Terrorists, but Our Terrorists

Where can terrorists find safe harbor? If you're of the Cuban exile variety, right here.

Ideologically entrenched Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits have been calling one another "terrorists" since the term flared up into our modern-day lexicon three decades ago. But after the September 11 jetliner attacks, hard-liners here and on the island have taken the opportunity to inflame their long-running war of words to a new intensity.

Orlando Bosch, whose name is permanently associated with one of the first acts of airline terrorism, was feeling pretty cranky about the situation one sunny Friday morning in early October inside his beige stucco home in west Miami-Dade. Perhaps the white-haired pediatrician's ears were ringing a little too sharply from the declaration issued the previous day by Cuba's National Assembly of the People's Power, denouncing him for the "cold-blooded murder" of the 73 people who died in a Cuban jetliner bombing in 1976. Worse, the 75-year-old native of Villa Clara province had learned that the next day, October 6, millions of people would gather in plazas all across his former homeland to remember the victims. And no doubt he would once again be blamed for the despicable deed.

Cuba's Public Enemy Numero Uno, looking grandpalike in a white V-neck T-shirt, shorts, black socks, and brown buckle-strap shoes, glared from a wicker rocking chair in his living room. "I was absolved in civilian jurisdiction and later by a military court," Bosch growled, referring to acquittals that came during his eleven-year incarceration in Venezuela while being prosecuted for planning the bombing. "My participation in that act ...," Bosch began and then stopped. "Don't ask me. Ask the justice system in Venezuela."

The justice system in Venezuela sentenced two of Bosch's associates, Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo, to twenty years in prison. (The two Venezuelans were released from a Caracas prison in October 1993 after serving half their terms.) Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro Cuban who trained with the CIA in the early Sixties and also was charged with planning the bombing, escaped from prison in 1985 and promptly joined the Reagan administration's covert military operations against the Havana-backed Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. After his last acquittal, Bosch returned to Miami without a visa in 1988. U.S. authorities jailed him because he was wanted for violating parole in 1974 in connection with his conviction for a 1968 bazooka attack on a Havana-bound Polish freighter at the Port of Miami. In 1989, after deeming him a terrorist and a threat to public safety, the first Bush Justice Department decided to deport Bosch but was unable to find a government (other than Cuba) that would accept him. Amid lobbying from Cuban-American political leaders, the Bush administration released Bosch in 1990 after he renounced violence and agreed to be monitored by federal agents.

The victims of Cuba's most deadly terrorist bombing were guilty, explains Orlando Bosch from the sanctuary of his west Miami-Dade home
The victims of Cuba's most deadly terrorist bombing were guilty, explains Orlando Bosch from the sanctuary of his west Miami-Dade home
Bay of Pigs veteran Santiago Alvarez, in his Hialeah war room, advocates armed struggle against the Castro regime
Kirk Nielsen
Bay of Pigs veteran Santiago Alvarez, in his Hialeah war room, advocates armed struggle against the Castro regime
Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly of the People's Power, wonders why the United States won't muscle its violent Cuban exiles
Kirk Nielsen
Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly of the People's Power, wonders why the United States won't muscle its violent Cuban exiles
The result of a 1997 bombing at a Havana hotel, one of many that Cuban authorities link to former CIA operative and exile hero Luis Posada Carriles
The result of a 1997 bombing at a Havana hotel, one of many that Cuban authorities link to former CIA operative and exile hero Luis Posada Carriles

Eleven years later Bosch cannot conceal the contempt he still holds for his former comrade in arms. "The most criminal terrorist in all of the Americas is Fidel Castro!" he ranted. "We had to fight this communist murderer, and now he's claiming he's going to follow the United Nations conventions against terrorism."

Indeed the Cuban National Assembly had just ratified seven agreements of a twelve-part UN anti-terrorism accord, bringing the socialist island into step with its archenemy the United States. The Castro government had previously signed the five others, including the Convention on Preventing the Hijacking of Airliners, forged in Havana in 1970. Bosch returned to his loathing for the Comandante en Jefe. "Have you seen him on TV recently?" he asked, then sloppily moved his lower jaw back and forth (and along with it, the tell-tale reddish birthmark that lies below his bulbous lower lip). He was imitating Castro's drooling during the 75-year-old dictator's fainting spell this past June.

