III. STATE SPONSOR AND PARTICIPANT IN
Within weeks of Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba on January 1, 1959, he began the exportation of revolution. On April 16, 1959, Cubans landed in Panama carrying out the first act of external aggression. The Dominican Republic assault followed on June 14, 1959. In August, Operation Haiti began. Destabilization of the Salvadorian government came next. A bit later Peru confirmed Cuba’s financing of the insurrectional movement. In May of 1960 Che Guevara and Fidel Castro decided to assume the direction of budding guerrilla and terrorist activity in Colombia. It was at that time that Castro’s plan went global. Cuba decided to engage in Africa and the Middle East.
Cuba’s close relationship with Middle Eastern terrorists and extremists dates back to the time of Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ben Bella in early 1960. Algerians were the first to train in Cuba in subversion and terrorism. Others soon followed. According to Abu Iyad, one of Yasser Arafat’s top lieutenants, Cuba trained military personnel from the PLO in explosives and bomb making techniques dating back to 1966. Cuban agent Ulysses Estrada was one of the Cubans in charge.
In 1965 Italian Red Brigades, with substantial links to the PLO, began to work with the Cubans. The PLO, through Castro’s involvement, provided weaponry to the Italian subversive group. Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” was trained in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, on urban sabotage and manufacture of explosives. The Jackal
, one of the best known international terrorists of all times, later returned to Cuba, where he expanded his knowledge of counterintelligence before heading back to the Middle East to practice what he had learned. By the time of his arrest in 1994 in Sudan, Carlos had killed twenty and wounded over two hundred people. He had also transformed the Venezuelan embassy in Beirut into a fraudulent visa center to smuggle Palestinian militants into Europe.
In 1965 Cuba helped create the Tupamaro movement in Uruguay. The high command was installed in Havana. The Cubans prepared a logistical network for the Tupamaros which included transportation and sanctuary. The Cubans directed the Tupamaros, and helped fund their operations by kidnapping and extortion. Americans were kidnapped, some were murdered. Massive ransoms were collected. Bombings and explosions became commonplace.
In 1970 the Montonero movement became a force in Argentina. Trained in Cuba along the same lines as their Tupamaro neighbors, they also engaged in kidnapping and terrorism. More Americans were kidnapped, more were executed. By the late 1970's the M-19 and FARC movements in Colombia were destabilizing the country. M-19 leader Jaime Bateman was trained by and acted at the direction of Havana. The United States ambassador was kidnapped. In release negotiations M-19 personnel associated with the kidnapping were given safe passage to Cuba.
In 1968 Cuba coordinated the Iraqi preparation of Palestinian guerrillas. One of the groups trained by Cubans was later named Black September. In March of 1973 Cuba sent armored divisions to South Yemen and on to the border of Somalia. Later in the year at the fourth conference of non-aligned nations held in Algeria, Fidel Castro established Cuba’s solidarity with Arafat and the PLO, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, and presented a resolution that supported PLO activities
, including terrorism. In early 1974 the PLO leadership, including Yasser Arafat, arrived in Havana to discuss the supplies of weapons, the training of personnel, and the placement of a permanent office of the PLO in Havana. The office remains today. Then, near the end of that year Cuba formalized support for both, Libya’s Moammar Qadhafi and the PLO leadership.
In 1972 Havana and Bagdad signed a bilateral agreement. The Cubans offered the Iraqis training in counter insurgency to be used against the Kurds. In 1974 Cuba began the training of Iraqi special operation commandos as well as the provision of military engineers to build roads to war fronts. During the Yom Kippur war Cubans fought alongside the Syrians. According to former Israeli General Moshe Dayan, he estimated 3,000 Cubans were actually in service. The Cubans maintained two brigades in the Golan Heights. On February 4, 1974, Cuban tank commanders engaged Israeli positions. In September of 1974 Raul Castro visited Cuban units in Syria, where he and President Assad decorated officers from their respective military units.
In mid 1976 Israeli intelligence detected a significant number of Cuban advisors in Southern Lebanon. In March of 1978 the PLO and Cuba entered into an agreement where Cuba would send additional personnel to Palestinian camps in Lebanon while at the same time Cuban intelligence in Beirut and Cyprus would coordinate the formation of a central PLO intelligence command. Miguel Brugueres, a seasoned Cuban spy chief, assumed responsibility for the mission. Brugueres would also screen candidates for espionage and terrorism.
