Orlando Garcia Vazquez: Led inquiry into 1976 Cuban flight bombing
BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA El Nuevo Herald
The man who reportedly ''knew everything'' about the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner over Barbados took his knowledge to the grave.
Orlando García Vázquez, a Cuban-born World War II veteran and an important figure in Venezuelan intelligence for decades, died Sunday at Miami VA Medical Center. He was 78.
The cause of death was pulmonary fibrosis. Garcia's condition worsened on July 8, when he suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized.
''He was a personality who left a mark in the history of Cuba and Venezuela,'' said his wife, Lucy Querales-Garcia, who lives in Kendall. ``Many lies were said about him for political reasons, but the truth is that he was an extraordinary man who died poor.''
Garcia's name was mentioned repeatedly in the media after anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles entered the United States earlier this year and was arrested.
INSIDE CARRILES INFO
Garcia was a key player in the investigation of the mid-air explosion of a Cubana de Aviación airliner flying to Cuba on Oct. 6, 1976. Posada and several collaborators have been blamed for the bombing, which took 73 lives.
At the time, Garcia headed the Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP) in Venezuela. Because the flight originated in Venezuela, Garcia was asked by then-President Carlos Andrés Pérez to investigate the crime.
Two months ago, El Nuevo Herald delivered to Garcia a list of questions about his relationship to Posada and other topics, but Garcia never answered them.
''He knew everything [about the bombing] and was aware until his last moments about the reports on the press and newscasts,'' said Querales-Garcia, his wife since 1986.
''He murmured about what was true and what was false, but didn't have the energy to join a public debate,'' she said.
Born in Havana in 1927, Garcia was sent to the United States at the age of 12. Shortly after finishing high school, he enlisted into the Army and fought in World War II. He returned to Cuba in 1946.
In Cuba, he founded an organization of Cuban World War II veterans and linked up with action groups involved in the so-called ``gangster wars.''
After Fulgencio Batista toppled the administration of Carlos Prío Socarrás in March 1952, Garcia sought exile in Costa Rica. Later, he returned to the island, but left again after Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959.
He settled in Venezuela, where President Romuló Betancourt appointed him director of DIGEPOL, the precursor of DISIP.
Garcia went on to become the top figure in Venezuela's intelligence services, and national security advisor during the two administrations of President Carlos Andrés Pérez, 1974-79 and 1989-93.
''His relationship with Carlos Andres was that of a close friend,'' Garcia's wife recalled.
In 1991, Garcia was removed from his post as Perez's chief of security following accusations that Garcia had swindled the Venezuelan government. At issue was a contract for the supply of war materials issued by a Miami-based company Garcia owned.
At that time, Garcia settled permanently in Miami. He eventually became a U.S. citizen.
In addition to his wife, Garcia is survived by his children: Orlando, Rolando Manuel, Olga and Osvaldo Andres, all from previous marriages. He is also survived by 11 grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. today at St. Raymond's Catholic Church, 3475 SW 17th St. The Ferdinand Funeral Home, 2456 SW Eighth St., is handling the arrangements.