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U.S. tolerance of anti-Cuban terrorism, as discussed at a conference
hosted by the Center for International Policy in Miami on October
Wayne Smith, Shauna Harrison and Sheree Adams
Many Cuban exile terrorists got their start by working with
the CIA on acts of violence against targets in Cuba. But as
the CIA closed its base in Miami and de-emphasized such tactics,
its former “operatives,” among them Orlando Bosch
and Luis Posada Carriles, turned freelance.
in Havana protest the U.S. government's leniency on the
Posada Carriles case
CIA and FBI documents leave no doubt that Bosch and Posada were
then involved in acts of terrorism, such as the bombing of a
Cubana airliner in 1976 with the loss of 73 innocent lives.
Bosch was also reported to have been behind the 1976 assassination
in Washington of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and
his American assistant, Ronnie Moffitt. And Posada acknowledged
to The New York Times that he was responsible for the 1997 bombings
of tourist hotels in Havana, resulting in the death of an Italian
tourist and the wounding of several other people.
were but the tip of the iceberg. There were many other exile
terrorists, many other assassinations and other acts of violence
against Cuban- Americans who disagreed with the exile hardliners,
in addition to intense efforts to intimidate those advocating
dialogue with Cuba and/or
those who insisted on traveling to the island.
disturbingly, almost none of these terrorist acts, even those
in the U.S., have been punished by U.S. authorities. On the
contrary, there has been a clear pattern of tolerance. Orlando
Bosch, for example, despite all the evidence against him, was
pardoned by the George H.W. Bush administration—at the
specific request of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and now-Governor
Jeb Bush. Thus, Bosch has lived freely and unrepentant in Miami
since 1988. And now comes Posada Carriles. In prison in Panama
on charges growing out of his intention to assassinate President
Fidel Castro during a visit there, he, along with three other
exile terrorists, was pardoned in August of 2004 by the outgoing
president of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, at the request of Congresswoman
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.
returned to the United States in March of this year. The authorities
at first made no efforts to apprehend him, then arrested him
for the minor charge of illegal entry. They have so far refused
to honor the Venezuelan government’s demand that he be
extradited and tried in the case of the 1976 Cubana airliner
bombing. Posada remains in light custody, with the final disposition
of his case still to be decided. At this point, however, it
can be said that he clearly has received preferential treatment.
As in the case of Orlando Bosch and many others, how is that
preferential treatment consistent with our global campaign against
terrorists and terrorist activities?
carried on the first page of
the October 8 conference program:
activity anywhere in
the world is a threat to us all.”
- Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
in The Miami Herald, July 11, 2005
agree with the congresswoman. Indeed, her statement quoted above,
which was in response to the terrorist attacks on the London
subways, is the theme of this conference. We would only add
that “anywhere in the world” includes terrorist
activity in, or emanating from, Miami.
As Jim Defede, a former columnist for The Miami Herald, asked
in a July 11 column taking issue with an earlier statement of
hers condemning the “barbaric” terrorist attacks
in London: “Where was the congresswoman’s outrage
when she came to the defense of Luis Posada Carriles, a man
who bragged about masterminding a series of hotel bombings in
Havana that killed an Italian tourist? A man suspected of blowing
up a Cubana airliner? Where was her desire to ‘neutralize
terrorism’ when she pleaded two years ago with the president
of Panama to release Pedro Remón, Guillermo Novo and
Gaspar Jiménez (as well as Posada Carriles)?”
notes that she was joined in this effort by Congressmen Lincoln
Diaz- Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, who also urged the then-president
of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, to release the four men. All had
been convicted in Panama of endangering public safety, a charge
stemming from an alleged plot to blow up a university center
which Fidel Castro was scheduled to visit. All had other terrorist
activities on their records as well. Remón had pleaded
guilty in 1986 to trying to blow up the Cuban Mission in New
York. Novo was convicted in the 1976 murder of Orlando Letelier
and Ronnie Moffitt in Washington, D.C., though the conviction
had been overturned on appeal. Jiménez had served six
years in prison for trying to kidnap a Cuban diplomat in Mexico.
