support of powerful people with international influence.
Statements condemning the shameful pardon signed by the Panamanian president have continued.
The Panamanian people never imagined that one of their governors would bend to U.S. directives to such a degree, affirmed Panamanian lawyer Julio Berrios, repudiating the pardon allowing the release of the four anti-Cuban terrorists.
Speaking on the Roundtable program, Berrios, a professor of Law at the University of Panama, referred to a statement left by Moscoso on the answer-phone of a former ambassador to her country and quoted on U.S. television, in which she says:
Ambassador, good morning, this is the president to inform you that the four Cubans were pardoned last night and have already left the country. Three are headed for Miami and the other to an unknown destination. Good bye, and all the best.
The president has acknowledged that she made that call.
Other Panamanian figures likewise condemned the pardon of the four terrorists of Cuban origin. Former president Jorge Illueca described it as a blow to Latin American integration. This act, he added, affects the deepest sentiments of Pan-Americanism which, in addition to the rupture of diplomatic relations with Cuba, has already prompted the withdrawal of the Venezuelan ambassador and Hugo Chávez absence from the investiture of the incoming president.
Gassán Salama, the former governor of the province of Colón, who resigned in protest over the pardon, qualified it as a world disgrace, an act that demonstrated Moscosos lack of interest in combating terrorism.
On the other hand, a statement signed by some 40 legislators from various tendencies comprising the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), rejected Moscosos decision and calls on the peoples of the civilized world to condemn this decision in favor of those terrorists who are endangering stability and peace.
In Bogotá, more than 100 participants in the Voices of the World Congress for Peace rejected the humiliating decision of the Panamanian leader, which exposes a high degree of opportunism and hypocrisy to gratify Washingtons anti-Cuba policy.
The Mexican Communist Party affirms that by releasing the four terrorists, Moscoso has become an accomplice of those who in 1976 placed the bomb aboard the Cubana passenger plane that cost the lives of 73 people, and those who made an attempt on the life of President Fidel Castro in particular at the Ibero-American Summit.
Honduran authorities said Friday they continue to believe Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles is no longer in the country, but that, if he's captured, they would consider Cuba's extradition request.
There, the explosives expert would face a firing squad.
''We still believe that he left the country, but we can't determine how he did that,'' Armando Calidonio, Honduras' vice minister of security told The Herald. "The investigation continues.''
Leónidas Rosa Bautista, Honduras' minister of foreign relations, told reporters on Thursday that an extradition request had been submitted by Cuba and that, if Posada is apprehended, he would be "immediately deported.' Cuba, meanwhile, has said that Posada would be condemned to death.
Posada - who is wanted by Cuba on numerous terrorism and assassination charges - was among four exiles pardoned last month by Panama's former President Mireya Moscoso. They had been imprisoned four years ago on convictions tied to an assassination plot against Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Three of the exiles, Gaspar Jiménez, Pedro Remón and Guillermo Novo - all of whom are U.S. citizens - returned to their homes in Miami. Posada, 76, who is not a U.S. citizen, is believed to have fled to Honduras where he went into hiding. Authorities in that country said they have information indicating Posada fled to the Bahamas or another Caribbean country but could not be absolutely certain.
Branded by Castro as ''the worst terrorist in the hemisphere,'' Posada is wanted in connection with the 1976 midair bombing of a Cuban jetliner in which 73 people were killed. The former CIA operative also is accused of orchestrating a dozen terror bombings of Havana tourist spots in 1997, and numerous plots to assassinate Castro.
Posada and the three Miami exiles have denied any role in the alleged assassination plot in Panama during a heads-of-state summit in 2000, where Castro made the accusations.
A Panamanian court dropped initial charges of conspiracy to murder and possession of explosives, but convicted them in April of endangering public safety and sentenced them to up to eight years.
In the terror bombings in Havana, Posada first admitted, then denied, responsibility.
Responding to reports by Cuba that Posada could have gone to Costa Rica, authorities there announced they would not provide refuge to Posada.
A commercial airliner is blown up in midair with the loss of many lives. Nearly 30 years later, a man accused of organising the bombing is traced to Miami. With the "war on terror" in full swing, it would seem likely that the American authorities would leap into action to arrest the suspect and dispatch him for trial to the country where the plot was hatched.
Luis Posada is a 77-year-old Cuban exile who has been involved in many attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro since the abortive Bay of Pigs operation in 1961. He has long been seen as a prime suspect in the 1976 midair bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. He was arrested in Caracas many years ago and charged with the offence but escaped from custody in suspicious circumstances. He has since made his way to Florida, a place that has, over the years, become something of a rest-home for the heavy-mob enforcers of Latin American military dictatorships.
The Venezuelan supreme court approved an extradition request for Mr Posada last month. Yesterday, after he cheerfully gave a newspaper interview in Miami, saying he did not feel it was necessary to lie low any more, he was finally detained by immigration officials. The department of homeland security now has 48 hours to make an official determination of his immigration status. Posada, meanwhile, has already let it be known through his lawyers that he is now seeking asylum in the US.
The Posada affair is top of the agenda in Cuba, where Fidel Castro has this week been repeatedly calling on President Bush to act decisively against terrorism by arresting Mr Posada and deporting him for trial. The case is an important one because at its heart is the belief, held in many parts of the world, that the US has one standard of morality for its allies and another for its enemies.
Who in 1963 had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the U.S. president?, asks General Fabian Escalante in an exclusive interview in his Havana office. And he gives the answer: "CIA agents from Operation 40 who were rabidly anti-Kennedy. And among them were Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, Antonio Veciana and Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia."
Who were the ones who had the training to murder Kennedy? The ones who had all of the capabilities to carry it out? Who were the expert marksmen?" continues Escalante, pointing out that the case of international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has to be seen within the historical context of what he calls "the machinery of the Cuban American mafia."
And in the heart of that machinery is Operation 40, created by the CIA on the eve of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, says the ex-chief of Cuban intelligence, author of The Plot (Ocean Press), about the assassination of the U.S. leader.
"The first news that we have of Operation 40 is a statement made by a mercenary of the Bay of Pigs who was the chief of military intelligence of the invading brigade and whose name was Jose Raul de Varona Gonzalez," says Escalante.
"In his statement this man said the following: in the month of March, 1961, around the seventh, Mr. Vicente Leon arrived at the base in Guatemala at the head of some 53 men saying that he had been sent by the office of Mr. Joaquin Sanjenis, Chief of Civilian Intelligence, with a mission he said was called Operation 40. It was a special group that didn't have anything to do with the brigade and which would go in the rearguard occupying towns and cities. His prime mission was to take over the files of intelligence agencies, public buildings, banks, industries, and capture the heads and leaders in all of the cities and interrogate them. Interrogate them in his own way.
