OF TERRORIST ACTIVITY
AND NARCOTIC TRAFFICKING
BY THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA
JANUARY 22, 2003
RALPH E. FERNANDEZ
FERNANDEZ & DIAZ, P.A.
109 SOUTH MOODY AVENUE
TAMPA, FLORIDA 33602
TELEPHONE: (813) 251-5991
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
CUBA DRUG TRAFFICKING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
STATE SPONSOR AND PARTICIPANT
IN INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
ESPIONAGE AND MURDER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
TERRORISM STRIKES HOME . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
ANA BELEN MONTES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
On September 12, 2002, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, an American hero, spoke to a Congressional Medal of Honor gathering in Shreveport, Louisiana. Schwarzkopf grabbed hold of an American flag on stage and lamented on a change in attitude across the country. He said, “we saw an awful lot of these a year ago... and old man complacency began to set in... and the flags started coming down.” The General went on to state
, “never forget more than three thousand innocent civilians slaughtered by madmen, never forget the more than four hundred policemen and firemen who ran into burning buildings to save their fellow Americans.” Schwarzkopf’s message was clear. Americans should never forget those that seek to destroy all we hold dear. Yet it seems that for a variety of reasons the American people forget historical lessons that implicate our security. One such lesson we often overlook is the ever present danger of Fidel Castro.
Ninety miles to the south rules a tyrant who has tried to do more to destroy America than almost anyone else in the history of this republic. Fidel Castro has exported revolution and terror since shortly after his rise to power. His vitriolic assault on America is only overshadowed by his actual efforts seeking our demise. Castro is the first modern day terrorist. His methodology may have changed over the years but his objective remains as constant as the northern star. In the factual rendition that follows, the past and present of Fidel Castro’s exploits are published. The submission is not intended for casual reading but presents hard fact after fact.
Castro’s provision of the original terrorist training grounds for Middle Eastern extremists is recounted. Castro’s planning and support of terrorist organizations in the Western Hemisphere is developed. Castro’s actual directives for bombings and terrorist acts on U.S. soil and against U.S. citizens is detailed. And finally, Castro’s drug trafficking is exposed, given its link to terrorism. The document ends with an analysis of Cuban ongoing espionage activities and Cuban penetration of our government at the highest levels.
It has recently become vogue for American political and business figures to travel to Cuba. Some, like Mayor Dick Greco of Tampa, actually physically embraced Castro in front of cameras. Greco did it, shocking his constituency and betraying the trust of many who for years had supported him and elected him. But Greco’s malfeasance does not stand alone. Others in similar positions are considering engaging in the same kind of misconduct. All of this at a time when Castro’s influence is growing and while he proclaims his intransigent posture regarding change, “communism or death.”
On January 2, 2003, Brazil’s newly elected president, Luis Inacio Lula de Silva, announced a leftist alliance in Latin America which would include Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, and Fidel Castro
, the Cuban dictator. Lula characterized the association as the “axis of good.” Not much needs to be said about the apocalyptic scenario developing in Venezuela as a result of the Marxist pro-Castro leanings of Hugo Chavez. The economic crisis has brought the country to a standstill. Yet it is Cuban security at the direction of the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence, who provide protection for Chavez. As part of the “axis of good” alliance an entourage of Cuban security arrived in Rio de Janeiro to protect President Lula de Silva and provide appropriate intelligence and security training. Commander Hal Feeney, U.S. Navy Retired, a special missions veteran and expert on Cuban intelligence, has often remarked, “the long arm of the Cuban DI extends across the globe.” So while America prepares for war in Iraq and the inevitable confrontation in North Korea looms, the closest danger continues to build up in the Caribbean Basin and in our Southern Hemisphere. The cancer that Castro has always been and which we have neither excised nor contained, continues to metastasize.
