The Miami Herald
Sat, Dec. 31, 2005

Shrimping boat captain recounts clandestine trip to Cuba in 1995


The captain of the Santrina is now in his 70s, but he has never given up the fight against Fidel Castro.

Jose Hilario ''Pepin'' Pujol, who insists he was trained by the CIA and conducted many raids, said he is an expert in infiltrating Cuba by sea. He gave the following account of a 1995 trip he steered to Cuba on another boat:

Pujol dropped off Santos Armando Martinez Rueda and a friend near Puerto Padre. The men dropped off supplies in Cuba, Pujol said, before he smuggled them back out.

''I delivered them and took them out, to infiltrate,'' Pujol said. ``But later they went in with false passports from Costa Rica.''

Asked what the purpose of Martinez Rueda's mission was, Pujol first said he never asked the details of people's missions. Then he said Martinez Rueda and the other man wanted "to kill Fidel.''

In March 1995, Cuban security agents dismantled a bomb at a Varadero Beach resort and captured Martinez Rueda and Jorge Enrique Ramirez.

Cuban state-run media reported Martinez Rueda and Ramirez had previously infiltrated through the province of Las Tunas carrying 51 pounds of C-4 explosive. Puerto Padre is in Las Tunas. The men were convicted in 1996 and remain in Cuban prisons.

According to evidence offered at a 1998 trial covered in Havana by The Miami Herald, the Varadero bomb was among 15 bombings carried out or attempted in Cuba from 1992 to 1998.

Interior Ministry Col. Adalberto Rabeiro testified at the time that parts of the campaign, which culminated in the death of an Italian at a Havana hotel, were carried out through Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles, thought to be living in El Salvador. Posada has claimed responsibility and then denied involvement in those bombings.