Miami Herald

September 27, 1980

Venezuelans Absolve Bosch in Bombing of Plane


Dr. Orlando Bosch, the self-proclaimed "mastermind" who directed anti-Castro terrorism in South Florida during the late 1960s and early 1970s. was absolved Friday by a Venezuelan military court of responsibility in the midair explosion of a Cuban passenger plane that killed 73 persons four years ago.

Three Venezuelans also were cleared with Bosch. They all had been charged with homicide, possession of war arms and false documents. All four had spent nearly four years in a Venezuelan jail.

The decision still must be ratified by a higher military court, an action expected next week, before Bosch is released from San Carlos prison in Caracas where he has been since his arrest in Oct. 8, 1976.

Friday's decision had been anticipated since last week when military prosecutor, Antonio Moros, said the evidence linking Bosch and his companions to the fatal blast was "without foundation."

THE MILITARY court did, however, recommend that the Barbados government continue its investigation of the Oct. 6, 1976, bombing that plunged the Cuban DC8 airliner into the ocean shortly after take-off from the Eastern Caribbean island, killing all aboard.

The court. in absolving Bosch of the bombing, agreed with Moros that there was insufficient evidence indicating that he and the other three defendants had placed the bomb in Cubana de Aviacion's flight 455 en route from Guyana to Havana.

The decision is expected to further exacerbate already strained relations between Cuba and the Venezuelan government of President Luis Herrera Campins.

Venezuelan Ambassador to Cuba, Cesar Rondon Lovera was recalled to Caracas in early April following the "invasion" of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana by some 10,000 would-be Cuban refugees. It was feared the same thing might happen at the Venezuelan Embassy where several Cubans had earlier taken asylum as they had done in the Peruvian Embassy.

BOSCH, a pediatrician and published poet, served tour years in a U.S. federal prison for acts of sabotage in the Miami area in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the leader of a shadowy anti-Castro terrorist group known as Cuban Power.

Local law enforcement officials have linked Bosch and his anti-Castro supporters in South Florida to a rash of dynamite bombings, including the blast that rocked offices of Mackey Airlines in 1977, shortly after the airline announced it planned to resume flights to Cuba.

He was convicted in 1968 and spent four years in prison for the bazooka attack on a Polish freighter in Miami harbor. Released on parole in 1972, Bosch skipped the country. For that, he still has four years to serve on the original sentence.

In 1974, he was arrested and jailed for two weeks by Venezuela authorities after admitting to two bombings of Cuban and Panamanian buildings in Caracas. He was mysteriously released and turned up in Curacao where he told a Cuban exile radio newsman from Miami:

"We will invade the Cuban embassies and will murder the Cuban diplomats and will hijack the Cuban planes until Castro releases some of the political prisoners and begins to deal with us."

Bosch acknowledged in one clandestine interview that he was the mastermind for much of the anti-Castro terrorism in the United States and once offered a reward of "up to $3 million" to finance Castro's assassination.

Bosch was jailed briefly in Costa Rica in 1976 when government officials said they believed he planned to disrupt the visit by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

ON FRIDAY, the Venezuelan military tribunal did convict Bosch and Hernando Ricardo of possessing false identification papers and sentenced them to 4.5 months in prison, but the four years already served was counted against the sentence. Bosch's other two co-defendants, Freddy Lugo and Luis Posada, a Cuban-born, naturalized Venezuelan, were cleared of all charges against them.

Bosch and Posada were arrested in Caracas while Ricardo and Lugo were taken into custody in Port of Spain, Trinidad, immediately after the fatal Cabana explosion.

Although the four were absolved of the bombing charges, the military court noted that the Cabana crash was "produced by a nitroglycerin bomb placed in the rear cargo compartment of the plane."

"Not having determined the origin of the bomb, the country where it was placed [in the plane] nor the person who could have been involved in this event ... the court declines jurisdiction in this country."

Ramon Aguiar, who headed the defense team for Bosch and the other three defendants, told reporters following the decision that "we are deeply satisfied and jubilant because even at the end of four years, justice has been done."

When Moros, the military prosecutor, asked last week that the charges be dropped; Bosch told reporters that the decision was "valiant, honest, honorable and in good faith."

He conceded that the "monstrous event" of Barbados had brought negative reaction to the anti-Castro Cuban cause but contended that people had forgotten "the state of war that exists between the Cubans who love liberty and the Cubans who are tyrannizing our island."

Asked what he would do If he were to be released, Bosch said he would "continue serving with great vehemence and force of will the cause of my people, the people of Cuba."