Julie Webb-Pullman: Party Games For Terrorists
Party Games for Terrorists
by Julie Webb-Pullman
Thursday and Friday 2-3 June see hundreds of intellectuals from all over the world converging on Havana for the "International Meeting against Terrorism, for Truth and Justice" at the Palacio de Los Convenciones, called to address the presence in the United States of Cuban-born international terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, and the demands for his extradition to Venezuela to face justice for his crimes. Julie Webb-Pullman backgrounds Posada’s illustrious history.
A terrorist’s life is tough. None of this nine to five, have a nice day at the office dear. Oh no, it really is gruelling. Take the October 1997 assassination plot against Fidel Castro, when the crew of ‘La Esperanza’ cabin cruiser had to sail 900 miles in one day – no wonder they foundered off Puerto Rico, the poor darlings were obviously exhausted by achieving such a seemingly impossible feat! They hadn’t even had time to unwrap their fishing gear, let alone use their ammunition, fatigues, night-vision goggles, sophisticated communications gear, tripods and two .50-caliber semi-automatic rifles capable of firing flat-trajectory bullets one mile, before those spoil-sport Coast Guards found them and took them away. How kind of the Miami Federal Court to let the poor babies off – the Florida justice system understands how difficult things are for such hard-working dedicated cold-blooded killers, especially if they also happen to work for the CIA. Pesquera, FBI man in charge of the case, understood only too well that terrorists need a break, that just like everyone else, they need to have fun. They even have their very own party games - just ask Luis Posada Carriles.
He’s been playing with the CIA for years, and the CIA gang he was in always had such a blast! Its name was Operation 40, and it had people in it who would later shoot to the top, becoming almost as famous as him. For example, Papa Bush was personally involved in its formation, and he went on to become Director of the CIA, and even President of the US. Playing ‘Senior Says’ was lots of fun, as future Watergate burglars Felipe de Diego, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez and E. Howard Hunt discovered, not to mention Orlando Bosch, Guillermo Novo Sampol, Ignacio Novo Sampol and the infamous Felix Rodriguez, who not only supervised Bolivian police in capturing and murdering Che Guevara, but who with Pedro Remon was responsible for the first ever assassination of a UN diplomat (Felix Garcia, in 1980), and who later was immortalised as "Max Gomez," running guns to the dope-trading Contras in Nicaragua then testifying about it in 1987 before the Senate Iran-Contra investigators.
This gang did really cool things like trying to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, and on November 22, 1963, Luis Posada Carrilles, Guillermo Novo, Orlando Bosch and Frank Sturgis were all present in Dealey Plaza, the Dallas square were John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Now, THAT was a real blast!
They were at such a loose end when the government disbanded them in 1970 after one of their planes crashed in southern California with kilos of heroin and cocaine aboard. It was nice of President Nixon's Attorney General, John Mitchell, not to mention the Operation 40 heroes they caught, when a few months later he celebrated the destruction of "a nationwide ring of wholesalers handling about 30 percent of all heroin sales and 70 to 80 percent of all cocaine sales in the United States."
But as they say, the devil finds work for idle hands, and very soon Posada, the Novo brothers, Orlando Bosch, Frank Castro and others were playing ‘Senior Says’ again, forming another gang called CORU, and meeting in the Dominican Republic in June 1976 to plan even bigger and better games. Guillermo and his brother Ignacio are the kind of guys Posada really likes to hang with – Guillermo fired a bazooka across the East River at the United Nations building while Che Guevara was addressing the General Assembly in '64, and Ignacio did the same thing at the Cuba pavilion at the Montreal World's Fair in '67 – rad! Their new gang went on to do even wilder things, like plant a car-bomb (generously paid for by Pinochet’s secret police) in broad daylight in Washington, DC, which killed formerly foreign minister of Chile Orlando Letelier and US human rights pioneer Ronnie Moffitt, and a few weeks later they caused the mid-air explosion of a Cuban civilian airliner over Barbados, killing all 73 people on board. They were also implicated in the murders of Chilean General Carlos Prats and his wife Sofia Cuthbert, and hop-scotched all over the continent participating directly in the planning and execution of the thousands of sinister acts of torture, disappearances and murders of Operation Condor, in coordination with the CIA and security services of the Southern Cone military dictatorships of Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, as well as other countries such as Bolivia and Dominican Republic.
What luck that George Bush was by then the director of the CIA and could stonewall the Letelier-Moffitt investigation, or the Novo brothers couldn’t have kept playing – but then dopey Guillermo went and got busted in Miami with a pound of coke and ended up being found guilty of the Letelier-Moffitt terror homicides...but the appeal courts showed they are as understanding of terrorists’ needs as the Florida federal court, and overturned his conviction, as well as Ignacio’s for perjury. The brains behind the airliner bombing, Bosch and Posada Carriles, weren’t quite so lucky – they were busted in Venezuela. But that was okay – it meant they got to play even better games!
Musical Chairs was getting a bit exhausting – still dancing to the CIA tune, Posada had switched from his 1961-67 CIA chair to its sister spook seat in Venezuela, first as assistant director of DISP, then director. After a 1974 run-in with the President, Posada lost that chair to CIA classmate, Cuban exile Ricardo Morales (who claimed to have been an FBI tattle-tale at the June '76 CORU gang bang in Santo Domingo), and decided to play ‘I Spy’, opening a private-detective agency in Caracas. With all these party games, he should have known there would tears before supper, and no time for Monopoly. Sure enough, after two of the gang were nabbed for planting the bomb on that Air Cubana flight, Posada and Bosch were tried and convicted by Venezuelan authorities, receiving life sentences and going directly to jail without passing ‘Go’ or collecting $200.
