Miami Herald

May 31, 1988

Defector believes Cuban agents killed exile leader


Gen. Rafael del Pino Diaz, the highest-ranking military official to defect from Cuba, says he believes that Castro intelligence agents killed a Cuban exile leader in Miami in 1974 who was promising to lead an invasion of the island.

Del Pino, in an exclusive interview with El Nuevo Herald editorial page editor Carlos Alberto Montaner published today, said he had no firsthand knowledge of the sniper murder of Jose Elias de la Torriente in April 1974. But, as head of the Cuban Air Force, del Pino said, he said he sometimes "heard a secret from friends involved in these things."

Without naming the source of his information, del Pino said he believed Torriente's murder "was [done by] the Cuban intelligence agency" because news had reached Cuba that Torriente intended to lead an attack on a small military base in western Cuba.

FBI terrorism experts and a former federal prosecutor familiar with the Torriente murder case dismissed del Pino's allegation. At the time of the killing, FBI sources have since acknowledged, American and Cuban intelligence agencies worked hand-in-hand to prevent terrorist attacks in either country.

Investigators suspected at the time that rival anti-Castro groups ordered Torriente's killing. They sought to question anti-Castro militant Orlando Bosch about the killing, but he fled the United States when he was subpoenaed.

However, Raul Diaz, an investigator on the Torriente case who now works for Bosch's attorneys, said del Pino's theory about the involvement of Cuban agents in the killing was "possible. I believe there was a connection," he said.

Torriente rose to prominence in Miami in the late 1960s as the unifier of bickering exile factions and collected thousands of dollars in donations for his promised invasion of Cuba. The invasion never materialized, although Torriente's group once claimed responsibility for a strafing run against a small rural Cuban town that left two dead - and Cuban exiles accused the developer of siphoning money from the invasion fund to finance a development.

By the time of his death, Torriente was despised by a large segment of the exile community.

"We've always believed it was political. But like so many other things, nothing of substance ever developed," said Lloyd Hough, another former Metro-Dade homicide detective on the case. "It had all the earmarks of a professional homicide."

The killer was never found.