Posts in Luis Posada Carriles
What lies across the Water- Why History, International Law and American Values matter in the case of the Cuban five
The following text is my presentation at the panel organized by Wayne Smith about the book "What lies across the Water", at the Center for International Policy, April 18, Washington DC.
I want to thank Dr. Wayne Smith and the Center for International Policy (CIP) for the invitation to discuss the book “What lies across the Water”. As a Cuban-American who thinks constantly about the difficult relations between Cuba and the United States, it is an honor to be part of the effort of the CIP to improve the knowledge about the complex history of these links and the need to approach them with creativity and goodwill.
Whatever you might think about the Cuban Five, if you want to know how their case fits into the history of relations between Cuba and the United States, you must read this book. The author Stephen Kimber presents a well written short narrative about how the Cuban five ended up in US prisons. The book reads more as reportage for the general public than as an academic report. The author has studied the long history of conflict between Cuba and the United States and the use of terror as a political weapon by Cuban right wing groups in Florida.
(A billboard in Cuba which reads, "What barbarians. They have liberated a terrorist”. The billboard pre-dates Posada's April 2011 acquittal, and is more likely in reference to a 2004 pardon he received for the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro. The pardon was granted by former Panamanian president, Mireya Moscoso under pressure from the United States.)
Several nights ago (6 April), I watched “Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up” at the West End Cinema in Washington. Six months ago, Saul Landau, the filmmaker, had given me an earlier rough-cut version on DVD that I had watched, but I was not prepared for the final version with all of the added footage gained by Saul’s recent sojourn in Cuba itself and the slap-in-the-face showing on the large screen.
But the added footage from the island and the bigger screen were not all that made the final version more electrifying. It was, all in all, the pro-Cuba aspect of the film that stunned me.
And it was clear that this pro-Cuba aspect was not conjured by the filmmaker but by history. Perhaps, I told myself, I knew much of this history, intellectually, academically. But I had never seen it so graphically put before me, in such a tight, cinematic package that seemed to leap off the screen almost in synch with the beating of my pulse.
The backdrop of the film was the U.S.-Cuba relationship from the 1959 revolution to the present. That relationship was portrayed quite accurately, leaving no doubt why Theodore Roosevelt referred to the island as “that infernal little Cuban Republic” even though TR pre-dated the revolution by a generation-plus. That is chiefly because the one-sided nature of U.S. policy has been the same from 1823 to the present. TR’s remark demonstrated well before the Cuban revolution, well before the dictator Fulgencio Batista, well before the U.S. mob took over Havana, well before Fidel Castro shouted “¡Bastante!” from the Sierra Maestra, well before Jesse Helms displayed his latent racism toward Cubans, just how badly the U.S. had treated its island neighbor since the beginning of our republic. So badly, in fact, that the portrayal of it, however evanescently, by a master filmmaker made one want to weep for his country and its policies. I doubt there was a single person in the audience that night who felt any differently, except perhaps the several Cubans who were present who, indeed, probably wept for el coloso del norte as well but for different reasons.
And then there was the main point, the point embodied in the film’s title.
Guest post by Peter Kornbluh*
Feb. 9: In El Paso, Texas, the perjury trial of infamous violent Cuban exile, Luis Posada Carriles, took a historic turn today. For the first time in the long dramatic history dominated by hostility and aggression, U.S. government prosecutors formally presented evidence of terrorism committed against Cuba in a court of law against one of its own former CIA assets. Even more extraordinary, the evidence came in the form of a Cuban Ministry of Interior investigator explaining photographs and police reports to the jury relating to an explosion in the bar of the Hotel Copacabana which killed a young Italian businessman Fabio Di Celmo on September 4, 1997. “Cuba Cooperating in US case against ex-CIA agent,” reads tomorrow’s news headlines.
The godfather of anti-Castro Cuban violence over the last four decades, Posada is being prosecuted for immigration fraud relating to how he illegally entered the United States in March 2005. But the Obama Justice Department added three counts of perjury relating to a far more important crime: Posada’s role in a series of seven bombings that rocked Havana hotels and other tourist sites between April and September 1997. “The defendant is alleged to have lied about his involvement in planning the bombings in Havana,” state court filings by the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Division. “The United States intends to prove that the bombings in Cuba actually occurred.”
This week marks the first time that concrete evidence is being presented to the jury on how those bombings took place and the damage they wrought. The jury has been shown photographs taken by Cuban authorities of the bloodstained floor of the hotel. Portions of a Cuban investigative study, known as the “Volcan report,” which discusses the cause of, and circumstances surrounding Fabio Di Celmo’s death, are due to be introduced as evidence during the testimony of Major Roberto Hernandez Caballero—he is Cuba’s lead detective on the hotel bombing investigation—who took the stand today.
The importance of this moment in U.S.-Cuban relations cannot be overstated. Posada was originally trained in demolitions by the U.S. military and put on the CIA payroll in 1965 to train and supervise other exile groups in sabotage, explosives and violent operations. Declassified CIA and FBI intelligence reports, posted on the website of the National Security Archive, identify him as a mastermind of a mid-air bombing of a Cuban jetliner that took the lives of all 73 men, women and children on board in October 1976. Most recently, Posada was arrested in Panama with a carload of C-4 and dynamite in what he admitted to U.S. officials was a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American summit in November 2000. By prosecuting him on charges related to his acts of terrorism, even if they are only perjury charges, the United States is effectively repudiating a dark past that its own Cold War officials and covert operatives set in motion.