long with this year’s fifth anniversary,
the release of the film
has brought renewed attention
to the tragic events of 9/11. Yet Americans are less familiar with
the story of another jet full of innocent people destroyed by terrorists,
Cubana Flight 455. On October 6, 1976, it was scheduled to take
off from Barbados to Kingston, Jamaica. Nine minutes after takeoff,
a bomb in the aircraft’s rear lavatory exploded. The captain
radioed to the control tower: “We have an explosion aboard,
we are descending immediately.” A second bomb exploded, causing
the plane to crash into the water. All 73 people on board died,
including all 24 members of the Cuban national fencing team, many
of them teenagers. Until 9/11 Cubana Flight 455 was the worst act
of terrorism aboard a commercial airline in the Americas. One of
the people “allegedly” responsible for the planning of
this incident lives in the U.S. and is currently applying for citizenship.
His name is Luis Posada Carriles.
A fanatical antiCastro Cuban exile, Posada has left a bloody swath
of terror and destruction across the Gulf of Mexico. By his own
admission, the CIAtrained and Miamifunded Posada has planned bombings
of Cuban hotels, cafes, and dance halls. Although he has denied
involvement, strong evidence exists that Posada was also involved
in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455. CIA and FBI documents unearthed
by George Washington University’s National Security Archive
place Posada among the conspirators at two planning meetings for
that bombing. Further, Posada has spent 30 years on the run from
the government of Venezuela, which tried him for his role in bombing
Flight 455. His trial was never completed because Posada escaped
and is still wanted by the Venezuelan government. He was arrested
in the United States in 2005 where he had applied for asylum. A
judge ruled last September that he could be deported, but not to
Cuba, where he faces execution, or to Venezuela.
On April 26, 2006, in a new twist, Posada applied for U.S. citizenship.
Not surprisingly, Posada’s case has not made national news.
The reason for the media indifference is, in part, the double standard
that exists in the United States between a “terrorist”
and a “freedom fighter.”
In a November 2001 news conference, President George W. Bush declared
that, in the “war on terror,” there is no room for neutrality.
“A coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy,
a coalition partner must perform…. All nations…must do
something…. [It’s] important for nations to know they
will be held accountable for inactivity.… [Y]ou’re either
with us or against us in the fight against terror.” Bush effectively
eliminated the distinction between passive and active sponsors of
terror. George town Professor Daniel Byman says that a regime is
“guilty of passive sponsorship if it knowingly allows a terrorist
group to raise money, enjoy a sanctuary, recruit, or otherwise flourish,
but does not directly aid the group itself.” If so, why then
has the U.S harbored a group of terrorists for over 40 years?
Ever since the Bay of Pigs disaster, the United States government
has ignored Cuban exile involvement in terrorist operations against
Cuba, as well as violence and intimidation directed against U.S.
citizens. According to the Center for International Policy, “Militant
hardline exile activities in the late 70s and early 80s caused the
FBI to designate Miami the ‘terrorist capital’ of the
United States. The terrorist activities in Miami included death
threats, beatings, mob attacks, vandalism, extortion, bombings and
outright murder.” The same article reported 68 acts of terror
in Miami since 1968, including:
1983 bombing of the Continental National Bank where Bernardo Benes,
one of 75 Cuban exiles who met with Fidel Castro to negotiate
the release of 3,600 political prisoners in Cuba, was an executive
the 1988 and 1990 bombings of the Cuban Museum of Art
the 1988 attempted bombing of the home of Maria Cristina Herrera,
the organizer of a conference on U.S.Cuba relations (the bomb
was discovered in her garage before it went off)
1989 and 1996 bombings of the Marazul Tours, which arranges travel
1996 bombing of Little Havana’s Centro Vasco prior to the
performance of Cuban singer Rosita Fornes
1999 bombing of the Amnesia nightclub before a performance by
Cuban singer Manolín
Actions abroad have included bombings and assassinations directed
against Cuban interests in Venezuela, Guatemala, and other countries.
In many cases the CIA or the FBI did little to prevent these actions
or apprehend the perpetrators. The documents in the National Security
Archive’s (www.gwu.edu) demonstrate that U.S. intelligence
had advance knowledge of the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, but did
nothing to warn Cuban authorities or to stop it.