U.S. federal prosecutors also indicted him for placing a bomb
in the car of Miami radio commentator Emilio Milian, who lost
both his legs as a result, though the indictment was quashed
on a technicality.
was the congresswoman’s outrage when she came to
the defense of Luis Posada Carriles, a man who bragged
about masterminding a series of hotel bombings in Havana
that killed an Italian tourist? A man suspected of blowing
up a Cubana airliner?”-Jim
Defede, The Miami Herald, July 11, 2005
Ros-Lehtinen was also involved in the case of Orlando Bosch,
who, along with Posada Carriles, was accused of masterminding
the downing of the Cubana airliner in 1976, with the loss of
73 lives. He was indicted and spent years in a Venezuelan prison,
but was released under mysterious circumstances in 1987 and
returned to Miami in 1988 without a visa. The Immigration and
Naturalization Service began proceedings to deport him. The
associate attorney general argued in 1989 that: “The security
of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other
nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists. We could not
shelter Dr. Bosch and maintain that credibility.”
shelter him we did. Urged by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, then running
for Congress, and by Jeb Bush, then managing her election campaign,
President George H.W. Bush’s administration approved an
administrative pardon for Bosch, who now lives unrepentant in
Miami. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, has become governor of Florida.
President George W. Bush follows the pattern. Though he has
often said that anyone who harbors a terrorist is a terrorist,
his administration has handled the case of archterrorist Luis
Posada Carriles as though the latter had simply entered the
U.S. illegally. They, in effect, have “harbored”
him. This tolerance toward terrorists and acts of terrorism,
seen not just in the cases discussed above, but in dozens of
others, seriously undermines the U.S. campaign against terrorism
in the world at large. We cannot credibly ask other governments
not to harbor or assist terrorists if they see that in some
cases we are doing exactly that.
Discussion of the Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles
cases and the tolerance and even support they have enjoyed among
senior figures in Washington and Miami.
– Dick Russell, author
Ann Louise Bardach, journalist
Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive
Russell said he had been sent to Miami’s “Little
Havana” in 1976 by New Times magazine to investigate and
write about a series of murders that were taking place at the
rate of about one a week during 1975-76—with over a hundred
bombings in an 18-month period. All seemed to be linked to the
mysterious “Zero Group” and, in turn, to Orlando
Bosch, though he was no longer in Miami. Russell said he had
arrived in Miami after the Letelier Moffitt assassination in
Washington and just before the bombing of the Cubana airliner
of those suspected in the wave of bombings and murders in Miami
had received their training from the CIA. He well remembered
a conversation he had in 1976 with James Angleton, the former
head of counterintelligence in the CIA, about the chaotic situation
developing in Miami. The concept of having a CIA base in Miami
had seemed a sound one when it was opened, Angleton had said.
It was something of a forward base in a Latin environment for
operations in Latin America and especially in Cuba. But it got
out of hand. When you have a large operation, but then the target,
in effect, shrinks, and you begin to scale back, the question
of what you do with the now larger-than-needed staff is always
a problem. And it certainly was in this case. Much of the violence
in Miami was the direct result of that situation.
Peter Kornbluh is the director of the Cuba documentation project
at The National Security Archives, which has been responsible
for landmark studies of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile
Crisis, and who recently published a series of fascinating reports
from the CIA and other agencies on the activities of Luis Posada
Carriles and Orlando Bosch. He noted that we are talking about
violence and terror, much of it perpetrated right here in Miami,
adding, “It is striking that the conference is held here,
right in the heart of Miami, reflecting, we all hope, the degree
to which the climate in this city has changed.”
is striking that the conference is
held here, right in the heart of Miami,
reflecting, we all hope, the
degree to which the climate in the
city has changed.
- Peter Kornbluh,
National Security Archives
who don’t want to face the truth in these cases, Kornbluh
noted, and especially in the case of the Cubana flight, always
attribute them to someone else. It was Fidel Castro, they will
say, or that one group of exiles did it and then blamed it on
others. Or, they will say, the documents were forged.
we have here this afternoon, he noted, a series of intelligence
documents, CIA and FBI reports, which are without question authentic.
