Fidel Made Them Do It

Posada Carriles is in jail -- again -- for plotting against Castro. And again, he's sure it's Castro's fault.

"State if you planned the introduction of the explosives into Panamanian territory," the investigator pressed. "Or if not, who did?"

"Right now I am experiencing mental confusion," Posada insisted. He declined to answer three more questions: when the explosives were introduced into Panama, who handled them, and whether he was responsible for arming them. Poveda ended the deposition.

It was another Posadaian moment in a history of incredible explanations, that is, when the anti-Castro warrior is not avoiding explanations altogether. For instance in an extremely rare interview in 1991, he told then-Miami Herald reporter Christopher Marquis that Cuban government agents were behind the 1976 Cubana bombing. Venezuelan police arrested two young men who had disembarked from the plane in Barbados, the aircraft's final stop before it exploded shortly after taking off from the island. One of those suspects was an employee at Posada's private security firm in Caracas. Posada, who escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 while still awaiting trial for the bombing, told Marquis that a man named Ricardo "Monkey" Morales had confided that Cuban agents paid him to place the bomb and then frame the two young Venezuelans. In other words, according to Posada, Cuban government agents paid Morales to blow up a Cuban government jet. (Morales was killed in a barroom fight in Key Biscayne in 1982.)

Pedro Remón (far left) and Luis Posada Carriles pose in a visitors lounge at Panama's National Police headquarters; Novo (standing) and Jimenez in Miami-Dade last year
Courtesy Wood + Zapata
Pedro Remón (far left) and Luis Posada Carriles pose in a visitors lounge at Panama's National Police headquarters; Novo (standing) and Jimenez in Miami-Dade last year

Posada avoided scrutiny in 1986, when he inadvertently popped up as a coordinator of clandestine, and illegal, shipments of U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan contras, at a time when Congress had cut off such assistance. His cover was blown when Eugene Hasenfus, a mercenary pilot shot down by Sandinista troops while on a secret contra supply mission, identified Posada as one of his bosses. The shootdown fueled the congressional investigations that soon erupted into the Iran-contra affair. But the Cuban explosives expert eluded the spotlight, which remained on Oliver North, Richard Secord, and others responsible for hiring him.

Posada again stretched credulity in a 1998 interview with reporters Ann Louise Bardach and Larry Rohter for a New York Times article. During the conversation Posada took credit for the Havana bombings in 1997 and said Cuban American National Foundation founder Jorge Mas Canosa had financed them. After his remarks were published, Posada recanted them. Adding another perplexing twist, he recently alleged in a letter to New Times that Bardach and Rohter coerced him by "threatening to publish classified information to which I never thought a newspaper could have access." If published it could have hurt the reputations of "prominent members of the United States military intelligence community" involved in the Iran-contra affair, he wrote. He added that Bardach and Rohter also threatened to publish the name of "who they thought was the source of financing for covert operations on the island to establish contact with Cuban soldiers disenchanted with the Castro regime." His mentioning of Mas Canosa was a diversion to evade the journalists' "persecution." But he now considered his maneuver a "tactical error."

As for the Panama case, Posada is letting Remón do most of the explaining. "Pedro Remón is more articulate than him," Alvarez explained. "And Luis has a lot of problems communicating because of a gunshot wound in the jaw." He's referring to a bullet that pierced Posada's mandible and severed his tongue during the 1990 ambush in Guatemala City.

According to Pedro Remón, he and his three colleagues' odyssey to Panama began with a call from a man named Emilio in June of last year to Posada's cell phone in San Salvador. What follows is based on Remón's statements at Panama's National Police headquarters on May 29, May 30, May 31, and June 5.

In the phone call Emilio told Posada he had just arrived from Cuba with an important message. "Making use of his police skills," Remón explained, Posada asked Emilio who had sent him.

"Ramiro," Emilio responded.

So far so good. Ramiro was an anti-Castro operative working inside Cuba, Remón noted. Posada proceeded with another security check. "Yo quiero," he said. "I want." To which Emilio replied, "Sin patria pero sin amo." (Without country but without master.) In the parlance of espionage, Posada had given him a code word, and Emilio responded with the correct countersign.

Posada initially was so excited, Remón continued, that he told Emilio he would meet him immediately. But then he remembered the day he was ambushed in Guatemala and changed his mind. They would meet the next morning at the Cafeteria Biggest. Posada was to wear a guayabera and khaki pants; Emilio, a dark blue long-sleeve shirt.

The next morning Posada and two friends went early and conducted surveillance for potential assassins.

Prosecutor Argentina Barrera interrupted.

"Were you present for the events you are describing?" she asked.

"No, this is Posada's version," Remón replied and continued the narrative.

At about 9:00 a.m. Emilio entered the cafeteria, spotted Posada, and proceeded to break a few security rules. He greeted Posada by his first name and then blurted out his sin patria countersign before Posada could say anything. But no one seemed to notice, and they ordered donuts and tea. Emilio informed Posada that Ramiro had received a sum of money and a global-positioning system that Posada had sent to him.

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