As a result of Fidel Castro’s ongoing activities we suffer at least two kinds of loss. First, from what will become evident after a reading of this material, Castro has a significant intelligence apparatus, perhaps the most extensive operational enterprise within are borders. Castro and his Directorate of Intelligence broker information to Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria. The Cubans gather it, the terrorist states use it. Second, the Cuban passive measure of promoting direct contact with Fidel Castro by politicians and other American visitors
, is dangerous to our interests. America is at war. This war is an unconventional war. Every step that we take has to be firm. By cavorting with Fidel Castro we send the wrong message to the enemies of America. Anyone who embraces Castro or promotes contact with his minions lets our enemies know that if you resist America long enough, if you kill Americans and hide long enough, Americans will one day send their leaders and their businessmen to pay homage.
Fidel Castro is a terrorist. He is also one of the most brilliant political minds the world has ever known. And he is still a threat. Even if some erroneously believe that right now Castro is not as dangerous as he was before, we have to be cautious. The dire financial condition his regime faces is the only reason his extraterritorial aggression is less notable. If Castro could afford it, Cuban troops would fight side by side with the Iraquis, the Syrians (again), the Libyans (again) and the North Koreans. Perhaps money from American tourism and trade will pay for another Cuban military engagement like previous ones in Angola and Granada, where Cubans will kill Americans again.
On December 26, 1839, Abraham Lincoln spoke to members of the House of Representatives in Springfield, Illinois, and said, “what has happened, will invariably happen again, when the same circumstances which combine to produce it shall again combine in the same way.” If the circumstances happen again that Fidel Castro is able to fund revolution and terrorism abroad
, he will do so again. He remains a threat to the security of America. The only constant in his life objectives is our demise. The proof follows.
II. CUBA DRUG TRAFFICKING
Cuba has been actively engaged in the drug trade since 1961. The extent contributed to the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1962. The association of drug traffickers with Castro’s secret services first came to light in the Miami arrest of Jose Barral, Mario Delgado, Jose Leone and Gabriela Giralt. The foursome implicated their Cuban handler, Juventino Guerra. Charles Siragusa, of the United States Narcotics Commission, publicly acknowledged the link. The case began a pattern, alive and well today, where Cuban intelligence officers engage in and direct drug trafficking activities on U.S. soil.
In June of 1967, during the Marcano inquiry before the OAS, a Cuban trained Venezuelan intelligence officer established before the world the Cuban link of drugs for guerrilla weapons in the hemisphere. The evidence implicated Luis Perez Lupe and provided a major connection between Havana, the guerrilla movements, and narcotics.
In 1974 a special section of the Cuban government was created by Fidel Castro. The objective of the Department of the Americas was to implement covert Cuban foreign policy objectives. It was headed by Manuel Piñeiro Losada, also known as “Red Beard,” a close and trusted confidante of Fidel Castro. As part of the primary objective of exporting revolution
, Fernando Ravelo Renedo, a top Cuban intelligence agent, was named ambassador to Colombia. By this time Colombia’s M-19 guerrillas were receiving weaponry and training in Cuba. So Ravelo simply suggested the use of narcotics to finance the revolutionary objectives. Ravelo promised that he and the Cuban government would help both the guerrillas and the traffickers in this effort.
In 1978 another Cuban intelligence department became involved in narcotics. The Ministry of the Interior, headquarters of Cuban intelligence, developed the MC Department under the direction of Colonel Tony De La Guardia. The objective of the sub-agency was to find ways to raise foreign currency for covert Cuban operations. According to Manuel De Beunza, a Cuban intelligence officer that defected in Canada, the objective was to create private companies in different parts of the world through which illegal businesses, including drug deals and sales, would be conducted. A fellow by the name of James Herring happened to be circumventing the embargo and running computer equipment to Cuba aboard speedboats at the time. According to Herring he would go to Varadero with a load of equipment and would be received by Cuban gunboats. In turn he would be escorted to the military dockage at Varadero, where they would offload. When they were ready to return to the Florida Keys, Herring has said, Cuban military vessels would escort them out. But on some of these trips Herring noticed that DGI intelligence agents were handling narcotics. Through familiarity with some of those DGI agents Herring eventually realized that the DGI had significant amounts of drugs stored in warehouses on scene near Varadero. The Herring rendition has been confirmed by others.