Most were written at the time of the events themselves, not
years later. They were secret for many years, but were then
reviewed and eventually declassified as the result of the Kennedy
Assassination Records Act. The intelligence documents were still
secret, however, at the time Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles
were tried in Venezuela, so they were not given to Venezuelan
courts, nor to Cuba or Panama. A whole series of legal issues
explains why the documents are not part of the present court
case against Posada in Venezuela. But Kornbluh emphasized that
U.S. officials reviewed them in the late 1980s, when Orlando
Bosch was in Miami and fighting deportation. Those officials
came to the conclusion that the reports were authentic, that
Bosch was dangerous, was guilty of terrorist acts and should
be deported. But he was not.
first document Kornbluh presented reported that Cuban exile
groups devoted to violence held a meeting in Santo Domingo in
June of 1976 and formed a group called CORU, or the Coordinadora
de Organizaciones Revolucionarias Unidas (Coordinator of United
Revolutionary Organizations), which the FBI classified as a
terrorist umbrella organization. Orlando Bosch was its leader.
These groups decided to carry out a series of terrorist attacks,
in Miami, Trinidad, Guyana, and Mexico, culminating with the
bombing of the Cubana airliner. According to evidence from multiple
sources, both Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were involved
in this bombing.
second document Kornbluh presented made it clear that the FBI
had evidence from 1965 forward that Orlando Bosch was involved
in terrorist operations, at that point in the pay of the CIA.
The document also revealed that Jorge Mas Canosa, head of the
Cuban American National Foundation, had given money to Luis
Posada Carriles to bomb ships in the Gulf of Mexico.
next document demonstrated that, ironically, the first evidence
of Posada Carriles’ involvement in the bombing of the
Cubana airliner came from our own FBI attaché in Caracas,
who gave a visa to one of the two Venezuelans who put the bomb
on the plane. The latter arrived with a letter from Posada Carriles
asking that the bearer be given a visa for a photography mission.
The same man had come in earlier actually asking for FBI assistance
in violent activities against Cuban targets in Venezuela. Knowing
that, one might have expected the visa to be refused. Had it
been, the bombing might not have taken place. At that point,
however, there was still a certain sense of common purpose between
U.S. officials and anti-Castro groups, so the visa was given.
This was the cause of some embarrassment within the U.S. government
and there were a number of internal memos trying to explain
Within 24 hours after the bombing, the FBI had reports that
Venezuelan Intelligence (SIP) was scrambling to get Bosch and
Posada out of town and that their sources confirmed that CORU
was indeed responsible for the bombing. They also had reports
of a fund-raising dinner in Caracas for Orlando Bosch at which
he took credit for the assassination in Washington of Orlando
Letelier and Ronnie Moffitt a few days earlier. Posada Carriles
was quoted as saying they are going to hit a Cuban airliner.
This report was taken very seriously within the U.S. Government,
though there is no indication that they acted upon it.
indicated another report from the late 1970s based on conversations
with Orlando Garcia, of SIP. Both Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles
were in prison in Venezuela at this point. Garcia said they
would be released. Garcia said he had no doubt that they had
conspired, and that they had been involved in the bombing. But
SIP was working hard to get them out. In other words, the fix
was already in.
This kind of evidence, Kornbluh summed up, can’t simply
be wished away. These documents are important not only as history,
but as evidence in determining whether Posada Carriles should
or should not be given asylum and whether he should or should
not be tried in a court of law. And they should also contribute
to a courtroom verdict.
Bardach said that in 1998, The New York Times had asked her
to co-author an investigative series on Cuban exile militancy.
The request followed the arrest of four exiles in Puerto Rico,
whose boat had been stopped by the Coast Guard. One of the men,
thinking he was being accused of smuggling drugs, had said indignantly
that they were not drug smugglers, that they were on the way
to kill Fidel Castro! The Coast Guard then searched the boat
and found arms and explosives. One of the rifles, as it turned
out, was registered to Pepe Hernandez, one of the directors
of the Cuban American National Foundation. Bardach went down
to Miami to cover the ensuing trial, which ultimately fell apart,
leading to acquittals for the group. But, at that time, she
indicated to one of the Cuban exiles present that she would
like to interview Posada Carriles. After a contact was made
by a Venezuelan friend, Posada Carriles called her at her home
in Santa Barbara and suggested that she interview him –
as it turned out, in Aruba. This interview then became a major
component in a five-part series that ran in The New York Times.
