Washington’s Very Own Terrorists

Share this item
Tools
 Podcast
 RSS

Behind the glitzy façade of Miami and its palm lined boulevards, lurks a very dark history. For decades the coast of Florida has been a safe haven for CIA-trained terrorists capable of the most barbaric acts. These acts of terror not only took place in foreign lands – mainly Cuba - but also on US soil. Armed militias have their own barracks and the footage of their trainings in their fatigues is not unlike that of Al-Qaida training camps. The atrocities of these terrorists, be it explosion of Cubana passenger jet over Barbados, or attacks on tourist resorts of Cuba and eliminating rival figures, are well documented and blatantly confessed to. Yet, leaders of these openly armed militias, and masterminds of terror attacks, having being on CIA payroll, have always got away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Just as George W. Bush divided the post 9/11 world into two groups of “With Us” or “Against Us”, seems like Washington has long made the same distinction between terrorists. Those who do the biddings of the White House are the good ones who should perhaps be given the title of “freedom fighters” and those who are not under the control of CIA and US intelligence services are the bad guys. Washington’s Own Terrorists is the story of the so-called Cuban freedom fighters who have not shied away from barbaric “acts of sabotage” in their fight against Havana and Fidel Castro’s administration.

Narration:

This is Miami, an international metropolis associated with beaches, tourism, shopping and a distinctive Latin feel.

Miami is also the capital of the Cuban exile community, and Spanish is more common than English as the trading language.

The Cuban exiles have historically juxtaposed Miami’s capitalist bonanza to the financial hardships of communist Cuba, located only 90 miles away.

But not many will associate present-day Miami to the biggest terrorist centre in the whole world, which is how this city was described during the 1960s.

Max Lesnik:

At that time Miami turned into the city of terrorism, the world’s terrorism capital. In a single year over 100 bombs exploded. Over a dozen of those were directed at us.

Narration:

Thousands of right-wing extremists who had fled Cuba organised themselves into armed militias and, with the complacency of the US government, took Miami as a safe haven from where to launch campaigns of international terrorism.

Osiel:

We participated on attacks on the lives of many figures of the Cuban dictatorships, Fidel Castro amongst them.

Santiago Alvarez:

We took part in the sinking of two commercial vessels that were in Cuban waters

Narration:

Up to the present day, these Miami-based Cuban exiles still seem to get their way with the US government, no matter what they do.

Pertiera:

The US likes to protect its own: Washington’s own terrorists

Narration:

In 1961 a paramilitary group of Cuban exiles, funded and trained by the CIA, set off from Florida with the aim of invading Cuba and toppling the socialist government.

After disembarking at the Bay of Pigs, they were defeated by the Cuban forces under the command of Fidel Castro.

The survivors of this failed invasion returned to the US, where many of them regrouped into different armed militias, all of them based around Miami.

One such group, that has been active for almost five decades, is Alpha 66, and veteran fighters Osiel Gonzales and Reinol Rodriguez are two of its founders.

Osiel:

The main objective of our organisation is the armed struggle against Castro’s regime.

We represent the Cuban intransigence.

Reinol:

We have a group of men who are ready so that, when the right time comes, we have qualified men with whom we will make our presence felt when a revolt against the regime triggers off in Cuba.

Narration:

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, a

lawyer specialised in Human Rights has been coming at odds with most of his fellow Cuban-Americans and the US establishment.

For years Jose Pertierra has been fighting against the US’ government’s tolerance of fringe groups, as Alpha 66.

Pertiera:

These folks train openly in Florida, in the Everglades, they dress up like Rambo in their camouflage and they crawl around in the swamps before TV cameras to show how the are training to defeat the government of Raul Castro and how they are planning to blow up installations in Cuba

Osiel:

We are entitled by the laws of the United States, which allow for citizens to carry guns and train themselves on the use of them. When we go to a training camp to practice military exercises we use our own weapons.

Pertiera:

There’s a law called the Neutrality Act that prohibits people fro using US shores or US territory to train an carry put acts of sabotage or subversion against other countries. It’s a law that was passed by Congress because the business of making war is the business of governments, not of fringe groups.

Osiel:

If it’s not with bullets it’s with words, but Alpha 66 is always present.

For many years Alpha 66 had a station that transmitted radio waves from Miami to Cuba.

We had a van that we had painted to make it look as a painter’s can and, atop the van we had a telescopic ladder with directional antennas on its end.

Through the radio broadcasts we used to tell people in Cuba how to make acts of sabotage, how to build explosive devices and how to attack installations.