If Bosch's ears weren't ringing on Friday, they must have been on Saturday, when his name spewed out of Castro's mouth during a speech to a million people who had packed into Havana's Plaza de la Revolución. "History is capricious and moves through strange labyrinths," Castro began. "Twenty-five years ago in this very plaza we bid farewell to a small number of coffins. They contained tiny fragments of human remains and personal belongings of some of the 57 Cubans, 11 Guyanese -- most of them students on scholarships in Cuba -- and 5 North Korean cultural officials who were the victims of a brutal and inconceivable act of terrorism." Especially sad, the socialist leader noted, was that among the dead were nearly all the young men and women of the Cuban national fencing team.

"Who could have predicted that almost exactly 25 years later, a war with totally unpredictable consequences would be on the verge of breaking out as a result of an equally heinous terrorist attack that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people in the United States?" Castro then spent several minutes reviewing a litany of hijackings, bombings, and assassinations that anti-communist Cubans with CIA connections had carried out before the deadly Cubana de Aviación attack. He cited the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, and the Church Commission report to Congress on CIAplots against foreign leaders. He also mentioned the appearance in early 1976 of Coordinación de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (CORU), an anti-communist Cuban group that Bosch founded after fleeing the United States. CORU sent statements to news organizations two months before the Cubana de Aviación explosion warning that "very soon we will be attacking jetliners in flight." Castro then guided the multitude through Bosch's arrest, the Ricardo and Lugo convictions, and Bosch's eventual return to impunity in the United States.

"On a day like today, we have the right to ask what will be done about Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, the perpetrators of that monstrous terrorist act ... and about those who planned and financed the bombs that were placed in the hotels in [Havana], and the assassination attempts against Cuban leaders, which haven't stopped for a minute in more than 40 years."

Could the supreme guerrilla and head of a repressive one-party state possibly have a point? While President Bush is warning the nations of the world that they must not harbor terrorists, is South Florida harboring a legion of its own, who have engaged in activities that look a lot like terrorism? After all, the list of acciones terroristas -- from the Alpha 66 and Comandos L raids of the early Sixties to the group of commandos arrested in Villa Clara province this past April -- is long enough to fill a 300-page book (see, for example, Jane Franklin's Cuba and the United States: A Chronological History). Moreover even the leading exile scholars cannot point to any actual terrorist acts carried out on U.S. soil by Castristas.

Today, nine years after the Justice Department legitimated Bosch's release by saying he had renounced violence, Bosch is sounding awfully bellicose. He was one of nineteen exiles in the Cuban Patriotic Forum who signed a Declaration of Principles published in the Miami Heraldthis past August. "We recognize and support the right of the Cuban people inside the island and in exile to avail themselves of all means and methods at their disposal in the struggle for the freedom of Cuba," the coalition stated. Other signatories included Armando Perez-Roura and Juan Ruiz of Cuban Unity; Hubert Matos of Democratic Independent Cuba; Eugenio Llamera of the World Federation of Cuban Former Political Prisoners; Sylvia Iriondo of Mothers and Women Against Repression; Juan Perez Franco of the Veterans Association of the Bay of Pigs; and several Cuban American National Foundation board members who resigned from CANF in August.

That "principle" is consistent with the 1979 statement Bosch made while jailed in Venezuela to investigators for the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations. "You have to fight violence with violence. At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people," Bosch proclaimed. According to the investigators, he denied involvement in the Cubana de Aviación slaughter but said he supported it and called terrorism a necessary evil in the fight against Castro.

On this recent Friday morning 25 years later, he didn't exactly renounce terrorism either. He again denied involvement in the jetliner bombing and then offered a unique, if oblique, definition of terrorism. "All fights are terrorism," Bosch posited. "Suppose I go at you with a knife and you have a pistol." He touched the reporter's knee for emphasis. "What are you going to do with that pistol?" (Shoot it, the reporter supposed.)

Bosch, like his nemesis Castro, bemoaned the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. "It's unbelievable, man," he said. "If you are my enemy, I will fight you, but what the hell is this killing all those people with that plane?" Yet he went on again with the inevitability of innocent casualties. "When they attack this guy, some innocents will be killed," he predicted, referring to the military assaults the United States would launch two days later in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. "It's like Churchill said: “War is a competition of cruelty.'"

Early this month Bosch admitted to shipping explosives to Cuba.


Guys such as Bosch make it easy for the Cuban government to claim that the United States harbors, or at least tolerates, anti-Castro terrorists. The fact that many prominent Cuban exiles continue to support, and in some cases plan, bombings and other violence against targets in Cuba casts an eerie irony over President Bush's warnings that ambivalence is unacceptable in the war on terrorism. "Some governments still turn a blind eye to the terrorists, hoping the threat will pass them by. They are mistaken," Bush admonished during his United Nations speech on November 10. "The allies of terror are equally guilty and equally accountable."

Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba's National Assembly of the People's Power, hastened to point out the disconnect during an October interview in Havana with New Times. "Bush's words are very categorical: “He who harbors a terrorist is as guilty as the terrorist himself.' A government that harbors a terrorist in its territory, that permits him to act, to live, to raise money, to organize himself, is as guilty as the terrorist," a guayabera-clad Alarcon elaborated, waving an unlit cigar as he sat in an old-fashioned easy chair in a salon inside the assembly building. "Orlando Bosch has been defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as a terrorist. “Notorious,' even. Where does he live? In Afghanistan? Or does he live in Miami? Is he keeping quiet? No."

Alarcon, a 64-year-old Communist Party Central Committee member and former UN ambassador, declined to comment on the latest terrorist mission produced by Miami's hard-core anti-Castristas, saying it was under investigation. But Cuban Interior Ministry officials had already released considerable information about it on Mesa Redonda, the island's state-run evening news and commentary program. This past April Cuban authorities arrested three Miami-Dade residents -- Ihosvani Suris, Santiago Padron, and Maximo Padrera -- who had boated to the island. According to Interior Ministry officials, the three had several AK-47 assault rifles, an M-3 carbine rifle, and three semiautomatic Makarov pistols when they were apprehended in Villa Clara province, Bosch's old stomping grounds.

In interviews with New Times this past July, Hialeah-based developer Santiago Alvarez acknowledged "certain responsibility" for the incursion (see "Spies in Miami, Commandos in Cuba,"July 5, 2001). He had little choice but to admit it. Mesa Redonda had featured a videotape of Suris seated in a chair and placing a phone call to Alvarez. Alvarez is heard answering the phone, unaware that Suris already was in custody. "Stay calm," Alvarez instructed. "Dig yourself in a little. Don't move. You'll see that everything is going to work out."

Then Suris asked Alvarez if he still wanted him to carry out an operation at the Tropicana nightclub in Havana. "The other day you told me about the Tropicana thing. Do you want me to do something there?" Suris asked.

"If you want to do that, all the better," Alvarez replied. "It doesn't matter to me. There you have the advantage that with a couple of little cans [laticas], it's over with, and it's less risky." Cuban authorities allege the Tropicana operation involved placing canisters of plastic explosives at the open-air cabaret, one of Havana's most popular tourist attractions.

The video was part of a Mesa Redondapresentation by Manuel Hevia, director of Cuba's Center for Historical State Security Investigations, a branch of the Interior Ministry. Hevia's highly detailed narrative alleged that Alvarez had promised Suris $10,000 at a meeting in a Coral Gables parking lot; that Alvarez had ordered the weapons at a Coconut Grove Convention Center gun show on March 10 of this year; that Suris picked up the weapons five days later from Miami Police Supply; that Suris bought knives, caps, boots, and other items at an Army supply store; that Ruben Dario Lopez, a member of the paramilitary Democratic National Unity Party, left a Key Biscayne marina on April 24 in a boat with Suris, Padrera, and Padron onboard; that the boat got stuck on a sandbar near Key Largo and then was searched by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol; that the Coast Guard found nothing compromising and released them; that Alvarez and two unidentified men boated separately toward the southwestern Bahamas; that an unidentified individual in a third boat transferred the weapons to Suris and crew at a place called Dog Rocks.

Lopez's name surfaced this past April at the Cuban spy trial. A secret message one of the defendants had sent to Havana referred to an undercover meeting among Lopez, Bosch, and a female agent whose code name was Sol and who eluded capture. According to the document, Bosch told Sol he had sent explosives to Havana but did not know if they had arrived. Bosch, who refused to testify as a defense witness at the trial, told New Times he did not ship any explosives that year, but he confessed to doing so previously. "I've sent so many things to Cuba that I can't remember if they were explosives or not," he added. "You can't destroy a tyranny by praying to saints in a church."

Hevia maintained that the April operation had been planned and financed by Alvarez, Lopez, and a third Miami-Dade resident named Ignacio Castro. He noted that Lopez had been involved in previous acts of terrorism, including an Alpha 66 mission in which several commandos fired machine guns at the Guitart Hotel in May 1995. Ignacio Castro, he added, traveled to Panama with Alvarez this past April to visit Posada and three more Miami-Dade men jailed for an alleged plot to kill Castro with a bomb last year.

"How were infiltration operations like this financed, organized, and executed right before the eyes of the U.S. authorities?" Hevia asked.

