Waiting for Otto

Why would a man sullied by Iran-contra and illegal propaganda campaigns be a Bush nominee? Good question.

In an October 11 letter to the Wall Street Journal, Dodd chastised Reich for waiting until October to submit a plan for avoiding conflicts of interest involving his public-relations clients, such as Bacardi. Dodd urged the administration to send "a qualified candidate" to the Senate, indicating he is not likely to support a hearing.

But at a hearing we could learn more about his history in the case of Orlando Bosch, a long-time advocate of violent struggle against the Castro government and a participant in more than 30 terrorist attacks in the Sixties and Seventies, according to the first Bush administration's Justice Department. In 1968 Bosch was sentenced to ten years in prison for firing a 57-millimeter bazooka shell at a Polish freighter in the Port of Miami. He violated parole in 1974 and landed in Venezuela. Authorities there arrested him in 1976 in connection with the bombing of a Cubana de Aviación jetliner that exploded after takeoff from Barbados, killing 73 people. He was still in prison and awaiting trial by a military court when Reich arrived at his Caracas post as ambassador in 1986. At Bosch's trial prosecutors presented evidence showing he was in contact with two men convicted for the bombing. But a Venezuelan military court acquitted him in 1988.

In confidential cables (now declassified thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by the nonprofit National Security Archive) Reich queried the State Department about whether Bosch could become eligible for a U.S. visa. In one Reich informs Washington that friends of Bosch were poised to "whisk him out of Venezuela within four hours of his release from jail." In another Reich says an intelligence source informed him that "a hit team consisting of two men and one woman had arrived in Venezuela from Cuba to assassinate Orlando Bosch."

Paul Hamlyn
Miami lawyer and Bay of Pigs veteran Alfredo Duran thinks Latin America needs a Marshall Plan, not a divisive U.S. point man
Steve Satterwhite
Miami lawyer and Bay of Pigs veteran Alfredo Duran thinks Latin America needs a Marshall Plan, not a divisive U.S. point man

Details

After his release Bosch returned to Miami in 1988 without a proper entry visa and was arrested upon arrival at Miami International Airport. While Bosch was detained for his 1974 parole violation, acting Associate Attorney General Joe Whitley ordered him deported in 1989. "His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims," Whitley wrote, citing public and confidential information about Bosch's bellicose activities. But Whitley ruled out sending Bosch to Cuba, and no other nation would accept him. In 1990 George H.W. Bush's Justice Department released Bosch after he agreed to accept a form of house arrest.

In a recent interview with New Times, Bosch denied ever having contact with Reich. "I don't know Reich, nor have I ever seen Reich, nor did I ask him for anything," the 75-year-old pediatrician groused at his small one-story house in west Miami-Dade. "For me Otto Reich is like you. I don't know who you are." But when pressed, Bosch conceded he knew more than that. "He was ambassador to Venezuela," Bosch added. "I know that he is Cuban American and that he is going to be ambassador to Latin America [sic]."

According to the Washington Post, Dodd's office is preparing a set of questions for Reich in order to clarify his role with regard to Bosch.


If you guessed (c), you are probably a political junkie of some sort and quite possibly a cynical one. Would the president of the United States really nominate an anti-Castro ideologue for this important post just to keep a critical mass of Cuban American voters onboard?

Some members of the committee think it's conceivable. Without those votes George W. Bush probably would have lost Florida's historic cliffhanger and, hence, the 2000 election. Another motivator: The president's brother Jeb will also need that critical mass in his gubernatorial re-election bid a year from now. It is interesting to note that Reich enjoys the backing of other politicians who believe they need hard-line Cuban-American voters, for whom support of the embargo is an article of faith. The list includes Florida's two U.S. senators, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson, both Democrats.

"The president is heavily indebted to Florida," observed Andy Summel, who recently left his job as aide to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. "He's heavily indebted to his brother. The Cuban-American community is a political force down there certainly but also in the country as a whole in terms of shaping legislation."

According to a report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, an independent public-policy research group in Washington, D.C., Governor Bush urged his brother to nominate Reich at the behest of vehemently pro-embargo Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who has made a career bringing anti-Castro tirades to the Capitol. Diaz-Balart reportedly informed the governor that if he wished to count on the support of Cuban Americans in his re-election in 2002, he needed to encourage his brother to nominate Reich.

New Times queried the governor's office on the veracity of this account and received this fluffy statement from his communications director, Katie Baur: "Mr. Reich is an excellent choice for this position. The governor strongly supports Mr. Reich and believes it is time for his hearing to take place. His commitment to this country and diverse background makes him the right man for this very important cabinet post." After some prodding on the Diaz-Balart connection, gubernatorial spokeswoman Leslie Steel relayed this response from the governor: "He said, I've supported Otto Reich for a long while and so has Lincoln.'" Steel added: "It has nothing to do with votes." (Diaz-Balart did not respond to interview requests made to his press secretary.)

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