After battling Castro, James Cason takes on Coral Gables

James Cason marched past the hostile glares of Cuba's minister of interior and a handful of generals gathered inside the air control tower at Havana's José Martí International Airport. It was early in the morning on April 1, 2003, and the officials didn't say a word to the blue-eyed, gray-haired Yankee who, in his first year as head of the U.S. Interests Section, had gloriously succeeded in getting under Fidel Castro's beard by daring to deliver U.S.-branded democracy to Cuban dissidents.

Castro couldn't stand Cason and had even carried out a surprisingly imaginative propaganda campaign against him. But now a crisis had enveloped the Communist regime, forcing el comandante to seek the assistance of his imperialist foil, el guapeton, el cabo Cason — the showoff, Colonel Cason. It was a slap-in-the-face insult for la revolución. But averting an act of terrorism was more important.

From the tower, Cason peered down at the Cubana airliner parked on the tarmac. A day earlier, at around 9 p.m., the plane had departed Nueva Gerona on the Isle of Youth carrying 46 passengers, including Adermis Wilson González, his common-law wife, and his stepson.

When he graduated from Virginia's Fairfax High School in 1962, Cason (center) was voted "Most Likely to Be Ambassador to Uganda."
Courtesy of James Cason
When he graduated from Virginia's Fairfax High School in 1962, Cason (center) was voted "Most Likely to Be Ambassador to Uganda."
Cason became involved in Coral Gables civic affairs after the remodeling of his house introduced him to the city's draconian building permit process.
Michael McElroy
Cason became involved in Coral Gables civic affairs after the remodeling of his house introduced him to the city's draconian building permit process.

As the plane cruised to Havana, the 34-year-old Cuban produced what appeared to be grenades from the pockets of his shorts. He threatened to blow up the plane unless the pilot detoured 90 miles north to Key West.

The pilot, however, managed to convince Wilson the jet didn't have enough fuel to make it. Landing in Havana was the only option. The pilot shut off the plane's engines and fuel systems after touching down at José Martí, fearing that if the grenades detonated, a massive fire would erupt.

On the ground, the hijacker demanded food for himself and his hostages and more gas for the getaway. Via the plane's radio system, Cuban officials stationed in the tower pleaded with Wilson to give up. In the sweltering plane, Wilson only grew antsier. He grabbed a female passenger and looped the black cord of the intercom phone around her neck. "I'm going to put the grenade in your mouth!" he screeched at her. An hour later, the desperate would-be defector let the woman go.

Around the same time, a male voice speaking fluent Spanish with a funny American inflection crackled through the intercom. "Oye mi hijo, es James Cason de la oficina de los Estados Unidos," the U.S. Interests chief relayed in Spanish.

Wilson didn't buy it.

"You can't be el cabo Cason," Wilson replied, "because the government doesn't talk to you." Since his arrival on the Communist island in 2002, Cason had been encouraging the dissident movement in Cuba by providing regime opponents with Internet access and journalism courses inside the U.S. Interests Section building in Havana. His efforts would end in controversy — with 75 dissidents imprisoned. Castro ridiculed Cason's democratic activities with a crude cartoon series lampooning the American diplomat. Cason was so despised by Cuba's dictator, Wilson must have reasoned, that there was no way Castro would turn to the enemy to resolve a hijacking.

Cason shook his head in frustration. He turned to the interior minister. "I'm going up to the plane to talk to him," Cason said. The minister didn't stop him. A jeep dropped off the American diplomat 200 feet from the plane, which sat isolated on the runway. The aircraft's hull was close enough to the ground for Cason to walk up to the cockpit's window, where he handed his passport to the pilot. The pilot showed it to Wilson.

The pilot returned to the cockpit and handed Cason the radio through the open window. Inside, Wilson's face was drenched in perspiration. He gripped the explosives in his pockets as Cason's voice came over the intercom.

"If you take this plane to Key West, you will be prosecuted and you will get 20 years in prison," Cason explained in Spanish. "Don't do this to your family."

Wilson shook his head no. "I've been in prisons all my life," he said. "At least this way my family can be free because of the wet-foot-dry-foot law." The hijacker was fully aware that Cubans intercepted on U.S. soil are allowed to stay.

"He would not budge," Cason recalls. "He was determined to leave the country. There was no way I could talk him out of it."

That same day, some 12 hours after the standoff began, the Cuban government caved, refueling the airliner. Before taking off, Wilson released some of the hostages. But Cason was right — the hijacker wouldn't turn back. A U.S. Customs Black Hawk helicopter and two U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets escorted the plane as it landed in Key West. FBI agents and Key West SWAT team snipers took positions around the airfield as the 32 people on board disembarked. A hostage negotiator directed the passengers off the plane with their hands over their heads.