Radio broadcaster:

This is the Voice of Alpha 66, talking to Cuba

Broadcaster 2:

We call for the physical elimination of the tyrant

Broadcaster 3:

And the tyrant is called Fidel Castro Ruz

Broadcaster 2:

All Cubans: take on the struggle!

Broadcaster 3:

Raise up Cubans: sabotage and attack!

Narration:

After years of transmitting from a van with heavily armed guards as lookouts, the US authorities eventually arrested a member of Alpha 66 for illegal radio broadcasts, but very quickly let him go and returned their van although without the radio transmitter.

Osiel:

Then we had the good fortune of having Radio Mambi station giving us one daily hour for our transmissions

Voice of Alpha 66:

We have to try and sabotage the Cuban economy through all possible means, we have to re-install the incendiary tactics: all state property should be destroyed, let the misery fall on the communist leaders.

From Radio Mambi we have just presented: “The Voice of Freedom”

Osiel:

We have to lookout for the US government, because it has been dozens of times that the US authorities have confiscated our weapons and vessels.

Narration:

Many of the weapons that have been seized from Alpha 66 are catalogued as combat weapons, intended exclusively for military use.

Pertiera:

Sometimes the acts of terrorism are so blatant that they have to do something, otherwise the American people won’t understand why are you protecting these guys.

But what happens is you don’t prosecute them zealously or you make sure they don’t get a lot of time.

Narration:

Santiago Alvarez, a millionaire Miami-based property developer, is another member of Alpha 66.

Santiago:

On 2005, the FBI found a cache of weapons in a building that belonged to me. Some of those weapons were illegal, some others... had actually been given to us Cubans by the US government...

There were M-14s, M-16s and also an M-60

Narration:

Besides the assault rifles and heavy machine gun described by Santiago, the FBI also found a silencer and a grenade launcher.

Instead of charging him with providing material support to terrorist activities, a crime which carries a sentence of 15 years to life, Santiago Alvarez only had to plead guilty to one count of illegal weapons possession.

Santiago:

Unfortunately I had to declare myself guilty and served just over two years for that.

After I was sentenced, several of my former comrades got together and hired a lawyer to negotiate with the US attorney and struck a deal through which they handed a very large number of weapons and explosives in exchange for a reduction of my sentence.

So they did, and my sentence was reduced by 33 per cent.

Narration:

In a no-questions-asked deal, the FBI received from Santiago’s friends over 200 pounds of dynamite, 14 pounds of C-4 explosives and 30 assault rifles, amongst other military hardware.

Raul:

The authorities only go as far as confiscating their weapons, confiscating a boat or handing them a little fine – just a little slap in the wrist to say: you shouldn’t do that”

Narration:

Raul Alzaga immigrated to the US from Cuba when he was only six years old. Influenced by the characteristic anti-Cuban rhetoric of most Cuban exiles in Florida, during the 1960s he spent a brief spell with anti-Castro groups, such as Alpha 66.

Raul:

For a brief five or six months I belonged to one of the three organisations that made up Alpha 66. This was back in 1964, whenI was only 15 years old.

Narration:

After radically changing his posture towards Cuba and re-locating to Puerto Rico, he teamed up with his old friend Carlos Mu?iz and, in 1979 they started “Viajes Varadero”: a tourist agency that promoted what up to then had been banned by law: the travel of Cuban exiles back to the island.

Raul:

We had just began with the trips to Cuba only three or four months before, and there had been a very positive response from the Cuban community in Puerto Rico, and this had already been triggering a very violent reaction from all the political organizations of Cuban exiles.

So they launched a campaign claiming that all of those who travelled to Cuba were traitors, or were selling off to the enemy, when the trips didn’t actually have a political nature – they were humanitarian or family trips.

Narration:

Alpha 66 and its associates were to, once again, play an active role in Raul’s life.

Raul:

He [Carlos Muniz] was driving from this direction. By this time they were already chasing him and the other car was coming close behind him. Around here the shots came out and his car tipped over just around here, by these trees, and the car was left upside down.

It was a huge shock for us and we had to define ourselves even more, as it was clear that we were campaigning for something that could cost us our lives. So we had to make a decision and ours was to continue with the project we were engaged in.

Narration:

The murder of Carlos Mu?iz was orchestrated and carried out by a group of Cuban right wing extremists based in Puerto Rico, one of which is widely suspected to be Julito Labatud, seen here on a TV interview from 2001.

Interviewer:

They mention you as one of the masterminds behind the murder of Carlos Muniz Varela.

