US and Panama collude against Cuba

On 25 August, with just a week left in office, right-wing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso freed four international terrorists who had attempted to blow up the university amphitheatre where Fidel Castro was speaking in November 2000. While on the one hand pursuing its phony ‘war on terrorism’, the US has been pulling strings to secure the release of four convicted terrorists with a long history of death squads, assassination plans and torture behind them.

In August 2000, two high-ranking members of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) travelled to El Salvador to meet Posada Carriles, a known terrorist, to plot with him the assassination of Castro during the Iberoamerican Summit in Panama. With their money and fake documents, Posada Carriles travelled to Panama and Honduras to meet Rafael Nodarse, the arms trafficker now sheltering him.

In Costa Rica Carriles selected his accomplices, all known to the FBI. Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo, wanted by the Mexican police, is the murderer of a Cuban fishing technician; Guillermo Novo Sampol killed Chilean chancellor Orlando Letelier, on orders from Pinochet, and Pedro Remon Rodriguez was the assassin of Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia. All were under the command of Posada, a CIA-trained, long-term terrorist responsible for blowing up a Cuban civil aeroplane in 1976, killing all 73 passengers aboard. Posada escaped, on CIA advice, to El Salvador, from where he directed narcotraffic operations to fund weapons for the US-backed Nicaraguan contras. In January 1994, with funding from CANF, Posada launched a failed assassination attempt on Castro in Honduras. Between 1994 and 1996, he set 44 bombs and plotted two further assassination attempts on Castro. He made a number of subsequent assassination attempts in 1997 and 1998. In a 1998 interview, he admitted that he had recruited Central American mercenaries who, with CANF funding, smuggled 14 bombs in Cuba. Eight exploded and an Italian tourist was killed.

On 17 November 2000, he and his accomplices were arrested in Panama carrying over 100lbs of plastic explosives and jailed. Yet this year President Moscoso decided to go above Panamanian law and release the four men, despite huge demonstrations in Panama protesting against her decision.

While in office, Moscoso introduced unpopular neo-liberal measures in Panama, robbed the country’s international development funds and slavishly followed US policies. Her sister is a personal friend of Posada’s. The releases took place shortly before Panama’s 1 September elections and may have contributed to Moscoso losing to Torrijos, son of the famous left-wing nationalist General Omar Torrijos. He immediately condemned the releases as ‘shameful’.

In the run-up to the November presidential elections in the US, George W Bush needs to secure Florida’s key exiled community vote and the generous donations from its Cuban-American lobby. Hence its new measures against Cuba and hence the release of the four men – who were received with joy by the reactionary exile community when they flew briefly into Miami on a private jet while the administration turned a blind eye.

Juanjo Rivas

FRFI 181 October / November 2004


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