In 1979 Ravelo met Juan Lozano
, also known as Johnny Crump, and Jaime Guillot-Lara, two Colombian drug smugglers, at a party in Bogota. Guillot-Lara would eventually marry Raul Castro’s daughter. Crump, who has since been debriefed by the United States, initiated a conversation with Ravelo at that party about refueling drug planes in Cuba. Ravelo liked the idea. Another agent of the Department of the Americas by the name of Gonzalo Bassols became involved. A plan came together and a boat loaded with drugs headed off to Cuban waters. Crump traveled to Cuba and stayed at the Habana Libre hotel as a formal guest of the Cuban government. During his visit to Cuba he dealt among others with Rene Rodriguez Cruz, a member of Cuba’s Central Committee and another friend of Fidel Castro. After several days Crump was told the drug vessel had finally arrived. He was taken to it and there met Cuban Admiral Aldo Santamaria. Santamaria told Crump that his Cuban naval vessels would protect drug shipments coming through Cuban waters in the future. Without Santamaria’s help the feasibility of drug boat projects would be non-existent.
Eventually Johnny Crump was indicted and tried in the Southern District of Florida. Santamaria, Rene Rodriguez Cruz, Ravelo Renedo, the Cuban Ambassador to Colombia, and Bassols, were likewise indicted. One of the Cuban witnesses in the case was Mario Estevez
, a Cuban intelligence officer
, who had infiltrated into the United States in 1980 and had been arrested in 1981. His mission, as directed by Havana, was to coordinate intelligence and drug trafficking operations. Estevez also rendered testimony before a Senate sub-committee about the extensive drug ring Havana had developed. While acknowledging distributing in excess of three hundred kilos of cocaine originating from Cuba, he also admitted that he had personally taken the profits back to Cuba. At some point Havana had directed that another agent in place, Frank Bonilla, assume his responsibilities. Estevez further implicated Teovaldo Rico Rodriguez and Francisco Echemendia from the Ministry of the Interior. Cuba dismissed the whole event as Yankee propaganda.
According to a smuggler who rendered substantial assistance in the Middle District of Florida at the time, several marijuana operations bought protection for their travels through Cuban waters. The Colombian voyage would head to Cuban territorial waters, and in conjunction with radio tower transmissions from the Florida Keys operated by the racketeering organization, the Cuban vessels would direct the appropriate time and location for the safest passage in avoidance of United States Customs planes and United States Coast Guard patrols.
By 1980 billions of drug dollars were flying across the Caribbean. The Colombian drug lords were buying Bahamian islands to facilitate their enterprises. But Cuba presented greater advantages because the Cubans could provide safe havens, documents, fuel, radar services and escort vessels, among other benefits. At this point Cuba was taking commissions from the actual shipment and poundage of drugs that traveled through
, over and around the island.
In November of 1981, M-19 guerrillas kidnapped Marta Ochoa, daughter of cartel leader Fabio Ochoa. Tensions skyrocketed as the cartel refused to pay a ransom. Havana intervened to settle the differences. Then a group of guerrillas were captured in Colombia implicating Cuban embassy personnel as contact points for weapons and drug traffic coordination. Evidence linked Cuba to the same practice, now with a new ally, the Colombian rebel FARC movement. By 1982 the FARC, ELN, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the M-19 guerrillas had bonded, with Havana as the coordinator.
In 1982 Robert Vesco took up residence at Marina Hemingway, the same marina that frequently business people, lawyers and doctors from Tampa travel to now. Vesco was later indicted in the U.S. in1989 for smuggling tons of cocaine through Cuba, but he still lives in Cuba under the protection of the Cuban government. Vesco’s movement has recently been restricted due to his alleged engagement in private unsanctioned ventures. The Cuban government has suggested he is incarcerated but the representation is quite inaccurate. In any event, prior to his recent troubles Vesco was often seen fishing with Fidel Castro. And Vesco had a friend and associate by the name of Carlos Lehder, one of the founders of the Medellin Cartel. Eventually indicted
, extradited, convicted and imprisoned in the Middle District of Florida, and sentenced to life, Lehder revealed the inner workings of the Medellin Cartel and his associations with Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega of Panama, among others.