Labatud:

Well, I disagree with the term you are using: “murder”, as for me it was an out-of-date execution. It was out of date because it happened when he was 27 years od, while it should have been done when he was born.

Narration:

Another high profile extremist is suspected to have engineered the murder together with Labatud.

Raul:

The main suspect of organizing and directing the attack on Carlos, is Reinol Rodriguez who is currently the military leader of Alpha 66 in Miami.

Reinol:

They have blamed around 20 of us for the murder of Carlos Muniz but that’s a corpse I don’t have to carry. They publish my name as the author of that in the Granma International (Cuban newspaper) and everywhere else.

Narration:

Reinol Rodriguez is regarded as the strong man amongst the veteran anti-Castro fighters based in Miami.

According to him, the accusations of murder that Raul an others make against him come from a certain threat he publicly made after being himself the victim of an attack.

Reinol:

What I said was that they can try to kill me, but we know how to get five of them for each one of us.

The FBI warned me around 1pm and by 9:15 pm the attack was taking place. It was on the 6th of July 1979. They shot at me with a machine gun and 12 bullets struck my car. But there was someone up there who decided that was not my day.

Narration:

However, according to declassified FBI files, it seems that the US government had suspicions that the attempt on Reinol Rodriguez could have been staged by himself.

Back in Puerto Rico, the attack on the travel industry wasn’t to cease with the murder of Muniz.

Raul:

Aside from dozens of bombs across Puerto Rico, they targeted us with three bombs. One before murdering Carlos and the other two after his assassination.

Reinol: I lived in Puerto Rico from 1971 to 1979, and during all that time I was a stone in the shoe for all the communists over there.

Narration:

Also based in Miami, Antonio Veciana is another founding member of Alpha 66. He shares more than just a friendship with Reinol Rodriguez.

Veciana:

In 1979 I was warned that someone was to try and kill Reinol Rodriguez and myself. Reinol was targeted because in Habana they thought that Carlos Muniz, who was someone very close to the Cuban government, had been murdered and they though Reinol had something to do with that.

The attempt on Reinol’s life took place two weeks before it happened to me, and the authorities discovered that the same weapon, the same car and the same two people who shot at Reinol were the ones who tried to kill me.

They wounded me in the head and the abdomen.

Narration:

The likely reasons for the attempt on Antonio Veciana’s life are the several plots to murder Fidel Castro, which he directed.

Veciana: On October 1961 we had planned an attempt to kill him at the Presidential Palace of Havana. Back then Castro used to call up the people at the Presidential Palace and all the mayor figures from the government would stand on a balcony. Our people were supposed to fire a bazooka and bring down the whole balcony, with everyone on it, including Castro. Unfortunately the person in charge of the attack thought that, despite all the assurances that had been given, he would not get out alive, so he cancelled.

Narration:

Just as all the other members of Alpha 66 we have seen so far. Antonio Veciana also used to be on the payroll of the CIA.

Veciana: During 1960 and 1961, through the CIA I had more weapons than ever in my life. I had incendiary grenades, incendiary suitcases, machine guns with silencers… all given to me by the CIA. And, while I was still in Havana, I organised several attempts and bombings.

Narration:

After fleeing Cuba following his first attempt on Castro’s life, Antonio Veciana continued working for the CIA in South America.

Eventually, in 1971 he heard of Castro’s planned visit to Chile, and, with the help of his CIA minders, plotted another attempt on the life of his archenemy.

Veciana:

We came to Miami to interview different people with the idea of getting them to pose as cameramen and kill Fidel Castro while he was giving his press conference. The two men flew to Chile a month before Castro arrived. I was with them and we hired a flat, introduced the weapons and everything. But at the time to carry out the job, well, we have to admit that, just as ten years before, they lost courage…

Narration:

Back in Santiago Alvarez luxury Miami mansion, he and his fellow Alpha 66 comrades in arms are reminiscing of the old times. Together they used to steal weapons from the US army and use them to carry out commando attacks on the Cuban shoreline.

Santiago Alvarez:

Every week we used to steal a car boot full of weapons from the US Army, and they knew about it. Grenade launchers and dummy grenades from the M-1 rifles, which we used to transform into live ones.

In Hanover Beach we prepared a large group. We were around 30 men aboard four ships and the main ship was mine. It was the only one that wasn’t caught loaded with anything illegal, but the other three were caught full of explosives which they [US coastguards] confiscated and arrested all of us, but the day after an FBI agent came…

Santiago’s cousin:

And the next day they let us go

Santiago Alvarez:

Yes, and they told us: “We’ll give you back your vessels if you leave the US.”

