The Guardian: Will America bail out Castro's most committed would-be assassin?

Campaign News | Monday, 13 June 2005

Cuban ex-CIA operative appears in court today faced with extradition over bombing which killed 73

Jamie Wilson in Miami, and Duncan Campbell

Monday June 13, 2005

The Guardian

The elderly man in the dark green tinted glasses looked intently into his cup, took a small sip of the treacle-like coffee, glanced around the room and then began to whisper in his rich Latino accent: "Luis Posada Carriles. He is a very good guy. Super guy. He is a good friend. The CIA and the government, maybe they will do the right thing and help him out."

With that he raised his hand and declared: "I have said too much already," before turning his ample frame away to contemplate the dregs of coffee in his cup.

It truly is a rum day for Luis Posada when even in the Versailles restaurant on Calle Ocho Street, the beating heart of the Cuban exile community in downtown Miami, the men he would once have counted as his friends - and in some cases brothers in arms - are reluctant to declare their support out loud.

The 77-year-old former CIA operative and one-time leader of the armed struggle against Fidel Castro, who was arrested in the city last month on charges that he had illegally entered the country, is due to appear in court in Texas today in a bid to remain in the United States and avoid trial in Venezuela on charges that he orchestrated the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.

There was a time when the arrest of such a high profile figure from the exile community - even one accused of killing 73 people, including a young Cuban athletics team - would have led to mass demonstrations on the streets of Little Havana.

But since he was picked up by immigration officials following a bizarre cloak-and-dagger press conference in a warehouse near Miami, there has been a strange public silence from those who would have been expected to come out in his defence.

Some say his supporters are merely biding their time, waiting to see if the CIA, an organisation with which Mr Posada has been intimately associated for decades, really does come through and bail out the man it trained in terrorism techniques. But others argue that the muted reaction signals a changing of guard within the exile community and an acceptance that the armed struggle Mr Posada and his ilk mounted against Castro has finally had its day.

Little Havana is only a short drive across the Macarthur Causeway from the ice cream colours and art deco splendour of Miami's South Beach, but it might as well be a million miles away. On Calle Ocho car repair shops compete for space with discount furniture stores and pawnbrokers. Above a launderette in one of the area's small shopping centres sit the offices of the Movimiento Democracia.

The group's leader, Ramón Saul Sánchez, 50, has been fighting Castro since he was 15. As a young man he joined Alpha 66, a paramilitary group that trained in the Florida Everglades for the dreamed of day when exiles would mount an armed invasion of their homeland.

In the 1980s he spent four and a half years in prison for refusing to testify to a grand jury over an alleged plot to assassinate Castro during one of his visits to the UN in New York.

It was while in jail that Mr Sánchez underwent a conversion of Damascene proportions when he "fell in love with non-violence".

His former paramilitary colleagues were shocked and angry at first, but now he says most of them have joined him in supporting democracy groups in Cuba, consigning to the history books the era of men like Mr Posada.

"The community realise the violent approach, the terrorism, belongs to past times," he said. "People realise these are times in which we must all help to get rid of these terrorism acts that are sometimes inspired by noble causes but have terrible consequences."

Jose Basulto, leader of Brothers to the Rescue, an organisation that has mounted daring airlifts from Cuba, said exiles were wary of playing into Castro's hands by mounting large scale demonstrations for Mr Posada. "The community has matured," he said.

The Cuban American National Foundation, once a keen supporter of armed intervention on the island, has also moderated its stance in the last decade. "Posada is not about freeing Cuba, he is about killing Castro," said Omar Lopez Montenegro, a former Cuban dissident who is now an executive director of the group. "Most of the younger generation of Cuban exiles believe the change should be made by Cubans, not outside forces, but most of all that it should be peaceful."

Mr Posada's alleged involvement in an airline bombing has also muted support in the US. Since September 11, any crime involving aircraft and explosions results in a collective shudder across America, and the Cuban exile's hearing comes as newly released intelligence documents indicate his complicity in the 1976 attack.

Last week the National Security Archive in Washington posted declassified intelligence documents from 1976 which indicated that Mr Posada had spoken about plans to "hit" a Cuban airliner only days before the Cubana flight 455 exploded.

Peter Kornbluh of the NSA described the new documents as a "treasure trove ... on major acts of terrorism committed by violent anti-Castro groups."

"Leaders are reticent to embrace or condone anyone who has committed alleged terrorist acts," Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, told the Miami Herald.

"We also learned from Elian," Mr Fernandez said, referring to Elian Gonzalez, the young boy whose forced deportation back to Cuba sparked the last big demonstrations by the exile community. "That left a bitter taste. We are more in tune to national and public opinion. We are more reserved in making a judgment on a case that's much more dicey."

