We're going to blow you up, Cuban liberationists warned
By Hilda Inclan
Future exile assassinations are feared here in the wake of the Good Friday murder of Cuban businessman Jose Elias de la Torriente, leader of the "Work plan of Liberation" that carried his name.
Numerous bomb threats were phoned into Caballero Funeral Home yesterday while 1,200 Cubans gathered to pay their respects to the man who first launched his liberation plan in 1970.
"You'd better be careful. We are going to blow all of you up," callers reportedly threatened.
"The first thief has fallen," read a sign scribbled in blue ink from a ballpoint pen in the funeral home's men's room. "Now there are only 12 more to go from the Torriente Plan."
Officials at the funeral home washed off the sign with soap and water.
Relatives and friends of Torriente's No. 2 man, newspaper columnist Guillermo Martinez-Marquez kept a cordon around him during the funeral, apparently fearing he might be the next target.
But the syndicated columnist would not say whether he had received any direct threats. Torriente had reported several threats to the FBI in recent years.
He contended always that his only enemies were the Communists.
His group issued a statement blaming Communist Castro agents for the slaying. But there were two other theories voiced in Miami as to who killed Torriente and why.
Other members of the plan denied having received direct threats. But there was talk of "death lists" and the need for the members to carry guns and keep in touch with each other.
One theory was that secret agents in the U.S. government might have ordered Torriente's death because he had chosen to go his own way and he knew too much about sources which originally backed his plan.
The other theory was that Torriente was killed as a result of a feud over the money he raised among exiles and Latin American countries for his liberation plan.
Supporting the speculation that Castro agents killed him was a Havana broadcast yesterday which identified Torriente as "the counter-revolutionary leader and self-proclaimed head of a group of enemies of our revolution that among other crimes, took credit for the criminal attack against the fishing town of Boca de Sama in Oriente Province."
The broadcast also recalled that two Cubans (pro-Castro) were killed and four others wounded in the attack in October, 1971.
The raid rated a full-length Castro speech at that time, vowing to take the offensive against exiles to protect Cuba from their raids. Two months later, Castro gunboats commandeered the Miami-based Leyla Express and the Johnny Express cargo ships and their crews to Cuba. Castro later said the seizures were in retaliation for Sama.
U.S. authorities seized Torriente's ship in Miami after the Sama raid. No further raids followed.
Exiles who had given Torriente a vote of confidence in February, 1971, gradually withdrew their support and later opposed his plan of his refusal to discuss it with them.
His plan called for full-fledged warfare against Castro with the support of Latin American countries.
"It was such a good plan that the Communists have taken it away from us," Martinez-Marquez said during the eulogy yesterday at Flagler Memorial Cemetery. "They are now trying to get the Latin American nations to exert pressure on Washington in favor of confirmation of their regime."
Torriente's plan called for the Latin nations to exercise similar pressure on Washington to aid his forces.
Lamenting bitterly the withdrawal of many exile leaders from Torriente's ranks, Martinez-Marquez, the man now expected to succeed the fallen leader, said:
"Once more the lack of trust, the envy, the treasons, the disloyalty of the Cubans, the things that brought us to exile, prevent our return to Cuba."
He said that the death of Torriente at his home on Good Friday and only a few days away from another anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Invasion "must be followed by a resurrection for Cuban freedom."
Before his death, Torriente denied several times having used the money donated for the liberation of Cuba in a housing development near Westchester.
Listed as partners in the TMV Land Development firm are Pepe Velez and Jose Antonio Mendigutia. Velez is one of the original eight of nine men who started the liberation plan with Torriente. Mendiguita is the brother of Cuban lawyer Fernando Mendigutia, another of the plan originators.
When the plan began, Torriente had retired from his job as vice president of Collins Radio. That is also when the housing project started.
"I stake my honor that Torriente was an honest man and he didn't take any money from the liberation fund," Fernando Mendigutia told a reporter.
Meanwhile, the National Cuban Liberation Front (FLNC) issued a statement from Caracas, Venezuela, in condemning the assassination.
"The assassination of a representative of one exile faction only attempts to arouse suspicion and confusion among exiles."