The New York Times
July 12, 1998

          A Bomber's Tale


                MIAMI -- A Cuban exile who has waged a campaign of bombings
                and assassination attempts aimed at toppling Fidel Castro says
          that his efforts were supported financially for more than a decade by the
          Cuban-American leaders of one of America's most influential lobbying

          The exile, Luis Posada Carriles, said he
          organized a wave of bombings in Cuba last
          year at hotels, restaurants and discothèques,
          killing an Italian tourist and alarming the Cuban
          Government. Posada was schooled in
          demolition and guerrilla warfare by the Central Intelligence Agency in the

          In a series of tape-recorded interviews at a walled Caribbean compound,
          Posada said the hotel bombings and other operations had been supported
          by leaders of the Cuban-American National Foundation. Its founder and
          head, Jorge Mas Canosa, who died last year, was embraced at the White
          House by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

          A powerful force in both Florida and national elections, and a prodigious
          campaign donor, Mas played a decisive role in persuading Clinton to
          change his mind and follow a course of sanctions and isolation against
          Castro's Cuba.

          Although the tax-exempt foundation has declared that it seeks to bring
          down Cuba's Communist Government solely through peaceful means,
          Posada said leaders of the foundation discreetly financed his operations.
          Mas personally supervised the flow of money and logistical support, he

          "Jorge controlled everything," Posada said. "Whenever I needed money,
          he said to give me $5,000, give me $10,000, give me $15,000, and they
          sent it to me."

          Over the years, Posada estimated, Mas sent him more than $200,000.
          "He never said, 'This is from the foundation,' " Posada recalled. Rather, he
          said with a chuckle, the money arrived with the message, "This is for the

          Foundation leaders did not respond to repeated telephone calls and
          letters requesting an interview to discuss their relationship with Posada.
          But in a brief statement faxed to The New York Times, the group denied
          a role in his operations, saying "any allegation, implication, or suggestion
          that members of the Cuban American National Foundation have financed
          any alleged 'acts of violence' against the Castro regime are totally and
          patently false."

          THE RECLUSE
          Talking on His Terms, After Years of Silence

               Posada, 70, has long refused to talk to journalists; his autobiography,
               published in 1994, provided only a sketchy account of his dealings
          with the foundation's leaders.

          But in two days of interviews, he talked openly for the first time about
          those relationships and how they figured in a fight to which he has devoted
          his life, a fight that has left him far from his declared goal of toppling the
          hemisphere's last Communist state.

          His motives for agreeing to the interviews are not easy to pin down.
          Posada, who has survived several attempts on his life, told a friend
          recently that he was afraid he would not live long enough to tell his story.

          For the first time, Posada also described his role in some of the great cold
          war events in which Cuban exiles were key players. He was trained for
          the Bay of Pigs at a camp in Guatemala, but did not participate in the
          landing on Cuban beaches after the Kennedy Administration withheld air
          support from the first wave of rebels, whose attack quickly foundered.

          It was Cuban exiles like Posada who were recruited by the C.I.A. for the
          subsequent attempts on Castro's life.

          Jailed for one of the most infamous anti-Cuban attacks, the 1976
          bombing of a civilian Cubana airliner, he eventually escaped from a
          Venezuelan prison to join the centerpiece of the Reagan White House's
          anti-Communist crusade in the Western Hemisphere: Lieut. Col. Oliver L.
          North's clandestine effort to supply arms to Nicaraguan contras.

          Posada denied any role in the Cubana bombing, which killed 73 people,
          many of them teen-age members of Cuba's national fencing team.

          He agreed through an intermediary to meet with The New York Times,
          provided his current residence and alias, and the location of the
          interviews, were not divulged.

          Some of what he said about his past can be verified through recently
          declassified Government documents, as well as interviews with former
          foundation members and American officials.

          But he made several claims that rest solely on his word, including an
          assertion that he has agents inside the Cuban military and that American
          law enforcement authorities maintained an attitude of benign neglect
          toward him for most of his career, allowing him to remain free and active.

          Posada said all payments from the exile leaders to him were made in cash,
          and he said he did not know whether the money came from personal,
          business or foundation accounts. He said that the money was used for his
          living expenses and for operations and that Mas told him he did not want
          to know the details of his activities.

          In the interviews he was generally expansive on broad questions of
          philosophy but evasive on specifics. He spoke in Spanish and English,
          with difficulty, his speech distorted by the severe damage done to the
          nerves of his tongue in a 1990 attempt on his life.

          Posada said he was angered by recent newspaper accounts of his
          activities and eager near the end of his life to put his version of events on
          record, perhaps reinvigorating a movement he sees as lacking energy and
          direction since Mas's death.

