Making War on Cuban Families?
It was in October of 1976, and the voice said, “A bus with 73 dogs on board went off a cliff and all got killed.” The message had been relayed to Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada in Venezuela from one of their two employees who had recently arrived in Barbados. Except, it wasn’t a bus, it was an airplane—- Cubana flight 455 from Caracas, Venezuela to Barbados-Tobago-Jamaica-Cuba. Ten minutes out of Barbados, on the second leg of the flight, the first bomb went off. Fire, concussion, chaos, and terror were now on board. Miraculously, the plane held together. Inside, toxic black smoke filled the cabin. Announcing the bomb to the tower, the Cuban pilot headed back toward Barbados and could be heard desperately ordering the cockpit door closed in an attempt to maintain visibility for a hoped emergency landing. Five minutes went by and there was growing optimism, the old DC 8 was holding together. She was on a long, sloping descent in line with the runway. Then the second bomb went off in the rear toilet. That was it. Cubana 455 was going down. Some say the Cuban pilot, seeing he could never make the airstrip, in a last heroic act, steered the plane nose down and in a tight right turn into the ocean, rather than crash into the town.
There weren’t any dogs on board. There were mostly teenagers, and their chaperones. It was a team of young Olympic fencers from Cuba who had just swept the Latin region competition, winning all the gold medals. They couldn’t wait to get home to show them off to their families and school chums. Then there were the six Guayana teenagers, star pupils who had so excelled in school that they had been admitted to Cuban medical schools on full scholarship. All of their parents had been at the airport to see them off, full of hope and pride. The remaining twenty or so passengers on flight 455 worked for the airline and were on a mission to map out possible new routes. In all, the plane held 73 souls. The crash was so violent that no bodies were ever recovered; only a few parts here and there, washed up on the white beaches, in front of the tourist hotels.
It was as true an act of terrorism as has ever been committed. But the masterminds behind this tragedy were not agents of Islamic fundamentalism. No, they were from Miami, from the radical faction of the Cuban exile community. Both men, Bosch and Posada, had been trained and used by the CIA. They had been “our guys.” When Orlando Bosch was eventually returned to Miami, he returned to a hero’s welcome. The Cuban hard liners loved it. Eventually, at the behest of politically powerful Cuban Americans in Miami, and lobbied by his own son Jeb, George Bush senior, then president, granted Orlando Bosh political asylum. They say there was a near riot at the justice department over Bush’s granting the asylum, because of their strong objections based on FBI documants. Orlando Bosh and his “Cuban Warriors” were linked to a long list of assassinations, car bombings, sabotage and terror directed at Cubans and anyone who supported the Castro regime, or even those who simply argued for more normal relations between the U.S and Cuba.
As for Luis Posada, trained by the CIA in explosives, he eventually bribed his way out of Venezuela’s prison and went underground in Latin America. He later participated in the illegal Iran/Contra affair that also included sworn testimony of a cocaine-financed transport system of additional financing. Posada’s plan in November of 2000 was to bomb a Panamanian conference of young students. He and three cohorts in Panama City were found to have 33 pounds of C4 explosive and detonators, along with weapons. It was to have been an auditorium bombing, when Castro would be speaking to the kids. After a visit by Colin Powell, Posada was pardoned by the outgoing Panamanian president for “humanitarian reasons.” She now lives in Miami.
These acts were all outside Cuba; the story on the island is even more sad. Posada has publicly boasted of masterminding a string of hotel lobby bombings in Cuba that killed one Italian tourist and seriously wounded many others. Over the years Miami’s “counter-revolutionary” groups, including Alpha-66, Omega-7, CORU (formed by then CIA director George Bush) and others, have been accused of numerous acts of violence directed at civilian populations on the island. As early as 1962, US sponsored saboteurs blew up an industrial complex in Cuba that killed 400 workers. The Washington Post in 1979 drew up a list of Biological Warfare tactics used against Cuba, claiming the Pentagon had produced biological agents to use against Cuba’s sugar cane and tobacco fields. Later, CIA documents disclosed that the Agency “maintained a clandestine anti-crop warfare research program targeted ... at a number of countries throughout the world.”
There have also been suspicious outbreaks of exotic viral pathogens on the island, some directed at animals, including African swine flu in 1971 that resulted in the destruction of over one half million hogs. This, in a land of near starvation diets. Ulcerative mammilitis, making milk cows for children non-productive, was also suspected of having been introduced to the island from outside. A Newsday account of the time describes epidemics of type 2 human Dengue fever, a severe bleeding infection, sprouting up on the island at different locations spontaneously, eventually infecting over three hundred thousand citizens and killing over one hundred children. Haemorraghic conjunctivitis, a blinding eye disease, was also suspected of having been introduced during the same period. In 1984, Eduardo Arocena, leader of the Omega 7 Cuban exile group, in court on a homicide charge, admitted to having participated in an operation to introduce “germs” as part of the “war” against Cuba. There is one account, reported to the U.N., of an observed “dispersion” of substance from a crop spraying U.S.military plane overflying Cuba, headed for Colombia. When confronted, the US State Department said “smoke” had been released by the pilot to warn the observing civilian airline pilot of his presence. A previously foreign multi-crop destroying insect was later found to develop along the path of the flight to Cayman Island.
One has but to look back on the history of Cuba-American relations to recognize our long involvement in her internal affairs, and our often violent attempts to hold sway there. If national soverignity means anything, it means the right of a country to chart its own course without internal interference from powerful outside forces, even down what many of us believe is the dead-end road of communism. It is giving to other nations nothing more than we demand for ourselves. Perhaps it is just this kind of hypocricy and double standard that we have shown to Cuba and other Central and South American countries that now spurs so much bitter resentment and hatred toward our government in the world at large.
We didn’‘t call what we or our agents did to Cubans terrorism, we called it “Dirty Tricks” or “Black Ops.” You see, for some, it seems a “Terrorist” is in the eye of the beholder.
John R. Bomar
Dr. John Bomar is an ocean sailor who unexpectedly found himself in Cuba for six weeks after signing on to a Dutch schooner in Curasao in 1996.