But while Mr Posada's detention might not be making the waves it once would in Little Havana, it has caused a stormy diplomatic row across central America. Venezuela is seeking his extradition to stand trial. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, has threatened to sever diplomatic ties with the US if he is not handed over after the US state department indicated that the initial Venezuelan extradition application was "incomplete."

Cuba is also demanding that the US authorities hand him over in connection with hotel bombings in Havana in 1997 in which an Italian tourist died.

A number of American politicians and lawyers are insistent that he should be handed over to Venezuela, where the airline bomb plot was allegedly hatched. He escaped from jail there in 1985 while awaiting a prosecution appeal against his acquittal on two charges relating to the bombing.

The president of the National Lawyers Guild, Michael Avery, said the US government had a "moral and legal" obligation to extradite him. Ten congress members, including Dennis Kucinich, who sought the Democratic party's presidential nomination in 2004, have signed a letter which states that "as a sovereign nation Venezuela has the right to pursue justice in this case."

The Bush administration - for whom Mr Posada presents a problem in that he has admitted in the past to involvement in terrorist acts - has so far tried to distance itself from the controversy.

The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters: "There are laws and procedures that are in place, and they are being followed at this point."

But the politicians know that while many in the politically sensitive Cuban-American community will accept his detention in an El Paso prison, they will not countenance his extradition.

There remains a small, but hard core of support for Mr Posada, a fact that was illustrated inside a Little Havana shop selling Cuban bric-a-brac and memorabilia - from posters of pre-revolution Havana to Fidel Castro toilet paper ("Make your wish come true," the sign reads).

"This is a virtual Cuba, a place that does not exist any more," said the owner, Maria Vazquez, 55, sweeping her arm across the shop. "But the people who come in here still dream of going back.

"You must understand, to us Posada is a hero, a freedom fighter. He was never convicted of the airline bombing.

"You must not think people don't support him. We are just waiting to see what happens. If they try to extradite him, then you will see."

The life of Luis Posada

The most committed would-be assassin of Fidel Castro, Luis Posada was born in 1928 into a wealthy family in Cienfuegos in Cuba. He studied medicine and chemistry at the University of Havana at the same time as Castro was studying law.

Although his family supported the revolution and his sister became a colonel in the Cuban army, Posada opposed Castro from the start and was sent to a military jail. He escaped, fled to Mexico and then joined the CIA Bay of Pigs invasion project. He has spent much of his adult life in unsuccessful plots to kill Castro.

A naturalised Venezuelan, he was accused of plotting a Cuban airliner bombing, but was acquitted twice. He is also accused of the bombings of Cuban hotels and many other terrorist acts.

He told the journalist Ann Louise Bardach for her book Cuba Confidential that "the CIA taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb".,,1505174,00.html

Bush terrorism crusade to be tested in Texas

Washington, Jun 12 (Prensa Latina) The decision facing US authorities Monday, as to whether to permit extradition of confessed terrorist Posada Carriles, will reflect seriously on the Bush administration?s credibility in its crusade against international terrorism, analysts agree.

The US Patriot Act (signed by Bush in October 2001) forbids those with ties to terrorist activities from entering US territory. Posada Carriles is clearly linked to such crimes in Latin America and specially against Cuba by recently declassified CIA and FBI files.

He illegally sneaked into the US last March with support from Miami based groups with connections in Washington, and only under a growing international outcry officers of the Homeland Security Department detained him after two months of hiding.

He is scheduled to stand at an immigration hearing on Monday in El Paso, Texas, which will decide on his legal status in the US.

Venezuela’s Attorney General insists that all is valid and in order in Caracas? extradition request for Cuban-born Posada Carriles; wanted for his 1985 escape from a Venezuelan prison and for terrorist activities in Latin American countries - in particular the bombing of a Cuban civilian airplane in 1976.

However, Posada Carriles has important political connections in the United States, as well as with the Miami rightwing Cuban American community, and thus far is being held in El Paso, Texas solely on immigration, not terrorism, charges.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN that the US Homeland Security is studying the case.

Anti-Cuban Miami groups, which have contributed to Bush winning the White House and to his brother Jeb getting the Florida seat of Governor, are pressing so Posada Carriles stays free in the US, just like other confessed and convicted -but later pardoned- terrorists. This is the case of Orlando Bosch, known as Doctor Death.

The Posada File: Part II

Washington D.C. June 9, 2005 - Luis Posada Carriles spoke of plans to "hit" a Cuban airliner only days before Cubana flight 455 exploded on October 6, 1976, killing all 73 passengers aboard, according to a declassified CIA document from 1976 posted by the National Security Archive today.