The individuals who comprised Operation 40 had been selected by Sangenis in Miami and taken to a nearby farm "where they took some courses and were subjected to a lie detector."
Joaquin Sangenis was Chief of Police in the time of President Carlos Prio, recalls Escalante. "I don't know if he was Chief of the Palace Secret Service but he was very close to Carlos Prio. And in 1973 he dies under very strange circumstances. He disappears. In Miami, people learn to their surprise -- without any prior illness and without any homicidal act -- that Sangenis, who wasn't that old in '73, had died unexpectedly. There was no wake. He was buried in a hurry."
Operation 40 had "in the year '61, 86 employees, of which 37 had been trained as case officers...while in Cuba we probably didn't have one single case officer trained. I didn't finish the course until July of '61 and I was in the first training group."
After the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA organizes a Domestic Affairs Division. "For the first time, the CIA is going to work inside of the U.S. because until that moment, it wasn't doing it. It was prohibited.
"And at the head of this division they put Tracy Barnes, who was chief of the CIA operations group which operated against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, and he brought to the same group of officers David Atlee Phillips, David Sanchez Morales and Howard Hunt, and two or three other Americans who just as surely worked on the Guatemala project."
The first CIA project against the Cuban revolution wasn't a landing and assault brigade, remarks the general. "The first CIA project was to create a civil war inside of Cuba. They were thinking of creating political leaders overseas, organizing a series of military cadres overseas who are the ones who will infiltrate Cuba and who will place themselves at the head of this civil war they are planning to carry out. And furthermore parallel to that, to make an intelligence network. All of this falls apart almost as soon as it is born.
"In October 1960, they realize that this project has failed, and that is when Brigade 2506 is formed, when due to the uprising of a group of patriotic military officers in Puerto Barrios in Guatemala and, this was in November, they send the Cuban mercenaries in Brigade 2506 to put down this operation."
Escalante remembers that in 1959 a "very strong" CIA center existed in Cuba with several case officers based in Havana. Among them two very important figures: David Sanchez Morales, registered as a diplomat with the U.S. embassy, and David Atlee Phillips who was doing business in Cuba since 1957.
"Phillips had a press agency, David Phillips Associates, which had offices on Humbolt St., behind the Rampa theater. We had information from a person who was his personal secretary at the time and he was using the Berlitz Academy, where he would meet with people he wanted to recruit. The Berlitz Academy was not his business, but he had recruited its director and that's why he was using it to train his agents.
"And at that time he recruits Antonio Veciana, Juan Manuel Salvat, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Isidro Borjas, a person of Mexican origin, to carry out the internal counterrevolution."
Phillips will train illegal cadres while Morales, on his part, directs a group of North Americans who are infiltrated in the Rebel Army: Frank Sturgis, Gerry Hemming, William Morgan.
"When the revolution triumphs these people are officers in the Rebel Army, many of them in the air force because the chief there is Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, who was the first chief of the rebel air force and who later leaves the country when an assassination attempt against Fidel fails. He will also direct Howard Hunt, who is visiting Cuba in '59 and '60 and who will write a far-fetched chronicle about Havana which is a series of lies. Hunt is a professional liar.
"There was information that at the end of '58, when CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick came to tell Batista to leave power, he has an interview with a group of figures. And since this Phillips was passing himself off as a respectable North American businessman, Kirkpatrick has an interview with him. And Phillips explains to him that the situation is very difficult."
In this context, now in the middle of '58, the CIA plans an assassination attempt on Fidel with a North American citizen, Alan Robert Nye, and ex-marine recruited in Fort Lauderdale by agents of the FBI and by the Cuban military intelligence service.
"He was received here in Havana, they put him up at the Comodoro hotel, fortunately they paid his bill and that was how he was later discovered. They sent him to a zone near Bayamo where Fidel was, in a zone called Santa Rita and he was arrested there by the Rebel Army. He had instructions to introduce himself to Fidel as a sympathizer of the Cuban cause and to assassinate him at the first opportunity," recalls Escalante.
The man is arrested on December 12, 1958, by rebel forces and remains in custody until the beginning of 1959. "An officer of the Rebel Army is in charge of the investigation. Knight says that he was lodged at the Comodoro hotel and it turns out that the ones who had paid this gentleman's expenses were none other than Col. Orlando Piedra, the chief of the investigation bureau of the police, and Col. Tabernilla II, the son of the head of the army."
"These are the principal artists," says the ex-chief of Cuban intelligence. "David Phillips; David Morales; Howard Hunt; a figure who disappeared later and who was head of the CIA until diplomatic relations were broken, James Noel; and several more who were working actively."
When the Domestic Affairs Division is created, the large CIA operations base in Miami was subordinate to the central division of the CIA; "that is to say that the JM/WAVE station, which had 400 officers plus 4,000 Cuban agents, was directed by the main center in Langley.
"Whom are they going to use? Operation 40. That is to say all of the specialists who are already trained, have gone through the school, have already participated in operations against Cuba...I refer to the group of Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia, Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Antonio Veciana, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Felipe Rivero, who recently died, the Novo Sampoll brothers, Gaspar "Gasparito" Jimenez Escobedo, Juan Manuel Salvat, Nazario Sargent, Carlos Bringuier, Antonio Cuesta, Eladio del Valle, Herminio Diaz, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Rafael "Chichi" Quintero, Jose Basulto, Paulino Sierra, Bernard Baker, who was a Cuban with a North American name -- he was a guard at the U.S. embassy -- and Eugenio Martinez, alias 'Musculito.'
"And there was the team that brought together all of the North Americans: David Morales; David Phillips; Howard Hunt; Willian Harvey; Frank Sturgis; Gerry Hemming; John Rosselli, who was second head of the Chicago mafia and at that time in '62; Porter Goss, the current head of the CIA, who is in the JM/WAVE as a subordinate of Phillips and Morales."
"Operation 40 is the grandmother and great-grandmother of all of the operations that are formed later," continues Escalante.
"The Domestic Affairs Division will have its missions...You have to remember the scandal of the Pentagon papers; a long time later, the Watergate scandal...which are the things that were found out. These people were the plumbers of the division, the men that carried it out."
In 1966 and '67, Felix Rodriguez is in charge of the task force the CIA sends to Bolivia against Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. "He used several names. He is there and he ends up participating directly in the murder of Che. Also there, in another position, is Antonio Veciana. He is there as a bank consultant in La Paz but he runs the center which is coordinating intelligence gathering in the rear guard, working with the Bolivian intelligence services.
"This is very interesting because we are then going to see this whole group in the second large operation they organize, which is advising the secret police of Latin America. We are going to see Felix Rodriguez in 1980 in Argentina, we are going to see Posada in Venezuela..."
Luis Posada Carriles next appears in Venezuela.