Carlos Lehder acknowledged personal meetings with Raul Castro related to drug shipments. He acknowledged in testimony during the subsequent trial of Manuel Noriega in the Southern District of Florida that Cubans were in charge of the cocaine conspiracy in Nicaragua. Fidel Castro’s involvement was so deep that he was called in to intervene and resolve a confrontation between Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and Panama’s Manuel Noriega over the destruction of a drug lab in the Panamanian jungle at Darien on May 21, 1984. This meeting on June 25, 1984, was favorably resolved when Fidel Castro mediated the dispute in Havana, and had Noriega pay back two million dollars to the cartel, with both sides agreeing to cease and desist from any further attacks on each other. Another individual present at the meeting, Panamanian Jose Blandon, has likewise confirmed Fidel Castro’s direct role. Blandon defected in 1988.
Lehder testified at trial that he met with Raul Castro and other senior Cuban officials in 1982 to negotiate an agreement that would allow cartel pilots to fly drug laden planes over Cuba on their way to the United States. According to DeBeunza, Carlos Lehder’s visit to Havana prompted Fidel Castro to play a more active role in the drug trade. DeBeunza recalls a meeting with Fidel Castro where DeBeunza’s boss, Cuba’s Intelligence Chief, General Jose Abrantes Fernandez, was present. At another meeting Fidel Castro personally ordered the creation of companies to be involved in drug profit laundering in the presence of Osmani Cienfuegos and Tony De La Guardia. Jose Antonio Rodriguez Menier
, a defecting Cuban intelligence officer, who confirmed the statements in the debriefings of DeBeunza, was a close friend of Tony De La Guardia since they were children. According to Rodriguez, at some point Cuba decided to get into the drug market as a seller. The Cubans wanted a greater portion of the profits. They knew the producers and the distributors. And so Abrantes made the decision to propose the change in position to Fidel Castro. That’s when Carlos Lehder popped up in Havana and decided to remain developing alternatives for approximately six months.
In September of 1982 Manuel Piñeiro and General Osmani Cienfuegos arrived in Panama to coordinate intelligence and narcotic activities. Shortly thereafter Manuel Noriega assumed control of Panama. At the same time Fidel Castro was meeting with Eden Pastora, Tomas Borge and other Sandinista leaders in Havana. According to Pastora, Castro said, “Follow my example. What you need to do is to whiten America with cocaine in order to destroy it.”
Jeff Karonis, Former Lt. Commander of the United States Coast Guard, has stated that Coast Guard personnel would observe air drops in the middle of the day going on inside Cuban territorial waters. As they watched from outside Cuban airspace, Coast Guard monitors would see small twin engine airplanes with several hundred pounds of cocaine fly over Cuba, drop the loads at rendezvous points, and fly off. Speedboats would congregate. The boats then would head into the coastline while monitored by Cuban gunboats. According to Karonis, the volume was so high that in a twelve month period U.S. law enforcement collected intelligence on fifty-four such drop incidents.
By now both the Cuban Air Force and the Cuban Navy had been implicated. The Cuban Navy allowed the boats and larger shipments to dock with escorts. The Air Force had responsibility for light planes
, which generally landed at Varadero. Cuban Air Force General Rafael del Pino, the most senior military officer to have defected from Cuba, was in a position to give overflight permission. The requests would usually come from Raul Castro, the Minister of Defense himself. Raul Castro, according to debriefings of del Pino, gave specific orders to allow certain planes to overfly sensitive areas of Cuba. General Abrantes on other occasions would do the same. The sensitivity was high inasmuch as some of the drug planes overflew SAM missile sites and bases with MiG interceptors. The drug overflights became common knowledge among the top echelon of the Cuban Air Force. Some, according to del Pino, were against it, and some said, “we should use all the tricks available to us to crush the United States.” The objective was the introduction of narcotics into the United States mainland.
