To me, Luis Posada Carriles is a terrorist.
To Miami developer Santiago Alvarez, he is a patriot.
Posted on Tue, Apr. 12, 2005
By JIM DEFEDE
‘‘He has been fighting Castro for 45 years,’’ said Alvarez, one of Posada’s most ardent supporters.
I called Alvarez because I wanted to understand why anyone would greet Posada—who recently sneaked into the United States—with adulation or praise.
Posada was accused, and later acquitted, in Venezuela of the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 people, many of them teenage members of Cuba’s fencing team. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison while his trial was being reviewed by an appeals court.
In 1997, bombs went off in a dozen Cuban hotels and restaurants in Havana. One tourist was killed. The Herald linked Posada to the bombings, and in an interview with The New York Times in 1998, he took credit as the mastermind of the bombing campaign, although later he would deny his involvement.
OPINION WOULD BE THE SAME
Alvarez said he does not believe Posada was responsible for the explosion aboard the Cubana flight. He says he’s not as sure about the hotel bombings. But even if Posada was responsible, it wouldn’t change Alvarez’s opinion of him.
‘‘The hotel bombings, I don’t think they are so serious, not compared to the airline bombing,’’ he said. ``I don’t like the hotel bombings, but I don’t think they are that bad.’‘
Somebody died in those bombings, I reminded Alvarez.
``I heard that, yes.’‘
In case anyone in Miami is curious, his name was Fabio di Celmo. He was born in Genoa, Italy, and had an import-export business based in Montreal. The Sept. 4, 1997, bombing at the Copacabana Hotel sent metal and glass flying. One large shard cut di Celmo’s throat and he bled to death. He was 32.
‘‘I’ve never put a bomb in a hotel, but I don’t know if that is something I should be condemning,’’ Alvarez said.
A CLEAR CONSCIENCE
In the 1998 interview with The New York Times, portions of which he later recanted, Posada, who was given extensive explosives training by the CIA in the 1960s, showed little remorse for di Celmo’s death, saying he had a clear conscience.
‘‘I sleep like a baby,’’ Posada said.
‘‘It is sad that someone is dead, but we can’t stop,’’ he added.
Posada’s Miami attorney, Eduardo Soto, declined to comment on Posada’s role in the hotel bombings. By Wednesday, Soto will file a formal application seeking asylum for Posada in the United States. He described Posada as a man of action.
‘‘He chose to do some things that he believes in strongly and that may offend some people,’’ Soto said. ``What he is all about is the demise of Fidel Castro.’‘
Alvarez agreed. ‘‘Would the United States be free without violence? Or would it still be a colony of England?’’ he asked. ``Well, I believe we have been at war for 45 years. There is still a dictator in Cuba.’‘
NO DIFFERENCE IN WARS
But a campaign of violence that targets tourists?
‘‘In the eyes of the Iraqi people, the people who died as a result of the bombs from the planes of the United States, they are victims of terrorism,’’ Alvarez said. ``And the United States considers them casualties of war.’‘
So you see no difference between the U.S. military, which dropped bombs during the war with Iraq, and the people responsible for placing bombs in hotels in Havana?
‘‘There is no difference,’’ Alvarez said. ``They were both fighting a terrible tyranny. Do you think Cuba is ever going to be free without violence?’‘
How would Alvarez describe Posada? ``As a patriot, a freedom fighter.’‘
One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist?
‘‘That is exactly right,’’ he chuckled. ``I believe terrorism is in the eye of the beholder.’‘