"Posada says he arrived in Caracas in 1969, which is not true, he arrived in '67. What is happening is that he is a CIA advisor and it doesn't suit him in his book to talk about that; he says he was recruited in Miami by a chief of DIGEPOL. He's a tremendous storyteller. In reality, Posada is already there in '67 helping DIGEPOL as a CIA advisor.
"After that we are going to see Orlando Bosch's group: Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Dionisio Suarez in Chile after '73. We are going to find 'Mono' Morales Navarrete in Venezuela and Felipe Rivero in Chile...That is to say that this group is going to be spread out in Latin America with actions everywhere."
All of them have devoted themselves, besides the subversive activities, "to drug smuggling, which began when they were training for the Bay of Pigs," says the general.
"The planes came from Miami to Guatemala loaded with weapons, ammunition, personnel, and they returned...even with blood plasma. They were even smuggling blood plasma which Manuel Artime commercialized with the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. Drugs started to be included, cocaine."
Phillips was head of Operation 40 from 1960 to 1973..."It is assumed that in '73 Operation 40 was 'discontinued,' as the North Americans say, but that is absolutely not true.
"You have to remember that in '73, the Watergate scandal broke out. Who were the ones who broke into the offices of the Democratic Party? This same group. We are talking about Bernard Baker, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Sturgis, Ferry Hemming, and we learned this from the documents from the Church Commission.
"And after he got out of prison, Eugenio Martinez came to Cuba. Martinez, alias 'Musculito,' was penalized for the Watergate scandal and is in prison for a time. And after he gets out of prison - it's the Carter period, the period of dialogue, in '78, there is a different international climate - Eugenio Martinez asks for a contract and one fine day he appears on a boat here... and of course he didn't make any big statements, he didn't say much that we didn't know but he talked about those things, about this Operation 40 group, about what they had done at the Democratic Party headquarters..."
And who are directing the operation against Allende, asks Escalante. "In the first and second part, David Phillips, first as chief of the operations group, and afterwards he moved up to Western Hemisphere division chief of the CIA until 1975. He participates in that and participates in the formation of Operation Condor, which was formed in 1974 when the first meeting of intelligence chiefs of the Southern Cone is held in Santiago, Chile." The veterans of Operation 40 will also participate in Operation Hoja de Parra, which Argentinian intelligence organizes to spy on political emigres throughout Latin America.
Then they appear in Operation Calypso, part of the Nicaraguan contras: "That is to say, when the Argentinian army sends Col. Osvaldo Rivero, first to Miami and then to Honduras, with a group of Argentinian specialists, they fail and the Cubans from Operation 40 have to come; Felix Rodriguez and Luis Posada who in '85 replace the Argentinians and transfer the general headquarters from Tegucigalpa to San Salvador. And the El Aguacate air base which belonged to the Hondurans stops being the main base of air supplies..."
All of the operations carried out, after a certain time, by members of Operation 40 are operations called "autonomous" where the CIA officer who directs the terrorist group -- we're talking about terrorist "action" groups, as they call them -- discusses the objectives of that group, approves it, facilitates all necessary resources "and afterwards reads about the results in the newspaper."
About the Kennedy case, Escalante recalls how Cuban intelligence services would receive in the '60s much information from North Americans, from Cubans outside of the country and from Central Americans, about subversive activities.
"By correspondence... Letters would arrive that many times, of course, they would come without a return address or with a fake address. And we started to have information from these figures through this means.
"There is a source who participates in a meeting in Miami in the year '63 in a CIA safe house and who, from what I remember, was related to Veciana, very close to Veciana. This source identifies Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz and, I believe, the Novo Sampol brothers...and that same source later recognizes Lee Harvey Oswald as one of the participants.
"The last time we heard about this source was in the '70s when he refers to a meeting with Antonio Veciana and Phillips in Puerto Rico," says Escalante.
"I'm convinced that they wanted to kill Kennedy in different places. Probably that Dallas had better conditions. But I'm under the impression from some very fragmented information I had access to one time, that they wanted to assassinate him in Miami. And I can't exclude, without confirming it, because this information is very relative, that these people had been gathered there for that reason...
"There is another source, who is Maria Lorentz, who relates something similar to this, that is to say that she was in a meeting in Miami, that she saw these people, that she went with them to Dallas, around November 20."
Escalante underlines how a Cuban, Manuel "Manolito" Rodriguez Orcarberro, arrives in Dallas two months before the Kennedy assassination "and he leaves afterwards at full speed."
There he opens an office of Alpha 66, where Oswald will enter at one time, according to the testimony of the assistant police chief of Dallas.
"This Cuban sought asylum in 1960 in the Brazilian embassy together with two known CIA agents. Who were they? Ricardo 'El Mono' Morales Navarrete and Isidro Borgas, a figure of Mexican origin who looks a lot like one of the figures who is with Oswald handing out proclamations supposedly in favor of Cuba in New Orleans - all of that which was a show put on where Carlos Bringuier goes to challenge them, a fight erupts, and the police arrest all of them..."
And who is the boss of Rodriguez and of Alpha 66? "Antonio Veciana, from Operation 40. That same Veciana whose testimony would lead Gaeton Fonzi to interview Luis Posada in Caracas when he was in prison, due to the similarity between the plan he prepared to assassinate Fidel in Chile and the Kennedy assassination."
Even more: the name that one of the "cameramen" used in Chile is Ramon Medina "which is a pseudonym Posada later used in Ilopango."
There are several sources who place Luis Posada Carriles in Dallas on November 20, 1963, says Escalante.
The ex-chief of Cuban security points to a recent investigation by the Dutchman Wim Dankbaar: "There are elements which even say that Posada was one of the shooters, which cannot be ruled out because Posada is an expert marksman.
"Posada who is an expert marksman who graduated from a North American military school. Posada who afterwards becomes, together with Orlando Bosch and all of that gang, one of the leaders of the terrorist groups. Within the mechanism of Operation 40. Posada who since then has always been protected by U.S. authorities, protected by the Cuban American National Foundation, protected by Jorge Mas Canosa."
The assassination of Kennedy could not have been an improvised action in any manner, says Escalante. "If they detoured Kennedy from the avenue where he was traveling to drive around a park, it wasn't for any other reason than to slow down the car to be able to fire at him. Because this famous detour to Dealey Plaza makes no sense. Evidently this makes the vehicle travel at 20 kilometers per hour. And there the fatal shots are fired, from behind and from ahead.
"It had to be a complex operation in which a large group of people participated, because if they shot at him from three shooters' nests which had to have an element of communication as well, to have the means to get out of that place and afterwards to get out of Dallas. We are talking about between 10 and 15 people in the least of cases."
Returning to the subject of the explosion of the Cuban airplane in 1976, Escalante underlines that, in the weeks preceding the attack, Orlando Bosch is in the Dominican Republic, goes to Nicaragua, and then to Caracas with a fake Dominican passport.