In July of 1983, Jose Raul Perez Mendez, a Cuban intelligence officer, defected. In his debriefings he linked Raul Castro directly to drug operations. He added that Cuban intelligence had over three hundred intelligence officers engaged in espionage and drug trafficking in the United States. The numbers would steadily rise until the present.
On August 7, 1984, William French Smith publicly denounced Cuba for participating in drug trafficking and linked the nefarious activity to terrorism. Francis Mullen, head of DEA
, likewise linked the drug trafficking activities to terrorism. Antonio Farach, a defecting Nicaraguan diplomat, testified before Congress that Nicaraguan embassies had instructions to help the FARC, the M-19, and even the PLO guerrillas, any time they were needed. Diplomatic missions now provided a link to drugs, violence and terrorism. Again, this was back in 1984 when the word terrorism was not vogue.
In 1987 the Cubans ran into trouble. The Drug Enforcement Administration was electronically monitoring the activities of two racketeering organizations operating between Colombia, Cuba and Miami. The Ceballos clan operated in Colombia, the Ruiz clan in Miami. Agents had penetrated both organizations by monitoring their telephone conversations, using body bugs and videoing operations. Intercepted and recorded conversations indicated that a fellow by the name of Reinaldo Ruiz had connections inside the Cuban government. He had a cousin by the name of Miguel Ruiz Poo that he had fortuitously run into while securing visas from the Cubans in Panama. Ruiz freely talked about his connections on tape. He mentioned relatives who had access to Cuban government officials and could guarantee the security of cocaine shipments as they moved through Cuba. His son Ruben flew the planes and was in charge of refueling on the Cuba treks. According to Ruiz, cigarette boats would cross the Florida Straights and make land on the Cuban coast of Varadero, not far from the lighthouse. A Cuban Coast Guard Colonel by the name of Pardo would wait. He would take the vessels up a creek where a number of cigarette boats used by drug smugglers were harbored. Cuban Coast Guard personnel kept watch. In the meantime, Reinaldo’s son Ruben
, picked up the cocaine in Colombia and would fly it to Cuba. As he approached Cuban airspace he would use a special call sign. Much later the Ruizes gave the specifics of the signs at debriefings. Cleared through military airspace Ruben would cross the western part of Cuba.
According to conspiratorial tapes of the younger Ruiz, he spoke of military runways and camouflaged MiG 20s and MiG 23s at the places he would fly into. Eventually Ruben would land at Varadero. Everything was out in the open. Cuban officers would unload the cocaine, fuel the plane and Ruiz would receive red carpet treatment. In turn Cuban military officers dressed in uniform placed the cocaine in a van owned by the Ministry of the Interior, which cocaine would later be loaded onto the fast moving boats. A Cuban Coast Guard cutter would escort the boat out to sea after scanning the Gulf of Mexico with radar. The Ruizes would leave. According to Ruben Ruiz, they would follow the Cuban gunboat and be specifically told when and how quickly to go.
Tony De La Guardia was Fidel Castro’s golden boy. In 1971, following the victory of Salvador Allende in Chile, De La Guardia headed the first Cuban special troops contingent to provide military assistance and support to Allende’s government. In 1973 he led a covert mission to Spain to study the possible retrieval of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. In 1975 De La Guardia laundered sixty million dollars that Argentina’s Montoneros guerrillas had obtained in the sensational kidnapping of George and Juan Born. In 1976 De La Guardia was stationed as head of Cuba’s special troops in a contingent that provided military support to leftist Prime Minister Michael Manly. In 1978 De La Guardia led the first group of Cuban military advisors that became involved in the Nicaraguan war. After his arrival in Costa Rica he helped funnel Cuban weapons for the Nicaraguan rebel southern front led by Eden Pastora. In 1978 he helped take President Anastacio Somoza’s presidential palace. When he returned to Cuba in 1979 he was placed in charge of Cuban exile community affairs. He even visited Miami and remarkably had ample contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation during his visits.