For Alvarez the answer is simple. "We didn't violate any U.S. laws," he insisted. He said the April mission was not staged from U.S. territory and therefore did not violate the Neutrality Act, which prohibits exports of arms, ammunition, or other implements of war from the United States to another country, unless authorized by the State Department.

A boat captain, Alvarez served in the U.S. Army's Cuban Units from 1961 to 1963; his role in the Bay of Pigs invasion was to shuttle infiltrators from the Florida Keys across the straits. During that period he also "spent some time" with the CIA, he said, and as a member of Comandos L and the Movement of Revolutionary Recovery participated in several maritime commando raids along the coast of Cuba. He declined to confirm any of Hevia's details about the April operation and offered only a general refutation of any information the Cuban government puts out. "The Castro regime is the WWF [World Wrestling Federation] of international politics," he scoffed. "I didn't like Castro from the beginning. He was such a demagogue. He reminds me of Hulk Hogan." Alvarez chuckled that he can't watch professional wrestling. "It reminds me of the Castro government."

Despite his videotaped exchange with Suris regarding the apparent plan to bomb the Tropicana nightclub, Alvarez said the 1997 explosions at Havana hotels (which left an Italian tourist dead and which Posada took credit for in a 1998 New York Times interview) didn't accomplish much. "[Such] bombings don't do anything," Alvarez declared. "When we start making war, we will start attacking higher objectives." He cited sabotaging oil refineries and sugar facilities. "There were no tourists in Kosovo or Vietnam," he added. "When you have a war going on, you have no tourism going on there."

Cuba has given up complaining about such incursions through diplomatic channels. "Lately we are dedicating ourselves to public denunciations, because our experience with more discreet measures is that they never have produced a concrete result," Alarcon said. "Sometimes it is really ridiculous," he chided, and called the U.S. authorities' negligence in the majority of cases "criminal."

In the post-September 11 atmosphere of Cuban-on-Cuban recrimination, Havana has taken the opportunity to reassert that deploying spies in South Florida to detect terrorist plots was and remains just and noble. "These five compatriots," Alarcon announced, referring to the five undercover agents convicted this past June, "tried to help us prevent actions that these people were going to do because the North American authorities do nothing in relation to that."

During some of his diplomatic contacts in the Eighties and Nineties, U.S. officials even expressed tacit approval of Cuba's spying on exiles, Alarcon divulged, although he declined to offer specific names or dates of the meetings. "Never did any North American [official] say to me: “Hey, but that is a violation of North American laws,'" he avowed. "They have always understood that we have the right, and that we're even obligated to do it.... Because they knew that it wasn't anything against the United States.... And not only that, they said they would even be grateful if we would pass along the information, because in some way it could be useful to them."

The destruction of two Cessnas by a Cuban MiG in February 1996, killing four Brothers to the Rescue members as they flew toward the island, halted any hidden spirit of cooperation that U.S. and Cuban officials might have shared regarding exile violence. The deadly shootdown doesn't exactly fit the definition of terrorism, in light of the repeated warnings Brothers to the Rescue founder José Basulto and the two other pilots received from U.S. and Cuban authorities. But that doesn't keep Basulto and others from calling it one of the most brutal acts of "Castro-terrorism" ever. "If you tell me that a MiG attack on two unarmed civilian planes isn't an act of terrorism, I don't know what is," Basulto remarked.

"Recently, sadly and savagely, this country has learned how much damage civilian, unarmed aircraft can inflict upon its population," convicted spy Gerardo Hernandez told U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard at his sentencing hearing last week. "This is why, perhaps, its top leaders have warned that any aircraft that threateningly deviates from its established path could be shot down even if it carries hundreds of passengers onboard." Lenard sentenced him to life in prison for espionage and conspiracy to murder in the shootdown. (Click for full textof Hernandez's remarks.)


The September 11 attacks have breathed new life into an enduring effort by exile activists to argue that Castro is the real terrorist. Under the Cuban Patriotic Forum's principles, setting off bombs in urban areas and shooting at hotels and commercial vessels is not terrorism but a right. "Down with terrorists and down with the totalitarians of the world!" Eugenio Llamera exclaimed to a Radio Mambí reporter as the rain poured down before the "God Bless America" march in Little Havana on Saturday, October 20. Llamera, a former political prisoner, organized the demonstration along with other Patriotic Forum members.

Like Bosch, Llamera is one of the guys Havana points to when arguing that U.S. authorities have a special tolerance for terrorists of the Cuban-exile variety.