"Allegedly invited by Orlando Garcia who if he wasn't head of DISIP at that time was chief of personal security for Carlos Andres Perez. This at the same time that Mono Morales Navarrete had become head of division 54 of DISIP.
"Navarrete arrived when Posada left DISIP, in '74, to organize that front of the Industrial and Commercial Investigations Office. A CIA front which was probably connected with Operation Condor...Why does Posada go over to DISIP? Why does he have disagreements? If he is operations chief of DISIP, he has contact with the U.S. embassy, he's supported by the CIA. Why is he tired of torturing, which is what he did there at DISIP?"
According to reports from the time, at the office of Posada's detectives agency in Caracas they also found plans for the assassination of Orlando Letelier, which occured in Washington on September 21, barely two weeks prior. "Bosch had coordinated the operation in Santiago where he met with General Manuel Contreras, head of DINA." (Chilean secret police)
"In '74, Bosch had already gone to Chile with Virgilio Paz, Alvin Ross, Jose Dionisio Suarez to offer himself to Contreras and Pinochet as hit men for Condor... The same Bosch who in 1976 returns to the Dominican Republic, then goes to Nicaragua, meets with the Somoza dictatorship, and then to Venezuela for this operation...Bosch arrives in Venezuela in September and the blowing up of the Cubana airplane was on October 6.
"Where do instructions come from? Where is the plan drawn up? It is drawn up in Caracas. Who are in Caracas? Bosch, Posada and Morales Navarrete. Those are the three figures who are there. This is perfectly documented. As if that weren't enough, Morales Navarrete is an FBI informant, they passed him the bill themselves in '82 for that reason. The FBI was aware of everything they were doing. Probably the CIA gave them the objectives with that cover of autonomous operations. Who was head of the CIA in '76? George Bush Sr. And so...as clear as day! Was Posada still with the CIA?
"In a declassified document from July 1976, the CIA says it broke off with Posada because it had suspicions that he was involved in drug smuggling. That's what it says, that's what it says... when David Phillips gave Veciana a quarter million dollars so he could go to prison for 18 months for a drug trafficking charge," answers the general.
Last week in Miami, Luis Posada Carriles´s accomplice in the downing of the Cuban passenger plane that was blown out of the sky with 73 innocent people on board on October 6, 1976 was interviewed by Juan Manuel Cao of Channel 41 in Miami. His name is Orlando Bosch.
I quote verbatim excerpts from the television interview
Juan Manuel Cao: Did you down that plane in 1976?
Orlando Bosch: If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself . . . . and if I tell you that did not participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.
Juan Manuel Cao: In that action 76 persons were killed (the correct figure is 73, including a pregnant passenger)?
Orlando Bosch: No chico, in a war such as us cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant, you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.
Juan Manuel Cao: But don´t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?
Orlando Bosch: . . . Who was on board that plane? Four members of the Communist Party, five north Koreans, five Guyanese, (JP: there were really 11 Guyanese passengers) . . . concho chico, four member of the Communist Party chico!!! Who was there? Our enemies . . .
Juan Manuel Cao: And the fencers? The young people on board?
Orlando Bosch: I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant etc etc. She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant. We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that every one who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.
Juan Manuel Cao: If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn't you think it difficult?
Orlando Bosch: No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba.
Bosch´s answers to those five questions give us a glimpse into the mind of the kind of terrorist that the United States government harbors and protects in Miami: terrorists that for the last forty-seven years have waged a bloody and ruthless war against the Cuban people.
What happened to Cubana de Aviación 455 almost thirty years ago is no secret. We need simply examine the CIA's own declassified cables. At the time, this was the worst act of aviation terrorism in history, and the first time that a civilian airliner was blown up by terrorists.
More than three months before CU-455 was blown out of the sky over Barbados on that sunny Wednesday afternoon of October 6, 1976, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informed Washington that a Cuban exile extremist group planned to place a bomb on a Cubana de Aviación flight.
The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research reported to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that a CIA source had overheard Luis Posada Carriles say less than a month prior to the bombing that "we are going hit a Cuban airliner."
Neither Washington nor the CIA alerted Cuban authorities to the terrorist threat against their planes.
The bombing was carried out by Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Hernán Ricardo and Freddy Lugo. Final preparations for the terrorist act began with the arrival of Orlando Bosch in Caracas on September 8, 1976. Bosch is a Cuban-born terrorist who was the acknowledged leader of an organization called Coordinación de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (CORU).
According to the FBI, CORU was an umbrella group of Cuban exile organizations that was formed to "plan, finance and carry out terrorist operations and attacks against Cuba." (FBI cable dated June 29, 1976).
When Bosch arrived in Caracas on the 8th of September of that year, Posada Carriles was there to greet and make available to him his right hand man: trusted confidante Hernán Ricardo, who has admitted under oath to be a CIA operative. In 1976, Ricardo was also an employee of Luis Posada Carriles at a private intelligence firm that the latter founded and ran in Caracas: Investigaciones Comerciales e Industriales (ICI). Ricardo says that Posada Carriles introduced him to Orlando Bosch at the ICI offices in Caracas.
To help him with the special operation that Bosch and Posada planned for him, Ricardo in turn recruited Freddy Lugo. A Venezuelan citizen, Lugo has also admitted under oath to be a CIA operative.
We know that the foursome of Posada, Bosch, Ricardo and Lugo met together at least four times to plan the downing of the plan.
At the meetings, the terrorists agreed upon the coded words they would use to describe the success of the operation. The plane would be known as the "bus", and the passengers would be called the "dogs." "The rest is up to you," Posada told Lugo and Ricardo.
The C-4 explosives were carried on board the aircraft by Ricardo and Lugo in a tube of toothpaste and in a camera.
Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo boarded the CU-455 flight in Trinidad at 12:15 PM bound for Barbados. Ricardo traveled under a forged passport using a false name. They sat in the middle of the plane. During the flight, they placed the C-4 explosives in two separate places in the plane: the rear bathroom and underneath the seat belonging to Freddy Lugo. Lugo and Ricardo got off the plane during its brief stopover at Seawell Airport in Barbados. They later admitted under oath that they had each received special training in explosives from the CIA.
Aboard CU-455 were 73 persons. 57 of the passengers were Cubans. 11 of them were Guyanese medical students in Cuba. The remaining five passengers were Koreans. Those on board averaged only 30 years of age.