The Cuban exiles are not the only ones who have enjoyed such passivity
from U.S. law enforcement and intelligence. According to an article
by professor Daniel Byman in
magazine, the United
States also allowed representatives of the terrorist antiIran group,
Mujahedine Khalq, to lobby government officials until 1997 and turned
a blind eye to IRA fundraising by front organizations, such as the
Irish Northern Aid Committee, during the bloodiest time of “the
Troubles.” Of course, there is also the now familiar clandestine
U.S. aid to such murderous revolutionaries as the Contras in Nicaragua
and the antiSoviet Islamic fighters in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
Undeniably, the United States has been both a passive and active
sponsor of terrorism for many years. However, to official Washington,
such people are not terrorists, but “heroes” and “freedom
Documents in the National Security Archive reveal a surprising degree
of collusion between Posada and the United States. His involvement
can be found in the IranContra affair where he worked as an overseer
in the illegal supplying of weapons for the U.S.backed rebels. He
worked for a CIA operative who reported directly to the White House.
“The FBI and the CIA don’t bother me and I am neutral
with them. Whenever I can help them, I do,” Posada boasted
(www.nytimes.com). When asked whether he felt any guilt over his
campaign of hotel and café bombings, Posada declared that he
“sleeps like a baby.”
is someone like Posada on the threshold of becoming a United States
citizen? The answer lies in the insidious influence of the Cuban
exile lobby in the U.S. Blinded by rage over their expulsion from
Cuba, they will settle for nothing less than the total destruction
of Castro’s regime by any means necessary. Like Al Qaeda’s
bombers and hijackers, the murder of innocent civilians is of little
consequence. Lobbying by wealthy, politically connected Cuban exiles
has resulted in softball treatment for many Cuban exile terrorists.
Posada claims to have the financial backing of the CubanAmerican
National Foundation (CANF), an influential taxexempt lobbying group.
CANF has frequently intervened on behalf of terrorists, including
Virgilio Paz, one of the killers of the former Chilean foreign minister
Orlando Letelier in a 1976 Washington car bombing. (Paz was released
from INS custody after a campaign largely organized by CANF.)
Similarly, the first Bush administration, under pressure from the
Cuban exile lobby, gave asylum to exile terrorist Orlando Bosch.
Bosch fired a bazooka at a Polish freighter docked in Miami and
has been linked by the Justice Department to “more than thirty
acts of sabotage and violence in the United States, Puerto Rico,
Panama, and Cuba; planning the murder of two Cuban diplomats in
Argentina (who subsequently were kidnapped and disappeared); the
bombing of the Mexican embassy in Guatamala in 1976; and sending
package bombs to Cuban embassies in Lima, Madrid, Ottawa, and Buenos
Aires.” Bosch is also a suspect in the bombing of Cubana Flight
In the United States there is little public knowledge of these exiles’
horrible crimes. As Jeff Cohen noted in a
Los Angeles Times
oped, “The stories of Luis Posada and the CIA’s historic
links to rightwing terror groups overseas have been underreported
because much of the U.S. media is content presenting a simplistic
view of the world where Americans in white hats police the globe
of black hats—usually worn by Middle Eastern terrorists.”
If we give Posada citizenship, what separates us from Saudi Arabia,
Pakistan, and the other countries that the United States has charged
with passive sponsorship of terrorism? It is the height of hypocrisy
to lecture other countries about terrorism when we are seriously
entertaining a bid for citizenship by a person who is wanted for
helping to destroy a passenger airplane, especially in light of
our own recent history.
On a more human level, the families of those lost in the bombing
of Cubana Flight 455 deserve justice. To the relatives of the victims,
the Posada citizenship proceedings are a ghoulish insult. The anguish
behind the words of Carlos Cremata, who lost his father at the age
of 16, is palpable: “What made things worse was that we were
never able to bury my father…. [The asylum proceeding] makes
everything worse…. It’s inconceivable.”
Posada must not be allowed to wrap himself in the refuge of citizenship.
In turn, the United States must act to punish Cuban exile terrorists.
It is time to end the further mockery of justice and peace that
has existed for too long in Miami.
Elkus lives in Pacific Palisades, California where he is involved
in several human rights groups. He is also a cofounder of Electric
Avenue Artists Society, a small poetry venue in Venice, California.