On April 10, 1987, Reinaldo Ruiz launched his first cocaine smuggling operation through Cuba with American co-pilot Richard Zzie. The conspirators were to fly three hundred kilos of Colombian cocaine into Varadero packaged in Marlboro cigarette boxes, transfer them to speedboats and ship them off to Miami. The returning plane was to fly clean, the drugs aboard the speedboats. A Cuban MiG had escorted the original flight into Cuba.
On a second drug run Reinaldo Ruiz hired another pilot, a former nationalist Chinese air force pilot by the name of Hu Chang. Unbeknownst to Ruiz, Chang was a DEA informant who ran a small air taxi operation at Miami International Airport. Working with DEA agents, Chang and Ruben Ruiz picked up five hundred kilos of cocaine in Colombia and flew to Cuba. They landed at Varadero on May 9, 1987. As in the previous operation, the cocaine was unloaded
, taken to the Cuban Coast Guard safehouses and loaded onto the Miami bound speedboats. At the end of the mission Chang was debriefed by DEA. Reinaldo Ruiz eventually paid Chang $100,000.00, later turned over to DEA agents.
As part of the investigation DEA agents started videotaping Chang’s office. Fifty hours of videos during the next few months iced the Cuba case. There were multiple discussions about high ranking officials and protection by the Castro regime. Important names were thrown about. Raul and Fidel Castro’s names kept coming up. Ruben Ruiz bragged about flying into military runways. The elder Ruiz, far more reserved and never known to embellish, at one point said that money had been paid to Fidel Castro and was in Fidel’s “drawer.”
On February 23, 1988, Reinaldo Ruiz and fifteen others were indicted for smuggling cocaine through Cuba, Haiti, and the Turk and Caicos Islands. On February 28, 1988, Ruiz was detained by DEA agents while traveling with his new wife, Collette, a nineteen year old Cuban national with a substantial DI history. She wanted to return to Cuba. She did not want to remain in the United States while her husband was in jail. She started calling Miguel Ruiz Poo, and eventually, Tony De La Guardia’s MC Department directly. This forced Havana to act.
It just so happened that in 1989 Division General Arnaldo Ochoa returned to Cuba. The most decorated Cuban military officer, a hero of the revolution since 1959, and a triumphant leader of Castro’s engagement in Angola, was home. On Saturday May 27, 1989, Raul Castro ordered the surveillance of Transportation Minister Diocles Torralba’s house. Torralba was the former head of MINFAR’S air defense forces and retained good contacts within the army. He was close to members of the highest order. His daughter, Maria Elena, was married to Tony De La Guardia. Ochoa was at the house. At some point the guests began to discuss the defections of Major Florentino Azpillaga from Cuban intelligence and of Air Force General Rafael del Pino. Ochoa commented on the benefits of perestroika and the changing position of his former Soviet comrades in Angola relating to a shift towards democracy. Unbeknownst to the people attending the party
, everything was being recorded by Raul Castro’s surveillance team.
In 1989 the United States was on the verge again of indicting the Castro brothers and General Jose Abrantes. A plan was conceived to pull Abrantes from Cuba in the hopes that his arrest would lead to additional information against the Castro brothers, this time from a part of the Cuban cartel triumvirate. The plan was named Operation Greyhound. It involved the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida, United States Customs, DEA, and DIA. The Navy and Air Force were to respond. An elite Seal Team, a squadron of F-16 and E3 AWAC aircraft, also were to engage. A destroyer and a submarine would play backup roles. According to United States Customs Commissioner William Raab, the operation was so secret that the United States Department of State was not informed.