Traveling with the group were 24 members of the Cuban fencing team, many of them teen-agers, fresh from gold medal victories at the Youth Fencing Championship in Caracas. They proudly wore their gold medals on board the aircraft. One of the young fencers, Nancy Uranga, was only twenty-three years old and pregnant. She wasn't supposed to be on board. That spot on the fencing team belonged to a pretty little twelve-year old fencer, unusually tall for her age, named María González. María had planned to participate in the Caribbean Games, and was on the tarmac at Havana's José Martí Airport ready to board the plane that would take the team to the Games, when one of her coaches gave her the bad news that international amateur rules prevented twelve year olds from competing. María reportedly was devastated, and she went to her home in Havana's neighborhood called La Víbora, and cried for three days, refusing to watch the games on Cuban television because it hurt her so much not to be there. Nancy Uranga was summoned to the Airport and took María´s place on the ill fated trip to the Caribbean Games.
The fencing team was a roaring success at the Games. They won gold, silver and bronze medals. They were to return home on October 6, 1976. The athletes proudly wore their medals dangling over their clothes, as they boarded the aircraft. Cubana de Aviación 455 stopped first in Trinidad at 11:03 AM, and then touched down again in Barbados at 12:25 PM.
Nine minutes after take-off from Barbados, the bombs exploded and the plane caught fire. The passengers on board then lived the most horrifying ten minutes of their lives, as the plane turned into a scorching coffin.
The cockpit voice-recorder captured the last terrifying moments of the flight at 1:24 PM: "Seawell! Seawell! CU-455 Seawell. . . ! We have an explosion on board. . . . . We have a fire on board."
The pilot, Wilfredo Pérez (affectionately known as "Felo"), asked Seawell Airport for permission to return and land, but the plane and its passengers were already doomed.
As the plane approached the shore, it was rapidly losing altitude and control. "Hit the water, Felo, Hit the Water," said the co-pilot.
Rather than crashing into the white sands of the beach called Paradise and killing the beachgoers, Felo courageously banked the plane toward the water where it crashed in a ball of fire one mile north of Deep Water Bay.
Pieces of bodies were slowly recovered from the sea. Most of them too grotesquely disfigured to be identified by their family members. There were no survivors.
After deplaning, Lugo and Ricardo hurriedly left Seawell Airport in Barbados and checked into a local hotel under assumed names.
From the hotel, Hernán Ricardo called his bosses in Venezuela: Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. Unable to find Posada at his desk, he left a message with Posada´s secretary. He then called Caracas again and asked a mutual friend, Marinés Vega, to deliver the following message to Posada:
"We are in a desperate situation, the bus was fully loaded with dogs . . . they should send someone I can recognize . . . I will be waiting in a soda fountain near the embassy just in case something happens and I need to ask for asylum there."
Ricardo was able to communicate with Bosch who allegedly said to him: "my friend we have a problem here in Caracas. An aircraft is never blown up in midair . . .", implying that the plan had been for the bomb to explode while the plane was on the ground before take-off.
Sensing how hot things were getting for them in Barbados, Lugo and Ricardo boarded a return flight to Trinidad on British West Indies Airlines that very evening. On the flight, Ricardo said to his buddy: "Damn it, Lugo, I'm desperate and feel like crying. I had never killed anyone before."
In Port of Spain, the terrorists checked into the Holiday Inn with false identities and made more desperate calls to Caracas, trying to reach Posada Carriles.
Their nervous demeanor at the airport and at the hotel, as well as their conversations in the taxis they took in Barbados and later in Trinidad, led the police to zero in on them as the primary suspects in the bombing. They were arrested and interrogated by detectives from the Trinidad police department.
Both confessed to Commissioner Dannis Ramdwar who took their written depositions. Lugo and Ricardo each admitted to being CIA operatives. Ricardo described in detail how he could detonate C-4 explosives and pointed to a pencil on Ramdwar´s desk that was similar to the timer he used to detonate the explosive on board the plane. Ricardo also told the police in Trinidad that he worked for Luis Posada Carriles. He told Ramdwar that the head of CORU was Orlando Bosch and drew for the police an organizational chart of CORU and said that the terrorist organization was also known as Condor.
Upon hearing of the confessions of Lugo and Ricardo, the police in Caracas moved in and arrested Posada and Bosch. They also obtained a warrant and searched the offices of Posada Carriles where they confiscated weapons and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment. The police also found a schedule of Cubana flights in Posada´s Caracas office.
In one of the very first reports on the October 6, 1976, downing of Cubana Flight 455, the FBI Venezuelan bureau cables that a confidential source has identified Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch as responsible for the bombing. "The source all but admitted that Posada and Bosch had engineered the bombing of the airline," according to the report.
During the television interview three days ago in Miami, Bosch talked about an agreement reached between terrorists in Santo Domingo in June of 1976.
The FBI itself tells us about that secret agreement. According to an FBI report, Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles and other terrorists formed an umbrella terrorist organization called CORU at a meeting in the Dominican Republic. The FBI report details how at that meeting in the Dominican Republic, CORU planned a series of bombing attacks against Cuban entities, as well as the murder of Communists in the Western Hemisphere. On page 6, the report relates in great detail how Orlando Bosch was met in Caracas on September 8, 1976, by Luis Posada and other anti-Castro exiles and a deal was struck as to what kind of activities he could organize on Venezuelan soil.
After the arrests of Lugo, Ricardo, Bosch and Posada, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana and Cuba ceded jurisdiction over the downing of the passenger plane to Venezuela, and all four were prosecuted in Caracas for murder.
Prosecuting terrorists has a price. The Judge who issued the initial arrest warrants for the four terrorists, Delia Estava Moreno, received several death threats and attempts at blackmail as reprisals for her conduct. As a result, she was forced to recuse herself. The presiding judge of the military court, Retired General Elio Garcia Barrios, also received death threats and in 1983, his son and chauffeur were murdered during a Mafia-style hit intended to even the score and intimidate those who dared legally prosecute the murderers.
Eventually, Lugo and Ricardo were convicted, but before the Court could reach a verdict regarding his case, Luis Posada Carriles escaped from the prison at San Juan de los Moros in the State of Guárico where he had been confined after two unsuccessful escape attempts.
Posada escaped with the help of at least $50,000 from a right wing extremist group in Miami.
Fifteen days after his escape from jail, Posada was smuggled out of Venezuela bound for Aruba on a shrimp boat. He spent a week in Aruba and was then flown by private plane to Costa Rica and then San Salvador. He immediately started working alongside Felix Rodriguez, a high ranking CIA member, at the Ilopango Airbase. Posada´s job in San Salvador was to supply the Nicaraguan Contras with arms and supplies obtained through the sale of narcotics. This Operation became a scandal known as Iran-Contra. Felix Rodriguez was the CIA's point man in Central America for the Iran-Contra scandal, hired for the job by an old friend from the CIA Donald Gregg who was Vice-President Bush's National Security Advisor. According to Anna Louise Bardach who interviewed Posada while she was a reporter for the New York Times, "Posada noted with a certain pride that George Bush had headed the CIA from November 1975 to January 1977"- a period that covered some of the most violent crimes committed by Cuban exiles and Operation Condor: including the Letelier assassination and the downing of the passenger plane.
