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Date: Mon, 20 Jul 98 20:25:12 CDT
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>
Subject: Posada: "I'll kill Castro if it's the last thing I do"
Article: 39460
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Message-ID: <bulk.22885.19980722061755@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Posada: "I'll kill Castro if it's the last thing I do"

By Edward Helmore in Miami, London Observer,
Sunday 19 July 1998

They tried bombs, they tried poison, they even tried exploding cigars. For more than 30 years, Cuba's President Fidel Castro has been a nagging thorn in America's side, a Communist leader who has outwitted successive US administrations and the efforts of the powerful Cuban exile community to topple him.

But, according to an elderly Cuban dissident in hiding in South America, US-backed attempts to overthrow Castro have never ceased, despite Washington's protestations to the contrary.

Luis Posada Carriles, 70, a legend among militant Cuban exiles, still aims to kill Castro. His greatest dread is that his Communist adversary might survive him. If his story is true, it is an indictment of both the Cuban American National Foundation, the lobbying group that has steered America's stated policy to end Cuba's Communist rule by peaceful means, and of the US government, whose active support of efforts to overthrow Castro were thought to have ended in the early Sixties after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion and five subsequent CIA-sponsored attempts on Castro's life.

It appears that the passionately anti-Communist civic leaders of Cuban America have been pursuing a clandestine foreign policy which has been overlooked by Washington either wilfully in the interests of political expediency or due to incompetence.

Posada, from his hideaway thought to be in El Salvador, has led a shadowy life of armed subversion working for the CIA and the FBI - as well as for Venezuelan, Salvadorean and Guatemalan intelligence - "to fight against the Communists, the people who helped Cuba".

He is a veteran of the Bay of Pigs, the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, Oliver North's Iran-Contra operation, numerous assassination attempts on Castro and a concerted campaign to destabilise the country.

In a series of interviews with the New York Times, he claimed responsibility for a series of bombings at hotels and nightclubs in Cuba last summer in which an Italian tourist died and scores more were injured. He said his activities were directly supported by Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of the Cuban-American National Foundation, who died last year. Mas Canosa, a powerful force in Florida and US national politics by virtue of prodigious donations to parties, maintained personal friendships with presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

Mas Canosa and the foundation, says Posada, donated more than $200,000 ( 126,000) to his subversive campaign. "Jorge controlled everything. Whenever I needed money, he said to give me $5,000, give me $10,000, give me $15,000 - and they sent it to me."

Posada intimated that the foundation's public policy of non-violent opposition to Castro was a fiction. When asked if he acted in much the same way as the IRA does for Sinn Fein, he said, laughing: "It looks like that."

Reports have linked Posada to last summer's bombings. He says US authorities knew of the plot, but made no effort to question him, a convenience he attributes to his longstanding relationship with the intelligence services. "The FBI and the CIA don't bother me, and I am neutral with them," he said. "Whenever I can help them, I do."

The CIA denies any relationship with Posada "in decades". An FBI official said the agency "does not now have, nor have we ever had, a longstanding relationship with Posada". But declassified files support Posada's assertion that both agencies had detailed knowledge of his operations against Cuba from the early Sixties to mid-Seventies.

Moreover, Antonio Alvarez, a Cuban-American businessman in Guatemala, says he tipped off Venezuelan security forces and the FBI about a plan to assassinate Castro at a conference of Latin heads of state in Venezuela last year. He told them that two of his partners and a man fitting Posada's description had acquired Mexican military explosives and detonators. The Venezuelans expelled anti-Castro demonstrators.

Shortly before the meeting, the captain of a boat boarded by the US Coast Guard off Puerto Rico said he was on a mission to kill Castro. US agents found the boat was registered to an executive of the Cuban-American National Foundation, and one of the guns on board was registered to its current chairman, Abel Hernandez.

But the FBI in Miami showed no interest in Alvarez's information. They told him his life was in danger and that he should leave Guatemala. Posada says the agent who called Alvarez was 'a very good friend', a claim the agency denies. "I think they are all in cahoots - Posada and the FBI," Alvarez said. "I risked my life and my business and they did nothing."

The Cuban government regards Posada as a terrorist and a "monstrous criminal" and has often called on the US to rein in his activities. In Guatemala in 1990, Posada was hit by a dozen bullets, fired, he says, by Cuban hitmen. The shots shattered his jaw and tore through his tongue, requiring reconstructive surgery which was paid for by Hernandez.

Yet The New York Times' claim that Mas Canosa and other foundation leaders funded Posada's terrorist acts has brought threats of legal action from the organisation. The paper has stood by its story, saying its account was based on more than 100 different sources in North and Latin America and FBI files on Posada and Mas Canosa.

"The article is full of lies and we consider it to be false and defamatory information," Ninoska Perez Castellon, director at the foundation's headquarters in Miami said yesterday. "Posada is not a credible source, he has contradicted himself on many occasions and he is a fugitive from justice."

Posada did indeed contradict himself almost immediately, telling a Spanish-language television reporter that the Times report was "completely false" and that neither Mas Canosa nor the foundation leaders had ever sent money. "I am an independent man. I don't represent the armed wing of any organisation," he said.

But such is the murky world of Cuban-American affairs that when the foundation produced the tape of the interview on the same day it was conducted it aroused suspicions of a relationship between the foundation and Posada, or between the foundation and the Miami television reporter. Moreover, a spokesman for the station initially confirmed that a foundation member was present at the interview.

Castellon said: "Where is the proof? [Posada] could be financed by friends or the Cuban government because it suits their purpose to blame the Cuban exile community. He could even have been paid by The New York Times which has a marked agenda on Cuba."

Copyright Guardian Media Group plc.1998