The unusually detailed intelligence was provided by a source described as "a former Venezuelan government official" who "is usually a reliable reporter," according to the secret report.

Posada, a violent anti-Castro exile, is due to have his first legal hearing on June 13, after entering the United States illegally in March and applying for political asylum from the Bush Administration. After living for almost two months in Miami unmolested by law enforcement officials, he was detained on May 17. Venezuelan authorities say they are planning to formally request his extradition back to Caracas where he escaped in 1985 after being incarcerated for alleged involvement in the bombing of the Cuban airliner.

The CIA document described a $1000-a-plate fundraiser in Caracas held between September 22 and October 5, 1976, to support the activities of Orlando Bosch, the head of CORU, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization." The informant quoted Bosch as making an offer to Venezuelan officials to forgo acts of violence in the United States when President Carlos Andres Perez visited the UN in November, in return for "a substantial cash contribution to [Bosch's] organization." Bosch was also overheard stating: "Now that our organization has come out of the Letelier job looking good, we are going to try something else." Several days later, Posada was reported to have stated that "we are going to hit a Cuban airplane" and "Orlando has the details." (Both the Bosch and Posada statements were cited in an October 18th, 1976 report to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger posted by the Archive on May 17th.)

Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, called these documents "part of a trove of intelligence records that provide leads and evidence on major acts of terrorism committed by violent anti-Castro groups." He called on the CIA to fully declassify its voluminous files on Posada "as a concrete contribution to justice for those who have committed acts of terror."

The Archive also posted a declassified CIA summary that provided new details of Agency ties to Posada and Bosch in the 1960s and 70s. The CIA "traces" noted that Posada "was recruited by the Agency to serve as a Maritime Training Branch instructor" in early 1965 and also was "used as a source of information on Cuban exile activities." The CIA continued to maintain relations with Posada after he became a high ranking official in the Venezuelan secret police, DISIP, between 1967 and 1974, although the nature of Posada's work for the Agency during that time remains censored in the document. The CIA also admitted that it had multiple contacts with Orlando Bosch in 1962 and 1963.

In addition, the Archive posted a declassified FBI document dated October 21, 1976, citing sources who stated that CORU "was responsible for the bombing of the Cubana Airlines DC-8 on October 6, 1976." The source quoted a CORU member, Secundino Carrera, as stating that "this bombing and the resulting deaths were fully justified because CORU was at war with the Fidel Castro regime." At the time, CORU was led by Orlando Bosch.

According to the declassified documents, CORU was created at a meeting of Cuban exile groups in a small town called Bonao in the Dominican Republic in June 1976. In a June 29, 1976, report on Orlando Bosch's group Accion Cubana, FBI sources stated that "these groups agreed to jointly participate in the planning, financing, and carrying out of terrorist operations and attacks against Cuba." (page 8) Bosch, according to the document, was committed to violent acts against other countries he believed supported Cuba, including Colombia, Mexico and Panama. At the meeting, according to the document, the groups discussed kidnapping and executing a diplomat. A month later CORU members attempted to kidnap the Cuban ambassador to Mexico; one of his aides was shot and killed.

After Posada escaped from prison in Caracas, he flew aboard a private aircraft to Aruba, and was then taken to El Salvador where he assumed the alias "Ramon Medina" and became "support director" for the illicit contra resupply operation being run by the Reagan White House out of Illopango airbase in San Salvador. (see diagram) In a 31 page deposition given to FBI agents in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as part of the Independent Counsel investigation into the Iran-Contra scandal, Posada detailed his participation in these covert operations, including flying on resupply missions for contra soldiers in southern Nicaragua.

According to Posada, he was able to save $40,000 from his pay and lived on that in Central America after the scandal broke in late 1986 and the resupply operation was shut down. When he ran out of money, he asked another exile figure, Rafael Quintero for help. "Quintero told him to send one of his paintings to [Richard] Secord," the retired special forces official who collaborated with Oliver North in selling arms to Iran and transferring the profits to sustaining the contra war. According to the deposition, "Posada did so and Secord sent Posada $1000 for it."



Note: The following documents are in PDF format.