In May of 1978, Abu Salah Kahalaf, the military director of Al Fattah
, confirmed that Palestinian warriors had received combat training from Cuba since the early 1970's. He acknowledged that five hundred Palestinian commandos had been trained in Havana in the art of terrorism. In September of 1978, Fidel Castro visited Moammar Qadhafi. At the time two thousand five hundred Cuban troops were stationed in Libya. An additional forty five hundred troops from Havana arrived in Libya in November of 1978. The Cuban mission was to protect the Libyans and train them in espionage, commando operations and insurgency control within Libya. Qadhafi’s personal escort and security services were to be trained by Havana. Hassan Ashkal and Salam Jalloud, the latter being the head of the secret service in Libya, and a frequent traveler to Cuba, were to coordinate Cuban terrorist training.
Not to be left out of any area, Castro engaged another one hundred Cuban military officers to train PLO guerillas. In Iraq, Cuban military instructors remained and were providing intelligence, training and engineering support to Saddam Hussein and his budding regime. Syria in turn enjoyed the presence of three hundred Cuban tank and artillery officers. Another one hundred and fifty Cubans were strategically coordinating foreign subversive activity in the region, based in Algeria.
During the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 1982, Israeli intelligence captured Palestinian documents which included Cuban training manuals. In 1989, through Cuban intelligence coordination, the PLO agreed to and was brokering the provision of SAM-7, surface to air missiles, to Panama’s Manuel Noriega. The purpose was to stave off an imminent American invasion. PLO representative Tarik Mahdi was actually in transit from Tunisia when the U.S. military struck Panama.
In an authorized biography written by Tad Szulc, Castro has made no secret of his zeal when promoting what he termed revolutionary activity dating back to the early 60's. He acknowledged to the author the existence of training camps in the mainland of Cuba and on the Isle of Youth for African and Latin American revolutionary troops. Specifically he recognized promotion of his objectives in Algeria
, Guinea, the Congo Brazzaville, Morocco, Somalia, and Tanzania. He noted his full support for the guerrillas in El Salvador and the M-19 movement in Colombia, from their formation to the date of his interview with Szulc.
In August of 1987 FARC deserters revealed that various guerrilla fronts were still being trained by Cuban agents. Two thousand Guatemalan guerrillas were trained in Cuba before being dispatched to their native country. Their education involved traditional guerrilla tactics and bomb making.
The old relationships continued for years. On May 15, 2001, Fidel Castro arrived in Syria with the published purpose of strengthening ties with old allies in the Middle East. He was greeted by President Assad at Damascus airport. The subsequent conversations between the leaders included promises of future mutual support.
On May 7, 2001, the New York Times published an article which quoted Fidel Castro as saying that, “Iran and Cuba together can bring America to its knees.” The article stated that Castro had visited Iran, Syria, and Libya, all of which Washington had designated as sponsors of terrorism. On May 10, 2001, Reuters reports indicate that Fidel Castro told Iranians during his visit to Tehran University on the previous day that, “the imperialist king is destined to fall soon.” Agence France Press documented these reports that were later published by other news agencies. The Cuban government now denies the statements were made and has instructed its foreign agents of influence to deny the Castro quotes. Agence France Press stands by its reporting.
On June 4, 2002, Miguel Mariano Ramos was captured in Bogota. Ramos is an explosives instructor and a Cuban intelligence officer. It is common knowledge that terrorism in Colombia is on a par with the worst of terrorism in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Cuba’s fingerprints are all over the cratered landscape of Colombia.
In its overview of state sponsored terrorism the United States Department of State continues to list Cuba as a state sponsor of international terrorism. The other countries on the list include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Sudan. The State Department document reflects that Cuba continues to provide sanctuary to terrorists and U.S. fugitives. It adds that Cuba provides sanctuary for Basque ETA terrorists, as well as representatives of Colombia’s two largest terrorist organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (FLN). Interestingly the State Department document states that the U.S. government, “has a long memory and will not simply expunge a terrorist’s record because time has passed. The states that choose to harbor terrorists are accomplices who provide shelter for criminals. They will be held accountable for their ‘guests’ actions. International terrorists should know
, before they contemplate a crime, that they cannot hunker down in a safe haven for a period of time and be absolved of their crimes.”
