The United States: Hawk or Dove?
By Nicanor Leon Cotayo, Granma, [18 February 1997]
Cuba has suffered innumerable terrorist attacks over the last 37 years, ever since the first such attempt, originating in Florida, was foiled on February 2, 1959. The onslaught has not let up once, with the raids almost always being based in U.S. territory.
These assaults have occasioned much loss of life and considerable material damage on the island, and have had the singular characteristic that many of their perpetrators described their misdeeds in well-attended press conferences or personal interviews with journalists, especially in Miami.
Meanwhile, despite the notoriety of these terrorist groups which have organized actions against Cuba from U.S. soil, and the fact that they have boasted about training in and around Miami, in general they have not been arrested, tried or sentenced for their crimes.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there are over 300 fascist or neo-fascist groups in almost every corner of the United States, particularly in areas such as Florida. With well-armed militias, conveniently located arsenals and a growing propaganda industry, the terrorist factions of Cuban origin are growing daily.
An example of the atmosphere reigning over there could be when a Florida television station recently put its cameras and microphones at the disposition of two terrorists of Cuban origin, one of them a fugitive from Venezuelan justice and the other a known transgressor of U.S. justice, so that they could calmly express their opinions on the most repugnant sabotage they carried out against Cuba.
This station was Channel 23, which broadcast on its program "Telenoticias" on November 19 and 20 a series called "Los Caminos del Guerrero" (The Paths of the Warrior), which while lavishing praise on them - interviewed the notorious international gangsters Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch Avila, the authors of the midair sabotage of a Cuban civilian plane near the Caribbean island of Barbados on October 6, 1976, in which 73 persons perished. The interviews were carried out in an unidentified spot in Miami. During the televised interview, Posada Carriles admitted that it was a "big mistake," from a human point of view, to have carried out that sabotage, given the large number of victims it caused, but at the same time, without offering other arguments, he assigned the Cuban government with political responsibility for the bombing. For his part, Bosch tried to justify the deaths with the argument that some of those killed were intelligence agents from the respective Ministries of the Interior in Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He made that statement because among those killed were five North Korean citizens and 11 Guyanese.
One of the ideas Posada Carriles emphasized most during the interview, in obvious contradiction with his previous apparent recognition of the savage crime he committed, was his intention to continue terrorist activities against the island. The moderators of the program repeated this statement at the end of the show, and stressed the possibility that this praiseworthy figure may come out of hiding.
I think that the most important part of this incident is what it means, in the first place, for those people in the world with the intention of objectively judging Cuba's positions, of understanding the circumstances in which the Revolution has gone forward and the reasons why it acts as it does internally and internationally.
Not only has Cuba had to withstand, for more than a third of the 20th century, a very harsh economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by Washington, but simultaneously, among other things, it has been faced with a unrelenting terrorist crusade based in its neighbor's territory.
Furthermore, as if that weren't enough, it has been confronted with campaigns orchestrated abroad, many times in the name of human rights, on behalf of those who have been tried and sentenced here for committing brutal crimes or endangering the lives of the population.
I still recall the singular case of the sabotage committed in the Le Van Tam day-care center in Havana, in May 1980, in which the heroic action of firefighters and the people prevented death by incineration of large numbers of the 570 children under the age of five who were being taken care of there.
But I think that Florida's Channel 23, with the programs I have described here, has brought to mind an even more frightening example which is emblematic of them all: the day just over 20 years ago when enemies of the Revolution blew to bits, in midair, a Cuban civilian airplane, massacring 73 human beings. On that occasion the whole world knew who the two main perpetrators of that crime were.
Those murderers are at large. One of them is even the head of a political party in Miami, and as we can see, they are invited to appear on U.S. television and treated with the same respect as top White House officials who call terrorism one of the greatest challenges facing the United States.
How has it been possible to arrive at this situation?
The long-standing and public ties between these individuals and the CIA, as well as their close links with Miami's ultraright wing of Cuban origin, in particular the Cuban American National Foundation and its leader, Jorge Mas Canosa, have played a key role in the protection and prosperity of these underworld figures.