You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

CIA Documents On Posada and Bosch

Document 1: CIA, Secret Intelligence Report, "Activities of Cuban Exile Leader Orlando Bosch During his Stay in Venezuela," October 14, 1976

A source in Venezuela supplied the CIA with detailed intelligence on a fund raiser held for Orlando Bosch and his organization CORU after he arrived in Caracas in September 1976. The source described the dinner at the house of a Cuban exile doctor, Hildo Folgar, which included Venezuelan government officials. Bosch was said to have essentially asked for a bribe in order to refrain from acts of violence during the United Nations meeting in November 1976, which would be attended by Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. He was also quoted as saying that his group had done a "great job" in assassinating former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C. on September 21, and now was going to "try something else." A few days later, according to this intelligence report, Luis Posada Carriles was overheard to say that "we are going to hit a Cuban airplane" and "Orlando has the details."

Document 2: CIA, Secret Memorandum to the FBI, "Information Regarding Anti-Castro Figures Possibly Involved in Neutrality or Other Violations of Federal Law," December 9, 1976

In the aftermath of the bombing of the Cubana flight, the CIA ran "traces" on dozens of anti-Castro exiles who might be linked to this atrocity. This document records the summaries of traces on the two exiles who had by then been arrested in Caracas, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada. The CIA noted that agents had had multiple contacts with Bosch in 1962 and 1963; and the Agency acknowledged that it had employed Luis Posada starting in 1965 and that he was a "demolitions expert." The CIA also noted that he provided information to them on the activities of other exile groups. It censored a section of the document that described the services he performed for the CIA while a high official in the Venezuelan secret police, DISIP, between 1967 and 1974. Other CIA records show that the Agency continued to have contact with Posada until June of 1976, more than eleven years after he was first recruited.


Document 3: FBI, Intelligence Cable, "Bombing of Cubana Airlines DC-8, Near Barbados, West Indies, October 6, 1976, Neutrality Matters-Cuba-West Indies," October 21, 1976

The FBI transmits information from a source who has spoken with a member of CORU named Secundino Carrera who admitted "that CORU was responsible for the bombing of the Cubana Airlines DC-8 on October 6, 1976." Carrera justifies the bombing as an act of war. The memo indicates that the bombing has caused some dissention in CORU over its tactics, but that the organization headed by Orlando Bosch is planning to sell bonds to finance future operations.

Document 4: FBI, Intelligence Report, "Accion Cubana (Cuban Action) Internal Security-Cuba," June 29, 1976

This FBI report contains a range of information on "a small terrorist organization headed by Orlando Bosch Avila," and other Cuban exile terrorists. Based on sources close to Bosch's group, Accion Cubana, the report details Bosch's efforts to raise funds from specific individuals in Miami, Caracas, and elsewhere. The FBI also reports on the activities of Guillermo and Ignacio Novo, who are described as "two Cuban exiles with long records of terrorist activities. Most importantly, on pages 8 and 9, the document describes the meeting in the Dominican Republic where CORU was created in June 1976 to unify five different exile groups. According to the memo, "these groups agreed to jointly participate in the planning, financing and carrying out terrorist operations and attacks against Cuba" and targets in other countries.

Posada and the Iran-Contra Operations

Document 5: Organizational Diagram of the "Benefactor Company" (BC) Contra Resupply Operation in San Salvador

The entity established by Lt. Col. Oliver North and retired Pentagon officer, Richard Secord to illicitly sustain the contra war was known as "BC." At Illopango airbase, known as "Cincinnati" in the BC records, the Reagan administration secret established a mini airforce of resupply planes along with warehouses of supplies. After Luis Posada escaped from prison in Caracas, he was given a high position as "support director" of the Illopango operation, working under another Cuban exile, Felix Rodriguez who used the codename "Max Gomez."

Document 6: Office of the Independent Counsel, Lawrence Walsh, Secret, "Record of Interview with Luis Posada Carriles," February 7, 1992

Two FBI agents interviewed Posada at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in February 1992. He provided a detailed account of his work for the contra war, which included descriptions of escaping from Venezuela in a private aircraft and being flown to Aruba, and then on to El Salvador. The 31-page interview transcript also provides extensive details on his operations in El Salvador and Guatemala after the Iran Contra scandal broke in November 1986 and the contra resupply operation was shut down. Although Posada accumulated $40,000 from the contra work-he and others were paid from profits from the sale of armaments to Iran--he eventually ran out of funds. At one point Richard Secord sent him $1000.00 for one of his paintings.

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 157

For more information contact

Peter Kornbluh - 202/994-7116 -

Related Posting

May 10, 2005

Luis Posada Carriles:

The Declassified Record

Previous Press Coverage

"Case of Cuban Exile Could Test the U.S. Definition of Terrorist"

by Tim Weiner

New York Times

May 9, 2005

"Papers connect exile to bomb plot"

by Oscar Corral

Miami Herald

May 10, 2005

"Documentos vinculan a Posada con ataque"

por Oscar Corral

Miami Herald via

May 10, 2005

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