Posada spent the next several years in Central America working for the security services of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. But in the early 90s he turned his attention once again to Cuba which was struggle to jump start a tourist industry in order to offset a dramatic economic downturn after the demise of the Soviet Bloc. From his lair in Central America he recruited Salvadoran and Guatemalan mercenaries to smuggle explosives to Cuba, and in 1997 bombs began to blow in the finest hotels and restaurants of Havana-killing an Italian tourist named Fabio DiCelmo and wounding several others.
Cuba learned that the campaign of terror against its tourist industry was being financed by Miami exile organizations and orchestrated by Luis Posada Carriles in Central America. Faced with the FBI´s refusal to reign in the terrorists in Miami, Cuba sent some very brave men to penetrate these terrorist organizations and gather information with the purpose of asking President Clinton to intervene and order the Feds to arrest the terrorists.
After gathering enough evidence to determine the source of the terror campaign, on May 1, 1998 Fidel Castro sent a personal emissary to Washington with a handwritten message to President Clinton: the emissary was none other than Nobel Prize for Literature Gabriel García Márquez. President Clinton was out of town for several days in California, and after waiting him out at the Hotel Washington for several days, García Márquez finally met with White House Chief of Staff Mac McLarty and gave him the letter. García Márquez recounts McLarty´s reaction to the letter and quotes McLarty as saying to him: "We have enemies in common: terrorists".
In the wake of the Garcia Marquez visit, the U.S. sent an FBI team to Cuba a month later to discuss collaboration with Cuba on a "War On Terror". Cuba handed over to the FBI tapes of 14 telephone conversations of Luis Posada Carriles with details on the series of bombs that had exploded in Cuba in the 90s. Cuba also gave the FBI Luis Posada Carriles´ addresses in El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama. Also tapes of conversations with Central American detainees in Cuba who admitted Posada is their boss. All together, Cuba turned over 60 sets of documents with information about 40 terrorists based in Miami, including their addresses, and evidence of their ties to terror.
Cuba then waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. Cuba waited for the FBI to start arresting terrorists. But instead the FBI arrested on September 12, 1998, the men now known as the Cuban Five: the men who had come to Miami to penetrate the Miami exile terrorist organizations.
According to El Nuevo Herald, the first persons that were notified of the arrests of the Cuban Five were Cong. Lincoln Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.
The Five were charged with 62 counts of violating federal laws. Their arrests illustrates Washington's double standard when it comes to its so-called war on terror: a war that the U.S. government chooses to fight a la carte, distinguishing between terrorists it likes and those it doesn't.
The Five were placed in solitary confinement for the next 17 months, until the start of their trial. They were convicted of several charges and received the maximum sentences possible. Gerardo Hernandez received a double life sentence and Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino on life sentence each. Fernando Gonzalez and René Gonzalez, got 19 and 15 years respectively.
They were sent to maximum security prisons across this country, and two of them have been denied visits from their wives for the past seven years in violation of U.S. laws and international law.
On August 9, 2005, a 3 judge panel of the Court of Appeals published a 93 page decision that reversed the convictions and sentences, ruling that the Five did not receive a fair trial in Miami and acknowledging evidence produced by the defense at trial that revealed terrorist actions by Miami exile groups against Cuba. The Court of Appeals even cited in a footnote the role of Luis Posada Carriles and correctly referred to him as a terrorist. The three-judge panel found that "a perfect storm" of prejudice prevented the Cuban Five from having a fair trial in Miami.
The Bush Administration, through its Solicitor General, made a formal appeal to all 12 judges of the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta, and out of apparent deference to the unusual request from the Department of Justice the Court of Appeals nullified the three-judge panel decision and agreed to hear the case en banc.
Attorney Leonard Weinglass who represents Antonio Guerrero said recently: "The Five were not prosecuted because they violated American law, but because their work exposed those who were. By infiltrating the terror network that is allowed to exist in Florida they demonstrated the hypocrisy of America's claimed opposition to terrorism."
As the Five were being prosecuted in Miami, the campaign of terror against Cuba continued. In November 2000, Posada Carriles was arrested in Panama along with three accomplices before they could carry out the plan to blow up an auditorium filled with students at the University of Panamá where Cuban President Fidel Castro was to speak. The four were convicted by a Panamanian Court, but on August 26, 2004, in one of her last acts as President, Mireya Moscoso pardons them in violation of Panamanian law. The three accomplices, all Cuban-Americans, go to Miami to be welcomed home. Posada Carriles who is neither a U.S. citizen nor a lawful permanent resident, goes underground in Honduras and begins to scheme a plan to go to the home of terrorism: Miami.
In March of 2005 he shows up in Miami and applies for asylum. For weeks he lives openly in that city, even going shopping at the mall. Before he is detained by anyone, Venezuela requests his preventive detention for the purpose of extraditing him to Venezuela to stand trial for 73 counts of first degree murder relating to the downing of the passenger plane in 1976.
Rather than exercising an extradition detainer on him, the Department of Homeland Security instead did nothing. It wasn't until Posada called a bizarre press conference in Miami on May 16, 2005 where he openly boasted that the DHS wasn't even looking for him, that government officials felt they had no choice but to detain him. He was detained immediately after the press conference and gingerly escorted in a golf cart with no handcuffs to a waiting helicopter.
Posada was charged with illegal entry into the United States and thus began the legal charade designed to divert attention from the extradition request that remains unattended by the Department of Justice.
As relief from deportation, Posada first claimed he was still a permanent resident of the U.S. In the alternative, he asked for asylum and protection from removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Although it is true that he had been a permanent resident in the 60s, Posada long ago abandoned that status. After all, he has spent the last almost forty years living and killing abroad. Because of his long curriculum of terror, as a matter of law he does not qualify for asylum. That left him only with the possibility CAT relief.
It was then that we witnessed one of the sorriest episodes of legal maneuvering ever by Department of Homeland Security attorneys. Those handling the immigration matter of Posada Carriles at the Immigration Court in El Paso, Texas set the table for Posada to win CAT relief.
Posada called only one witness in his immigration case. A so-called expert on Venezuela who testified that in his expert opinion, Posada would be tortured if returned to Caracas. The witness testified that Venezuela tortures prisoners and that Posada would be surely tortured if sent back. That witness was none other than Joaquín Chaffardet, friend, business partner and lawyer of Luis Posada Carriles in Venezuela. Chaffardet had also been Posada´s boss at the DISIP in the early 1970s, a man that Posada has been close to for the past forty years. The DHS never even cross-examined this guy! Its attorney never even raised the possibility that Chaffardet was not an objective, disinterested witness-but instead was biased in favor of his friend, partner and client. Other than Chaffardet´s questionable testimony, no other evidence in support of the theory that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela was presented.