interview with Posada in 1998 revealed his violent and
unrepentant nature and the many inconsistencies in his
had Posada called? Why did he want to be interviewed? Bardach
said it seemed clear to her that he wanted to draw attention
to the 1997 bombing campaign against tourist hotels in Cuba,
a campaign that he freely acknowledged he had engineered and
which had resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. The purpose
of the bombings was to shut down the Cuban tourist industry
and discourage investments, but he felt that could only be achieved
with publicity. He gave the interview in hopes of warning investors
and tourists not to go to Cuba. Posada said it was too bad about
the Italian tourist, who had simply been at the wrong place
at the wrong time. Still, he “slept like a baby”:
his conscience was clear.
also talked a good deal about the money trail, the sources of
funds for his operations, including the bombings. Much of it,
he said, came from various leaders of the Cuban American National
Foundation. Not from the CANF itself, but from individuals such
as Jorge Mas Canosa.
other thing Posada talked a good deal about was the 1976 bombing
of the Cubana airliner in which, he insisted, he was not involved.
interview, when it was published in The New York Times, drew
tremendous attention. Strangely, Posada at first denied he’d
even given the interview or that he even knew who Bardach was.
The New York Times pointed out that it had six hours of tape
and noted that Larry Rohter, the Latin America bureau chief,
had been present also. Eventually, Posada gave up on the denials.
And he soon had bigger problems anyway, for shortly afterward,
he was arrested in Panama with three Cuban exiles, all there
to assassinate Fidel Castro, who was to give a public speech
at a sports arena. Given the amount of C-4 explosives they intended
to use, the carnage would have been tremendous.
The fix seemed to be in again, however, for the four were tried
on the lesser charge of public endangerment, and then, thanks
to the interventions of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and
her two colleagues, Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz Balart
- all of whom appealed to then-President Mireya Moscoso - the
four were pardoned and are all now back in the United States.
Posada did not immediately return, however. He didn’t
show up until last March. Bardach emphasized that from what
she knew of Posada, who was a very careful character, he would
not have come back had there not been some signal from “on
high” that it was “ok.” She didn’t know
who would have sent the signal, but she felt it was unlikely
that he would have come without it.
he ended up in El Paso before an immigration judge, Bardach
noted. She was sent to cover the case. The most intriguing thing
about what happened in El Paso, she said, was “where was
the government’s case?” They made no case at all
against Posada. It was as though they were not participants.
They cited her articles and various other open sources, but
where were their own documents, the CIA and FBI reports, by
then declassified? Nowhere to be seen.
they cited her New York Times article, and Posada was asked
about it, he said it had been in English, which he barely spoke.
A strange thing to say, since he had been an English language
Posada’s relationship with Orlando Bosch, there was a
point early on at which Posada was informing on Bosch to the
CIA. He, for example, told them of a plot on Bosch’s part
to assassinate Henry Kissinger. He also informed them of the
plot to blow up the Cubana airliner. A strange thing to have
done as he also was supposedly involved.
Terrorist acts against victims in the U.S. and acts against
freedom of expression
– Wayne Smith, Center for International Policy
panelists (left to right): Wayne Smith, Francisco Aruca,
Max Castro, Max Lesnick, Andres Gomez, Peter Kornbluh
Peter Kornbluh, the National Security Archive
Francisco Aruca, Radio Progreso
Max Castro, sociologist
Max Lesnik, RadioMiami
Peter Kornbluh spoke about the September 1976 car bombing assassination
of Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean diplomat, and Ronni Moffitt,
his 25-year old American associate, in Washington, D.C.
September 11, 2001, this assassination was considered the most
egregious act of international terrorism ever committed in the
to a declassified intelligence report, an informer, whose name
was redacted from the report, overheard Orlando Bosch acknowledge
his involvement in the Letelier assassination at a reception
in Caracas. And in an October 10, 1976, a State Department cable
sent from the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela back to Washington,
the ambassador indicated that Bosch had been arrested. Immediately
after his arrest, Bosch said associates working under him for
CORU and the Chilean secret police had been responsible for
Within 48-72 hours after his arrest, Bosch named Ignacio and
Guillermo Novo in the Letelier-Moffitt assassination. It should
be noted that the Novo brothers were both collaborating with
agents of the Chilean secret police.
