Cuba arrests presumed terrorists from Florida

Beginning over 50 years ago, terror attacks emanating from the United States struck ships, crops, and infrastructure in Cuba. They killed people there and around the world. Cuban leaders faced murder plots. Terrorists bombed an airliner fully loaded with passengers. Such murderous, destructive attacks seemed to stop, however, with the Havana hotel bombings in 1997. But you would have lost your bet that terrorist preparations had ended.

On May 7 Cuba’s Interior Ministry announced that four men of Cuban origin living in Miami were arrested on April 26. Jose Ortega Amador, Obdulio Rodríguez González, Raibel Pacheco Santos, and Félix Monzón Álvarez reportedly “admitted that they intended to attack Cuban military facilities in order to promote violence. [T]hree of them had traveled to Cuba in several occasions in 2013 to study the scene and prepare their actions.”  

Why is this no surprise? One, the Miami area continues as  a safe haven for Latin American terror perpetrators fleeing their homelands, Cuba in the lead with Venezuela not far behind. Secondly, the U.S. government, not shy about anti-terrorist rhetoric, never really has condemned terror assaults against Cuba. Third, U.S. government actions or inaction may signal official approval for anti-Cuban terror.

Thus Luis Posada entered the United States illegally in 2005, never to be convicted on that count, or for serious crimes, among them:  the airliner bombing attack in 1976, Cuban hotel bombings, and his plan with others to assassinate former Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama. Despite requests, the U. S. government refuses to extradite Posada to Venezuela to face legal proceedings related to the airliner bombing.

And in 1998 the Cuban government gave FBI personnel reams of incriminating material on terror activities in Florida. The FBI responded by arresting Cuban undercover agents who helped collect that intelligence information.

And at their trial in Miami, five of those anti-terrorist agents – now known as the Cuba Five- received sentences so outlandish as to suggest that some terrorism is allowable. Their combined total of four life sentences plus 75 years contrasts sharply with the usual 10-15 sentences handed out to defendants convicted of spying for Iraq, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, or Israel.  

Moreover, the U.S. government made sure those anti-terrorists were convicted. Its Office for Cuba Broadcasting subsidized Miami area journalists to produce over 800 prejudicial newspaper reports or television presentation so as to influence community and jury before and during their long trial.

Lastly, for the sake of destabilization a flood of U.S. money flows through private and university affiliated agencies in Southern Florida on its way to counter-revolutionaries in Cuba. Likely fallout from such a program would be a community ethos that encourages the terrorist faithful to move ahead on their own.    

The sparse announcement from the Cuban Interior Ministry indicated that the four men arrested “admitted that these plans have been organized under the leadership of Miami-based individuals, such as Santiago Álvarez Fernández Magriñá, Osvaldo Mitat, and Manuel Alzugaray who are closely linked to international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.”

Lawyer and construction magnate Álvarez contributed mightily to Miami’s terrorist-friendly atmosphere. In August 2004 he sent two airplanes to Panama to fetch Posada and three Miamians released early from prison to which they were sentenced for the assassination attempt against President Castro. Posada was dropped off in Honduras. Álvarez’ yacht brought him to Miami the following year.

In late 2005 Broward County police discovered Álvarez’ cache of 20 automatic weapons, plus grenades, a grenade launcher, ammunition, gas masks, and a silencer.  Other illegal weapons belonging to Álvarez surfaced in the Bahamas. Through plea bargaining he and employee Osvaldo Mitat received reduced sentences of 30 months and two years, respectively. Allegedly Álvarez once tried to have Havana’s Tropicana nightclub bombed.

At far as the New York Times is concerned, the arrest in Cuba of men bent on terror is a Cuban problem, not a U.S. one.  Its May 8 report said that Álvarez “denies any involvement in the alleged plot. Some others here (Miami) raised questions about how much the case is about crime and how much is about politics…. [A] week after Washington again kept Cuba on its short list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Cuban government publicly announced that violent plots persist. Cuba-watchers said the case was hard to separate from political theater.”

Photo: AP


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.