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Posted April 24, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuban History

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By JIM DEFEDE | Miami Herald

Raymond Persaud’s friends and relatives had gathered at the family home in Georgetown, Guyana, to wish him well on his new adventure. The 19-year-old was one of six students in the country awarded a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. In the morning, he and the other students would fly to Havana.

‘‘I remember that we had borrowed all these chairs for the party,’’ recalled Roseanne Nenninger, Raymond’s sister, who was just 11 when her brother left. “In the morning, we got up and the whole family drove to the airport. All my brothers and sisters, we all took off from school to see my brother off. It was Oct. 6, 1976, a Wednesday, and I’ll never forget how very hot it was outside.’‘

A picture taken that morning at the airport shows Raymond, dressed in his best suit, standing alongside two of his five siblings, his brother Trevor and sister Roseanne.

‘‘He was so happy,’’ Roseanne said. “And my father was so proud.’‘

The family hugged and kissed at the airport, as Raymond told his mother he would send her a letter as soon as he arrived in Havana so that she would know he had arrived safely. After Raymond boarded the Cubana DC-8, the family returned to their home.

‘‘We were tired from the night before, and we all fell asleep,’’ Roseanne recalled. “And [by midafternoon] I remember that my cousin came over and woke us all up. It was very bizarre. She gathered us all together and told us the plane had crashed. And my mother just started to scream.’‘

Flight 455 flew from Guyana to Trinidad and from Trinidad to Barbados. The plane was then scheduled to fly to Kingston, Jamaica, before making its final stop in Havana.

Eight minutes after the plane took off from Barbados, a bomb exploded. ‘‘We have an explosion on board,’’ the pilot radioed to the control tower. “We’re descending fast. We have fire on board.’‘

The pilot struggled to keep the plane airborne for several minutes, but it ultimately crashed into the Caribbean, five miles short of Barbados’ Seawell Airport. All 73 people aboard the plane died, including 58 Cubans and 11 Guyanese.

That night, and for the next seven days, the extra chairs the family had borrowed for Raymond’s celebratory goodbye party would be used for his wake and memorial service.

‘‘We’ve lived with grief ever since that day,’’ said Zena, Raymond’s mother. “Especially my husband.’‘

‘‘My father was not the same after the death of my brother,’’ Roseanne said.

‘‘It was such a shock, the way it happened,’’ added another of Raymond’s sisters, Sharon Persaud, who was 12 when her brother died. “My father had so many hopes for his child. And for it to all end that way. He became obsessed by it.’‘

Charles Persaud moved his family to the United States in 1979 and for years gathered boxes of information on the bombing.

‘‘My father died two years ago from a massive heart attack,’’ said Roseanne. “He died of a broken heart because he could not get over losing my brother.’‘

No one else in the family had become nearly as obsessed with the Cubana flight as Raymond’s father. And in the two years since his passing, it was rarely mentioned. Until two weeks ago when Zena Persaud noticed a story in a Caribbean newspaper in Queens, N.Y., under the headline: Asylum to be sought in U.S. for 1976 Cubana Airline bombing suspect.

The story explained that Luis Posada, long suspected of the bombing, had illegally entered the United States and was going to seek political asylum.

‘‘He’s hiding in South Florida,’’ she said incredulously, adding that she immediately called her daughter Roseanne with the news.

‘‘Here it is, 29 years later, and I just started crying,’’ Roseanne said.

At almost the same moment Zena was reading that story in the Caribbean Daylight, Sharon Persaud was at her desk at the Department of Homeland Security’s office in Garden City, N.J.

For five years, she was an asylum officer hearing claims like Posada’s; now she was a supervisor in the naturalization section: “News stories of interest are often e-mailed around the department, and I just happened to see this one that mentioned Posada. I couldn’t believe it.’‘

Two men were convicted for planting the bombs aboard the Cubana flight. Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo boarded the flight in Trinidad and planted the bombs before deplaning in Barbados.

Ricardo and Lugo had both worked for Venezuela’s secret police, DISIP, which was closely aligned with anti-Castro Cubans who were using Caracas as a base of operations against the Castro government.

The two men also were linked to a private security agency started by Luis Posada, a CIA-trained Cuban exile who once oversaw DISIP’s explosives section. Orlando Bosch, another Cuban exile who had embraced violence as a way of removing Fidel Castro, was in Caracas at the time, and Posada assigned Ricardo to drive Bosch around Venezuela before the bombing.