Lesnick alluded to acts of terror committed against his person,
but focused on Luis Posada Carriles.
panelist Max Lesnick in a media interview at the Center
for International Policy's conference in Miami
individuals, a Cuban and a Venezuelan, know the truth about
the bombing of the Cubana flight that left 73 dead. Carlos Andres
Perez, the former president of Venezuela, and the widow of Orlando
Garcia, a Cuban, know the truth. According to Perez, everything
pertaining to the bombing has been taped and written down. At
some point, someone will decide it is time for the truth to
be known and the information will be revealed. This secret should
not go to the grave.
Cuban exile business owners have financially supported terrorism
in South Florida and abroad. It is the main task of lobbies
to make corruption possible with protection to achieve their
concluded, “terrorism cannot be classified as good and
bad; the good ones are ours and the bad ones are theirs. Terrorism
of any stripe is evil. In order to face this monster, you cannot
befriend Bosch or Posada.”
freedom of expression by acts of violence
described the driving force behind terrorism in Miami as the
confluence of the U.S. government and extreme right-wing Cuban-Americans.
In a tight embrace, they have targeted individuals advocating
moderation of U.S.-Cuba policy. The relationship is fueled by
the desire for regime change in Cuba. Impunity is given to individuals
engaged in acts of terrorism against Cuba or against individuals
here calling for engagement between the U.S. and Cuba.
the early days after the Cuban Revolution, the U.S. government
and exiles combined efforts by engaging in raids against Cuba.
During Operation Mongoose, the U.S. government trained Cuban
exiles to launch raids against targets in Cuba. When the operation
failed to produce regime change on the island, the government
pulled the plug, forcing exiles to shift from state sanctioned
agents to free-lancers.
the Reagan administration, Washington shifted from a strategy
based on terror and brute force to
one that took advantage of the lobbies in the Capitol to change
policy at home. Exiles shifted from agents of the operation
to architects of change in Cuba, fueled by the five Cuban-American
members of Congress. Ironically, if it were not for the unrelenting
drive of these members, we probably would not have the policy
we have today. Although this strategy succeeded in tightening
the embargo on Cuba, they failed to achieve their objective
of regime change on the island.
Political and ideological control in Miami replaced the use
of physical terror by the exile community. Terrorist attacks
on soft targets subsided as Miami shifted to a model that was
based on political and ideological control of the community.
Terrorist attacks were replaced by institutionalized violence
to prevent the free flow of ideas.
cannot be classified as good and bad; the good ones are
ours and the bad ones are theirs. Terrorism of any stripe
is evil. In order to face this monster, you cannot befriend
Bosch or Posada.” - Max Lesnick, program
director, Radio Miami(Miami, Florida), October 2005
they succeeded in obtaining political control in Miami, tensions
erupted within the exile community as Representative Lincoln
Diaz-Balart rashly suggested a naval blockade of Cuba in response
to an immigration situation.
demonstrated control over ideology by closing the Cuban Research
Institute, a leading think-tank that was headed by Lisandro
Perez at Florida International University. And Max Castro’s
own column was cancelled at The Miami Herald.
recommendations from the Department of Justice and Henry Kissinger,
former president George H. W. Bush offered impunity to Orlando
Bosch by giving him an administrative pardon. According to Bush
Sr.’s Justice Department, Bosch had participated in more
than 30 terrorist acts. He was convicted of firing a rocket
at a Polish ship that was on passage to Cuba and he was also
implicated in the 1976 bombing of the Cubana flight.
summer, the current administration continued to demonstrate
its willingness to offer impunity to Cuban exiles who participate
in acts of terrorism, as it failed to develop a strong case
against Luis Posada Carilles in his immigration proceedings,
even though the information against him exists.
to Castro, three processes could change the status quo in Miami:
regime change in Washington, D.C. leading to less alignment
with hardliners in Miami; a shift in demographics in South Florida
as more moderate Cuban-Americans are able to vote; and/or significant
change in Cuba. Under these scenarios, we are likely to see
an end to the current relationship between the administration
in Washington and the hardliners in Miami.
processes could change the status quo in Miami: regime change
in Washington, D.C. leading to less alignment with hardliners
in Miami, a shift in demographics in South Florida as more
moderate Cuban-Americans are able to vote, and/or significant
change in Cuba.” - Max Castro, sociologist
against radio stations
Aruca is a Cuban-American who came to the United States in 1962
after escaping from one of Castro’s prisons where he had
been confined since 1961. Aruca said terrorism in south Florida,
specifically in Miami, began with bombs exploding in businesses
that supported a dialogue with Cuba.
