The Posada File

The CIA document, stamped Secret, is dated June 22, 1976, and titled “Possible Plans of Cuban Exile Extremists to blow up a Cubana airliner.” A “usually reliable” source, described as a “businessman with close ties to the Cuban exile community,” reports that an extremist group led by an anti-Castro terrorist named Orlando Bosch “plans to place a bomb on a Cubana airline flight traveling between Panama and Havana.” The source says that the original plan for the attack called for two bombs to be placed on Cubana flight 467 on June 21. (This did not take place.) This intelligence report is disseminated to multiple US agencies, including the FAA, but there is no indication any action is taken, or that a warning is provided to Cuban authorities. Less than four months later, on October 6, two bombs explode on Cubana Flight 455, which has just taken off from Barbados. The plane is carrying seventy-three people, including Cuba’s teenage fencing team and eleven Guyanese citizens, most of them students on their way to Havana to attend medical school. All aboard perish when the plane crashes into the sea. A CIA source subsequently reports that sometime around the last week of September, another renowned anti-Castro exile in Caracas, Luis Posada Carriles, was overheard stating: “We are going to hit a Cuban airliner.” This past March, Posada sneaked into the United States using a false passport and requested political asylum. Despite repeated demands for his arrest and extradition to Venezuela, where the crime was planned, US authorities made no move until May 17. Homeland Security officials finally detained him after he gave an interview to the Miami Herald in which he discussed the relative ease with which he’d been able to move around Florida and then held a press conference. The international community is now waiting to see what the Bush Administration will do with him. Posada’s case not only Continue Reading

U.S. rushes Hurricane Irma aid to Caribbean islands, but not to Cuba

The U.S. government is providing humanitarian aid to a string of Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, but Cuba — just 90 miles off the coast of Florida — is not among them.The Category 5 hurricane, the worst to hit the communist island since 1932, spent 24 hours grinding away over northern parts of the island, damaging more than 4,000 homes, inundating downtown Havana with knee-high floods and destroying thousands of acres of cane sugar.More than 3.1 million people — a quarter  of the island's population — lost water service. Small beach towns also were destroyed on the northern coast, causing millions of dollars in losses and leaving thousands homeless. At least 10 people were killed.The U.S. State department clearly recognized the extent of the disaster, warning American travelers not to visit Cuba because of the wide-spread destruction. Yet it has not sent a USAID rapid response team to the island, nor dispatched any U.S. military ships loaded with bottled water and blankets, as it has to other devastated Caribbean neighbors.The guidelines for U.S. assistance include a requirement, not surprising, that a host country must request help, which Cuba — a proud adversary in a decades long battle with its superpower neighbor — is not inclined to do. More: Hurricane Jose's path threatens East Coast; two other storms likely in Atlantic More: You may not live in Florida or Texas, but your insurance rates could spike because of hurricanes "Currently, the government of Cuba has not asked for cooperation from the United States in response to the hurricane," USAID said in a statement.Nor has the U.S. sought out Cuba to ascertain its needs.In response to an email query, the Cuban embassy in Washington on Thursday pointed to Cuban websites detailing the damage from Irma, but it didn't address whether Havana requested or was Continue Reading

U.S. looking at Canada guest-worker program as model

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario — Guillermo Hernandez Alcantar could provide a window into the future of migrant workers in the United States.He had arrived in Canada from Mexico three days before. The journey brought him hundreds of miles north on the guarantee of work and stability — to pick the grapes that locals will not. He came as a legal guest worker. STORY: Wage debate delays guest worker visas STORY: Changes make guest workers more costly"Right now, the Mexican workers have not finished arriving," Hernandez Alcantar said on a brisk morning in March. "By May, they will all be here."He needed to buy a jacket, so he mounted a well-worn Huffy 10-speed bicycle, one of many leaning up against the two worker dormitories, and rode off, passing through the vineyards that stretch the length of Line 1 Road. Though he spoke little English, he knew he could get by in town without the language skills.Others made that clear to him before he arrived in Canada.Hernandez Alcantar participates in Canada's long-established Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. Its model could help the U.S. create the framework for a revamped guest-worker program that is a key element in current U.S. immigration-reform proposals.The Senate has passed a provision that allows up to 337,000 foreign workers to receive three-year work visas to do farm labor in the U.S. at a rate of pay of $9.64 to $11.87 an hour. A House version, still being debated, allows up to 500,000 workers a year for up to 18 months for seasonal work and three years for non-seasonal work, with pay at either state minimum or prevailing wage.The Senate also has passed a provision that would provide an accelerated path to citizenship for undocumented agricultural workers. The House bill does not provide a path to citizenship.Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, established in 1966 as a bilateral agreement between Canada and Jamaica and later expanded to include Mexico and other countries, extends Continue Reading

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accuses US of trying to kill him — again

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday alleged that U.S. intelligence agencies were behind a purported assassination plot that prevented him from visiting El Salvador. Chavez had planned to attend the inauguration of leftist President Mauricio Funes in the Central American nation on Monday, but said he canceled his trip due to the alleged plot. "I don't doubt that the intelligence organizations of the United States are behind this," Chavez said, accusing them of plotting with Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles to murder him. He said Venezuelan intelligence services have "very precise information" that they were planning to launch rockets at the Cubana de Aviacion plane he was going to travel in. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The U.S. State Department has denied similar accusations by Chavez in the past. Venezuela has asked the U.S. to extradite Posada, a former CIA operative and opponent of former Cuban president Fidel Castro who is accused of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane off Barbados that killed 73 people on board. The 81-year-old Posada is accused of plotting the bombing while living in Venezuela but denies involvement. Chavez has previously accused the U.S. of plotting to overthrow him or invade Venezuela, but Tuesday was the first time he has made such accusations since warmly greeting President Barack Obama at an April summit in Trinidad and Tobago. "I'm not accusing Obama," he said. "I think Obama has good intentions, but beyond Obama there's an empire — the CIA and all its tentacles: Terrorists and paramilitaries." Chavez also repeated a demand for the U.S. to turn over Posada to stand trial in Venezuela, saying: "Send us that murderer." Posadas was arrested on immigration-fraud charges in Miami in 2005, and held at an immigration jail in El Paso, Texas. An immigration judge in El Paso ordered that Posada should be deported in 2005, but said Continue Reading

White House announces Cuba will be removed from terrorism sponsor list

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House announced Tuesday, a key step in his bid to normalize relations between the two countries. Obama made the final decision following a State Department review of Cuba's presence on the list. The terror designation has been a stain on Cuba's pride and a major stumbling block for efforts to mend ties between Washington and Havana. In a message to Congress, Obama said the government of Cuba "has not provided any support for international terrorism" over the last six months. He also told lawmakers that Cuba "has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future." Tuesday's announcement comes days after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met on the sidelines of a regional summit in Panama. The talks marked the first formal meeting between the leaders of their countries in a half-century. The U.S. has long since stopped actively accusing Cuba of supporting terrorism. When Obama and Castro announced a thaw in relations in December, the U.S. president expressed his willingness to remove Cuba from that list. However, he held off on making a final decision amid indications that the White House was reluctant to grant Cuba's request until other thorny issues - such as restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Havana - were resolved. Removing Cuba from the terror list could pave the way for the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana and other steps. Cuba was designated a state sponsor of terror in 1982 because of what the White House said was its efforts "to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism." White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that taking Cuba off the terror list does not change the fact that the U.S. has differences with the island nation's Continue Reading