On August 27, 1999, the Tampa Tribune published an article reporting clemency proceedings for Puerto Rican nationalists near the conclusion of President Clinton’s term in office. In the article FBI officials complained about extending “any leniency to persons convicted of terrorist related acts at a time when the United States was engaged in a worldwide battle against terrorism.” It seems that even prior to the national tragedy of September 11, America’s position was clear.
IV. ESPIONAGE AND MURDER
Beginning as early as 1992 in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere, a conspiracy by the Republic of Cuba to commit espionage and murder, existed in the United States. The object of the conspiracy was for co-conspirators, “to function as covert agents by serving the interest of the government of the Republic of Cuba within the Unites States, by gathering and transmitting information to the Cuban government concerning United States military installations, government functions, and private political activities; and by carrying out other operational directives with the Cuban government.” As part and means of the conspiracy, “trained officers of the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence (DI) took up residence in South Florida and carried out clandestine activities on behalf of the Cuban government.” The Cuban spy network was known as the Wasp Network.
The activities of the Wasp Network were overseen
, directed, analyzed, and reviewed by the DI in Cuba. One of the penetration agents was Juan Pablo Roque, code name German. Others were Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Lavanino, Alejandro Alonso, Nilo Hernandez, and Joseph Santos. Roque and Gonzalez penetrated an organization known as Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR), a humanitarian group engaged in the saving of Cuban rafters at sea and headed by Jose Basulto, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion and a former second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
By 1996 Basulto has become a thorn in Castro’s side. Basulto’s efforts had saved thousands of lives of rafters in peril. Acclaimed by international media and recognized by Cubans everywhere Basulto had pushed the envelope by overflying Havana once and by continuously advising Havana air traffic controllers who warned him not to even approach Cuban airspace that he did what he did because it was his right as a free man. The legend therefore grew.
In the meantime Roque and Gonzalez became double agents. They deceived the FBI in Miami and began cooperating as paid informants. They provided false information to the Bureau but worked their illegal engagement with a certain level of security. Their FBI handlers were unaware of their true loyalties
, the fact that they were double agents, and part of the WASP Network.
Inevitably on January 14, 1996, Operation Scorpion was approved by Fidel Castro. Scorpion authorized the downing of Brothers to the Rescue planes and the execution of Jose Basulto while in flight on the upcoming February 24, 1996, date. Fidel Castro later acknowledged to Dan Rather of CBS news, when interviewed, that he gave the order. He claimed that he assumed the responsibility stating, “I won’t try to skirt my responsibility in the least... since those were the directives given in a moment of great irritation...the order given to the pilot.”
In mid February the Cubans decided to rehearse the upcoming mission. Using a small Wilga plane, a civilian pilot, and a MiG fighter, the mission was practiced. A defector who participated in the practice run has provided details of the event. In the meantime Juan Pablo Roque transmitted the final details of the BTTR scheduled comb flight to his Havana handlers. He confirmed Basulto would lead the flight. Everything was a go. On February 24, 1996, two Cuban Air Force interceptors, a MiG 29UB and a MiG 23ML, took off from the Cuban airbase at San Antonio de los Baños for a second time that day to carry out Scorpion.
Around 3:22 P.M., after receiving direct authorization from Havana control and without any warning, the first BTTR airplane was destroyed, twenty miles from the Cuban coast. The second plane was also destroyed in international airspace minutes later. A second set of Cuban interceptors then went up, and according to recorded radio transmissions
, gave chase to the third plane. Jose Basulto, who miraculously survived the mission as the principal target of the effort, was a good distance north of the Cuban coastline when Cuban interceptors were directed by Havana tower to discontinue the mission. Still, operation Scorpion had been a success, or so Fidel Castro thought.
The Wasp Network continued its operations which included efforts at penetration of U.S. military installations, including MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa. But on September 12, 1998, the Wasp Network agents were arrested. On October 19, 1998, while visiting Portugal, Fidel Castro acknowledged sending spies to infiltrate the United States. On May 7, 1999, the Unites States filed a superceding indictment enhancing the accusations and charging additional defendants in the case of United States of America v. Gerardo Hernandez, et al, Case Number 98-721-CR-Lenard. The case was tried in Miami and resulted in convictions on all counts, including the count charging conspiracy to commit murder. Not a single Cuban or Cuban-American sat on the jury.
