The Miami Herald
Tue, Aug. 31, 2004

Probe of assistance to exile is widened


Honduran President Roberto Maduro on Monday said investigators are looking into whether public functionaries allowed fugitive Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles to enter Honduras illegally after his release from a prison in Panama last week.

Simón Ferro, a Miami lawyer and former U.S. ambassador to Panama, meanwhile said the call he received from Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso telling him that she had pardoned Posada and three other anti-Castro exiles was a ``courtesy.''

Maduro told reporters in Honduras that if Posada is captured, he will be deported because, ``If this gentleman is here, he is here illegally, without permission, without approval and without the agreement of the government.''

He also said government officials were investigating several people in the case, including ''public functionaries'' who may have had some ''responsibility'' for Posada's slipping into Honduras.

Honduran officials have said Posada sneaked into Honduras with a false U.S. passport, one day after he was pardoned Wednesday, after landing in the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula aboard a chartered Learjet that arrived from Panama.

An Associated Press story said Honduran newspapers had reported that Posada was spotted Sunday eating in a San Pedro Sula hotel with Rafael Nodarse, a Cuban-American-Honduran businessman who owns the Honduran Channel 6 television station.

A secretary at the station said Nodarse was not available.

Nodarse has long been known as a Posada friend and anti-Castro activist. He has also helped several Cuban boat people who landed in Honduras earlier this year, friends said.

Posada, a long-time resident of neighboring El Salvador, and three Miami Cubans were arrested in Panama in 2000 on charges that they planed to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro. A Panamanian court dropped charges of conspiracy to murder and possession of explosives but in April convicted them of endangering public safety and sentenced them to up to eight years.

Posada has a long history of anti-Castro violence, including a string of terror bombings in Havana in 1997. Cuba has accused him of involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people.

Moscoso pardoned the four exiles on Wednesday, a week before she is to leave office, saying she did not want to allow her successor to deport them to Cuba, where they could face firing squads.

Panama's media were abuzz Sunday with reports of a tape recording of a message that Moscoso left on the cellphone of Ferro, a Cuban-American who served as U.S. ambassador to Panama 1999-2001.

The message said: ''Ambassador, good morning. This is the president to inform you that the four Cubans were already pardoned last night and they have left the country,'' the tape says, according to the Cuban government. ``Three are on their way to Miami and the other, well, in an unknown direction. Goodbye. A hug.''

Panamanian media portrayed the recording as evidence supporting Cuban charges that the U.S. government pressured Moscoso to pardon the four Cubans.

But Ferro told The Herald on Monday that Moscoco called him back after he called her Thursday morning to inquire about media reports that she had pardoned the four Cubans and Havana's threat to cut diplomatic relations if she did so.

'It was just a friendly, `We want you to know that we support what you're doing and your position,' and that was it,'' Ferro said, adding that he called as a member of Miami's Cuban exile community and not as a former U.S. ambassador.