Twenty-five years before Sept. 11 there was Oct. 6 in Cuba.
Forty-one years ago in 1976, anti-Cuban Revolution terrorists planted and ignited two bombs on a Cuban passenger plane — Cubana Flight 455 — killing all 73 passengers crew members on board after it crashed off of the coast of Barbados.
Stephen Kimber, author of “What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five,” told teleSUR it was “the most deadly act of air terrorism in the Americas prior to 9/11.”
The average age of the passengers was 30, including a 22-year-old pregnant woman. The Cuban fencing team was also on board, after just having won the gold medal at the Pan American games.
Previously secret documents released in 2014 by the National Security Archive, an investigative journalism and research group based at George Washington University, showed relations between Washington and Havana took a sharp turn for the worse in 1976 when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger became so incensed that Cuba would send troops to Angola, one of the many battlefronts of the Cold War, that he told President Gerald Ford that he wanted to “smash Castro” and “humiliate” the Cuban government.
Kissinger wanted to launch airstrikes against Cuba, mine Cuban harbors, and impose severe economic and political sanctions against the socialist nation. Ford nixed the idea until after the election, which he eventually lost to President Jimmy Carter.
“That revelation shows us that the U.S. decided on a different tact to humiliate Cuba,” Jose Pertierra, a Washington-based lawyer, told teleSUR. “What the U.S. did is subcontract work out to Cuban-American terrorists who they had trained and funded.”
Pertierra was approached and then retained by the government of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005 to help extradite from the United States one of the Cuban-American terrorists who masterminded the bombing, Luis Posada Carriles.
Posada Carriles, a former CIA asset, snuck into the United States in March 2005, where he took up residence in Miami, a hotbed for the hardline counter-revolutionary Cuban exile community.
Clarence M. Kelley, who served as Director of the FBI between 1973-1978, sent a letter to Kissinger on Nov. 5, 1976, stating that according to a confidential source inside of Venezuela's intelligence service, the bombing of the Cuban passenger plane was “planned, in part, in Caracas, Venezuela, at two meetings attended by Morales Navarrete, Luis Posada Carriles and Frank Castro.”
Two Venezuelan nationals, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who were on the plane and were responsible for planting the bombs, were picked up by Barbadian police. They confessed to Barbadian and Trinidadian officials to the bombings, but not before implicating Posada Carriles, who they say trained them in explosives. Both served 20-year sentences in Venezuela after being extradited.
Posada Carriles, in addition to being trained in explosives by the CIA, was also trained at the infamous School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. His long resume includes a stint in Guatemala in efforts to overthrow the government, working as the head of Venezuelan intelligence running counterinsurgency operations against left-wing guerrillas, as well as running weapons to the U.S.-backed drug-running paramilitary contras in Nicaragua.
He was also arrested and imprisoned in Venezuela before escaping from prison in 1985 prior to the conclusion of his trial for his role in the bombing of the Cuban airliner.
Posada Carriles' terrorism against Cuba didn't stop with the passenger plane bombing. He also admitted responsibility for the 1997 bombings of hotels in Havana that killed an Italian — Canadian man and injured 11 people. Posada Carriles' reportedly told a New York Times reporter in a 1998 taped interview that despite killing the man, “I sleep like a baby.”
After flaunting his presence in the United States in an interview with the Miami Herald, he was shortly thereafter detained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and imprisoned in El Paso, Texas for illegally entering the country. However, rather than deport him to Venezuela where he is a wanted fugitive, he was released on bail.
Posada Carriles finally saw the inside of a U.S. courtroom in 2011. However, not for terrorism charges, such as conspiring to kill 73 innocent airplane passengers in cold blood, or blowing up hotels in Havana. He was charged, and then later acquitted, for perjury and immigration infractions. Since then the Venezuelan government has suspended efforts to extradite the terrorist.
“It's the problem with the U.S. war on terrorism. Washington wants to prosecute a war on terrorism a la carte,” said Pertierra. “They want to pick and choose the terrorists they want to prosecute. He was one of their terrorists. He has too many secrets.”
An example of Washington's hypocrisy is the case of the Cuban 5, who were five counterterrorism agents sent to Miami to collect intelligence in order to prevent the Cuban exile community, which considers Posada Carriles a hero, from planning or funding further terrorist attacks against Cuba.
The five Cubans were arrested in 1998 and swiftly convicted and sentenced to harsh prison terms. They were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage, but not of actual espionage. Nor could the U.S. government verify that any real acts of espionage had been carried out.
“The different approaches with relation to Luis Posada Carriles and the Five, is one more sign of the incredible power of the Miami exiles not only over American politics and foreign policy but also its justice system,” said Kimber. “The American people have yet to come to grips with the reality that their country tolerates, even encourages the kind of terrorist activities it rightly deplores when others do it to them if the target is Cuba.”
Meanwhile, Posada Carriles remains a free man in sunny southern Florida.
“He does what any right-wing terrorist does in Miami — retiring and living a cushy life,” said Pertierra.