Who are these terrorists on trial in Panama?

Campaign News | Wednesday, 17 March 2004

By Jane Franklin, author of Cuba and the US: A Chronological History

When I wrote CUBA AND THE UNITED STATES: A CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY, I could not possibly follow the terrorist careers of every one of the hundreds of Cuban-American terrorists unleashed against Cuba from the United States; so I chose several whose terrorism I pursued.

Among those are three of the four terrorists now on trial in Panama: Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Remon, and Guillermo Novo. To give a sense of the kind of terrorists involved here, I'll offer a few examples of their activities. Posada's murderous campaign alone could fill a book.

It is important to remember that Posada told New York Times reporters (see July 12-13, 1998, front-page articles) that leaders of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) "discreetly financed his operations." He said that CANF chairman Jorge Mas Canosa (who died in 1997) "personally supervised the flow of money and logistical support."

After the defeat at the Bay of Pigs, Posada trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, along with Felix Rodriguez and Jorge Mas Canosa. In 1976 (when the first George Bush headed the CIA), Posada joined CORU, an umbrella group founded that year by Orlando Bosch and aimed at terrorist actions against Cuba and against countries and individuals considered friendly to Cuba.

Along with Bosch, Posada has been charged with masterminding the plot that blew up a Cubana Airlines passenger jet,killing all 73 people aboard on October 6, 1976. After escaping from the Venezuelan prison where he was held for years, he went to El Salvador to work with Felix Rodriguez in covert operations against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. (Rodriguez reported directly to Oliver North in the Reagan White House.)

Posada boasted to the Times reporters that he masterminded the 1997 bombing campaign in Havana that led to the death of an Italian (whose father is attending the trial in Panama City along with other relatives of these terrorists' victims). Posada has reportedly been involved with several plots to assassinate President Fidel Castro.

Pedro Remon was a member of OMEGA 7, one of the most murderous Cuban-American groups based in the United States. He was the triggerman in the murders of both Eulalio Jose Negrin, a Cuban-American who was active in a promoting better relations with Cuba and therefore was gunned down in front of his nine-year-old son in New Jersey in 1979, and Felix Garcia Rodriguez, a UN diplomat shot through his car window as he waited at a red light in Queens in 1980.

His other terrorism includes an attempt to kill Cuban UN Ambassador Raul Roa Kouri in 1980 and setting off a bomb at Cuba's UN Mission. He served a few years in prison.

Guillermo Novo was also a member of OMEGA 7. Early in his terrorist career, he was part of the team that fired a bazooka at the United Nations while Che Guevara was speaking to the General Assembly. He was also involved with the 1976 assassinations of Orlando Letelier, who had been part of Salvador Allende's administration in Chile, and Ronni Moffitt, an aide, in Washington, DC. Novo served a short time in prison and then was rewarded with a position in CANF's Information Commission.

Gaspar Jimenez, the fourth terrorist now being tried, murdered a Cuban official in Mexico and served six years. He was indicted for the 1976 car bombing that blew off the legs of Cuban-American Emilio Milian, who had dared to criticize terrorism by rightwing Cubans in Florida, but the charges were dropped. Posada told the Times reporters that Jimenez was one of the Cubans who delivered cash from CANF supporters to Posada.

These four terrorists were arrested in November 2000 because Cubans had gathered evidence of their plan to assassinate President Castro as he spoke in an auditorium where hundreds of people would have been blown up with the Cuban leader. Cuba presented the evidence to Panamanian authorities. Without that evidence, there would have been horrible deaths and casualties.

For almost three-and-a-half years Posada's supporters have tried to have the charges dropped. As it is, the charges have been softened: possession of explosives (C-4 plastic and others); illegal association in order to commit a crime; falsification of documents (passports, etc.); danger to public safety.

There are two major considerations for us here. First, since U.S. authorities do nothing to stop this kind of terrorism, Cuba must have agents who are able to discover these plots wherever they are being hatched; the Cuban Five, now imprisoned in far-flung cells of the U.S. prison system, were trying to protect Cubans and other people from rampant terrorism. Secondly, Cuba has been under siege since 1959 and cannot afford the luxury of a Fifth Column financed and encouraged by the very forces that are imposing the State of Siege.

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