How can the leaders of the United States speak of their hatred of terrorism, when Orlando Bosch Avila, who has been described by U.S. police as the number one terrorist in the Miami area, freely roams the streets of that city?
How can White House and congressional spokespersons make strong statements against terrorism, when a U.S. television channel, for two days straight, serves as a platform for threats against a neighboring nation, made by a fugitive from justice, in open violation of the Neutrality Law, which at least in theory prohibits such infringements?
AMALGAM OF CONSPIRATORS
Just over five years ago, a Miami Herald interview with Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles provided a remarkably precise characterization of this individual.
Published in a supplement on November 10, 1991 and signed by Christopher Marquis, the article's introduction presents Posada Carriles as a well- known anti-Castro saboteur, a master of disguise trained by the CIA, and an assassin.
I don't think that either Marquis or the newspaper's editors had to make much of an effort to arrive at these conclusions, given that the interviewee's background had been amply publicized in the United States, Venezuela, and elsewhere on the continent.
I was struck by the fact that the Herald had opened up its pages to this terrorist, thus offering him the opportunity to defend his profession. This example was followed last November by Florida television's Channel 23, which put him on the air. Then I understood. It was simply a matter of good ol' U.S. freedom of expression.
According to the Herald, Posada Carriles began to conspire against Castro six months after the triumph of the Revolution in January 1959. He began rather humbly, setting off homemade bombs with the aim of creating chaos on the island; as a consequence, the young terrorist was eventually imprisoned.
The newspaper adds that after leaving Havana, Posada Carriles settled in Miami. It was there, during the first years of the 1960s, that the CIA established its largest installation in the world outside of the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in order to facilitate any sort of attack against revolutionary Cuba.
According to this version, the CIA approached Posada and put him on its payroll, with an initial salary of 300 dollars a month. This was a time when certain tactical differences emerged between the intelligence agency and its Cuban- born agents, given that the blunders made by the latter included the sinking of a Spanish ship off the Cuban coast, an incident that caused the death of three Spanish citizens and left 17 others wounded.
Shortly before the mercenary invasion of the Bay of Pigs, in April 1961, the Herald continues, the Agency sent Posada to Guatemala with a battalion they never deployed.
The October 24, 1976 edition of The New York Times reported that, in addition to the activities described above, Posada formed part of the terrorist groups, instruments of the CIA, which began to launch continent-wide attacks against installations in Cuba and in countries sharing friendly relations with Cuba.
He later moved from the United States to Venezuela, where he quickly became a powerful figure in the Office of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP), thanks to his intimate friendship with the head of this organization at the time, Remberto Uzcategui Bruzual.
In Caracas, together with another renowned terrorist of Cuban origin, Orlando Bosch Avila, it would later be demonstrated that he planned the blowing up of a passenger plane from Havana. With 73 passengers on board, the plane was scheduled to follow a route which, among other destinations, would take it to Barbados and from there to Jamaica, before making the return trip home to Cuba.
Bosch, according to the appraisals of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), is one of the most notable terrorists to have ever operated in the Americas, with the additional merit of having eluded the U.S. justice system on various occasions, particularly in 1990, when authorities attempted to expel him from U.S. territory.
According to the October 1976 issue of the U.S. magazine New Times, Bosch was recruited by the CIA in 1960; afterwards, the men he commanded took credit for having carried out 11 dynamite attacks on Cuban soil, while Bosch was arrested and released on six occasions for violating U.S. laws.
In the same issue of The New York Times referred to earlier, from October 24, 1976, it was revealed that the wave of sabotage that had swept through seven of the continent's countries from 1974 onwards was linked to groups trained by the CIA, and one of the major perpetrators was Bosch.
In 1970, Bosch led an attack on a Polish merchant marine ship anchored in the port of Miami, a crime for which he was sentenced to ten years in prison by an Atlanta court, although he was released on parole after serving only four.
Back on the streets again, Bosch was accused by the FBI of having shot and killed Jose Elias de la Torriente, in the context of an intensification of conflicts among the Cuban- American ultraright-wing factions based in Florida.
Summoned to appear in court regarding this new crime, committed while he was on parole, he fled to Chile with the help of the Pinochet regime, and from that moment forward became a fugitive from U.S. justice.
