LÁZARO BARREDO MEDINA
EVERYDAY more evidence appears indicating that the September 12, 1998 arrest of the Cuban Five in Miami was a result of conspiracy between the anti-Cuban terrorist mafia there and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – having little to do with U.S. national security.
In 2001, when we discussed the case of the Five on Cuban national television’s "Mesa Redonda" program, I noted a series of events which occurred around the time of the arrest, in the final months of 1998, and published this article in the weekly newspaper Trabajadores.
The Monday after the arrest, September 14, the Miami press acknowledged that many experts could not understand why the FBI had arrested persons who were monitoring anti-Cuban groups, since the FBI was precisely one of the beneficiaries of the information collected about these groups’ violent activities.
A commentary published September 15, in the Miami Herald, stated that the FBI had been aware of these individuals functioning within Miami groups for some time and added that many in Little Havana were hypothesizing that the raid was a way for Washington to counteract the arrest, the previous month, of seven Cuban exiles charged with conspiring to assassinate Fidel Castro. (The group was arrested aboard the yacht La Esperanza, loaded with high-caliber weapons and headed toward Venezuela’s Margarita Island, where Fidel was attending an Ibero-American Summit.
During a press conference a few days later, Héctor Pesquera, recently named head of the FBI in Miami, acknowledged that the arrest of Cuban anti-terrorists had generated disagreement with some leaders of the counter-intelligence staff in Washington, who did not support the action. He added that the case would have never gone to court if he had not spoken directly with Louis Freeh, head of the agency at that time.
Apparently something strange was going on…
FBI ACCOMPLICE TO CUBAN-AMERICAN TERRORISM
The 1997 wave of attacks on Cuban hotels and subsequent statements by terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to The New York Times put U.S. intelligence agencies in a tight spot.
"The CIA doesn’t bother me, or the FBI," Posada told The Times.
The newspaper recalled that documents revealed in Washington by the National Security Council lent credence to Posada’s insinuation that the FBI and CIA had intimate knowledge of his operations against the Cuban Revolution, ongoing since the early 1960’s.
The Times also revealed, around this time, testimony by Antonio Jorge Alvarez (Tony), a South Carolina resident, who directed WRB Enterprises in Guatemala and had contact in that country with Posada Carriles and other terrorists of Cuban origin. Risking his own life, Alvarez supplied the FBI with information about plans being made for the assassination of Fidel Castro during the Ibero-American Summit on Margarita Island and about the campaign to bomb hotels in Cuba. The FBI, however, showed little interest.
Likewise, in another vendetta, Posada Carriles revealed that the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) had for years financed violent attacks on Cuba.
Just prior to the abovementioned Ibero-American Summit, the U.S. Coast Guard detained a yacht in Puerto Rico with four men and two Barret 50 caliber rifles with telescopic sights aboard. Cuban-American Angel Alfonso Alemán, leading the group, assured the Coast Guard officers that their mission was to kill Fidel Castro in Venezuela, as if that were a credential entitling them to impunity.
The FBI director in Puerto Rico at that time was none other than Héctor Pesquera, who six months later would be sent to Miami to head up the agency there.
Pesquera had previously worked for the FBI in Tampa during the 1980’s and since 1995 had been in Puerto Rico, where he gained notoriety for arresting Puerto Rican independence fighters.
Subsequent investigations confirmed that the yacht detained in Puerto Rico was owned by CANF director José A. Llama, and that the 50-caliber rifles belonged to CANF President José Francisco "Pepe" Hernández, who Pesquera did not even call to testify, after meeting with colleagues sent from Miami and an exchange with the lawyer defending these terrorists, a close relative of his, Ricardo Pesquera.
These events caused a stir in 1998. In Miami the press acknowledged that authorities were being "soft" on anti-Castro groups.
Juan A. Tamayo, a columnist at the Miami Herald wrote, "Amidst reports that Cuban exile leaders financed dynamite attacks in Havana, prosecutors, conspirators and police were in agreement that anti-Castro conspiracies in South Florida are not only common, but practically tolerated."
In this article, published July 23, 1998, Tamayo continued saying that, for years, tacit police policy, according to current and former officials, had been to spy on anti-Castro militants and break up their conspiracies rather than prosecute them.