described the community’s shift from fear of losing one’s
life from exploding bombs to fear of losing one’s livelihood
at the hands of institutionalized social pressures that developed
as the bombings subsided.
of the embargo have long used fear as a tactic to maintain control
over the population. Aruca became a target of the violence in
1989 when two bombs exploded in the offices of Marazul, a travel
agency that booked trips to Cuba and a sponsor of Aruca’s
to give up, Aruca and his board shifted to an AM frequency and
developed a new program, Radio Union, which aired five hours
per day. The program included musical programming from Cuba
and employed a sales person to develop relationships with companies
outside the travel industry to advertise on the air. Within
three weeks, every sponsor pulled their advertisements from
the station because they had received threats that their markets
were at risk, not because they were unhappy with Radio Union.
1994 Marazul suffered financial hardship as most of the flights
to Cuba were grounded due to the suspension of all Cuban-American
travel to Cuba by the Clinton administration. Two months after
the regulations went into effect, Marazul canceled Radio Union
because it could no longer sustain it financially.
of the embarge realized they could silence their opponents by
tightening travel restrictions, which hurt the travel industry.
They assumed that if people could no longer travel to Cuba,
resources would dry up and the radio programs would be canceled.
In 1996, Aruca’s program was back on the air, and within
a few months, Marazul’s offices were fire bombed. Marazul’s
board made a decision to move their offices to Little Haiti,
from where Radio Progreso is still broadcast today.
Efforts to impede freedom to travel
– Francisco Aruca, Radio Progreso
Bob Guild, Marazul Charters, Inc.
Max Castro, sociologist
Guild spoke about the wide range of efforts employed by Cuban
exile extremists meant to forcefully dissuade people from traveling
to Cuba. Historically, limitations on travel to Cuba have involved
institutionalized control on the part of the U.S. government
and fear at the hands of a violent minority. As part of the
Cuba travel industry, Guild has experienced firsthand the tension
and violence surrounding travel to Cuba. He has also taken part
in a vigorous movement to resist the executive ban on travel
in order to reunite families and to promote exchange and understanding.
1958, in the case of Kent v. Dulles dealing with the travel
of Americans to communist countries during the Cold War, the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right to travel is an inherent
element of liberty that the government can regulate but cannot
abridge in terms of U.S. constitutional rights.1 A few years
later, because of the Castro regime’s ties to the Soviet
Union, the Kennedy administration announced a total embargo
on trade with Cuba. As a result, travel became regulated by
the Department of Treasury as the Office of Foreign Assets Control
(OFAC) issued a set of prohibitions which effectively banned
travel by prohibiting any financial transactions with Cuba.
the 1960s and 70s, however, many citizens, especially students,
resisted the ban by traveling to Cuba. Notably, since 1969,
the Venceremos (We Shall Overcome) Brigade has sent several
thousand United States citizens to Cuba to participate in work
projects as an act of solidarity with Cuba and of resistance
to the United States government. When President Carter lifted
the travel ban in 1977 by issuing a general license for travel-related
transactions for those visiting Cuba, Guild, at the front of
the Cuba travel industry, sent the first unrestricted group
to the island.
a decade, when the embargo had not produced the hardline Cuban
exile community’s desired effect on the Castro regime,
terrorist organizations such as Omega 7 and CORU were formed.
These terrorist groups attempted to frighten travelers and cripple
the Cuba travel and tourism industry by placing bombs and carrying
out assassinations of travel advocates. In the late 1970s, Omega
7, a terrorist organization founded in the U.S. by veterans
of the Bay of Pigs invasion, assassinated Eulalio Jose Negrin,
a Cuban activist in Union City, New Jersey and Felix Garcia
Rodriguez, a Cuban diplomat assigned to the Cuban Mission to
the United Nations.
Since 1969, thousands of Americans have resisted U.S.
policy on travel to Cuba
by joining the efforts of the Venceremos Brigade
directed at those who advocated travel between the U.S. and
Cuba took place throughout the 1970s and 80s. Former CIA operatives,
including Orlando Bosch, founded the CORU terrorist organization,
which soon became involved in more than 50 bombings. These acts
included the bombing of the Miami International Airport in 1975
(later attributed to Bay of Pigs veteran Rolando Otero Hernandez)
and the bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight.