All four men—Ricardo, Lugo, Posada and Bosch—were arrested and tried in Venezuela for the Cubana bombing. Ricardo and Lugo were convicted.

The trials of Bosch and Posada—who were accused of masterminding the attack—ended in acquittals. There were allegations that the verdicts had been rigged and that officials had been bribed. Bosch was released and came to the United States. In 1989, President George Bush—over the strong objections of his own Justice Department—granted Bosch political asylum.

Posada, however, continued to be held in Venezuela while prosecutors appealed his acquittal. In 1985, Posada escaped from prison, after prison bosses were bribed to let him go. He then went to work with Oliver North, providing weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras.

He also continued to fight against Castro by allegedly organizing a series of hotel bombings in Havana in the mid-1990s. An Italian tourist, Fabio di Celmo, died in one of those bombings in 1997.

While both Posada and Bosch have repeatedly denied being involved in the Cubana airline bombing, neither expressed remorse over it. ‘‘At times, you cannot avoid hurting innocent people,’’ Bosch once told investigators.

Now 77, Posada wants to retire in Miami.

‘‘The part that is disturbing to me is that someone like this could come into this country and there isn’t more outrage,’’ said Roseanne. “He probably will get political asylum because he apparently does know a lot of important people in a lot of high places.’‘

‘‘Why should the United States be a safe haven for him?’’ asks Sharon Persaud. “This guy should go to Venezuela, where he is still wanted. He’s a terrorist. He killed innocent people. If he is granted asylum, what does that say about this country?’‘

Initially, Sharon said she was nervous to speak out, fearing it could jeopardize her career with Homeland Security. In recent days, though, she went through her father’s old files on the bombing and realized she couldn’t stay silent.

‘‘This would have been his time to speak out, this would have been his time to say all the things he wanted to say,’’ she said. “He would probably be there in Miami right now. And I think that’s why the rest of us are speaking out now, because we know he would have wanted his voice to be heard.’‘

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 25, 2005 by Dana Garrett with 252 total posts

    Answering Sharon’ Questions.

    1. ‘‘Why should the United States be a safe haven for him?’’
    He shouldn’t be.  There should be no question about it.  The only issue that should concern the USA is to locate him, arrest him and send him to Cuba to stand trial

    2.  “This guy should go to Venezuela, where he is still wanted. He’ a terrorist. He killed innocent people. If he is granted asylum, what does that say about this country?’‘

    It says what few USA citizens know and many are not willing to acknowledge: the USA has some good virtues, but it also has many vices.  It is not the bastion of freedom and justice that it makes itself out to be.  And in many respects it is not the best nation in the world, often far from it. 

  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 25, 2005 by yumaguy with 176 total posts

    I can only speculate on why this news bit hasn’t gotten any play at all in the mainstream press. Anything that combines terrorism with airliners should be an obvious draw for “eyeballs”! If I was a Dem on Capitol Hill, I know I would seriously think of trying to use this to embarrass the Bush Admin. Maybe they have too many other problems, maybe they’re worried of this backfiring like the Natl. Guard letter fiasco; or they’re concerned with alienating Florida voters even more, heh, heh. . . grin

  3. Follow up post #3 added on April 26, 2005 by waldo with 264 total posts

    Posada chantajea a Bush padre, dice Wim Dankbaar, especialista holandes experto del caso Kennedy.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on April 29, 2005 by PABLOPUEBLO with 86 total posts

    posada is the big one guilty bastard in the murdering %&#!
    coward act of blasting a comercial plane, where some of my
    friends and other fellows of mine were mowed down.Posada ha
    sido una putica ineficaz in hunt down castro or other big
    poussy,but he has showed off a murder talent for killing
    innocent people and it is passed of my honest imagination
    that the american immigration gives him safe haven or acted
    as a proxy to give him another safehaven ,for instant in El
    Salvador,Posada should be neither Venezuela,nor Cuba extradited
    but he should be sent here,in Holland,in the Hague to prosecute
    him as fanatic mass murder.Mother %&#! Posada Carriles.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on April 30, 2005 by waldo with 264 total posts


    During the past years and particularly during several months before the bombs and missiles began to fall on Baghdad the mouth of the Lady got wide open persistently denouncing Iraqís WMD and terrorism. The certainty and evident knowledge on her words projected a mixture of fear, anxiety, trust and obedience to the majority of her people who accepted her assertions as honest and trustworthy. Until recently, and echoing her boss, the unconditional war on terror became one of her priorities very commonly present in all of her academic lectures and sophisticated speeches.

