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  1. Long reads
4 December 2006

A chapter in the history of American terrorism

Cuba - Fidel Castro

By Dollan Cannell

Cuba, which once saw its purpose as spreading worldwide revolutionary struggle, has been the rogue state that the United States can hold up as a warning of its zero tolerance of dissent in Latin America. After the 1959 Cuban revolution, the CIA’s plots to assassinate Fidel Castro ranged from exploding cigars, through poisoned diving suits, to toxic fountain pens. The biggest adventure was the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

The US government was reluctant to roll out a sequel to this farce, and hardline exiles fought for isolation instead, targeting businesses that dealt with Havana. Between 1968 and 2000, 68 attacks took place in Miami alone. Targets included the Cuban Museum of Art, a nightclub that had booked a Cuban singer, and Miami’s Catholic Archdiocese (for co-ordinating hurricane relief efforts for Cuba). Many of those responsible had passed through CIA training in the early Sixties. As one Cuban exile, Luis Posada Carriles, put it: “The CIA taught us everything. They taught us explosives; how to kill, bomb; trained us in acts of sabotage.”

Another leader of the bombing campaigns was Orlando Bosch, who began his career by firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter bound for Havana. He is credited with masterminding at least 30 bombings of Cuban or soft-on-Castro targets. Declassified intelligence from 1976, when George Bush Sr was head of the CIA, implicates Bosch and Posada in the bombing on 6 October that year of a plane operated by Cubana, the national airline, with the loss of all 73 lives. A source overheard Posada saying “we are going to hit a Cuban airplane” days before the plane was blown up. The CIA did not alert its Cuban enemies.

Bosch and Posada were later arrested in Venezuela. Bosch spent years in prison awaiting trial, but then, amid charges of impropriety, he was released. Posada simply escaped. He was rewarded with a job for US undercover forces in central America. In the mid-1980s, he worked covertly in El Salvador, supplying Contra rebels in Nicaragua. In 1998, he told the New York Times he had been responsible for bombings in Havana that had killed one Italian tourist. Then, in 2005, he turned up in Miami and held a press conference to plead his innocence of the plane bombing.

Posada was arrested, but only for entering the US illegally. Now at a detention centre in El Paso, Texas, he denies participating in the Cubana atrocity and the Havana bombings but chuckles about his many attempts to kill Castro. He is baffled that the Americans would lock him up when he has worked loyally for them for so long. You can see his point. Bosch remains free, pardoned by Bush Sr in 1990 on condition that he desist from acts of violence.

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Meanwhile Cuba, despite frequently condemning the 11 September 2001 attacks, is on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. In 2002, it was accorded membership of the expanded axis of evil.

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