Llamera, for instance, was in a four-man Comandos L squad that took a boatful of weapons into Cuban waters on July 4, 1992. After a firefight with Cuban patrol boats, the exiles fled and were about seven miles off the coast of Varadero when the vessel broke down. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued them. The FBI later questioned the four and released them. One, former Black Panther Tony Bryant, stood trial on illegal-weapons charges. He was acquitted. None was charged with violating the Neutrality Act. At a January 1993 news conference, Bryant warned tourists to stay away from Cuba because Comandos L was planning more attacks. Four months later, according to Cuban and U.S. law-enforcement sources, Llamera financed a machine-gun attack on a Cyprus-flagged tanker, the Mikonos. Commandos fired on the ship as it steamed toward the Cuban port of Carúpano. Llamera denied involvement in the Mikonosattack. But he considers his commando operations to be acts of war, not terrorism. "You think that is sabotage or terrorism?" he exclaimed. "That's bravery on the part of four men." No charges were brought by U.S. authorities in this case or in several subsequent strafings of coastal hotels.

The local brand-Castro-a-terrorist campaign extends well beyond Llamera and other small-time anti-Castro firebrands. U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), University of Miami professors Jaime Suchlicki and Eugene Pons, and even El Nuevo Herald also are getting licks in.

Of course the Havana government does not have a pristine record when it comes to terrorists. The authoritarian regime is on the U.S. State Department's list of nations that promote terrorism (along with Libya, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Syria), though its rationale could apply to Paris, Madrid, or South Boston: "Cuba continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists and U.S. fugitives in 2000. A number of Basque ETA terrorists who gained sanctuary in Cuba some years ago continued to live on the island.... Havana also maintained ties to other state sponsors of terrorism and Latin-American insurgents. Colombia's two largest terrorist organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, both maintained a permanent presence on the island." The only additional information was that Cuba provides the Colombian guerrillas with "some medical care and political consultation"; "some ETA members allegedly have received sanctuary in Cuba while others reside in South America"; and Cuba "also appears to have ties to the Irish Republican Army through the two groups' legal political wings." It makes no mention of any ties to al Qaeda.

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."


Could there be a better time for the U.S. Attorney and the FBI chief in South Florida to assure the public they will thwart terrorism wherever it hides, even when its target is Fidel Castro?

So far they have opted not to comment on any matter whatsoever related to violence-prone exiles. But they haven't been silent about Castro. "The case is most certainly about our continued fight to keep and protect this community from Castro's tentacles," U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis told a news conference in June after the jury convicted the five spies on all counts, including one defendant for conspiracy to murder in the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown. "We will not stand idly by and allow any foreign government to wreak its havoc upon our way of life. We will investigate, we will prosecute, and in the end we will be successful."

FBI special agent in charge, Hector Pesquera, also singled out the aging dictator that day. "I would like to send this very special message," he began. "Mr. Castro, sending your agents to the United States to conduct intelligence operations against the citizens of this country will not be tolerated. We will pursue you vigorously, and we will take you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law." But in response to a reporter's question, he failed to indicate whether he would pursue local leads regarding the 1997 Havana bombings with the same vigor. During the trial defense and U.S. government lawyers confirmed that FBI agents and Cuban government authorities had actually shared information about the case. Pesquera would only comment on a semantic issue. "The only thing I can tell you is I take full exception to the word cooperation," he replied. "There was some information brought to our attention through diplomatic channels. We, discharging our duties, looked into it. But to say and classify that we were cooperating with the Cuban government would be a misstatement." Pesquera refused to answer any more questions on the topic.

The FBI chief and the U.S. Attorney are still mum. In late November New Times asked Pesquera and Lewis to state whether they would consider bombings of tourist destinations in Havana to be acts of terrorism. They also refused to answer Alarcon's charge that authorities in South Florida are irresponsible in their failure to prosecute commando missions such as the one this past April. Pesquera and Lewis declined to say anything about several other exile commando raids carried out in the early Nineties, including why the 1992 incident involving Llamera was not prosecuted. "We feel that it is too close in time to these sentencings to be commenting on issues that also may be the subject of sentencing litigation and argument," Pesquera said.

Marvelle McIntyre-Hall, special counsel to Lewis, maintained that no one at the U.S. Attorney's Office could comment on anything related to "how the FBI handles Cuba," before Judge Joan Lenard sentences all five Cuban spies. (As of press time, Lenard was scheduled to hand down the last sentence on December 27.)

Orlando Bosch, however, is not keeping quiet. Early this month he again denied responsibility for the Cuban airline bombing but added, "There were no innocents on that plane."

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