The principal player in the operation to lure Abrantes to a meeting outside Cuban territory was convicted drug smuggler Gustavo “Papito” Fernandez, a former CIA collaborator who was serving a fifty year sentence on drug trafficking charges. Fernandez had past contacts in Cuba given the fact that he had smuggled three hundred tons of marijuana through the island. In conversations intercepted during the original case against Fernandez, according to Patrick O’Brien, the U.S. Customs Service special agent in charge of South Florida, one name kept coming up. The name was Jose Abrantes. But in order to get Abrantes outside of Cuba the bait had to be something of significant interest to Raul Castro and Fidel Castro. The plan was to convince the Castro brothers and Abrantes that Gustavo Fernandez had information about U.S. satellites flying over Cuba with infrared capabilities that could penetrate thick foliage. Through a third party Fernandez conveyed the idea of an exchange of the documents for 2,000 pounds of cocaine. However, Fernandez demanded that Abrantes himself be present in the intelligence for drugs exchange. The U.S. plan was then to arrest Abrantes on the high seas. On June 12, 1989, while under the watchful eye of United States Customs personnel, Fernandez was picked up by two individuals in a motor vehicle and disappeared. That night Division General Arnaldo Ochoa and Colonel Tony De La Guardia were arrested in Cuba. Cuba’s DI was obviously all over the operation. The entire project had been compromised.
Division General Ochoa’s illustrious career included heading a guerrilla cell in Venezuela while Che Guevara was in charge of a Cuban led revolutionary campaign in 1965 in Bolivia. From there Ochoa had gone to the Congo Brazzaville where he commanded 1,000 Cuban troops defending the country’s leftist regime. He trained soldiers from Namibia, Mozambique
, and South Africa. After an extended command of the army in Havana up to 1971 he headed off in 1972 to command the 500 man Cuban contingent training the army of Sierra Leone. During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war he trained Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. In 1975 he led nearly 4,000 Cuban troops in Zaire. By 1976 he was the senior commander of the Cuban Armed Forces in Angola. That year he organized the popular militia in Addis Ababa and led 9,000 Cuban troops in Ethiopia’s fight against Somalia during the regional war. By December of 1977 he was a division general setting up armed forces in Granada for Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, and later provided training to guerrillas and soldiers from South Yemen, Syria, Vietnam, Lybia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Laos. In 1983 he was dispatched to Nicaragua for the top assignment as military advisor to the Sandinista regime. He himself had joined Castro’s rebel army in the Sierra Maestra at the young age of eighteen and had devoted his entire life to combat duties. The nation recognized Ochoa as a leader with almost divine control over his troops.
During the investigation of Ochoa, Raul Castro met with the division general and hero of the Cuban revolution. Raul Castro badgered Ochoa. During the exchange that followed a weary but angry Ochoa told Raul Castro, “you haven’t fought since 1959. I haven’t done anything but fight since then.”
During the last week of May of 1989, Tony De La Guardia spoke to Jose Luis Llovio Menendez, former chief advisor of the Ministry of Finance. They were related by marriage. Llovio recalls that De La Guardia told him about his drug trafficking involvement and that the order without alternatives had been given to him by the Minister of the Interior at the time, Jose Abrantes. Fidel in turn had given the go ahead to Abrantes.
At the court martial proceedings against Arnaldo Ochoa, Raul Castro opened with a litany of charges against the general. The tribunal president was Division General Ulysses Rosales Del Toro. The chief prosecutor was Brigadier General Juan Escalona Reguera. Prior to the proceedings Fidel Castro visited Tony De La Guardia in jail. Fidel Castro promised leniency to De La Guardia if he agreed to take all of the blame for Cuba’s drug trafficking. He was asked to publicly clear his superiors, Abrantes and the Castro brothers, of any responsibility. He was asked to perform this most significant mission of all those that he had been entrusted. Ochoa was similarly approached but would not agree to acknowledge drug trafficking. He was asked to admit he had betrayed the revolution. Both De La Guardia and Ochoa assented.
A dramatic moment took place during the course of the trial when Captain Ruiz Poo said that Cuba’s cocaine smuggling operation had been approved at the highest levels. But as this was happening one of the defendants looked faint, a recess was taken
, and the session was adjourned. An official visited Ruiz Poo during the night. The next day a heavily medicated and serene Ruiz Poo volunteered that no one had discussed anything about drugs at the highest level.
When speaking at the court martial De La Guardia vacillated because one of the judges, a former drug trafficker for the revolution, made reference to De La Guardia profiting for himself. De La Guardia replied that he had done what he had done for the revolution and had never kept anything for himself. Admiral Santamaria was one of the individuals who would ultimately sign the death sentence although Santamaria was still under indictment in the Miami case from years before.
