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Posted June 25, 2006 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA | El Nuevo Herald

A former board member of the Cuban American National Foundation says he and other CANF leaders created a paramilitary group to carry out destabilizing acts in Cuba and do away with Cuban ruler Fidel Castro.

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.

‘‘We were impatient with the survival of Castro’s regime after the fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp,’’ said Llama, a key financial backer of the plot in the early 1990s. ``We wanted to accelerate the democratization of Cuba using any possible means to achieve it.’‘

The plans failed 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 federal judge threw out one of the defendants’ self-incriminating statements.

Llama, a close associate of the late CANF leader Jorge Mas Canosa, left the group’s board in 1999. He said he quit CANF because it refused to pay his codefendants’ legal defense costs after the trial. Llama also went bankrupt.

CANF spokesman Alfredo Mesa—speaking for members and leaders—told El Nuevo Herald: ``In this case, we consider that it is extremely irresponsible for a press organization to echo what clearly represents an extortion and defamation attempt.’‘

CUBA’S CLAIMS

The Cuban government has long claimed CANF planned armed attacks on the island, but up until now, none of its claims have been documented. Llama has been handing out pamphlets in Miami detailing the purported plot. On Wednesday, Granma—Cuba’s government newspaper—published a story on the pamphlets.

Llama—who says he made his fortune building air conditioners for Soviet vehicles—said he’s going public because he contributed $1.4 million of his own money to the cause and several CANF members bilked him.

He is currently writing his memoirs, titled De la Fundacion a la fundicion: historia de una gran estafa (From the Foundation to Meltdown: Story of a Big Swindle).

‘‘This is the truth—The only thing I have left at this point in life is the truth,’’ said Llama, 75. ``I am asking for what’s due to me, nothing more and nothing less, to take it to bankruptcy court. Where are the vessels and planes I financed with my money? Where did they end up? Who has the original titles?’‘

Llama said he is also going public because his statements don’t affect old friends who are implicated in the plot, such as exiles Arnaldo Monzon Plasencia, Raul Lopez and Manuel ‘‘Nolo’’ Garcia, who have died.

PERSONAL FUNDS

According to Llama, between 1994 and 1997 he personally spent more than $1.4 million to finance the purchase of radio-controlled planes and other supplies, under the cover of Florida-registered Nautical Sports Inc. and Dominican Republic-based Refri Auto.

Llama showed El Nuevo Herald financial records used to buy the equipment.

Llamas paid Nautical Sports $869,811. The purchase of the seven vessels equipped with satellite radio and phones, including the Midnight Express fast boat, was guaranteed through this front corporation, created in 1993, he said. That 40-foot motorboat was meant to take Mas Canosa to Cuba if Castro died or there was a sudden change of power, he added.

Another vessel, La Esperanza, was confiscated by the Treasury Department in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, after the 1997 federal indictments against its crew.

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 [1993] in Puerto Rico, the chosen ones started to meet and consider everything that needed to be bought.’‘

The foundation’s general board of directors didn’t know the details of the paramilitary group, which acted autonomously, Llama said. He added that current CANF board chairman Jorge Mas Santos was never told of the plan.

‘‘It was debated whether the group should be led by Miguel A. Martinez or Pepe Hernandez,’’ the activist said. ``We chose Pepe for his known record as a fighter in the 2506 Brigade and the Marines.’‘

Among the group members, Llama said: Elpidio Nuñez, Horacio Garcia and Luis Zuñiga, who left the Foundation in 2001 to establish the Consejo por la Libertad de Cuba (Council for the Liberation of Cuba, or CLC); Erelio Peña and Raul Martinez, all of Miami; Fernando Ojeda, Fernando Canto and Domingo Sadurni of Puerto Rico; and Arnaldo Monzon Plasencia and Angel Alfonso Aleman of New Jersey.

Former CANF members Garcia, Zuñiga and Nuñez declined to comment. Ninoska Pérez Castellón, a CLC spokeswoman, said the three men have referred the matter to attorneys.

Llama also gave this account of the operation:

The 10 small remote-control planes were financed by Llama for $210,000 through the International Finance Bank of Miami, which paid Flight Rescue Systems, a company owned by Luis Prieto and Rafael Montalvo. The equipment was stored in a Miami-Dade warehouse to be used against Cuban economic targets or against Castro. Llama said Pepe Hernandez sold them after 1997.

Sadurni donated the cargo helicopter, but Llama said he financed $85,360 for it through Republic National Bank, per instructions from Hernandez. The helicopter would be used as an operation base for the small planes and was parked at the International Flight Center in southwestern Miami-Dade.

EXPLOSIVES

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.

Eulogio Amado Reyes, alias ‘‘Papo,’’ a retired car mechanic, said he assembled the ultralights in a Miami-Dade warehouse with the help of a Texas instructor whose last name was Graham.