So we did. We left with the MRR and spent almost two years down in Nicaragua.

Narration:

The MRR was a subversive group financed and armed by the CIA. It operated from Central America, carrying out bombings, arson attacks and acts of sabotage against Cuba.

Santiago Alvarez:

The Movement for Revolutionary Recuperation – MRR was a group conformed entirely by Cubans but with the financial backing of the United States. The US had given us bases in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and later also in Santo Domingo, and from there we carried out commando missions against the regime in Havana.

In this picture they are waiting for us at the harbour, after a mission on the northern shore of Cuba. We were already returning to base. This is me, the captain of the ship and this is Emilio Palomo, who is my cousin and was also a member of the crew.

We attacked the port of Casilda, which was an oil distribution centre on the south of Cuba and there we sank an Spanish ship called the Sierra Aransazu. One or two crew members on board that ship died. That was the only time there were civilian casualties.

You never want to have civilian casualties but that ship, at a crucial moment, was supplying the Cuban government with machinery for the sugar cane industry.

Narration:

However, according to the Cuban government, this were not the only civilian casualties product of Santiago Alvarez’ subversive actions.

Cuban authorities allege that Alvarez was on board a motorboat that shelled the shoreline of a Cuban fishing village in 1971 killing two men and wounding four others, including two young girls.

Alvarez :

I’m aware that operation did not have the success we expected, but I didn’t take part in it. However, according to the intelligence that the Cuban government had, I was supposed to be in command of that expedition, so that’s why in Cuba they keep accusing me of having been there, but that’s not the case.

During those days my father had died, so I couldn’t go in the expedition.

This one here is my father, who also took part in our missions.

Narration:

Santiago and his friends feel in a celebratory mood, as Hugo Chavez -Venezuela’s President and the man whom they see as Fidel Castro’s greatest friend – has just passed away.

Santiago Alvarez:

What can I say about the death of Hugo Chavez?

About the man who saved the life of the Cuban dictatorship?

Without Hugo Chavez’ money, today the Cuban dictatorship would not exist anymore.

Narration:

Meanwhile, in the other side of town, Cuban journalist Max Lesnik and a group of his friends watch with sadness the funeral of Venezuela’s Commander in Chief.

Max has lived in Miami since fleeing Cuba in 1961.

He was publicly opposed to communism in Cuba, but has also voiced praise for Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez’ caring for the impoverished classes.

Max Lesnik:

The entire world with Chavez, but not in Miami.

Once again Miami has turned into the exception to the rule, after the sad loss of the Venezuelan president and leader of the Continental Bolivarian movement, Hugo Chavez Frias. While in Venezuela even the political adversaries of the deceased leader respectfully bowed to a whole nation submerged in grief, here in Miami, in a diabolic communion, the Cubans and Venezuelans of the extreme right toast with champagne to the death of who always was and will always be the hope of the humble and poor people of the American continent.

Miami continues to be the city of hatred. We feel embarrassed for them.

Narration:

Through a varieties magazine he used to have during the 1970s, Max outspokenly condemned the violent acts of the anti-Castro extreme right.

Lesnik:

Everyone knew there was a sort of terrorist mafia organised to intimidate all of those who defended an open position like ours. And that was reinforced by the fact that the terrorists felt pampered and supported by the US authorities.

Narration:

Max’s unwavering stance against terrorism was manifested more firmly when, in 1976, a Cuban commercial airliner was blown into pieces, killing all passengers on board.

Max Lesnik

For that excrement represented by the Cuban-America ultra right wing in Miami, the blowing up of the Cubana airplane was nothing else than a military victory. They blew up a civilian plane and for them that was a military victory.

Pertiera:

73 people on board a civilian passenger airliner above the waters of Barbados, and those 73 people included the entire Cuban fencing team, the youth fencing team, that boarded the plane with medals hanging from their chests that they had won, they swept the medals on the Panamerican games in Caracas.

PILOT’S audio

There’s an explosion and we are descending immediately, there’s fire on board

We’re requesting immediately landing…

END PART ONE

PART TWO

Narration:

For decades the coasts of Florida have been a safe haven to CIA-trained terrorists capable of the most barbaric acts. These acts of terror not only took place in foreign lands, but also on US soil.

Max Lesnik:

We condemned this barbaric act of blowing up a civilian plane and a series of bombs exploded across the city and, specifically, eleven terrorist attacks took place at the building where the magazine under my direction was located.

Narration:

Behind the wave of terror were the anti-Castro extremists and, above all of them, was one man in particular.

