Terrorists in Miami, Oh My!
By Robert Parry
June 24, 2006
The Bush administration finally
took action against alleged terrorists living in plain sight in Miami,
but they weren’t the right-wing Cuban terrorists implicated in actual
acts of terror, such as blowing a civilian Cuban airliner out of the
sky. They were seven young black men whose crime was more “aspirational
than operational,” the FBI said.
fanfare over the arrests made the seven young men, many sporting
dreadlocks, the new face of the terrorist enemy in America, Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales conceded that the men had no weapons or
explosives and represented “no immediate threat.”
Gonzales warned that these kinds of homegrown terrorists “may prove to
be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda.” [NYT, June 24, 2006]
longtime observers of political terrorism in South Florida, the
aggressive reaction to what may have been the Miami group’s loose talk
about violence, possibly spurred by an FBI informant posing as an al-Qaeda
operative, stands in marked contrast to the U.S. government’s
see-no-evil approach to notorious Cuban terrorists who have lived openly
in Miami for decades.
instance, the Bush administration took no action in early April 2006,
when a Spanish-language Miami television station interviewed Cuban
terrorist Orlando Bosch, who offered a detailed justification for the
1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight that killed 73 people,
including the young members of the Cuban national fencing team.
refused to admit guilt, but his chilling defense of the bombing – and
the strong evidence that has swirled around his role – left little doubt
of his complicity, even as he lives in Miami as a free man, protected
both in the past and present by the Bush family.
administration also has acted at a glacial pace in dealing with another
Cuban exile implicated in the bombing, Luis Posada Carriles, whose
illegal presence in Miami was an open secret for weeks in early 2005
before U.S. authorities took him into custody, only after he had held a
But even then, the
administration has balked at sending Posada back to Venezuela where the
government of Hugo Chavez – unlike some of its predecessors – was eager
to prosecute Posada for the Cubana Airlines murders.
Summing up George W.
Bush’s dilemma in 2005, the New York Times wrote, “A grant of
asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising
its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists. But to
turn Mr. Posada away could provoke political wrath in the conservative
Cuban-American communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and
campaign money for President Bush and his brother, Jeb.” [NYT, May 9,
Bush Family Ties
there’s really nothing new about these two terrorists – and other
violent right-wing extremists – getting protection from the Bush family.
decades, both Bosch and Posada have been under the Bush family’s
protective wing, starting with former President George H.W. Bush (who
was CIA director when the airline bombing occurred in 1976) and
extending to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush.
evidence points to one obvious conclusion: the Bushes regard terrorism
– defined as killing civilians to make a political point – as justified
in cases when their interests match those of the terrorists. In other
words, their moral outrage is selective, depending on the identity of
hypocrisy was dramatized by the TV interview with Bosch on Miami’s
Channel 41, which was cited in articles on the Internet by Venezuela’s
Pertierra, but was otherwise widely ignored by the U.S. news media. [For
Pertierra’s story, see
Counterpunch, April 11, 2006]
down that plane in 1976?” asked reporter Juan Manuel Cao.
“If I tell
you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself,” Bosch answered,
“and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action, you would
say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the
But when Cao asked Bosch to
comment on the civilians who died when the plane crashed off the coast
of Barbados in 1976, Bosch responded, “In a war such as
us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you
have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to
attack anything that is within your reach.”
“But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for
their families?” Cao asked.
“Who was on board that plane?” Bosch responded. “Four members of the
Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese.” [Officials tallies
actually put the Guyanese dead at 11.]
Bosch added, “Four members of the Communist Party, chico! Who was
there? Our enemies…”
“And the fencers?” Cao asked about Cuba’s amateur fencing team that
had just won gold, silver and bronze medals at a youth fencing
competition in Caracas. “The young people on board?”
Bosch replied, “I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on
television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition,
the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. … She gave
a speech filled with praise for the tyrant.
“We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from
Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and
women that fight alongside the tyranny.” [The comment about Santo
Domingo was an apparent reference to a strategy meeting by a right-wing
terrorist organization, CORU, which took place in the Dominican Republic
“If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane,
wouldn’t you think it difficult?” Cao asked.
“No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they
were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba,” Bosch answered.
In an article about Bosch’s remarks, lawyer Pertierra said the
answers “give us a glimpse into the mind of the kind of terrorist that
the United States government harbors and protects in Miami.”