Wilson was separated from his wife and son, and arrested. Under intensive questioning by federal agents, Wilson admitted the grenades were fake. He just wanted to escape with his family, who were released after being briefly detained by immigration officials. Wilson's wife apparently knew nothing about her husband's plot, and she and her son have since settled in the United States. Four months later, Wilson was convicted and got a 20-year sentence for the hijacking.

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23 comments
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Oceanview15
Oceanview15

I agree, the County needs a man like Cason! Coral Gables will benefit greatly WHEN he is elected! The County will just have to wait.

Biteme_06
Biteme_06

the cubans and their problems can go to hell

Milspec390
Milspec390

Type your comment here.==-]'

]

Can you think of a better recommendation for James Cason than castro shill parrot, Saul Landau's condemnation by which he accuses Ambassador Cason of 'trying to bring down the Cuban government'? Neither can I. Saul Landau believes that giving shortwave radios, pads and pencils to Cubans constitutes 'trying to bring down the Cuban government'? Wouldn't it be great if all oned needed to bring down castro's blood soaked regime were citizens armed with radios, pencils, and notepads? Doesn't it say that for all the media's gushing praise of castro and his gangster regime, in reality it's a house of cards awaiting a swift toppling by truth's balmy trade winds?

Doesn't Saul Landau clearly show us the sadistic reality of the Left which lurks behind its saccharine altruistic veneer? The ugly reality is that the Left loves sadistic totalitarian regimes such as that of castro and will say and do anything to protect them, and cares not one whit about the eleven million Cubans who daily experience living death beneath it?

Kudos to Ambassador Cason for bravely showing Cuba's citizens that truth, as does murder, outs - always, and that gutless bullies and their mendacious propagandists will never suppress it.

James Cason is a true American hero for standing up to the fifty year old Cancer of the Caribbean known as the castro regime, and its stateside cheerleaders.

To show just how long the misery has continued, consider that as James Cason was graduating colllege in 1966, castro was celebrating seven years of power by organizing his Tri-Continental Conference. Though the marxstream media knows of it, it surely won't tell us about it. But Dr. Mario Lazo, among others, in his book, "Dagger in the Heart" surely did. Castro's Tri-Continental Summit was held in 1966 for the purpose of convening communist termites from Latin America, Europe especially including the soviet union and East Bloc nations, as well as North America for the purpose of exploring the best methods by which to poison, demoralize, and destroy the West. Conferees agreed that illicit drugs would be a particularly effective method to accomplish the task. Shortly, and surely by pure coincidence, illicit drug use in America soared. For all his overblown railings against drugs, castro is well known to allow narco-traffickers use of his island in return for compensation.

Were one to use the Medical Model to explain communism's baffling staying power, one might portray castro and his fellow tyrants as the bacteria which thrives and endures in a Petri dish generously nourished by communism's many supporters in business, media, and academia, none of whom ironically would survive a day beneath its miserable yoke.

Paul Vincent Zecchino Manasota Key, Florida 23 January, 2011

The Left is an evil, sleazy, relic, a crime syndicate which masquerades as the welcome wagon in your neighborhood and as a legitimate government above, yet which behaves as an avaricious predator, destroying liberty, property, posessions, and life itself whereever its cloven-hooves take it

Sgarcia5990
Sgarcia5990

I would love to see him more as a county mayor than mayor of Coral Gables

305pride
305pride

Coral Gables needs to get over the BS and revitalize the area around Ponce de Leon, between Alhambra and 8 st. I refer to this area as 'the avenue where restaurants go to die.' This area needs new life...open a few bars and night clubs (high-end of course.)

I live in the Gables...I just don't drink here (stole this line from a bar tender at John Martins)!

Let the business people go for happy hour and spend their money. The Gables needs a few more clubs like Uva to attract more people. Why not have people want to stay after they go to diner? Also, Gables city gov. needs to take a look at Miracle Mile. So many empty stores. Empty stores are becoming common all over the Gables. Some streets look like they belong in a ghost town.

In short, Gables need to change it's old women attitude about everything. The residential sections are completely away (almost) from where the crowds and the load music would be.

Cowboy_cuban
Cowboy_cuban

hey 305, you got places where you can party and raise hell till the sun comes up. hialeah, s. dade, and little havana, amongst other places. i used to live in hialeah, i think i was the only one with in a 4 block area that actually worked. my neighbors played salsa, bachata, and boleros 24 hours aday and could care a less about the others that lived around them, that had to work. now i live in the gables, you see people walking, jogging, families outside, etc. its quiet here, and i dont have people trying to break into my vehicle, steal my gas, and its quiet and calm. so, those of us who live here... please keep your ghetto dreams to yourself.