Max Lesnik

The main person responsible for this wave of terror is specifically Luis Posada Carriles.

Pertiera:

Posada Carriles is the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America. He’s the emblematic terrorist for Latin Americans and he is a person who has worked with the CIA since the 1960s.

Narration:

Lawyer Jose Pertierra has incessantly fought to bring Luis Posada Carriles to justice for masterminding the bombing of the Cuban airliner.

Jose Pertierra believes the amount of evidence against Luis Posada is overwhelming

Pertierra:

We have confessions by his co-conspirators: Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who fingered Posada Carriles.

Narration:

Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo are two Venezuelan mercenaries who were the actual perpetrators of the crime.

Pertiera:

The phone calls that were made by Hernan Ricardo to Caracas, to Posada Carriles’ office, looking for Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch hours after the downing of the plane.

Narration:

Lugo and Ricardo confessed to being hired by CORU, which they accurately described as the anti-Castro group headed by Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch - another terrorist who had previously worked for the CIA.

Fidel Castro:

The CIA had a direct involvement in the destruction of the Cubana plane over Barbados.

Narration:

Soon after the bombing, Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of State at the time, was quick to deny any US involvement in the bombings.

Kissinger:

The United States had absolutely nothing to do, or any of its organs, in the explosion of the Cuban airliner..”

Narration:

Kissinger then went a bit further, and stated that “no one in contact with the American government has had anything to do with the bombing”

However, 20 years after the downing of the Cubana airliner, new evidence related to this incident was to surface.

Pertiera:

Declassified documents from the United States, where there is an admission by Posada Carriles, days before the downing of the plane, that he had the intention to blow up a plane and that Orlando Bosch had all the details.

CIA doc: “Orlando has all the details”

Narration:

Contrary to what Henry Kissinger had declared, the CIA had known about the plans to bomb the plane as far as three months before the incident.

The agency had sent a memo with the subject: “Possible plans of Cuban exile extremists to blow up a Cubana airliner” to top officials at the White House, FBI and the Pentagon.

Max:

The CIA’s job is to learn what is happening in the world, for the benefit of the United States. However, when they learn of something which does not damage the United States but that, in some way, might benefit their foreign policy or might harm a government or institution that the US considers as an enemy, then they keep silent and allow for things to happen.

Narration:

Just over 3 months after the CIA’s memo regarding the iminent terrorist attack, ex-CIA agent Luis Posada orchestrated the bombing of Cubana flight 455.

Max Lesnik

The involvement of the US’ intelligence services with such a barbaric act of terrorism as the blowing up of the Cubana plane over Barbados has never been part of a court case in the United States.

Narration:

Although for more practical reasons, Luis Posada’s former associate also condemns the barbarity of the airliner bombing.

Veciana:

I disagree because, if it would have been a military plane that’d have been perfect but, as it was a civilian plane, we gave Fidel Castro an excuse that allowed him to tell the world that his opponents were a bunch of thugs and terrorists.

Narration:

Most of Antonio Veciana’s comrades from Alpha 66 still deny Posada’s involvement in the bombing.

Osiel:

They accuse him of every single thing on Earth, so that they can then tell the US government: “You have the terrorist Luis Posada walking freely through the streets of Miami”...

Narration:

However, after many years of discreet silence, Antonio Veciana now told us some details never before disclosed, revealing even more evidence of Posada’s guilt.

Veciana:

Just by pure coincidence, I happened to have a water purifier business in Caracas, and one of my employers at the time, named Alfredo Aguiar, lent the apartment where the last conspiracy took place, where Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada and the two Venezuelans participated. They were the ones who placed the bomb [on the Cubana airliner].

Narration:

After Venezuelan bombers Ricardo and Lugo confessed to the crime, they

implicated Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch.

The four of them were jailed in Venezuela, from where they had planned the attack.

Bosch archive:

As you well know the war is nothing but a competition of cruelties, and this is our war and we have to fight them on the planes, on the trams, on the bicycles, because, as I’ve said many times, it’s thousands of us that they have killed.

Narration:

While Orlando Bosch was being interrogated in Caracas, back in the US Antonio Veciana was summoned by the US Congress

Veciana: The US Congress interviewed me about what I knew of the airliner bombing, because they thought I could have had some sort of participation, due to the phone call I made to the apartment where the last meeting [of the conspirators] took place.

At the beginning I tried to defend both of them: Posada and Bosch. I told them that us, the Cubans, were at war against the Cuban government.