In late November 1976, U.S. News and World Report revealed that in June of that year, Bosch had attended a meeting with other Cuban-born terrorists in the Dominican Republic, with the aim of creating a new extreme right-wing organization.
The weekly added that, from that time onwards, a new wave of violence swept throughout the Caribbean and beyond; the most severe terrorist act occurred on October 6, when a Cubana Airlines DC-8 exploded in mid-flight, causing the death of 73 people.
Given the irrefutable proof pointing to them as the "brains" behind this horrific crime - which involved the direct participation of a Venezuelan mercenary, as well as one of Posada's men, Hernan Ricardo Losano - both Bosch and Posada were arrested by the Caracas police.
Next came a scandalous trial, which included death threats and blackmail against Delia Estava Moreno, the judge who issued the arrest warrant for the four accused perpetrators and accomplices. The intimidation was so strong that Estava Moreno was forced to drop the case.
Another of the many examples that could be cited is the hounding of the presiding judge of the military court, Retired General Elio Garcia Barrios, whose son and chauffeur were killed in 1983 during a Mafia-style hit intended to even the score for his upright conduct during the trial initiated in 1976 for the Barbados massacre.
How have events unfolded since that time?
On August 18, 1985, CIA agents (who later confessed to it) and the so-called Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), based in Miami, set up an operation which succeeded in getting Posada Carriles out of jail, under the pretense of an "escape."
Meanwhile, in mid 1987, despite the evidence of Bosch's participation in the Barbados sabotage, Venezuelan Judge Alberto Perez Marcano and a court presided by German Requena Herradas declared him innocent of involvement in the crime.
Bosch arrived in Miami in February 1988 and was promptly arrested and sent to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, given that he was a fugitive from U.S. justice for the reasons stated earlier. Nevertheless, on Tuesday, July 17, 1990, he was set free once again.
Three days later, a New York Times editorial pointed out that while the United States had sent the air force to bomb Libya and the army to invade Panama in the name of combating terrorism, the Bush administration was now pampering one of the most notorious terrorists in the hemisphere.
The Times editorial further noted that the Justice Secretary had not set Bosch free for legal reasons, but rather due to visible political pressure, thus tarnishing U.S. credibility with regard to the fight against terrorism.
One of Bosch's most ardent defenders during that period was Cuban-born Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, whose demands for his release formed part of her political platform as a candidate for a seat in the House of Representatives.
In addition, the Cuban American National Foundation, and particularly its leader, Jorge Mas Canosa, mobilized their connections in the official spheres at that time and managed to get Bosch released from jail and prevent his threatened deportation.
Previously, as I mentioned above, Mas Canosa and the CANF had helped the CIA to retrieve one of its agents since the early `60s, Luis Posada Carriles, who gained his freedom through a prison "escape" that couldn't even fool the kindergarten children of Caracas.
Both of these terrorists, each in their own way, have reiterated their continued commitment to this form of action, both in articles published in Miami newspapers and in interviews on Florida television, as well as in books they have written to brazenly recount their subversive activities against Cuba and against sectors of the progressive movement throughout the continent.
In the past five years, as was the case earlier, terrorist commandos have continued to set out from the United States to enter Cuba clandestinely, although they have later been neutralized in one way or another. In addition, large arsenals of weapons have been discovered in the possession of would-be terrorists of Cuban origin in places like Los Angeles, California.
The guilty parties, of course, have not been sentenced. In the meantime, armed men have been arrested off the coast of Florida on boats headed for Cuba; these individuals have also been promptly released.
A particularly prominent place of honor in this inventory of activities is occupied by the faction known as Brothers to the Rescue, which shares close links to the CANF. This particular group has violated Cuban airspace on numerous occasions, including flying over Havana, and has frequently used these flights to drop subversive propaganda leaflets over Cuban territory. The terrorist network against Cuba has its principal headquarters in Miami, where it even receives assistance from the U.S. Congress.
To offer an example, when members of a subversive commando were taken prisoner upon reaching Cuban soil on December 29, 1991, they were ardently defended - as Bosch had been - by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtin