By Ryan Yousefi
By Chuck Strouse
By Terrence McCoy
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Neither do Suchliki and Pons in their pamphlet titled "Castro and Terrorism, a Chronology," which they rushed to press in late September. They echo the State Department, noting that Castro has "recently concentrated his support" on ETA, the IRA, and the Colombian guerrillas. But why not take the opportunity afforded by the September 11 massacre to retrace the past 40 years of Cuban Cold War turmoil? They revisit the Cuban government's historical ties to "guerrillas and terrorist groups in Guatemala, Venezuela, and Bolivia" in the Sixties, to leftist guerrillas in Africa in the Seventies, and to the Palestine Liberation Organization. "Castro sent military instructors and advisors to Palestinian bases; cooperated with Libya in the founding of World Mathaba, a terrorist movement; and established close military cooperation and exchanges with Iraq, Iran, Southern Yemen, the Polisario Front for the Liberation of Western Sahara, the PLO, and others in the Middle East."
One of the last entries comes from the spy trial, which produced some evidence that back in the mid-Nineties, Cuban intelligence agents were at least discussing potentially violent activities, though none was on the scale of blowing up a jetliner. For instance, one message sent from Havana to agent Alejandro Alonso in 1994 asked the spy to suggest how a "maritime incursion" could be carried out from Cuba to Florida: "The general idea of all of this, which is under your control, is to operate in the area and be able to move persons as well as things, including arms and explosives, between our country and the U.S." (Alonso, who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors before his January 2000 conviction, is serving a seven-year sentence.) Another message sent from Havana's Directorate of Intelligence in 1994 instructed Rene Gonzalez, one of the five convicted spies, to explore the possibility of burning down a Brothers to the Rescue warehouse.
When New Timespresented Alarcon with trial documents containing these messages, the national assembly president perused each for several minutes. "Frankly I don't have the slightest idea," he said cheerfully. "I don't know anything about espionage." He speculated that Alonso's incursion study might have been to explore how easily anti-Castro groups could stage one in Florida and falsely blame it on the Cuban government. But he insisted that in the 43 years of the revolution, U.S. authorities have never accused the Cuban government of any explosion or other act of violence committed on U.S. soil. "We have never dedicated ourselves to promoting any terrorist actions in the United States. And we never will."
The most damning recent evidence is disturbing but only rhetorical -- an excerpt from a speech Castro delivered in Teheran this past May. "Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees," the dictator was quoted as saying.
Even South Florida's award-winning Spanish-language daily, El Nuevo Herald, seems eager to link Castro to the September 11 attacks. A November 14 news article carried the headline: "They Affirm That Atta Met in Miami with a Cuban Agent." But the story, which is a summary of a piece titled "Fidel May Be Part of Terrorist Campaign" that appeared in the Washington Times magazine, Insight on the News, contains no one affirming any such meeting. Rather it cites unidentified "federal investigators" who "suspect that [Mohamed] Atta's Cuban contact was a top defense-ministry officer with personal ties to Castro, who entered the United States under cover of assignment to a Cuban-government delegation escorting Elian's two grandmothers...." In the article the unnamed investigators only say such a meeting was possible.
Congressman Diaz-Balart leaped on the Insightarticle for a November 15 press release, turning unsubstantiated speculation into fact. "Al Qaeda terrorists have been linked to Cuban intelligence operatives," the statement read. The U.S. representative then alleged that Castro's recent decision to buy agricultural products from private companies in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Michelle was an attempt by the dictator "to divert attention from his links to international terrorism."
Then there's the book titled The True Terrorist, which Pedro Remon finished earlier this year in a Panamanian prison. Remon knows a thing or two about the topic. In February 1986 he and two other alleged members of the Omega 7 terrorist group pleaded guilty to bombing Cuba's UN mission in 1979 and attempting to kill Cuban ambassador Raul Roa by rigging a bomb to his car in 1980 (the device fell off). An FBI investigation also implicated Remon in the machine-gun murder of Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia Rodriguez in New York in 1980, but that charge was dropped. Remon is awaiting trial along with Posada, Gaspar Jimenez, and Guillermo Novo for an alleged plan to set off a C-4 plastic explosive somewhere in Panama City during last year's Ibero-American Summit in an attempt to assassinate Castro. (They claim they were in Panama to help the head of the Cuban intelligence service defect.)
Remon offers this humble hope: "Our aspirations are not only to prove our innocence in Panamanian courts but also to place on the defendant's chair the true terroristin this whole trauma: Fidel Castro Ruz. Terrorist, the dictionary says, is he who practices terrorism, and terrorism is domination with terror. Both terms depict the sad reality of the Cuban nation today."