By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Then Emilio supposedly looked around as if to make sure no one was eavesdropping. Here was the big secret: In November at the Ibero-American Summit in Panama, Gen. Eduardo Delgado, the chief of Cuba's intelligence agency, was going to defect. For security reasons, Emilio warned, the general insisted his rendezvous be with just one person. Further he wanted that individual to be Posada, because he knew "Posada's connections with the CIA" would ensure him safe passage to the United States. Emilio added that Delgado would be looking for Posada's face because it was well-known inside Cuba. So well-known, Posada laughed, that the Cuban intelligence service uses his face for target practice.
Barrera stopped Remón again. "Did the person named Emilio ever make contact with you?"
"No, madam attorney," Remón replied.
"Did he ever make contact with Gaspar Jimenez or Guillermo Novo?" she asked.
Again he said no.
The Cafeteria Biggest meeting ended, and, according to Remón, Posada did not communicate with Emilio again until early November, when the two spoke by telephone. By then Posada would be in Panama.
Remón told Panamanian authorities he first learned of the defection plan in El Salvador after flying there from Miami on August 26 at Posada's request. "Among other things Posada asked me to make arrangements for political asylum for the future defector with one of my friends in the United States," Remón explained to Barrera. "At the same time I insisted that Luis Posada Carriles should not travel to Panama alone, that he should go there a few weeks early to familiarize himself with the terrain, rent at least three different apartments in different parts of the city, and prepare and study different escape routes for the defector."
Several days later Remón returned to Miami and to his job as director of sales and marketing for Sanper Distributors, a Hialeah Gardens-based company that imports cookware from Latin America. In 1985 he was indicted in New York for the 1980 murder of Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia-Rodriguez, a failed assassination attempt, and eight bombings from 1976 to 1980. He was not convicted on most of the charges, but in 1986 a U.S. judge sentenced him to ten years in federal prison, after he pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of another Cuban diplomat in 1980 and to one of the bombings.
Remón didn't tell Gaspar Jimenez about the Panama mission until October, according to Jimenez's statement. The two were in Miami at the time, though Jimenez could not recall the location of the conversation.
You might think that four men planning to receive a defector could simply fly to Panama City and check into a hotel like tourists or businessmen. Not so, say the defendants. Their plan called for them to meet at Paso Canoas, in western Panama near the Costa Rican border. Panamanian investigators determined that Posada traveled from San Salvador to San José, Costa Rica, on October 14 and again on October 24. From the Costa Rican capital he entered Panama using a Salvadoran passport in the name of Franco Rodriguez. He arrived in Panama City the first week of November.
Guillermo Novo, who was acquitted of involvement in the 1976 bombing death of Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier but served four years for lying to a grand jury investigating the crime, flew from Miami to San José on November 13. Three days later he flew to Panama City. Both times he traveled with a valid U.S. passport in his name.
Jimenez flew from Miami to San José on November 14. He was traveling as Manuel Diaz. He had a U.S. passport bearing the false name and his real photograph. (The U.S. embassy in Panama confirmed the fraud this past February in a diplomatic note.) Remón flew from Miami to San José on November 15.
Jimenez and Remón flew in a small plane from San José to the Panamanian border. Jimenez refused to tell investigators how, where, or from whom he had obtained his fraudulent passport in the name of Manuel Diaz. He needed it for the defection mission because he was on a list of 55 dangerous people that Castro had given Panamanian authorities before the summit.
Posada and Novo, meanwhile, traveled in the Mitsubishi rental car from Panama City to meet them. José Hurtado drove. They all went to a nearby farm owned by a Cuban friend of Posada named Pepe Valladares (who currently is under house arrest).
Hurtado told investigators that Posada instructed him to stay at a hotel that night and thus could not comment on what the Cubans discussed at the farm or whether they picked up some C-4 explosives there.
The next day Posada, Novo, and Remón flew to Panama City. Jimenez made the trip by car with Hurtado.
Jimenez denied that the reason he traveled by car was to transport the explosives and detonators, thereby avoiding airport scrutiny. He went by land, he maintained, because he thought flying would make him sick. "When I [got off the plane] at the border, I told Mr. Pedro Remón that I wasn't going to get into one of those little planes again because it would kill me," Jimenez told prosecutor Barrera.