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Despite such operational failures, Frometa remains proud of his status in the Cuban exile, signified by a 1991 visit to the U.S. State Department and Radio Martí, regular appearances with Radio Mambí talk-show host Armando Perez-Roura to advocate armed action against the Castro regime, and letters he's received from the likes of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Gov. Jeb Bush, and Bill Clinton.
In a letter dated July 8, 1996, Ros-Lehtinen wrote to Frometa: "You told my aide, Yildris, that you are thankful for all of the efforts that I and my staff have done on your case. You also feel that, overall, I have done a great job in this year's Congress and in the past. It is always a pleasure to hear such kind words and such positive encouragement from a person such as yourself.... I am glad that I have been able to satisfactorily serve you."
Today Frometa is still waiting for President George W. Bush to respond to a letter he sent him last spring. The F-4 comandante said he was "worried" that he wasn't among the exile leaders the White House invited to sit onstage behind GWB during the president's speech last year at the James L. Knight Center. "I have had the honor of being invited by your brother Jeb Bush to participate in different political appearances and I was in Coconut Grove supporting your campaign when you were aspiring to the presidency," Frometa wrote. He noted a previous letter he sent to the president the day after 9/11. "Comandos F-4 was one of the first organizations to place itself at your orders to fight alongside the armed forces of this great nation. It is for this reason that I don't understand how we were overlooked for an event that was so important for we who fight tirelessly for the liberation of our Fatherland." But, he assured, he and his F-4 colleagues would continue to be Republicans, friends of the Bush family, and supporters of Gov. Jeb Bush.
Frometa had also sent a copy of the letter to Jeb, who responded five months later as he entered the final four weeks of his re-election campaign, which counted on Miami-Dade's legions of excitable anti-Castro voters. "I have received the correspondence that you wished to send to President George W. Bush and have forwarded it to his office," Governor Bush wrote to Frometa in a letter dated September 30, 2002. "If there is anything further I can do to assist you, please let me know."
If Frometa seems crazed, or a "nut job" as one knowledgeable U.S. government source describes him, it could have something to do with several traumatic experiences involving the Cuban revolution. Frometa had fought against the Batista dictatorship as a teenager but quit the Revolutionary Army in 1963 when the Castro regime planned to send him to Moscow for military training. Frometa finally fled Cuba in 1968, via the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo, and settled in New York. He promptly joined the Alpha 66 paramilitary group and volunteered to fight in Vietnam, but the U.S. Army never called him up.
His rage propelled him to fly from New Jersey to Havana, legally, in 1981 to find recruits for armed sleeper cells on the island. "My idea was to create opposition inside Cuba," he explained, "to organize opposition against Castro inside Cuba because I understood that when operations were attempted from outside they didn't succeed because there was always an informant and Castro would be waiting." But there were informants inside Cuba too, and the Castro regime jailed Frometa for ten years.
He was further traumatized by the deaths of one of his sons, his brother, and his father, for which he holds the Castro regime responsible. According to Frometa, the son was killed in 1985 by fellow soldiers after he disobeyed an order to pick up and fire a gun. Government agents ran over his brother with a car in 1986 after he threatened to publicly denounce the torture of Rodolfo by prison guards. His father, he says, died of a heart attack in 1987 after learning that Rodolfo was in the "Rectangle of Death" in Havana's Villa Marista prison, which Frometa describes as a rat and insect-infested hole without toilets where prisoners were tortured and forced to live without water for days at a time. (New Timescould not independently confirm Frometa's account.)
After he almost died during a 124-day hunger strike in 1991, the Cuban government deported Frometa to Miami, where exile leaders welcomed him as a hero. Three years later he was arrested for the attempted Stinger-missile purchase.
In order to better adhere to the U.S. Neutrality Act, which, among other things, prohibits the transport of weapons from the United States to Cuba without a license, F-4 policy has changed since his 1994 bust. "At that time I did plan to go blow the head off Fidel Castro," Frometa admits. Now armed operations are planned and executed by cells on the island. "This work has to be done by the F-4 national directorate inside Cuba without physical contact with me. They plan everything they are going to do and after they do it -- they don't even explain to me how they're going to plan it -- they give the report so that I can make it known to the press. Nowadays I function as the spokesman of F-4 in the United States. So the leader who gives overall orders is in Cuba."