However, the extreme violence
surrounding Cuban issues did not prevent the formation of the
Committee of 75, a group of Cubans living in the U.S. who shared
a commitment to dialogue and understanding. The important dialogue
that took place helped start travel agencies, such as Marazul,
to provide services to Cuba and the travel of tens of thousands
of Cuban-Americans to visit their relatives on the island beginning
Max Castro noted that although
the case has not been resolved, the murder of Cuban-born director
of Viajes Varadero Carlos Muñiz Varela is attributed
to CORU by Muñiz Varela’s friends and family.2
Muñiz Varela, also a member of the Cuban-American dialogue
group Committee of 75 and the Antonio Maceo Brigade, was only
26 and a father of two young children at the time of his murder.
According to Castro, many activist groups continue to seek justice
for the victim, and in 2004 U.S. Congressman José Serrano
petitioned the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to reopen
the murder investigation, at the request of the victim’s
In 1982, the Reagan administration
re-imposed travel restrictions that eliminated ordinary tourist
and business travel and provided for only certain categories
of travel, such as that by government officials, researchers,
and people visiting close relatives. The Supreme Court’s
decision in 1984 on the case of Regan v. Wald asserted that
the executive branch had the authority to re-impose the restrictions
based on its understanding of national security, and that this
authority superseded freedom to travel under the Fifth Amendment.
Immediately following this ruling,
the Treasury Department served Marazul with two subpoenas—demanding
the names and addresses of all persons who had traveled to Cuba
since April 1982, information on the founding and structure
of the company, and the names of about one thousand lawyers
to whom Marazul had mailed brochures for a legal conference
to be held in Cuba. Francisco Aruca, the founder of Marazul,
faced a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and $50,000 in
fines. Fortunately, strong public opposition, including a critical
media reaction to the Treasury’s action, forced the Treasury
to drop their demands. However, these charges still exist on
record as criminal penalties, in contrast to the civil penalties
commonly used today.
The Clinton administration tightened
and then loosened U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba. In 1993,
the administration added two categories of travel, for “clearly
defined educational or religious activities” and for “activities
of recognized human rights organizations.”4 The following
year, in response to a spike in Cubans fleeing to the U.S.,
President Clinton announced measures that limited family visits
to cases of extreme hardship, which would be eased by 1995.
Persons visiting relatives in Cuba could make one trip annually
without having to apply to OFAC for a specific license.
A few months later, when Cuban
fighter jets shot down two U.S. civilian planes, Clinton suspended
indefinitely all charter flights between Cuba and the U.S.,
forcing licensed travelers to travel to Cuba via a third country.
Following Pope John Paul II’s momentous trip to Cuba in
1998, Clinton announced that direct charter flights to Cuba
would be resumed. Meanwhile, U.S. citizens continued to resist
the restrictions during the Clinton administration: the Venceremos
Brigade continued to send yearly contingents, Pastors for Peace
initiated its unlicensed humanitarian caravans in 1992, Global
Exchange launched its travel challenges in 1993, and the largest
single travel challenge took place in 1997 when 900 unlicensed
young people participated in the World Youth Festival in Havana.
The latest travel restrictions
imposed under President George W. Bush’s administration
further curb travel to Cuba by severely limiting educational
travel, limiting visits of Cuban-Americans to immediate relatives
once every three years under special license (with no exceptions
for family emergencies).
Historically, the government
has tried to make it difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba,
and terrorists try to instill fear in those who wish to travel
to Cuba. Current polls indicate that an overwhelming majority
of Americans believe that they have a right to travel to Cuba.
Both houses of Congress have voted to eliminate the enforcement
of the travel ban, but the amendments were removed from the
legislation by the leadership, in violation of the rules of
procedure. And while the number of Americans visiting Cuba has
decreased dramatically over the last two years because of the
tighter restrictions, the Cuba travel industry, academics and
students, religious and humanitarian institutions, the business
community, civil liberties organizations, many Congress members,
and various campaigns are pressuring the executive branch of
the U.S. to change the policy. At this rate, one day, the undercurrent
of resistance that runs through the Cuba travel issue will make
way for a policy that reunites families and friends and expands
our freedoms as Americans and Cubans.