          The exiles' foundation, created in 1981, has sought to portray itself as the
          responsible voice of the Cuban exile community, dedicated to weakening
          the Castro regime through politics rather than force. Thanks to that
          approach and millions in campaign donations, the foundation became one
          of Washington's most effective lobbying organizations and a principal
          architect of American policy toward Cuba.

          Any evidence that the foundation or its leaders were dispensing money to
          Republicans and Democrats while underwriting bombings could weaken
          the group's claim to legitimacy. That kind of activity could also violate the
          Logan Act, which makes illegal any "conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or
          injure persons or damage property in a foreign country."

          Posada's remarks hinted that the foundation's public advocacy of purely
          nonviolent opposition to Castro was a carefully crafted fiction. Asked if
          he functioned as the military wing to the foundation's political wing, much
          as the Irish Republican Army does for Sinn Fein, he replied, "It looks like
          that," and laughed.

          THE MONEY
          Assertions and Denials on Sources of Support

             In the interviews and in his autobiography, "The Roads of the Warrior,"
             Posada said he had received financial support from Mas and Feliciano
          Foyo, treasurer of the group, as well as Alberto Hernández, who
          succeeded Mas as chairman.

          Dr. Hernández and Foyo did not respond to repeated requests for
          comment, and it was unclear whether they were aware of how Posada
          might have used any money they provided. In his autobiography, Posada
          said foundation leaders helped pay his medical and living expenses and
          paid for his transportation from Venezuela to Central America after his
          1985 jailbreak.

          At times, Posada said, cash was delivered from Miami by fellow exiles,
          including Gaspar Jiménez, who was jailed in Mexico in the 1976 killing of
          a Cuban diplomat there. Jiménez is now an employee of the medical clinic
          that Dr. Hernández operates in Miami, according to employees at the

          Jiménez did not respond to requests for comment.

          When the bombs began exploding last year at Cuban hotels, the
          Government there asserted that the attacks had been organized and paid
          for by exiles operating out of Miami, a claim it bolstered with the
          videotape of an operative confessing to carrying out some of the

          More recently, reports in The Miami Herald and the state-controlled
          Cuban press tied the operation to Posada. However, he told The New
          York Times that American authorities had made no effort to question him
          about the case. He attributed that lack of action in part to his longstanding
          relationship with American law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

          "As you can see," he said, "the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. don't bother me, and
          I am neutral with them. Whenever I can help them, I do."

          Posada gave conflicting accounts of his contacts with American
          authorities. Initially he spoke of enduring ties with United States
          intelligence agencies and of close friendship with at least two current
          F.B.I. officials, including, he said, an important official in the Washington

          "I know a very high-up person there," he said.

          Later he asked that those comments be omitted from any article and said
          it had been years since he had had these close dealings.

          An American Government official said the C.I.A. has not had a
          relationship with Posada "in decades," and the F.B.I. also denied his
          assertions. "The F.B.I. does not now have nor have we ever had a
          longstanding relationship with Posada," said John F. Lewis, Jr. who as
          assistant director in charge of the national security division supervises all
          counterintelligence and counterterrorism work for the agency.

          Declassified documents unearthed in Washington by the National Security
          Archives support Posada's suggestion that the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. had
          detailed knowledge of his operations against Cuba from the early 1960's
          to the mid-1970's.

          G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel to the 1978 House Select Committee on
          Assassinations, said he had reviewed many of the F.B.I.'s classified files
          about anti-Castro Cubans from 1978 and had noted many instances in
          which the bureau turned a blind eye to possible violations of the law. As
          he put it, "When I read some of those things, and I'm an old Federal
          prosecutor, I thought, 'Why isn't someone being indicted for this?' "

          On one point Posada was direct and unrepentant: he still intends to try to
          kill Castro, and he believes violence is the best method for ending
          Communism in Cuba.

          "It is the only way to create an uprising there," Posada said. "Castro will
          never change, never. There are several ways to make a revolution, and I
          have been working on some."

          Within militant Cuban exile circles, Posada is a legendary figure,
          celebrated for his tenacity and dedication to the anti-Castro cause. He has
          at various times also worked for Venezuelan, Salvadoran and Guatemalan
          intelligence or security agencies because, he explained, he wanted "to fight
          against the Communists, the people who helped Cuba."

          But the Cuban Government regards him as a terrorist and a "monstrous
          criminal" responsible for numerous acts of violence against official
          installations and personnel, on the island and off, and has called on the
          United States to curb his activities.

          Posada proudly admitted authorship of the hotel bomb attacks last year.
          He described them as acts of war intended to cripple a totalitarian regime
          by depriving it of foreign tourism and investment.

          "We didn't want to hurt anybody," he said. "We just wanted to make a
          big scandal so that the tourists don't come anymore. We don't want any
          more foreign investment."