Scores of witnesses testified at the spy trial. Among the witnesses, Lt. General James R. Clapper, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that the objective of the group was “to get their hands on U.S. national defense secrets.” Cuba always disputed the location of the shootdown and had provided various different sites for different reasons. On May 15, 2001, U.S. radar expert Jeffrey Richardson
, of the 84th
Radar Evaluation Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, testified that the Cuban radar data did “not accurately depict the movement of the planes on that day.” He testified that the Cuban presentation was clearly fraudulent. Richardson showed jurors multi colored tracks of Cuban and U.S. radar data from the shootdown which he said clearly reflected the dramatic differences. U.S. radar confirmed the shootdowns occurred twenty miles off the Cuban shore and twenty-two miles off the Cuban shore, more than ten miles into international airspace.
The independent evidence of the exact location of the downing came from among others First Officer Bjorn Johansen, on the bridge of the cruise ship Majesty of the Seas, as it was crossing the Florida Straights. While looking up Johansen saw a small explosion in the distance. He saw debris fall from the sky. Four minutes after the first explosion Johansen witnessed the second one. He testified that during the sequence he saw a Cuban jet fighter tracking a small Cessna that was flying away from Cuba. He saw the MiG 29UB fire a missile. Five seconds later the missile hit its target. Johansen testified that, “there were no warning shots. There was no other maneuver other than lining up for the direct hit on that plane.” Shortly after his observation the ship passed by the debris site marked by an oil slick. When questioned about the exact location of the shootdown based on the electronic equipment aboard the Majesty of the Seas, Johansen stated that the first Cessna was shot down “20 nautical miles from Cuba, and the second, 22.8 nautical miles from Cuba.” Johansen said his testimony was based on global positioning satellite readouts and navigational charts that enabled him to fix the position of the ship in relation to the explosions and debris fields. Johansen testified that the MiG pilot’s testimony, “to the ICAO investigators” shortly after the event (that he made warning passes) was clearly false. Johansen did not observe any such maneuvers.
During trial evidence was presented by the defense that the Cuban government had reported that neither the FAA nor the United States had done anything about Basulto’s prior intrusion into Cuban airspace. Cuba had sent a diplomatic note to the State Department in that regard. According to witness Charles Lennard, the FAA was investigating and taking action against Basulto. As a matter of fact
, Lennard testified, the FAA would have gladly used against Basulto any evidence provided by Cuba, including videotapes of any new intrusion, if one were to have taken place on February 24, 1996. The Cubans in turn made a decision just to shoot down the planes. Lennard further testified on February 28, 2001, that, “Cuba ignored its own, and internationally recognized procedures, because it failed to warn the planes before the MiG blasted them.”
On February 15, 2001, the same tapes that had been reviewed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) were played before the jury in Miami. They established that Alberto Perez Perez, in command of a MiG 29, followed closely by his brother, Francisco Perez Perez, piloting a MiG 23, stated, “we have sighted the first target, target locked on, authorize us.” A few seconds later Perez Perez screamed
, “it’s a Cessna 337, that one, that one, that one, ... that’s the one. Authorize us, damn it.” Seven second later a calm voice is heard from Havana control stating, “fire.” However, Perez Perez, obviously unaware of the command, screamed out again, “authorize us damn it, we have it.” Havana control radioed out, “08, authorized to destroy.” A minute later Perez Perez shouts
, “First shot. We got it, damn it, we got him,” as he cursed and cheered in the MiG cockpit for several seconds. He screamed out again, “cojones, we got him. Damn.” He shouted again, “this one won’t fuck around any more.” About four minutes later Perez Perez scored another hit shooting down De La Peña’s plane. Cursing and cheering followed. After the shootdown the Wasp Network received a congratulatory coded note from Havana stating, “we have dealt the Miami right a hard blow.”
On February 27, 2001, testimony at trial was presented that the only other military shoot- down of a civilian plane that has taken place previously was when a Soviet MiG shot down a Korean airliner that strayed into Soviet airspace in 1983, killing 269 people aboard.
On March 30, 2001, Roberto Hernandez Caballero, a DGI colonel, testified on behalf of the defendants. When asked by the government prosecutor if Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence ever sponsored terrorist acts, Hernandez replied, “my government does not sponsor terrorist acts.”