    Conversely, for the past several weeks and ever since the illegal entry and presence in Miami of the notorious international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles (PC), her mouth has been totally shot. Not a single small crack in her well-educated mouth regarding this terrorizing security breaks in USAís sea borders and maximum mocking of homeland security by PC. Why Condoís prolonged silence? How could she and/or homeland security not know about PC sailing to Miami via Mexico? Could it be possible that 15 superiorly intelligent and experienced security groups totaling over 180,000 brains spending billions of tax dollar tracking terrorist all over the world, failed to detect an obstinate terrorist like PC coming home? Right after pardoning PC and his three buddies, the other Panamanian Lady opened her expensive mouth early one morning to happily telephone-inform the White House of her pardoning of the four. Was this not even an inferiorly intelligent clue of what would follow?

    No Lady Condo, your steady shot mouth on the PC issue is not right, academic or even intelligent, and millions of USA citizens and even more millions of citizens of the world smell a big rat. You must act promptly if not sooner and open-wide your silent mouth and tell the world what is truly going on with PC, and what is his relevance to Washingtonís war on terror. Your credibility, honor and integrity as well as that of the government of the USA are on the line. The more you delay, the more the big rat smells. One last question please: Do you believe that Luis Posada Carriles is exempt from Washingtonís war on terrorism? 

  6. Follow up post #6 added on May 01, 2005 by PABLOPUEBLO with 86 total posts

    It seems to me that the (ambiguous) behaviour of Usa immigration enforcing-law is fueled this ballyhoo about ese
    grandsimo-asesino Maricûn de pc,MÈxico immigration is also
    responsible,because that man entered very illegally and nobody
    knew anything about,but when poor people,full of hopes,naives
    or not,try to cross the border,most of them are stopped and
    deported,which is legal if you will.America immigration talk
    about the war on terror,immigrations reforms,not pardon for
    the illegal,Pero y Posada QuÈ? Hey,Talk the talk and walk the
    walk if you really have serious commitments.If you pretend to
    classify terrorist guys in good and bad according your own perspectives you are full of it.Posada is a ganster and a murderer who targeted soft,very soft,targets.It is ludricous this silence from Immigration authorities.Posada should be put
    on trial,in a neutral country,with a respectful international
    judges,with all the proofs,with defense attorney,not more than.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on May 01, 2005 by PABLOPUEBLO with 86 total posts

      It is outright right to say that Posada is a Bogus Asylum-
      seeker,in the same way Bosch was,however, Bosh was granted Asylum
      in America,a blatant mistake,which forever ever, could be use against the righteouness of Usa immigration approaches,Many genuine asylum seeker in this World are outrageous of having
    a fellow like Posada o Bosch,the acquittal of Busch and Posada
    in Venezuela was a rigged one,in which Money talked for the worst,Posada masterminded the entire operation,Lugo and Ricardo
    made the work designed by Posada and Bosch,guyaneses and my
    innocent fellows were targeted,ah America you are embarrasing
    the good memories of Lincoln,Washington,etc.Condy Speaks the WORD.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on August 11, 2009 by karla

    My sympathy to you Sharon. I was a friend of Trevor in Gtown.  If yu can pls give him my contact details.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on August 14, 2009 by Alberto N Jones

    What else do we need to see or need to happen, for us to understand once and for all, that the media, no matter how they may be portrayed as liberal, center or rightwing, they all respond to a greater interest or higher master. 

    Among CNN headlines today, were the plans to free the accused mastermind of the lockerbie mass murder, in which an airliner was blown out of the air, killing 273 passengers, one of whom, was my co-worker.  Yet, no reference was made, no parallel were drawn, no other assassin name was extrapolated as if, those 73 passengers blown out of the skies in 1976 outside of Barbados, by captured, confessed, jailed, guilty,  fugitive murderers Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, living as celebrities in upscale Miami, meant nothing!!

    It’s no accident, no one takes us seriously around the world, when we proclaim and label others as terrorist 10,000 miles away, as we harbor every Latin American retired military torturer or deposed tyrant, knowing they are always welcome to our sunny, posh, gated communities in Florida, far away from those legal institutions, always ready to pick up petty tyrants in Africa or Asia, haul them off to Geneva, give them a life sentence if they do not die before,  only for making the unforgiveable mistake of not signing up before with the CIA.

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