The Posada Case
arrested for illegally entering the United States during the first Bush
administration, but he was paroled in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush
at the behest of the President’s eldest son Jeb, then an aspiring
Not only did the first Bush administration free Bosch from jail a
decade and a half ago, the second Bush administration has now pushed
Venezuela’s extradition request for his alleged co-conspirator, Posada,
onto the back burner.
The downed Cubana Airlines flight originated in Caracas where
Venezuelan authorities allege the terrorist plot was hatched. However,
U.S. officials have resisted returning Posada to Venezuela because Hugo
Chavez is seen as friendly to Castro’s communist government in Cuba.
At a U.S. immigration hearing in 2005, Posada’s defense attorney put
on a Posada friend as a witness who alleged that Venezuela’s government
practices torture. Bush administration lawyers didn’t challenge the
claim, leading the immigration judge to bar Posada’s deportation to
In September 2005, Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez called the
77-year-old Posada “the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America” and accused
the Bush administration of applying “a cynical double standard” in its
War on Terror.
Alvarez also denied that Venezuela practices torture. “There isn’t a
shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela,” Alvarez
said, adding that the claim is particularly ironic given widespread
press accounts that the Bush administration has abused prisoners at the
U.S. military base in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.
Theoretically, the Bush administration could still extradite Posada
to Venezuela to face the 73 murder counts, but it is essentially
ignoring Venezuela’s extradition request while holding Posada on minor
immigration charges of entering the United States illegally.
Meanwhile, Posada has begun maneuvering to gain his freedom. Citing
his service in the U.S. military from 1963-65 in Vietnam, Posada has
applied for U.S. citizenship, and his lawyer Eduardo Soto has threatened
to call U.S. government witnesses, including former White House aide
Oliver North, to vouch for Posada’s past service to Washington.
Posada became a figure in
the Iran-Contra scandal because of his work on a clandestine program to
aid Nicaraguan contra rebels fighting Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista
government. The operation was run secretly out of the White House by
North with the help of the office of then-Vice President George H.W.
Posada reached Central
America in 1985 after escaping from a Venezuelan prison where he had
been facing charges from the 1976 Cubana Airlines bombing. Posada, using
the name Ramon Medina, teamed up with another Cuban exile, former CIA
officer Felix Rodriguez, who reported regularly to Bush’s office.
Posada oversaw logistics
and served as paymaster for pilots in the contra-supply operation. When
one of the contra-supply planes was shot down inside Nicaragua in
October 1986, Posada was responsible for alerting U.S. officials to the
crisis and then shutting down the operation’s safe houses in El
Even after the exposure
of Posada’s role in the contra-supply operation, the U.S. government
made no effort to bring the accused terrorist to justice.
As for the Cubana Airlines bombing, declassified
U.S. documents show that after the plane was blown out of the sky on
Oct. 6, 1976, the CIA, then under the direction of George H.W. Bush,
quickly identified Posada and Bosch as the masterminds of the Cubana
But in fall 1976, Bush’s boss, President Gerald
Ford, was in a tight election battle with Democrat Jimmy Carter and the
Ford administration wanted to keep intelligence scandals out of the
newspapers. So Bush and other officials kept the lid on the
investigations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s
Secrecy & Privilege.]
Still, inside the U.S. government, the facts were
known. According to a secret CIA cable dated Oct. 14, 1976, intelligence
sources in Venezuela relayed information about the Cubana Airlines
bombing that tied in anti-communist Cuban extremists Bosch, who had been
visiting Venezuela, and Posada, who then served as a senior officer in
Venezuela’s intelligence agency, DISIP.
The Oct. 14 cable said Bosch arrived in Venezuela
in late September 1976 under the protection of Venezuelan President
Carlos Andres Perez, a close Washington ally who assigned his
intelligence adviser Orlando Garcia “to protect and assist Bosch during
his stay in Venezuela.”
On his arrival, Bosch was met by Garcia and Posada,
according to the report. Later, a fundraising dinner was held in Bosch’s
honor during which Bosch requested cash from the Venezuelan government
in exchange for assurances that Cuban exiles wouldn’t demonstrate during
Andres Perez’s planned trip to the United Nations.
“A few days following the fund-raising dinner,
Posada was overheard to say that, ‘we are going to hit a Cuban
airplane,’ and that ‘Orlando has the details,’” the CIA report said.
“Following the 6 October Cubana Airline crash off
the coast of Barbados, Bosch, Garcia and Posada agreed that it would be
best for Bosch to leave Venezuela. Therefore, on 9 October, Posada and
Garcia escorted Bosch to the Colombian border, where he crossed into
The CIA report was sent to CIA headquarters in
Langley, Virginia, as well as to the FBI and other U.S. intelligence
agencies, according to markings on the cable.