‘‘All that was said was that it was a foundation project,’’ said Reyes, 73.

Jose Pujol, a veteran sailor, said that in 1993 the foundation started using him as an advisor to purchase vessels.

‘‘El Pelican [a vessel] was put in my name,’’ said Pujol, 76. ``The procedure was that I would look for vessels, Toñin made the down payment and Elpidio Nuñez was the backer.’‘

According to Llama, most of the explosives were kept in Miami, but late in 1996 they were dropped to the ocean bottom from a vessel at a reef near the Bahamas. The shipment was being transported by ‘‘Nolo’’ Garcia in Nuñez’s yacht when a Bahamian patrol boat approached them so they feared a search.

‘‘For logical reasons, they threw the shipment into the ocean,’’ Llama said. ``Soon after we went there to recover it but didn’t find it.’’

  1. Follow up post #1 added on June 25, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Now, correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t this make Jose Antonio Llama a terrorist. And, would this make the Cuban American National Foundation a terrorist organization?

    I am pretty sure that they have been regular contributors to the Bush election and re-election campaign.

    Is this not a major news story? Of course not. Any terrorist plots by Cuban Americans against Cuba is okay. After all, the CIA planned and executed its share of attacks on Cuba.

    When will main stream America mean more to the Bush Administration than some old Cuba exiles, most who made lots of money while they ran businesses when the Mob ran Cuba.

    This is why Fidel Castro calls the exiles in Miami the Mafia.



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on June 26, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    Apparently the whole notion of “terrorism” depends on who the perpetrators are and what side they’re on.  If it’s Jose Antonio Llama or Posada Carriles, and others like them who seek to overthrow the Cuban government through violence, then they’re seen by the exile community as heroes.  In the case of the Cuban Five, who actually tried to stop terrorism, they’re villified.  You’re right, Publisher, this should be a major news story, and the fact that it isn’t only shows how much brainwashing there is in Miami.  There was more outrage over Elsa and Carlos Alvarez, two benevolent people who posed no threat to anyone, then over a group of citizens stockpiling weapons and planning a private war against another country.  This would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on August 12, 2006 by marifrommiami

    I am sure that I speak for the majority of Cuban Americans, as well as many exiled Cubans - like my family - that any form of terrorism is categorically wrong. However, please don’t point to one wrong to justify another. Elsa and Carlos Alvarez - as well as countless others in the United States -  should not be welcome here if their intent is to hurt our country and our system of life and government. When are people as the two of you going to concede that with all its defects - this is a great country that has opened its arms to countless people -opressed and persecuted.

    And as for Publisher’s comment…Did you forget that the majority of CIA plans were executed under JFK????? OH, I BET YOU DID FORGET!!!!!! Luckily, your comments are irrelevant - as we - the “some old Cuba [sic] exiles” community is a thriving and intelligent community. We comprise the largest minority group in the United States and only growing stronger. “Cubans have by far the highest rate of college attendance of any Latino national origin group, with nearly 45 percent of 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates enrolled” (Fry, 2002.) Whether you like it or not - we are the face of Mainstream America. And as for your supportive comments on Castro - you are just the kind of naive and ignorant person that Castro targeted (and later tortured and killed) that gave way to his revolution and ultimately his place in history. Get educated on the history and plight of the Cuban people and then make comments such as these. You obviously don’t know what its like to be a man or woman improsoned by Castro - or worse tortured by his regime - because your suffering would fill a quota or whim. Then, and only then, would you have the right to make such outrageous comments. I bet you also believe the Holocost never happened either!!!


  4. Follow up post #4 added on August 12, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Mari,

    Who can see Cuba more clearly, you or me? I have been there, no Cubans and foreigners and obviously read everything I can about Cuba. I have no Cuban baggage so I can see Cuba clearly.

    I am not a Fidel supporter and I am not a CANF supporter. I think I am in the middle of the two extremes. Yes, both are at extreme ends of the spectrum and neither can see to the other side. However, I can see both sides from the middle.

    Also, my comments are generally made towards OLD Cuban exiles meaning the ones with Mafia ties that made lots of money under Batista, a ruthless dictator in his own right. 

    Anyway, thanks for your comments.



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  5. Follow up post #5 added on August 12, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Hey,

    I’m not saying I want to live in Cuba. I don’t like the way things are in Cuba but any change in Cuba should come from Cuba and not from your Grandfather’s contribution to the Republican party.

    I think we would love to go to Cuba but again, your Grandfather (hypothetically) and his cronies are the ones preventing you and I from going to Cuba.

    So, for the record, I don’t support the Embargo and I don’t support Castro.



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  6. Follow up post #6 added on April 05, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Sorry for the spam comment. Spammer’s IP has been banned.



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