DHS´s tactic worked. Immigration Judge William Abbott credited Chaffardet´s testimony as credible and found a "clear probability" that Posada would be tortured if returned to Venezuela. Judge Abbott ordered his removal from the United States, but not to Venezuela or Cuba because he would be tortured there. DHS declined to appeal the decision, and began a quest to find a third country that would take him. A few months earlier the DHS had appealed an Immigration Judge´s decision to grant CAT relief to two Venezuelan officers. In that appeal, the same DHS attorney who litigated the Posada case argued that there is no evidence that Venezuela tortures prisoners. Now in the Posada case, DHS took a decidedly different position. Why? You figure it out.
More than six months have passed since the immigration decision. Since it has thus far refused to slap an extradition detainer on him (as Venezuela has requested numerous times), the U.S. government has to either release Posada or declare him a threat to the community. In a letter to Posada dated March 22, 2006, DHS decided to continue to detain him on immigration charges. The letter told Posada that he has a "long history of criminal activity and violence in which innocent civilians were killed." His release from detention concludes ICE in its letter to Posada, "would pose a danger to both the community and the national security of the United States."
In support of its interim decision to continue to detain him, ICE cites Venezuela's pending extradition case against Posada and the fact that Posada fled from a Venezuelan prison while his trial for the downing of a passenger plane in 1976 was pending. "Your past also includes your escape from a Venezuelan prison which was accomplished after several attempts utilizing threats of force, explosives and subterfuge," says ICE in its Decision.
ICE goes on to cite Posada's own statements to link him to the "planning and coordination of a series of hotel and restaurant bombings that occurred in Cuba . . . in 1997." These bombings resulted in the murder of an Italian tourist and the wounding of several others. ICE also cites Posada's conviction in Panama for "crimes against national security," in reference to his attempt to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000 with C- 4 explosives as President Castro was to speak to an auditorium with full of students.
So finally the US government recognizes that Posada is a bad guy! Without actually saying the dreaded word, the letter from ICE virtually calls him a terrorist. The law forced the United States to make this admission. Although it's clear that Washington doesn't want to extradite him to Venezuela, it is not prudent to release him. The only way that he can continue to be detained without an extradition detainer is with a government finding that he is a danger to the community.
But the extradition case is not going to go away. It's there, very much alive. Unless Posada has a heart attack and dies in prison, the law is eventually going to force the US government to proceed with the extradition case. A lot of people think that Judge Abbott´s finding that Posada may not be deported to Venezuela is a ruling on Venezuela's extradition request. That is not the case. Extradition rulings trump immigration decisions...
The story of CU-455 cries out to be told to the American people. If the American people hear the true story of how those 73 people were murdered in cold blood by terrorists whom the United States prefers to shelter rather than prosecute, they'll not stand for it.
Few people in this country know that Orlando Bosch was released from immigration custody by President George Bush Sr. in 1990, and that he now sits on the dais whenever President Bush Jr. delivers speeches in Miami. Bosch´s lawyer, who happens to be Fulgencio Batista´s grandson, was appointed four years ago by Jeb Bush to Florida's Supreme Court.
The fate of the Cuban Five is in the hands of 12 judges, but the judges must be put under the microscope of public opinion. Despite your best efforts, Americans still don´t know who the Five are or why they went to Miami. It's important that you continue to make sure that their story is told: that the U.S. prosecutes and condemns anti-terrorists, yet shelters and protects terrorists.
It's up to the American people to put a stop to impunity, and it's up to you to make sure the American people learn the truth about these cases and this government.
It's up to you to bring the truth to the American people about Cuba and about Venezuela.
The US government conducts a hypocritical war on terror, while it shelters and rewards the terrorists it prefers. Washington lectures other governments about human rights, while it blockades Cuba, using hunger as a foreign policy tool, in order to try and starve 11 million people into submission.
We cannot sit idly by while the U.S. government blockades and invades countries that have never attacked it, tortures prisoners and takes their pictures as if the victims were curiosity pieces rather than human beings, as it spies on Americans without a warrant, and tramples the civil rights of its citizens with a law whose authors dared title "Patriotic."
In 2002, Washington helped organize a failed coup against a democratically elected government in Venezuela in order to prop up a typical puppet government in Caracas. Thanks to the Venezuelan people, the coup failed and President Chávez was restored to office.
The blockade against Cuba didn't work and neither did the coup in Venezuela. Cuba and Venezuela are now stronger than ever.
The Bush Administration's policies at home and abroad have woken a sleeping and silent giant throughout this continent. And, yes: America is one continent and not two as some U.S. textbooks would have us believe.
We are in the midst of a new social movement that is shaking this continent to its core. On the 30th anniversary of Operation Condor's bloodiest year, we are witness that the people Latin America have taken back their countries from the grip of terror. Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile and Bolivia have governments that respond to the needs of their own people, rather than to the interests of US corporations. Other countries in will soon join them. This is an election year in America. The people of Latin America are taking back their governments.
It's high time that the people of the United States did the same.
For nearly half a century, the CIA and Cuban exiles have been trying to devise ways to assassinate Fidel Castro, who is currently laid low in Cuba following an operation for intestinal bleeding. None of the plots, of course, succeeded, but, then, many of them would probably be rejected as too fanciful for a James Bond novel.
Fabian Escalante, who, for a time, had the job of keeping El Commandante alive, has calculated that there have been a total of 638 attempts on Castro's life. That may sound like a staggeringly high figure, but then the CIA were pretty keen on killing him. As Wayne Smith, former head of the US interests section in Havana, pointed out recently, Cuba had the effect on the US that a full moon has on a werewolf. It seems highly likely that if the CIA had had access to a werewolf, it would have tried smuggling it into the Sierra Maestra at some point over the past 40-odd years.
The most spectacular of the plots against Castro will be examined in a Channel 4 documentary entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro, as well as in a companion book of the same name written by the now-retired Escalante - a man who, while in his post as head of the Cuban secret service, played a personal part in heading off a number of the plots. While the exploding cigar that was intended to blow up in Castro's face is perhaps the best-known of the attempts on his life, others have been equally bizarre.
Knowing his fascination for scuba-diving off the coast of Cuba, the CIA at one time invested in a large volume of Caribbean molluscs. The idea was to find a shell big enough to contain a lethal quantity of explosives, which would then be painted in colours lurid and bright enough to attract Castro's attention when he was underwater. Documents released under the Clinton administration confirm that this plan was considered but, like many others, did not make it far from the drawing-board. Another aborted plot related to Castro's underwater activities was for a diving-suit to be prepared for him that would be infected with a fungus that would cause a chronic and debilitating skin disease.