Narration:

As Veciana was to discover, the concerns from the US Congress were rather more related to financial issues than to the loss of human lives.

Veciana:

There were two senators at that meeting: Schweiker and Hart. They switched off the recording device and both senators told me: “look, is now that bomb exploding on a civilian airliner has a copycat effect or provokes some sort of enthusiasm for those kinds of actions, then the civilian aviation industry in the whole world will suffer the consequences.

Narration:

Despite his obvious involvement in the bombing, in 1987 a pro-American Venezuelan government set Orlando Bosch free.

Two years earlier Posada Carriles had already managed to escape from prison.

Bosch went straight to Miami, where he was arrested again, for pending crimes related to an attack on a Polish ship.

Up-sound TV News broadcast:

...was convicted of firing a bazooka on a Polish ship in the Miami harbour...

Narration:

But instead of getting the treatment of a murderer convicted for acts of terrorism in both hemispheres, Orlando Bosch was the beneficiary of a huge campaign to free him.

Max Lesnik:

A Cuban-American congresswoman named Ileana Ross raised the flag for the freedom for Orlando Bosch and, as that was her petition, President Bush Sr thought that, in order to please Mrs Ross, Orlando Bosch had to be set free.

Narration:

Ileana Ross is a Republican congresswoman who, back in the late 1980s, had employed Jebb Bush, the son of the then president, George Bush Senior, as her campaign manager.

Ross and Jeb Bush though that if she managed to free Orlando Bosh she would be rewarded with millions of votes from Florida residents.

So, with Jeb Bush lobbying with his father, twice convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch was freed from jail.

Bosch Archive 2006:

Interviewer:

Wouldn’t it be hard for you to talk to the relatives of those who died in [the bombing of] 1976?

Bosch:

No. Those who were on board that plane had to know that, in some way, they were cooperating with the Cuban tyranny.

All of them.

Narration:

In 2011 Orlando Bosch died of natural causes while enjoying the freedom guaranteed to him by the Bush family.

In Miami public demonstrations of mourning were held for the terrorist responsible for more than a hundred murders.

Lesnik

He died a terrorist because he was always a terrorist.

Narration:

After escaping from jail in 1985, Bosch’s co-conspirator and long-time partner in crime, Luis Posada, managed to land a job with his former employers: the CIA.

Pertierra:

In 1985 he managed to escape from a prison, he bribed his way out, with the help of friends in Miami and about 55 thousand dollars and he fled the country of Venezuela.

Lesnik:

And where did he go to?

To the Liopango base in El Salvador, during the time of the war between the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front and the right wing Salvadoran government of that time. And Mr Posada, just as many other Cubans from the CIA, were there acting as officials from the US intelligence, helping the Salvadoran government.

Pertierra:

Wanted for 73 counts of first degree murder, he manages to land a job in a matter of days, earning in 1985, over $100,000 a year working for the CIA in the Iran-Contra scandal in El Salvador.

I would think he has good friends, in high places.

Narration:

But his influential friends from Washington couldn’t protect him when, in 1990, gunmen presumably sent by Fidel Castro, got hold of him in Guatemala City. He miraculously survived the 12 shots he received, but was left with a speech impediment and a disfigured face after one of the bullets struck his jaw.

However, that was not to stop Luis Posada’s campaign of terror.

Pertiera:

The Soviet Union and its allies had collapsed, and that meant the collapse of the Cuban economy, because they were Cuba’s trading partners and there is a blockade against Cuba that has been going on since the Kennedy administration. So Cuba turned to tourism, to try to bring dollars into the island and lift the island from its economic troubles. And the thinking of these terrorists was that if the set off bombs in the most famous hotels and restaurants in Cuba, that’d scare off tourism

Narration:

With the help of dollars from the Cuban-American Miami extremists, Luis Posada recruited Central American mercenaries and began a bombing campaign in Cuba’s that, amongst other things, was to claim the life of an Italian tourist.

Pertierra:

Fabio DiCelmo, in 1998 in Havana, was just an Italian busienessman drinking coffee with his friends and when he stood up to pay the bill a bomb blew up in an ashtray nearby and a piece of shrapnel cut his jugular vein and killed him almost immediately.

Narration:

One of the bombers working for Luis Posada, a Salvadorean mercenary, was captured by Cuban authorities, who filmed his re-enacting of the crime.

As soon as I realised there was no one watching, I stood up and walked to place the explosive. My bag was already open with the explosive inside, so the only thing I did was to look right and left and, discreetly, took out the explosive and placed it here and turned this around.

