Monday, June 26, 2006
Cuban exile confesses to terrorism
Last week the Miami Herald published remarkable confessions from Jose Antonio Llama, a former board member of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), who admitted creating a well armed paramilitary organisation during the 1990s, which aimed to commit terrorist atrocities in Cuba. The CANF, was created in 1981 by President Ronald Regan, and its board members allegedly also have strong links with the present US government.
Jose Antonio Llama, known as Toñin, told El Nuevo Herald that the arsenal to carry out these plans included a cargo helicopter, 10 ultralight radio-controlled planes, seven vessels and abundant explosive materials. He also provided the newspaper with proof of the financial transactions.
Llama remembers that the project started to take shape during CANF's annual meeting in Naples in June 1992. He said businessman Miguel Angel Martinez of Puerto Rico proposed the idea of ''doing more than lobbying in Washington'' to overthrow Castro. About 20 of the foundation's most trusted leaders agreed and designated Jose ''Pepe'' Hernandez, the current CANF president, and Mas Canosa to choose the armed group. ''It was agreed that since this was a delicate matter, details about the paramilitary group would be discussed in petit comite [a small committee],'' Llama said. ``At the meeting that board members and trustees held the following year  in Puerto Rico, the chosen ones started to meet and consider everything that needed to be bought.''
To buy explosives, the group used businessman Raul Lopez, an anti-Castro exile involved in infiltration operations in Cuba in the 1960s, Llama said. Lopez owned a company authorized to purchase explosives to open up sewage canals for South Florida's sugar industry.
The plans failed ultimately failed only after Llama and four other exiles were arrested in Puerto Rico in 1997 on charges of conspiracy to assassinate Castro during the Ibero-American Summit on Margarita Island, Venezuela. A jury acquitted them after a US judge would not allow the defendant’s confessions to be used as evidence.
Nor is the case of Jose Antonio Llama unique. In April this year the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms seized over 1000 automatic weapons from the terrorist group Alpha 66. When the searched the house of Alpha 66 member, Robert Ferro, Federal agents reported finding weapons wherever they looked — behind framed paintings, thermometers and mirrors, inside hollowed-out walls of closets and under the staircase. They said they found some of the most powerful firearms — Uzis and AK-47s — in the master bathroom and bedroom, behind clothing and plywood. The investigators also found rockets launcher and grenades.
The admission of Cuban exile Mafiosi in the USA that they were planning and are engaged in terrorism is extremely important in connection with the so-called Miami Five. Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernandez were part of the La Red Avispa network; a collection of the Cuban agents living in Florida reporting on the activities of a number of organisations involved in terrorist activity. The information discovered by Cuban agents has helped thwart numerous bombings and assassination attempts, and even helped the FBI catch a cocaine smuggling ring. And yet all of a sudden in September 1998, the Florida branch of the FBI arrested all five and fitted them up on chrages of espionage and murder. In December 2001, after a trial in Miami, where given the influence of anti-Castro exiles there was no chance of a fair trial, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard gave the five Cubans a collective total of four life sentences and forty four years in prison, with no chance of parole.
As Labour MP, Michael Connarty, has described the case: “By monitoring [those] who were threatening Cuba by planning terror and acts of violence against an autonomous country, [the Miami Five] were doing something legitimate. We now have a situation where the US legal system has been brought into disrepute by the vicious use of state apparatus against a group of people who were not in anyway threatening the US.” Michael Connarty is also perceptive in explaining how the incarceration of the Miami Five is also an act of war: “There is however, a general feeling in US politics that you deal with things you don’t understand by smashing them. The reality in Cuba is that there is no way for capitalist power to buy into the internal system. It is carefully fed into to the US political psyche that if you can’t influence or pull strings within that system, then you have to wipe it out, and I think that they see present day Cuba as something they would like to wipe out of the political equation. I have no doubt that this is a factor in the Miami Five case, a way of the US showing that they will be vicious to anyone representing that system.”
Last Saturday I went to an excellent day-school organised by Socialist Resistance on the politics of Latin America, and they had brought Cuban Trotskyist, Celia Hart, to speak. Celia made an excellent point that when she is debating with people in Cuba the lack of solidarity by the international left for the Miami Five is constantly raised against her.