Robert Hub
Robert Hub

People in Coral Gables do not vote on Cuban issues alone, they are too smart and sophisticated. They do not want anything to do with the City of Miami shenanigans and corruption to take over the "City Beautiful". Jorge De Cardenas has a right to work too, his past should not be judged to affect the future of someone nobody knows yet. The Candidate has to earn the trust of the Gables people who have worked hard to have the best run city in the world

Tigger
Tigger

I simply love the logic of Sual Landau. It's remarkably vapid and shallow.

"Cason was poking Havana in the eye with the expectation he would get kicked out or Bush would find a reason to close the Interests Section," Landau told New Times. "He was stirring up trouble without realizing what the consequences would be. He got 75 people arrested."

So, giving people the tools to be free journalists gets them arrested. And Saul has the problem with the guy giving them the tools, not the dictator who jailed them after one day trials for 20+ years. So much so that he blames Cason for their arrest! As though he cuffed them, shoved them into the show trial, and then dragged them off to the gulag for the next couple of decades.

That is an amazingly revealing response to the situation at hand and shows just how much respect Saul Landau has for a free press and free speech in general. Especially for people unfortunately enough to reside in Cuba.

Jose Gonzalez
Jose Gonzalez

I read the entire story and it sounds like he helped the double agent el comandante weed out some trouble makers,

xio bobadilla
xio bobadilla

THERE ARE ONLY 2 COUNTRIES IN THIS WORLD USA AND CUBA, WHY DON'T YOU STOP IT, THE WORLD IS COMING DOWN TO PIECES BUT NO, ONLY CUBA AND CASTRO, I AM SO SICK AND TIRED OF THE SAME SHIT OVER AND OVER, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT, TAKE A LOOK AT THE REST OF THE WORLD, INCLUDING OUR COUNTRY USA. GOD BLESS AMERICA, BECAUSE THINGS ARE BAD HERE AND THIS IS WHAT MATTERS MOST OF ALL.

Gmjarquin
Gmjarquin

Totally agree with you XIO, I'm one more who's sick and tire of the same bullshit this bunch of Cubans refugees keep talking about during the last 50+ years. Unfortunately we keep hearing such BS only in Miami, nowhere else in the whole USA. They have taken the Miami Herald to keep airing their yieling and lies.

ROLANDO
ROLANDO

And what lies would these be exactly? Go ahead and explain yourself. For someone who says they are tired of such discussions, You sure have a disrespectful manner of expressing it. At least the above post expressed a legitimate priority in the comment. Yours however expresses ignorance and intolerance to the community. If you are so deeply troubled about all this, You always have the option of living elsewhere. You said so yourself that this gets mentioned only in Miami and nowhere else. But I'm afraid that what you have been hearing is due to the right of freedom of speech. And if you are at odds with such a right, Then sadly you are living in the wrong country. I, myself am not fond of everything I hear and read about on media outlets. But at least I respect different point of views and acknowledge and uphold the rights granted to me and everyone else in the country. My advise to the both of you is that you gather your news from sources outside of miami.

Yokolee359
Yokolee359

u can always go to Arizona and take xio with you...........they are running out of Indians

Anyone But Sleaznick
Anyone But Sleaznick

So, I'm curious as to what international experience and diplomacy have to do with running a financially stressed municipality. How long has Mr. Cason lived in the Gables anyway?

J D Rumi
J D Rumi

This low level diplomat is a dinosaur and a republican to boot.Let Coral Gables deal with him, I don't live there anyway."Give the people what they want", I always say * just don't complain and bitch later.Now there trying to recall Mayor Alvarez but after the fact, they are always getting it wrong,learn how to vote (aprendan a elegir) bunch of dummies! * paranoid,ignorant,racist idiots!

Pingon
Pingon

Everybody has the right to be stupid. But you're abusing the priviledge!

Curt9954
Curt9954

Cason is a disgusting piece of shit for the trouble he caused in Cuba. He was directly responsible for the arrests of 75 dissidents in March 2003. Cason was only there to build his ego, rather than help Cuba toward democracy. Kudos to the Cuban govern ment for foiling his plans.

305pride
305pride

Those 75 arrested have helped advance Cuba further than any Cuban dinosaur from Miami could ever. Get your facts right. The women in white have become a huge international problem from Castro.

nooraj
nooraj

I agree with yoyu he full of shit

P_Nis
P_Nis

Enough with Slesnick, has everyone forgotten how much he cost the city when he stopped construction of the new city hall complex? Cason sounds alright to me, it's time for new blood.

On another note, Frank, have you forgotten who the other candidates brother is?!

Jdrumi
Jdrumi

" Cason sounds alright to you " really???????? Ok, vote for him then

P_Nis
P_Nis

I will, thanks for your approval.

 
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