An important former federal prosecutor was cited as saying that for a long time the policy was to "gather intelligence reports and demobilize these people, interrupt them, rather than arrest them."
"The police and FBI agents were always watching us," said César Roig, a former member of the terrorist organization Comandos L, "but they basically left us alone."
Among the most interesting items in this article, published two months before the arrest of The Five, were comments by Kendall Coffey about the marked partiality evident when it came to "anti-Castro" trials in the city. Coffey had been a federal attorney in Miami and would later become one of the lawyers representing the kidnappers in the Elián González case.
Coffey said in the article that over the years he had participated in a number of cases, and that it was very difficult to convict anyone presented as "a freedom fighter."
The naming of Héctor Pesquera to head the FBI in Miami appeared to reflect the influence of the anti-Cuban mafia and the U.S. right wing. A soon as he arrived, Pesquera had meetings with anti-Cuban leaders and reaffirmed his commitment to them.
In a statement published July 16, 1998, he emphasized that despite a torrent of reports about terrorist attacks by Cuban exiles, he was not planning to increase the priority given investigations of this kind.
A few words to the wise are sufficient…
ANTI-CUBAN MAFIA LOOKING FOR A PRETEXT
The terrorist Miami mafia was in crisis in 1998. The death of Jorge Mas Canosa intensified internal conflicts and the crisis was exacerbated by the events in Puerto Rico, directly linked to the CANF, as was another investigation into weapons and ammunition cached on a boat belonging to Cuban terrorist groups, anchored in the Miami River– an operation which the FBI carried out based on information supplied by infiltrated Cuban patriots.
Similarly, despite the intensification of the war against Cuba unleashed after the February 24, 1996 provocation and the approval of the Helms-Burton Act, U.S. policy toward Cuba was beginning to crack.
Concerned about possible policy changes and encouraged by anti-Cuban groups, then Senator from Florida Bob Graham requested from the Pentagon a report on Cuba, expecting to receive justification for a hostile approach. The strategy backfired, with the study, in which various institutions, political figures and military officials participated, indicating that Cuba did not represent a threat to U.S. national security.
The anti-Cuban mafia suffered another strategic defeat when so-called Drug Czar General Barry McCaffey declared that Cuba had no ties to drug trafficking. Upset by these statements, Representative Lincoln Díaz-Balart went so far as to label the decorated, four-star general a "communist."
Mid-year 1998, collaboration between the FBI and Cuban authorities intensified when officials from the U.S. agency visited Havana, after a letter from Fidel Castro was sent to President William Clinton, via Colombian writer and Nobel Prize winner, Gabriel García Márquez, in which the Cuban leader alerted Clinton to the danger presented by terrorist violence organized in U.S. territory, including threats to attack in-flight commercial aircraft transporting tourists to Cuba.
In Havana, the FBI officials received a great deal of important information, including photos, documents and videotapes of at least 48 terrorists established in Miami, material supplied to Cuban authorities by patriots who had infiltrated terrorist organizations in Florida to monitor their activities. These were the same men who would later be arrested and the information they gathered would be withheld as classified and secret by the U.S. government during their trial.
The most noteworthy defeat suffered by the right wing came when the Senate opposed Jesse Helms and voted 72-24 in favor of an amendment to facilitate the sale of food and medicine to Cuba, under specific limitations. Likewise, opposition to the unconstitutional measure prohibiting and penalizing travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens was growing.
In this context, the anti-Cuban mafia desperately needed a pretext to stop the movement toward better relations with Cuba and found willing partners in the person of Miami’s FBI director and the staff of the Federal Attorney’s office, while their right-wing representatives in Washington made contact with the highest levels of government there, to seek support for the September 12 arrest of the Cuban patriots.
While the head of the FBI in Miami used the agency’s resources to arrest and press charges against five men who were trying to prevent acts of terrorism, in order to protect the Cuban people as well as U.S. citizens, at the same time, walking the streets freely, making contacts and training in South Florida were 12 of the 19 persons who three years later would perpetrate the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
The FBI in Miami never had a clue about these terrorists… They were too busy with the Cuban issue.