Despite Cuban extradition requests, and two unsuccessful escape attempts in ’82 and ‘84, he had to play ‘possum’ until bribing his way out of the Venezuelan jail in 1985. (Bosch had to wait until 1987 to be freed, and allowed to enter the US under a Presidential pardon shortly after Papa Bush won the election game, under pressure from Florida Governor Jeb Bush and ambassador for Venezuela Otto Reich, then assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell…)
And then began one of the longest games of Hide and Sneak in history. Within days Posada popped up in El Salvador alongside gang member Felix Rodriguez, to play a really neat game called ‘Iran-Contra’. They got to play ‘Who Am I?’, changing their names to Ramon Medina and Max Gomez, and to play clever tricks on the US taxpayers by unloading weapons from planes at the Ilopango airstrip then sending them back to the States full of cocaine. Papa Bush by now was Vice President, and still ‘he’ in ‘Senior Says’, which was good because he could make the others in the gang visit Posada every so often to stop him getting too lonely in his hiding place, like Juan Pérez Franco and Rolando Mendoza.
But then came ‘Show and Tell’ in October 1986, when an old dope plane from the fleet of CIA freedom-fighter Barry Seal was blown out the sky over Nicaragua, exposing the Reagan White House and its whole Iran-Contra operation. Forced to play Hopscotch AND Hide and Sneak, Posada fled to Honduras, and spent the next several years like an obsessive-compulsive flea on speed, hopping between Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Guatemala, back and forwards, hither and thither, plotting and planning numerous unsuccessful assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, seeing many of his best-laid plans foiled by superior Cuban security, but still managing several bomb attacks against Cuban tourist hotels in the 1990’s, killing Italian tourist Fabio de Celmo and injuring eleven more.
Poor old Posada, slobbering in the shadows of Central America, missing more than he hits, half his hired hands arrested before they can do any damage, ignored by the media…but wait! He can play Show and Tell too! New York Times, 11-13 July 1998 - finally he gets his 10 seconds of fame, and during the interview conducted in Aruba, claims responsibility for the string of Havana hotel bombings. Now it’s the US authorities’ turn to play possum…
Fast forward to November 2000, and the Ibero-American Summit in Panama. Posada was detained together with Gaspar Jimenez, Guillermo Novo, Pedro Remon, Cesar Matamoros, and Jose Hurtado for planning an assassination attempt against Fidel Castro using 33 pounds of C-4 explosives, destined to be blown up at a Panamanian University where Fidel Castro was speaking, threatening thousands of lives.
Posada was still hanging with the gang – old friends Novo from ‘Operation 40’ and the Letelier-Moffitt killings, and Jimenez, who placed bombs in over 30 countries and attacked Cuban diplomatic personnel and business offices abroad, plus convicted gang member Remon, who in February 1986 pleaded guilty to participating in a 1979 bombing at Cuba's mission to the United Nations and of conspiring to kill the Cuban ambassador, while declassified FBI documents also record his involvement in the assassination of UN diplomat Felix Garcia. Staunch! Lots of quality time to play Join the Dots and Hangman, with their Panamanian sentences ranging up to eight years.
But surely the gang wouldn’t abandon them now? That’s just not cricket…but Jeb and Otto and Colin were still around, and outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso was partial to a new Mercedes and a new life in Miami, and she waved her magic presidential wand in October 2004, and poooffff! They were pardoned! Jiminez, Remon and Novo were immediately whisked to Miami, whilst US Homeland Security played possum as these convicted international terrorists entered its borders, and Pesquera, now head of the FBI in Florida, just played dumb.
Posada, though, had to play hide and sneak again, flea-ing back to Honduras, then El Salvador, Guatemala and Islas Mujeres, in Mexico, finally arriving in Miami, Florida in March 2005, and like all fleas, irritating the hell out of his host, who due to the international outcry about his presence in US territory, finally had to at least appear to be playing the game, and arrest him for something, anything, just make it look like we’re doing something.
Suddenly it’s not much fun in gangland anymore, everyone’s being mean and demanding they play by the rules. Venezuela’s demanding extradition and there is no good reason to refuse it, but when he tries to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey there are so many goddam donkeys, from Powell to Pesquera, Papa and Brudder Bush, that baby Bush just can’t figure out what to do, besides, they all keep disassembling like those bastards in Gitmo, and he SWEARS he’s not hallucinating.
The Posada party’s over. It’s called endgame, George W - checkmate. The eyes of the world are watching you, and El Salvador’s last-ditch desperate dirty deal to turn the board upside down will not suffice. The thousands of victims of Posada Carriles and his gangs, from the passengers on the Cubana airliner to the thousands of disappeared, killed or tortured during Operation Condor, from the tourists and civilians in Cuba to the dead and injured in every other country subjected to the terrorists attacks of this killing machine - they and their families all demand, and deserve, justice in keeping with international law. That means extradition of Venezuelan citizen Posada, fugitive from Venezuelan justice, to Venezuela. And the ‘Conference against Terrorism, for Truth and Justice’ will see that, like cake at a birthday party, justice is served.
Julie Webb-Pullman edits, revises and writes for Prensa Latina in Havana, Cuba. www.plenglish.com