ABC News: Cuba wants terrorist arrested

Campaign News | Monday, 16 May 2005

This report was posted on the ABC news website on May 16

HAVANA May 16: Night after night, Fidel Castro has been on television demanding the United States arrest a Cuban exile sought in an airliner bombing that killed 73 people three decades ago.

He takes his campaign to the streets on Tuesday for a protest march expected to be the biggest since the Elian Gonzalez case roused the nation.

Speaking for up to four hours at a time, Castro thunders with indignation and laughs at the absurd as he reads the news before a live audience of Communist officials occasionally pausing to flip through a scattering of papers in front of him hunting for a quotation.

The result is remarkably like a televised version of an Internet blog references to outside news sources tightly wrapped in personal commentary.

Increasingly the focus is on his longtime foe Luis Posada Carriles, who is sought in Venezuela on charges of helping bomb a Cuban airliner in 1976.

Posada, a Cuban exile who was once a senior officer of the Venezuelan intelligence service, denies involvement in the bombing.

Cuban officials and newly released U.S. archives also link Posada to other violent actions, some of them military, some aimed at civilians. The declassified U.S. documents indicate he was on the CIA's payroll until a few months before the 1976 bombing.

Castro's recent live TV appearances form the Cuban president's most intensive media campaign since the successful battle for the return of shipwreck victim Elian Gonzalez in 2000.

The campaign peaks on Tuesday with a massive march to demand the United States arrest the Cuban exile. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate in the morning march outside the U.S. Interests Section, the American mission here.

State media reported Monday that Castro would once again address the nation in a live broadcast.

Sometimes angry, sometimes laughing in ridicule, Castro in his nighttime talks has dismissed U.S. government claims that Posada cannot be found and might not be in the United States at all even as the fugitive's attorney and friends have confirmed his presence

And he has demanded that President Bush whom he sometimes calls "the little fuhrer" live up to his promise to fight terrorism wherever it occurs.

Castro repeatedly links the case to hundreds of other attacks meant to undermine his government notably focusing on a longtime associate of Posada, Orlando Bosch, who was pardoned by the first President Bush despite American intelligence reports branding him a terrorist.

"What a grotesque type, to pardon him," Castro said Thursday, accusing the United States of organizing or backing virtually all the attempts to topple his government since it took power in 1959

$1m bounty on Black Panther targets Cuba

Washington May 12: New Jersey’s attorney general and its police superintendent announced May 2 that a bounty of $1 million had been posted for the return to New Jersey from Cuba of former Black Panther Party leader Assata Shakur. They also said Shakur, 57, had been placed on the FBI list of “domestic terrorists.”

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reportedly authorized the million-dollar bounty on April 28, upping a reward of $150,000 set in 1998.

Thirty-two years ago, on May 2, 1973, New Jersey police officer James Harper stopped the car in which Assata Shakur and two others were riding on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a faulty taillight. At the time, Shakur, who then went by the name of JoAnne Chesimard, was well known to police authorities as a high-profile Black liberation activist, and was on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

The Black Panther Party was a militant advocate of the rights of African Americans, espoused a 10-point program for equality and justice, and sponsored a free breakfast program for children. J. Edgar Hoover regarded the Panthers as the “greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and the FBI targeted it for destruction. By 1973, the authorities had already killed several of its leaders.

After police stopped Shakur’s car, a melee of gunfire followed. One of the men in the car and another policeman were killed. Shakur, seriously injured, was arrested. The third occupant of the car is now serving a life sentence in jail. A New Jersey Court convicted Shakur of murder in 1977. She escaped from prison in 1979, lived as a fugitive in the U.S. for five years, and was given asylum in Cuba in 1984.

News reports about the million-dollar bounty have ignored defense arguments introduced at her trial. Shakur contended that police bullets had already wounded her so severely that she could not have shot the trooper. She had been tried and acquitted six times on other alleged offenses before her 1977 conviction.

Whether the increased bounty originated in Washington or New Jersey is unclear. The U.S. government has long used the case of Assata Shakur to demonstrate the supposed “terrorist inclinations” of Cuba, despite Cuba’s outspoken denunciations of terrorism and its frequent offers to join other nations to stop it.

Menacing overtones accompanied the announcement May 2. Shakur “is now 120 pounds of money,” the state police superintendent said. New Jersey authorities explained that upping the reward would make “Chesimard a much more attractive quarry for professional bounty hunters.” A Woodbridge, N.J., “businessman” was unrestrained in his zeal: “I’m going to jump on it,” said Louis Faccone, boasting that once he knew the whereabouts of Shakur in Cuba, “a two-man team” would be setting out from the Florida Keys.

Why publicize a new bounty now, more than two decades after Shakur’s escape? Observers speculate that the U.S. government wants to deflect criticism of its silence about the recent arrival in Florida of the anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who has applied for asylum. Washington, by seizing on the “case” of Shakur, can perhaps plead it shares anti-terrorist failings with Cuba.

But Canadian author Isaac Saney believes more is involved. In a May 3 letter on the Internet, he writes, “We should view this in the context of Washington’s objective of manufacturing a pretext to launch a military aggression of some sort against the island. Critical to this aim is the demonization of the island. What is of note is that the FBI has taken the step of adding Assata’s name to its list of domestic terrorists.

“Faced with very potent challenges to its hegemony in Latin America in the form of new social movements,” he continues, “and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela (particularly Chavez’s open embracing of socialism), U.S. imperialism is confronted with a very serious crisis. Moreover, the U.S. ruling class understands that the Cuban Revolution has been both the symbolic and concrete anchor for the development of this new wave of Latin American struggle.”

| top | back | home |
Share on FacebookTweet this