          The bombs were also intended, Posada said, to sow doubts abroad
          about the stability of the regime, to make Cuba think he had operatives in
          the military and to encourage internal opposition. "People are not afraid
          anymore," he said. "They talk openly in the street. But they need
          something to start the fire, and that's my goal."

          THE BOMBINGS
          A Mastermind Reveals Some Key Secrets

               For several months the attacks did indeed discourage tourism. With a
               rueful chuckle, Posada described the Italian tourist's death as a
          freak accident, but he declared that he had a clear conscience, saying, "I
          sleep like a baby."

          "It is sad that someone is dead, but we can't stop," he added. "That Italian
          was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time."

          In Havana last September, authorities arrested a 25-year-old Salvadoran,
          Raúl Ernesto Cruz León, and accused him of carrying out a half-dozen of
          the hotel attacks. Posada said Cruz León, whom he described as a
          mercenary, had been working for him, but said "maybe a dozen" others
          reporting to him remained at large.

          The hotel bombings were organized from El Salvador and Guatemala,
          Posada said. Explosives were obtained through his contacts there, and
          subordinates in turn recruited couriers like Cruz León to take the
          explosives into Cuba and detonate them in carefully selected targets.

          "Everything is compartmentalized," Posada said. "I know everybody, but
          they don't know me."

          "This was an inside operation in Cuba," he added, explaining that he was
          now trying to think of another way to disrupt the Cuban economy and
          demonstrate to the Cuban people that Castro's security apparatus is not
          all-powerful and all-knowing. "Very soon there will be exciting news," he

          Posada said he had several ongoing operations, including one that resulted
          in Cuba's capture of three of his colleagues in early June. "Castro is
          keeping this a secret," he said. "I don't understand why."

          In response to several questions about operational details that he clearly
          did not want to answer, he jokingly said, "I take the Fifth Amendment."

          While agreeing to allow the interviews to be taped, he declined to be
          photographed, saying he did not want to provide Cuban agents with any
          information that would help them hunt him down. "The reason that I last
          so long is that nobody knows how I am," he explained. "Not having
          pictures of my pretty face has kept me alive a long time."

          In Guatemala in 1990, he was attacked and gravely wounded in what he
          describes as an assassination attempt mounted by his enemies at Cuban
          intelligence. He was hit with a dozen bullets, one of which shattered his
          jaw and nearly severed his tongue, requiring several rounds of
          reconstructive surgery.

          He said that during his long recuperation in El Salvador, some of his
          expenses were paid by Dr. Hernández, the current chairman of the
          Cuban-American foundation, whom he described as "a great Cuban
          patriot and a dear friend." Just last year, he said, a Houston surgeon
          whom he also described as a friend flew to El Salvador and performed
          further surgery on him.

          Posada detailed instances of support from foundation leaders throughout
          his career. Mas, he said, helped organize his escape from a Venezuelan
          prison in 1985, and then helped settle him in El Salvador, where he joined
          the White House-directed operation that led to the Iran-contra scandal.

          "All the money that I received when I escaped from the jail," he said, "it
          was not that much, but it was through Jorge."

          Posada said Mas was also very much aware that he was behind the hotel
          bombing campaign last year. But the two men had a longstanding
          agreement, he said, never to discuss the details of any operation that
          Posada was involved in.

          "He never met operators, never," Posada said. "You ask for money from
          him, and he said, 'I don't want to know anything.' " Any discussion was
          "not specific, because he was intelligent enough to know who knows how
          to do the things and who doesn't know."

          Mas, he added, "was afraid of the telephone."

          "You don't talk like that on the telephone."

          Asked when he had last visited the United States, he answered with a
          laugh and a question of his own: "Officially or unofficially?" A State
          Department official said Posada was reported to have visited Miami in the
          summer of 1996.

          Posada acknowledged that he has at least four passports, all in different
          names. He regards himself as a Venezuelan citizen, but he has a
          Salvadoran passport bearing the name Ramón Medina Rodríguez, the
          nom de guerre he assumed during the Iran-contra affair, and a
          Guatemalan passport issued in the name of Juan José Rivas Lopez.

          He also reluctantly admitted to having an American passport. But he
          would not discuss how he had obtained it or disclose the name in it,
          saying only that he occasionally uses it to visit the United States
          "unofficially," and had once used it to gain refuge in the American
          Embassy when he was caught in the middle of a revolution in the West
          African country of Sierra Leone.

          "I have a lot of passports," he said with a laugh. "No problem."

          He added, "If I want to go to Miami, I have different ways to go. But I
          don't go. You can't control Customs people. They can do anything."

          "Then," he said, "Your friends can't help you."