Narration:

The captured bomber confessed to receiving money from Posada to carry out the attacks in Cuba, while the latter, with a concealed face, boasted on Miami TV about his links to the crime.

Posada:

I assume total responsibility for any acts that took place within the Cuban territory and against the Havana regime.

Narration:

To add insult to injurty, Posada then explicitly expressed his lack of remorse on a recorded telephone interview [for the New York Times]

GRAPHIC WITH QUOTE:

"I sleep 8 hour every day, like a baby, my conscience is very clean..]"

Narration:

But attacking tourist destinations was not an original idea of Luis Posada.

Osiel:

We also attacked tourist places across the Cuban shores.

Narration:

During 1994 and 1995 Alpha 66 carried out machine gun attacks against tourist hotels in the popular Cuban resort of Cayo Coco.

“In recent years the emphasis has been in calling the attention to the tourists who are cooperating with the Cuban regime ... Our commandos have had confrontation with Castro's forces on several occasions at the tourist facilities of Cayo Coco. Cells of ALPHA 66 ... have sabotaged tourists attractions and other places”

According to Alpha 66’s own website:

Reinol:

That was so that the tourists wouldn’t go there: as soon as they realised they were visiting a communist country and that, therefore, they would all be military objectives, they will refrain from visiting Cuba. That was one of the methods we used: scaring away the tourists.

Narration:

With such precedent, it’s little wonder that the directive of Alpha 66 feels rather sympathetic to Luis Posada and his exploits.

Osiel:

Luis (Posada) has only been, for many years, a combatant for the freedom of Cuba.

Reinol

These are Luis’ paintings, which he does in order to support himself. This one is of a typical Cuban humble country house...

This place is where we display all the paintings of Luis Posada Carriles, because he has to paint in order to subsist, and that’s because he doesn’t receive much in way of a pension for the time he served for the US Army.

Look, this is Luis’ signature. He’s been my friend since we were young, back in Cuba.

This is a smaller one…

Reinol:

Luis Posada Carriles is a combatant whom the Cuban government has always tried to accuse of terrorism, while they [Cuban government] are the real terrorists.

Narration:

In what he sees as his fight for the freedom of Cuba, after carrying out his bombing campaign Luis Posada went on to try to assassinate Fidel Castro during a visit of the Cuban leader to Panama in year 2000.

Seen here in this surveillance video taken by Cuban intelligence in Panama City, Posada and three accomplices were arrested in possession of C4 explosives and the attack on Castro was foiled.

Archive – Fidel:

The extreme right of the USA has sent agents to Panama, with the aim of eliminating me.

Here’s a photo of the aforementioned gentleman…

Reinol:

When he was imprisoned we formed a commission to help to get him released, same as Santiago Alvarez did.

Alvarez:

I organised and covered all the expenditure of the legal defence for the four Cubans captured in Panama.

Narration:

The evidence against Posada and the other three would-be assassins was so overwhelming that not even Alvarez’ substantial resources could spare them from prison.

Only four months after being imprisoned, the four Cubans who had tried to murder Castro were freed by a presidential pardon from outgoing president Mireya Moscoso.

Right after freeing the extremists, she left a message on the answering machine of the then US ambassador in Panama.

GRAPHIC

ANSWERING MACHINE MESSAGE:

“Ambassador, good morning. This is the president to inform you that the four Cubans were already pardoned last night and they have left the country. Three are on their way to Miami and the other, well, going in an unknown direction. Goodbye. A hug.”

Narration:

President Moscoso then went to Miami, to spend some time in a residency she owns there, while cavorting with the most radical elements of the Cuban-American right wing.

Meanwhile, once again with the help of Santiago Alvarez, Posada sipped back into the US, via Mexico.

Alvarez:

When Posada was finally released, I went to Mexico and helped him. I provided the necessary resources for him to get here and that’s all I would like to say about the subject...

Narration:

Posada was briefly detained in the US… however not for his many proven acts of terrorism and murder, but for a simple irregularity in his immigration status.

Pertierra:

What the US did in order to divert public attention from their protection of Posada Carriles they decided to prosecute him for a lesser crime. Instead of extraditing him for murder, thy tried him for being a liar: that he lied to the immigration service. And curiously enough, in his trial for lying, we heard the testimony of the attorney for the department of homeland security, who said that when she was given the case to prosecute him for immigration violations, she looked at the file, she looked at the evidence and she thought: this should be a criminal case on terrorism grounds.