One of the reasons there have been so many attempts on his life is that he has been in power for so long. Attempts to kill Castro began almost immediately after the 1959 revolution, which brought him to power. In 1961, when Cuban exiles with the backing of the US government tried to overthrow him in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the aim was to assassinate Fidel and Raul Castro and Che Guevara. Two years later, on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, an agent who had been given a pen-syringe in Paris was sent to kill Castro, but failed.
On one occasion, a former lover was recruited to kill him, according to Peter Moore, producer of the new film. The woman was given poison pills by the CIA, and she hid them in her cold cream jar. But the pills melted and she decided that, all things considered, putting cold cream in Castro's mouth while he slept was a bad idea. According to this woman, Castro had already guessed that she was aiming to kill him and he duly offered her his own pistol. "I can't do it, Fidel," she told him.
No one apparently could. This former lover is far from the only person to have failed to poison Castro: at one point the CIA prepared bacterial poisons to be placed in Castro's hand-kerchief or in his tea and coffee, but nothing came of it. A CIA poison pill had to be abandoned when it failed to disintegrate in water during tests.
The most recent serious assassination attempt that we know of came in 2000 when Castro was due to visit Panama. A plot was hatched to put 200lb (90kg) of high explosives under the podium where he was due to speak. That time, Castro's personal security team carried out their own checks on the scene, and helped to abort the plot. Four men, including Luis Posada, a veteran Cuban exile and former CIA operative, were jailed as a result, but they were later given a pardon and released from jail.
As it happens, Posada is the most dedicated of those who have tried and failed to get rid of the Cuban president. He is currently in jail in El Paso, Texas, in connection with extradition attempts by Venezuela and Cuba to get him to stand trial for allegedly blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976. His case is due to come back before the courts later this month but few imagine that he will be sent to stand trial, and he appears confident that he will be allowed to resume his retirement in Florida, a place where many of the unsuccessful would-be assassins have made their homes.
Not all the attempts on Castro's life have been fancifully complicated: many have been far simpler and owe more to the methods of the mafia who used to hang out in the casinos and hotels of Havana in the 40s and 50s, than they do to James Bond. At one time the CIA even approached underworld figures to try to carry out the killing. One of Castro's old classmates planned to shoot him dead in the street in broad daylight much in the manner of a mafia hit. One would-be sniper at the University of Havana was caught by security men. But the shooters were no more successful than the poisoners and bombers.
Officially, the US has abandoned its attempt to kill its arch-enemy, but Cuban security are not taking any chances. Any gifts sent to the ailing leader as he lies ill this week will be carefully scrutinised, just as they were when those famous exploding cigars were being constructed by the CIA's technical services department in the early 60s. (They never got to him, by the way, those cigars contaminated with botulinum toxin, but they are understood to have been made using his favourite brand. Castro gave up smoking in 1985.)
All these plots inevitably changed the way Castro lived his life. While in his early years in office, he often walked alone in the street, but that practice had to change. Since then doubles have been used, and over the decades Castro has moved between around 20 different addresses in Cuba to make it harder for any potential hitmen to reach him.
Meanwhile, jokes about Castro's apparent indestructibility have become commonplace in Cuba. One, recounted in the New Yorker this week, tells of him being given a present of a Galapagos turtle. Castro declines it after he learns that it is likely to live only 100 years. "That's the problem with pets," he says. "You get attached to them and then they die on you".
Cuba has denounced as a "farce" the acquittal in the United States of Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent who is accused of terrorist attacks against the island.
The foreign ministry said Friday's verdict, which found the 83-year-old not guilty on all 11 counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and immigration fraud, showed the US continued to protect a known terrorist.
"This is an additional demonstration of the support and shelter the American authorities have historically given him," it said in a statement over the weekend.
A jury in El Paso, Texas cleared Posada Carriles after deliberating for just three hours, an unexpectedly swift climax to a closely watched 13-week trial which cast fresh light on the octogenarian's lengthy career as an anti-communist agent. The defendant, a hero to militant anti-Castro exiles, hugged his lawyers and told reporters he was grateful to the US, the court and the jury for what he said was a fair trial.
"What happened here should serve as an example for justice in my country, Cuba, which is unfortunately in the hands of a dictator."
Posada Carriles, who as a student came into contact with a young Fidel Castro, opposed the revolutionary government which seized power in 1959 and three years later joined a CIA-backed invasion by Cuban exiles.
The attack flopped but he escaped, was trained in sabotage by US handlers and spent the next decades plotting to kill Castro and other leftwing targets in the region.
He moved to Venezuela where he was accused of masterminding the 1976 suitcase bombing of a Cubana Airlines jet that killed 73 people, including the national fencing team. Months earlier his links with the CIA were severed, according to declassified US documents.
Posada Carriles escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985, where he spent eight years awaiting trial for the atrocity, which he denied, and resumed plotting against Castro. In an interview with the New York Times he took responsibility for 1997 bomb attacks against Cuba's tourist industry, which killed an Italian tourist in a Havana hotel, but later recanted the confession.
He was arrested in possession of explosives in Panama in 2000 and charged with plotting to assassinate Castro at a regional summit. He served four years in jail before being pardoned by Panama's outgoing president, Mireya Moscoso, prompting accusations of political cronyism between Panama, Cuban exiles in Miami and the Bush administration.
In 2005 Posada Carriles surfaced in Miami. The US refused Cuban and Venezuelan extradition requests, claiming he would not receive a fair trial in either country. Caracas and Havana accused the US of hypocrisy in allowing the region's most notorious terrorist to live freely and openly while amid the post 9/11 "war on terror".
Soon afterwards US authorities charged Posada Carriles with the relatively minor offences of lying to immigration officials about how he entered the US and his role in the Havana bombings. More than 20 prosecution witnesses testified in the court.
Jurors heard him speaking English in recordings by Ann Bardach, the New York Times journalist to whom he spoke about the bombings, despite later claiming he did not speak the language.
Observers expected convictions on at least some of the charges but the jury stunned prosecutors with a swift, unanimous and complete acquittal.
"We're obviously disappointed by the decision," said a justice department spokesman, Dean Boyd.
The head of Cuba's parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, accused the judge, Kathleen Cardone, of not allowing jurors to see crucial evidence.
"The stupid and shameful farce is over," he told AP. "There were things the jury did not know."
Venezuela's government denounced the trial and verdict as "theatre" and said Washington continued to shelter a mass murderer.
"The US government's protection of Posada Carriles has become an emblematic case of the US double standard in the international fight against terrorism," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Posada Carriles's lawyer said he planned to return to his home and family in Miami. Leaders of Miami's Cuban exile community said he should be left to live in peace and that it was time to look ahead, not backwards.