In South America, investigators began rounding up
suspects in the bombing.
Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo,
who had left the Cubana plane in Barbados, confessed that they had
planted the bomb. They named Bosch and Posada as the architects of the
A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned
up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents.
Posada and Bosch were
arrested and charged in Venezuela for the Cubana Airlines bombing, but
the men denied the accusations. The case soon became a political
tug-of-war, since the suspects were in possession of sensitive
Venezuelan government secrets that could embarrass President Andres
Perez. The case lingered for almost a decade.
After the Reagan-Bush
administration took power in Washington in 1981, the momentum for fully
unraveling the mysteries of anti-communist terrorist plots dissipated.
The Cold War trumped any concern about right-wing terrorism.
By the late 1980s,
Orlando Bosch also was out of Venezuela’s jails and back in Miami. But
Bosch, who had been implicated in about 30 violent attacks, was facing
possible deportation by U.S. officials who warned that Washington
couldn’t credibly lecture other countries about terrorism while
protecting a terrorist like Bosch.
But Bosch got lucky. Jeb Bush, then an aspiring
Florida politician, led a lobbying drive to prevent the U.S. Immigration
and Naturalization Service from expelling Bosch. In 1990, the lobbying
paid dividends when Jeb’s dad, President George H.W. Bush, blocked
proceedings against Bosch, letting the unapologetic terrorist stay in
the United States.
In 1992, also during
George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the FBI interviewed Posada about the
Iran-Contra scandal for 6 ½ hours at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras.
Posada filled in some
blanks about the role of Bush’s vice presidential office in the secret
contra operation. According to
a 31-page summary of the FBI interview,
Posada said Bush’s national security adviser, Donald Gregg, was in
frequent contact with Felix Rodriguez.
“Posada … recalls that
Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI summary said. “Posada knows
this because he’s the one who paid Rodriguez’ phone bill.” After the
interview, the FBI agents let Posada walk out of the embassy to freedom.
[For details, see Parry’s
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press &
Posada soon returned to
his anti-Castro plotting.
In 1994, Posada set out
to kill Castro during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Posada and five
cohorts reached Cartagena, but the plan flopped when security cordons
prevented the would-be assassins from getting a clean shot at Castro,
according to a Miami Herald account. [Miami Herald, June 7, 1998]
The Herald also described
Posada’s role in a lethal 1997 bombing campaign against popular hotels
and restaurants inside Cuba that killed an Italian tourist. The story
cited documentary evidence that Posada arranged payments to conspirators
from accounts in the United States.
Posada landed back in
jail in 2000 after Cuban intelligence uncovered a plot to assassinate
Castro by planting a bomb at a meeting the Cuban leader planned with
university students in Panama.
arrested Posada and other alleged co-conspirators in November 2000. In
April 2004, they were sentenced to eight or nine years in prison for
endangering public safety.
Four months after the
sentencing, however, lame-duck Panamanian President Mireya
Moscoso – who lives in Key Biscayne, Florida, and has close ties to the
Cuban-American community and to George W.
Bush’s administration – pardoned the convicts.
Despite press reports
saying Moscoso had been in contact with U.S. officials about the
pardons, the State Department denied that it pressured Moscoso to
release the Cuban exiles. After the pardons and just two months before
Election 2004, three of Posada’s co-conspirators – Guillermo Novo Sampol,
Pedro Remon and Gaspar Jimenez – arrived in Miami to a hero’s welcome,
flashing victory signs at their supporters.
While the terrorists
celebrated, U.S. authorities watched the men – also implicated in
bombings in New York, New Jersey and Florida – alight on U.S. soil. As
Washington Post writer Marcela Sanchez noted in a September 2004 article
about the Panamanian pardons, “there is something terribly wrong when
the United States, after Sept. 11 (2001), fails to condemn the pardoning
of terrorists and instead allows them to walk free on U.S. streets.” [Washington
Post, Sept. 3, 2004]
But a whole different set of standards is now being applied to the
seven black terrorism suspects in Miami. Even though they had no
clear-cut plans or even the tools to carry out terrorist attacks, they
have been rounded up amid great media hoopla.
The American people have been reassured that the terrorists in Miami
have been located and are being brought to justice.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra
stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at
secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine,
the Press & 'Project Truth.'
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