Narration:

The US authorities were quick to dismiss the opinions of the aforementioned attorney as well as of several other jurists and Posada was allowed to stay as a free man in the US, where he is hailed as a hero by many. In the Miami suburb of Hialeah, the Mayor was quick to award the terrorist with the Keys to the City.

Archive Hialeah keys

Posada:

I’m very happy to come back to my people, to my friends, to my companions…

Narration:

Friends, companions and also hosts, that with overwhelming hospitality have given harbour to Luis Posada and all his fellow terrorists.

Bush:

If anybody harbours a terrorist they are terrorists, if they fund terrorists they are terrorist, if they house terrorists they are terrorists, I mean I can’t make it anymore clear to other nations around the world

Narration:

George Bush’s clear statement only applied if the harbouring nation is not the US.

Lesnik:

I blame the United States as the main reason for the existence of that shameful wave of terror that swept through the streets of Miami and that is still latent in the history of this city

Narration:

But what happens when a US citizen is rightfully convicted of terrorism in a foreign nation?

Narration:

In 1996, Lori Berenson, a US citizen from New York, was arrested in Peru, for collaborating with the MRTA subversive movement.

Archive Lori Berenson:

No one here can deny that there is plenty of injustice in Peru.

Narration:

Although the MRTA had begun its armed campaign as a typical leftist guerrilla movement, by the time Berenson joined their ranks they had already radically changed its tactics.

Gorriti:

They carried out many actions that can definitely be described as essentially terrorist in nature

Narration:

Gustavo Gorriti is a Peruvian journalist who has spent most of his career chronicling the history of Peru’s subversive and terrorist groups.

Gorriti:

The MRTA’s actions tried to be spectacular, their troops were uniformed and relatively well armed. Were most of their actions lethal? They certainly were: kidnappings for ransom which, in most cases, involved torture and of which many ended up in murder.

There were also many cases of direct executions.

Narration:

It’s estimated that, during its years of activity, the MRTA was responsible for over 1,000 deaths.

After Berenson’s arrest it was proven that she was part of a plan to hijack the Peruvian Congress, seize lawmakers and exchange the hostages for imprisoned MRTA members. The house she rented in Lima, Peru’s capital, was found to contain an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, together with armed subversives who violently resisted capture.

Narration:

Amongst the hundreds of MRTA members who were eventually imprisoned for terrorism, Lori stuck out as the only US national.

Gorriti:

Lori Berenson’s parents were very active in campaigning for the release of their daughter. They are intelligent professional people who have lobbying with their representatives in the US Congress….

Narration:

Both of Berenson’s parents are Jewish academics who, for over 15 years, have been heading the “Committee to free Lori Berenson”.

Their lobbying secured them the backing of four US presidents.

Narration:

After September 11, the “US list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations” got considerably enlarged by the Bush administration.

Narration:

However, only three weeks after the attacks, the group that had previously been described by the US Directorate of Intelligence as “one of the greatest terrorist threats to US interests in South America” mysteriously disappeared from the list.

Narration:

A few months before, George Bush had met then Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo, and openly asked for the release of Berenson.

Years before US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had done the same ¬¬thing.

Julio Galindo

Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor

The stance adopted by the US Presidents really surprises me, because they have actively defended Lori Berenson when she’s not an average US citizen, but someone who has committed acts of terrorism in Peru.

Narration:

In 2010, Peruvian President Alan Garcia made an official visit to the US, where he and Barack Obama discussed trade agreements and other matters.

Prosecutor

I believe President Garcia made a political evaluation of [the Berenson] issue.

Narration:

Only days after Garcia returned to Peru, Berenson was granted a conditional release.

Prosecutor:

The Judicial Power, on the specific case of Lori Berenson, was particularly benevolent.

"I'm glad Lori Berenson was released ... when I was president, I worked for that."

Narration:

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton expressed his support for Berenson's release, stating: "I'm glad Lori Berenson was released ... when I was president, I worked for that."

Gorriti:

She’s had a level of influence over the US government that obviously no other person imprisoned for terrorism here in Peru has had.

Narration:

Berenson is currently free on parole, but must remain in Peru until her sentence ends in 2015.

Although she has more than likely served enough for her crimes, what is in question here is the preferential treatment her government always demanded for her.

Gorriti:

For the United States there are obviously two different standards: the one they apply to US citizens and the one they apply to the rest of the world.

Lesnik:

All terrorist are the same: there is not such thing as good terrorists and bad terrorists. Unfortunately the policy of the US government is that “our terrorists are the good terrorists” and that is the worst impression that a nation that claims to be an enemy of terrorism can give to the rest of the world.

END

   

Coming Up Online