On February 26, 2001, Charles Lennard further testified that there is “no internationally recognized standard for shooting down civilian planes because shootdowns are not considered an option.” In evaluating what the MiG 29 pilot did that day he testified that after reviewing all of what had been presented, “neither the MiG pilot
, his air defense controller, nor Havana civilian air traffic controllers made any efforts to radio the Cessnas.” That would have been the simplest of all warning methods. This “was despite the fact that the Cessnas radioed their presence to Havana air traffic controllers and were transmitting transponder codes, or squawks, and had filed a flight plan, before the trip.” The testimony went on that civilian interceptions are handled by “wing rocking, flashing navigational lights, and dropping of landing gear, to divert a plane from its course or direct it to land.” In evaluating Cuba’s suggestion that a warning pass was made (which was proven otherwise by the direct visual observations below and the absence of any contact between the Cessnas) it was further established that, “nowhere in any publication does it show that a warning pass is acceptable conduct.” ICAO had ruled out the warning pass theory also, on a number of grounds, including the Majesty of the Seas observations, observations from a commercial tuna vessel
, and the fact that had a warning pass taken place, the Cessnas would have conveyed it to each other. Radio recordings do not reflect such a message between the BTTR planes. Undisputedly, there were no warnings. The act constituted terrorism.
Seized from the Wasp Network were some interesting documents. A decrypted document labeled as DF-101(e) AA(f1.WPD) and introduced at the spy trial
, states that, “the general idea of all of this, which is under your control, is to operate in an area and be able to move persons as well as things, including arms and explosives, between our country and the U.S. for that concept, suggest other subjects that we might not have in mind.” Another seized memo indicates, “how would you suggest that a maritime incursion could be carried out to the U.S. from our country.” Testimony on December 19, 2000, at the spy trial, indicated that there are multiple references in the records that were declassified of the encrypted Cuban communications that refer constantly to, “our main enemy, the United States.” So much for the proposition that Castro’s violent directives are a thing of the past.
On December 13, 2001, the espionage ringleader, Geraldo Hernandez, was sentenced to life in prison by the Honorable Joan Lenard, United States District Judge. In his forty minute diatribe, Hernandez, a career Cuban intelligence officer who supervised the other spies, defiantly condemned the United States of America. On December 28, 2001, Antonio Guerrero, another spy, was sentenced to life. Guerrero was born in Miami
, and was recruited as an agent after he had traveled to Cuba ten years before the trial. This American, working for the Cuban government to perpetrate murder on other Americans, stated at his sentencing, “if I were asked to do something like this again, I would do it with honor.” On December 30, 2001, the Cuban parliament met at a special session to bestow the country’s highest honor on the convicted spies. Fidel Castro himself praised the men and honored them with Cuba’s highest award of patriotism recognizing them as “heroes of the Republic of Cuba.” Castro went on to officially declare that the year 2002 would be known as “year of the heroic prisoners of the empire,” referring to the five imprisoned in the Unites States. Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba’s national assembly and number two man in the Cuban government, like Castro, praised the murderers and called them the pride and joy of their nation.
On a related front, on June 30, 2001, a high ranking immigration official in Miami was convicted of violating the U.S. espionage act and lying on national security forms. Mariano Faget’s conviction was based on his disclosure of classified information, converting government property in the form of secrets to his own use
, and lying on a national security form about contacts with a Cuban official. Faget had been given classified information that a Cuban agent would defect to the Unites States. Minutes after he received the information he used his cellular phone to call Cuban intelligence contacts and pass along the information.
Cuban espionage continued. On September 22, 2001, a couple, Marisol and George Gari, became the sixth and seventh spies convicted in the massive FBI investigation into the Wasp Network. Gari had been ordered to work at the U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami in an infiltration attempt directed by the Cuban DI. On May 30, 2002, another suspected spy, Juan Emilio Aboy, was caught trying to infiltrate the U.S. Military Southern Command as Castro’s DI continued its activities despite the official government statement disseminated to the media and the world. Aboy has since been sentenced.
On September 19, 2001, the official declaration of the Republic of Cuba relating to the World Trade Center tragedy was published in the newspaper, Granma. The Granma article suggested that the United States was going to “utilize the painful tragedy to impose methods, prerogatives and privileges, which would lead the most powerful tyranny in the world to impose itself on all the peoples of the world.” Additionally, the editorial commented, that the use of force, under the ruse of self defense, has previously been “utilized by the government of the United States to eliminate patriotic leaders and organize coups and massive genocides that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the torture of millions of people, who have disappeared or who have been eliminated.” According to the United States Department of State report of April 7, 2002, Colin Powell charged that Cuban “official government statements suggest that we brought the September 11 attack on ourselves.”