De La Guardia testified about his extensive involvement in narcotics. He claimed he did it all for Cuba. Ochoa only said that he had discussed with an aide who had visited drug traffickers the ongoing laundering of drug profits in tourist hotel development in Cuba. He did not develop, nor did the prosecutor, Juan Escalona Reguera, any more drug allegations against Ochoa. Division General Abelardo Colome Ibarra, the top MINFAR official who had reassured Tony De La Guardia many times during the proceedings that no one would be punished for the MC Department “transgressions,” never surfaced until later when he appeared as Cuba’s new Minister of the Interior. The accused were convicted.
After the court martial Fidel Castro addressed the Council of State. Castro said there had never been a judicial process that involved “so much clarity, so much fairness.” He added that although drug trafficking in Cuba carries a fifteen year maximum penalty, De La Guardia, Ochoa and two others should and would be executed. Castro argued that death was the only appropriate punishment for treason. Four days later, on July 13, 1989, Brigadier General Juan Escalona Reguera directed the execution of Major Amado Padron Trujillo, Captain Jorge Martinez Valdez
, Colonel Tony De La Guardia, and Division General Arnaldo Ochoa. Admiral Santamaria and Manuel Piñeiro survived.
According to Ruiz’s attorney, Fred Schwartz, a leak in information from Ruiz’s cooperation interrogation, to the Cuban government, aborted possible indictments of Raul and Fidel Castro. According to other sources the Attorney General himself at the time instructed a United States Attorney to refrain from filing an indictment that was already drafted as to other conduct by Raul and Fidel Castro. On August 21, 1989, Reinaldo Ruiz was sentenced by the Honorable Thomas Scott, District Judge, to seventeen years of imprisonment. Since the trial Fidel Castro has insisted that Tony De La Guardia was the beginning and the end of Cuba’s drug involvement. Castro has said, “when it comes to narcotic trafficking, Cuba is clean.”
On December 31, 1990, Reinaldo Ruiz died of a heart attack while in federal custody. On January 21,1990, General Jose Abrantes died of a supposed heart attack after having always enjoyed perfect health. Rene Rodriguez Diaz, Johnny Crump’s co-defendant and his link to Castro, died in late 1989 in Havana of a mysterious illness. Mario Estevez, the Cuban intelligence officer who implicated Rodriguez Diaz, also had an untimely demise in an American prison shortly thereafter.
But the United States Coast Guard continued to observe drops of cocaine in Cuban territorial waters, commencing again soon after the Ochoa trial. According to U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Karonis, planes were detected flying over Cuba, making air drops of drugs, several nights in a row. On a night in particular planes dropped drugs to three speedboats right inside Cuban waters. The boats were monitored and intercepted in international waters. The Coast Guard gave chase as the boats headed back into Cuban waters. In the chase the Coast Guard encountered Cuban gunboats. As the Americans got closer, Cuban helicopters responded and the Coast Guard was forced to halt pursuit.
In early 1995, the “Lord of the Skies,” Mexican cartel leader Amado Carrillo Fuentes, visited Cuba again. According to DEA sources Carrillo Fuentes was engaging in “business ventures.” Despite repeated requests to the Cuban government by Mexican authorities to surrender him for prosecution, the Cuban government declined. The individual who refused was General Juan Escalona Riguera, the prosecutor on the Ochoa case who has repeatedly stated that Cuba will never provide shelter to drug traffickers.
The sophistication of Cuba’s drug trafficking continued to develop. So did the ties with Colombian guerrillas. According to a confidential source debriefed first in 1998 the Cubans are now engaging in cocaine traffic through small airports in the Colombian jungle. Cocaine stashed in travel boxes is being ferried in Aerotaxi of Colombia planes. The brand names in the boxes has been made known. Armored guards control the pilots and the planes. Cubans move the cocaine from the source directly onto the larger airports where they in turn move it on Cubana de Aviacion flights.