High explosives concealed in shoes and shampoo bottles. Thousands of dollars in wire transfers from New Jersey to a shadowy figure in Latin America. A note in a briefcase saying that “the tyrant has to be eliminated” even if innocent people also die.
An FBI document reveals these and other new details about the U.S. investigation into links between Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles and a wave of 1997 bombings in Havana, one of which killed an Italian tourist at a hotel.
Posada, a 79-year-old former CIA operative and fierce opponent of Fidel Castro, is scheduled to stand trial next week in Texas on immigration fraud charges. Cuba and Venezuela seek Posada’s extradition for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, but the United States has refused to send him to either country.
The federal investigation into Posada’s possible role in the Havana bombings u2;014 largely dormant until Posada’s 2005 return to the United States u2;014 is centered on the finances allegedly provided by Cuban-American associates in New Jersey. The probe could provide an avenue for Posada to be charged in connection with the bombings.
Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have loudly condemned the United States for not extraditing Posada in the airliner case or charging him with terrorism-related offenses. Some in Miami’s Cuban-American exile community view Posada as a hero for fighting communism.
The FBI document was filed as part of the immigration case in Texas. In it, Miami-based FBI Agent Thomas Rice concludes that “the FBI is unable to rule out the possibility that Posada-Carriles poses a threat to the national security of the United States.”
The document focuses on interviews with confidential sources involved in a utility company in Guatemala in 1997, a firm that included two men associated with Posada. One of the sources, known as CS-1 to the FBI, said he began to suspect that Posada and the two men were involved in “illicit activities” and had a listening device placed in one of the company’s offices.
That device revealed discussions about smuggling a “putty-like explosive” into Cuba in the shoes of people posing as tourists, the FBI document says.
CS-1 also told the FBI that another employee of the utility company found 22 plastic tubes in a closet in August 1997 labeled “high powered explosives, extremely dangerous.” The employee also discovered that the explosives were being mixed into shampoo bottles.
In the closet was a carrying case that contained a note pad with Posada’s name written on it. Another note in the case said in Spanish: “The tyrant has to be eliminated, regardless of how many others are killed,” according to the FBI.
The confidential source also provided the FBI with a fax discussing wire transfers from individuals in New Jersey that was signed “Solo,” which the FBI believes is one of Posada’s aliases. As part of the Havana bombing investigation, the FBI concluded that at least $19,000 (u2;0AC14,010) in wire transfers were sent from the United States to El Salvador and Guatemala to a “Ramon Medina.”
Posada possessed a Salvadoran passport with the “Medina” name and also used that alias when he was involved in the 1980s Iran-Contra operation headed by then Lt. Col. Oliver North, according to court documents.
The fax signed by “Solo” included a recent newspaper article about the 1997 bombings and says that more publicity must be generated about the anti-Castro campaign. “Like I explained to you, if there is no publicity the work is useless,” the fax says.
In 1998, Posada admitted his role in the Havana bombings in a series of articles published by The New York Times, and also told other news outlets that he granted the interviews to “generate publicity for his bombing campaign against Cuba’s tourist industry and to frighten away tourists,” the FBI document says.
Posada later denied making the statements, and his attorneys have repeatedly declared his innocence in the bombings as well as the deadly airliner bombing in 1976. Posada’s lead attorney in the Texas case, Arturo Hernandez of Miami, did not immediately respond Friday to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
Posada was released on $350,000 (u2;0AC258,093) bail in the Texas case and is living with his wife in a Miami suburb under virtual house arrest.