1The Oyez Project, Oyez: Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116 (1958),
available at: <http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/1053/>
(Last visited November 23, 2005).
2 Letter, the Friends and Family of Carlos Muniz Varela Demand
the Investigation be Reopened, August 29, 2005, available at:
www.rocla.org/Actions/MunizVarela.html> (Last visited
November 23, 2005).
3 Serrano solicitará al FBI investigación sobre
asesinato de Muñiz Varela, Associated Press, May 17,
2004, available at: <http://www.puertoricoherald.
org/issues/2004/vol8n21/Media2-es.shtml> (Last visited
November 23, 2005).
4 Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Cuba:
U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances, by Mark P. Sullivan.
Received through the CRS Web. The Library of Congress. (Updated
May 10, 2005).
Photographs 2, 3 & 4 courtesy of Sheree Adams and Seema
Photograph 1 courtesy of Freedom
Socialist, Vol 25, No 4, August-September 2005, “U.S.
shelters anti-Cuba terrorist 10 Luis Posada Carriles,”
by Doug Barnes, available at: < http:/ /www.socialism.com/fsarticles/vol26no4/carriles.html>
(Last visited December 12, 2005).
Photograph 5 courtesy of the
Young Communist League website, available at: <http://www.yclusa.org/
(Last visited December 12, 2005).
Francisco G. Aruca: An economist, he taught
economics at the George Mason University in Virginia and the
University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. Founder and first president
of Marazul Charters, Inc., in 1979, he is currently its chairman
of the board. He is also president of Radio Progreso, Inc.
Ann Louise Bardach:
Author of Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and
Havana and the editor of Cuba: A Traveler’s Literary Companion.
Her Cuba Confidential was a finalist for the New York Public
Library Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism and the
PEN USA Award for Best Nonfiction, and was named one of the
Ten Best Books of 2002 by The Los Angeles Times. Bardach was
a staff writer for Vanity Fair for ten years and has since written
for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles
Times. She is the director of The Media Project at the University
of California at Santa Barbara.
Max J. Castro:
A sociologist, Castro is an independent researcher and writer
whose work appears regularly in the mainstream media, alternative
press and academic publications. From 1994 to 2003, he was a
senior research associate in the Dante B. Fascell North-South
Center at the University of Miami, and in the spring of 2004
was a visiting professor at Florida Atlantic University.
Bob Guild: Guild is the program director at Marazul Charters,
Inc., and sent the first unrestricted group to Cuba in 1977
when President Carter lifted the travel ban. Since then, Marazul
has made travel arrangements for over 300,000 people and was
for a number of years the only travel agency providing service
A senior analyst at the National Security Archive, Kornbluh
currently directs its Cuba and Chile documentation projects.
He has edited and authored a number of Archive books, such as
The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 and The Bay of Pigs Declassified:
The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba, both published
by New Press. His articles have appeared in Foreign Policy,
The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and
many other journals and newspapers. In November of 2003, he
served as producing consultant on the Discovery Times documentary,
“Kennedy and Castro: The Secret History.”
Lesnick now directs the program Radio-Miami every morning over
Union-Radio 1450. Beginning in 1970, he was director of the
weekly magazine Replica, which was the object of more than a
dozen terrorist attacks because it advocated renewal of U.S.-Cuban
diplomatic relations. Lesnik fought against Batista in the Escambray
Mountains. He came to Miami in 1961 because he disagreed with
the revolution’s growing alignment with the Soviet Union.
Currently he is the general delegate of the Alianza Martiana,
an organization which opposes the U.S. embargo.
Russell has written four critically-acclaimed books, including
The Man Who Knew Too Much, a study of the Kennedy assassination,
which was called “a masterpiece of historical reconstruction”
by Publisher’s Weekly. His landmark article, “Little
Havana’s Reign of Terror,” appeared in New Times
on July 29, 1976.
Wayne S. Smith:
The former chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana (1979-82), Smith is now a senior fellow at the Center
for International Policy in Washington, D.C., and an adjunct
professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where
he directs the Cuba Exchange Program. He is the author of The
Closest of Enemies: A Personal and Diplomatic Account of the
publication of the Center for International Policy
Copyright 2006 by the Center for International Policy. All rights
reserved. Any material herein may be quoted without permission,
with credit to the Center for International Policy.