BY ALFONSO CHARDY, Sun, Apr. 17, 2005
Knight Ridder Newspapers
The first hint of trouble, Luis Posada Carriles says, came when Ricardo ``Monkey’’ Morales - a fellow Cuban exile he distrusted - said he would join him to greet Orlando Bosch, another exile, at Caracas’ airport on Sept. 7, 1976.
Posada, in a little-known 1994 self-published autobiography - “The Roads of the Warrior” - says Morales’ move was a bad omen.
He was right.
A month later, Morales - a senior Venezuelan police officer - ordered Posada and Bosch arrested as suspects in the mid-air bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. The tragedy is central to whether Posada, now in hiding in South Florida, will win U.S. asylum.
If Posada gets an asylum interview in Miami in coming days, he may well be asked to explain again whether he played a role in the Cubana jetliner’s downing.
Eduardo Soto, Posada’s immigration attorney, has said he expects Venezuela to seek Posada’s extradition. The case still is pending in Venezuela, where Posada escaped from jail in 1985.
``That will be the first fight, his extradition,’’ Soto said.
Cuban diplomats said Friday they have asked the Bush administration to deport Posada to Cuba or prosecute him in the United States for the plane attack and the bombings of hotels and restaurants in Cuba in 1997.
``We demand from Mr. Bush to have enough courage to break ties with the Miami terrorists, to put Luis Posada Carriles under arrest immediately, and to make sure that he pays for his many crimes in U.S. courts of law, in Venezuela, or before an international tribunal in an impartial place,’’ said Dagoberto Rodriguez, chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington.
It is likely that Posada will again deny any role in the jet bombing and point the finger instead at Morales, now dead, and the Cuban government itself.
Posada’s book provides an alternative plot in which Posada plays the role of patsy, not mastermind.
The alibi is not built out of thin air.
In 1982, Morales told investigators in Florida that he provided the explosives to blow up the plane and that Bosch was innocent. He did not mention Posada.
``Oh, I was part of the conspirators,’’ Morales said in a deposition as part of a drug smuggling case.
Months later, Morales was mortally wounded in an apparent brawl at a Key Biscayne bar.
Edward Carhart and Ben Kuehne, two South Florida lawyers at the deposition, said Friday that Morales sounded credible. Then-Circuit Judge Gerald Kogan differed, saying at the time that he did not find Morales reliable.
Bosch, who now lives in Miami-Dade, would not say Friday whether Posada’s version of events was accurate. But he did deny that he and Posada plotted the bombing.
``The truth about the plane bombing,’’ Bosch said, is contained in a tape and a document in a safebox that ``will be made public when I die.’’ Bosch, 78, called the 77-year-old Posada ``my brother.’‘
In 1976, the Cuban-born Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan, was living in Caracas after retiring as a senior officer in the Venezuelan security police agency known as DISIP.
Posada had been in Venezuela since the late 1960s, when he left South Florida after the CIA began shutting down operations against Cuba. Posada had served the CIA since the 1961 Bay of Pigs operation.
Posada set up a private detective agency in Caracas, where he employed a former DISIP investigator, Hernan Ricardo.
Morales had left Miami, where he earned Bosch’s hatred by testifying in a case in which Bosch was convicted of firing a recoiless rifle shell at a Polish freighter in 1968.
In Caracas, Morales joined DISIP to oversee the agency’s counterespionage division.
Bosch went to Caracas to raise money among Venezuela’s Cuban exiles for the anti-Castro struggle. Morales and Posada greeted him at the airport.
Morales helped Bosch get DISIP credentials, gun permits and two agents as escorts, Posada wrote. Bosch later replaced the escorts with Ricardo, Posada’s employee at the security agency.
On Oct. 5, 1976, Posada says, Ricardo stopped escorting Bosch, saying Morales had assigned him to spy on a North Korean delegation that was to board the doomed Cuban airliner the next day.
Freddy Lugo, a photographer, assisted Ricardo. The pair boarded the plane and got off at a stopover in Barbados.
Minutes after taking off from Barbados, the plane exploded.
Venezuelan prosecutors charged that Ricardo and Lugo, acting on orders from Bosch and Posada, put a bomb in the plane’s rear bathroom before it left Barbados. Investigators found that after the blast, Ricardo called Posada at his office in Caracas. Later that night, Posada wrote, a senior DISIP officer - Rafael Rivas Vazquez - met Posada at a bar and expressed concern about whether he, Bosch and Morales were implicated.
Posada says he told Rivas Vazquez - who died in South Florida in 2000 - that neither he nor Bosch was involved.
On Oct. 13, Posada says, he was summoned to DISIP headquarters and told he could not go home. The next day, Bosch joined Posada. Posada wrote that Morales signed arrest warrants against him and Bosch.
Then, Posada says, Morales confessed his role in the bombing.
``Crying copiously, he says ... I blew up the Cuban plane, soon you will know everything. It will be done in a way that you will be free soon. Bosch will rot in jail and Lugo and Ricardo will be blamed.’‘’
Posada claims that Morales carried out the attack for the Cuban government after Cuban agents paid him $18,000 at a secret meeting in Mexico City. Havana wanted to pin the attack on exiles, Posada wrote.
Posada, Bosch, Ricardo and Lugo were prosecuted in civilian and military courts for years.
Posada, acquitted twice in the case, escaped in 1985 while an appeal was pending. Bosch was freed in 1987 after being acquitted twice and later flew to Miami. Ricardo and Lugo were sentenced to 20 years and were freed in 1993.