Managua aids Puerto Rican terror schools
By Jerry Seper
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rican terrorists, intent on ending U.S. control of this Caribbean island, are being trained secretly at camps in Nicaragua and Cuba in preparation for a new wave of violence later this year, federal authorities say.
The expected targets include U.S. military personnel and equipment on Puerto Rico, as well as federal and local law enforcement authorities stationed here - particularly the nearly 100 FBI agents assigned out of the San Juan office.
Interviews with a variety of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials yielded the following picture of the terrorists, who have united under the banner of "Los Macheteros:"
They include Puerto Ricans and Dominican emigrants, many of them recruited by pro-Fidel Castro Cubans. They are undergoing extensive training in weaponry, explosives, infiltration tactics and psychological warfare at several training camps in Nicaragua and Cuba.
The camps, according to one federal intelligence specialist who asked not to be identified, are operated by Nicaraguans and Cubans, although federal authorities believe some of the training is being done by Libyans and Bulgarians.
Funding for the camps comes from bank robberies and other criminal ventures undertaken by the Macheteros and other terrorist organizations over the past several years - including a $7.2 million robbery in September 1983 of a Wells Fargo armored truck depot in Hartford, Conn.
About $4 million of that haul was diverted to Cuba to be used, in part, for the training of Puerto Rican terrorists on that island and in Nicaragua.
"The Cubans and the Nicaraguans want to embarrass the United States and, of course, foment revolution," said one federal official. "Right now, they need desperately to present themselves to the [Puerto Rican] public as a viable political force which has the means to rid itself of supposed American aggression by the use of violence."
"Extensive training actually began in Cuba in the 1960s," said one intelligence specialist. "It expanded into Nicargua in late 1970s and is ongoing today in both countries."
The leaders of the Macheteros are said to be Puerto Rican residents Filiberto Ojeda Rios, 52, Jorge Farinacci Garcia, 33, and Juan Enrique Segarra, 35.
Mr. Ojeda, who has been described by U.S. authorities as a Cuban-trained terrorist, has been identified as "a longtime link" between the Macheteros here and the Cuban government. Authorities said he is believed to be among the founders of several Puerto Rican terrorist organizations, including the infamous but now-defunct FALN that was responsible for dozens of bombings and several murders in cities throughout the Eastern United States.
Those three, along with 13 others, have been named as suspects in the Hartford robbery. The trial in that case is pending.
Mr. Farinacci, who is believed by law enforcement authorities to be the current boss of the Macheteros here, currently is free on $1 million bail in the Wells Fargo case.
He declined to be interviewed by the Washington Times but has denied to local news media he is a member of the Macheteros, although he has said he supports independence for Puerto Rico.
Federal authorities said that while Mr. Farinacci did not take part in the actual robbery, he was involved in helping Victor Gerena, a Well Fargo guard and Macheteros member, escape to Cuba with the cash.
Mr.Farinacci, a lawyer, represents the Teamsters Union Local 901 and was a member of the union's negotiating team at the Dupont Plaza Hotel on New Year's Eve, the day a fire broke out and killed 96 hotel visitors and workers. He has not been implicated in the fire, which was deliberately set, but investigators have confirmed they are looking into his actions at the hotel on the day of the blaze.
Three local union members, who have not been identified, are said by investigators to be prime suspects in the arson.
Federal authorities said Mr. Farinacci won control over the Macheteros beginning in late 1983, shortly after the Wells Fargo robbery. They said he and Mr. Ojeda disagreed violently over how the $7.2 million was to be distributed, with Mr. Ojeda calling for all of it to be turned over to Cuba.
Mr. Farinacci, they said, balked, demanding that at least $2.5 million of it be kept by local officials here. The Farinacci faction won and Mr. Ojeda reportedly was ousted as a member of the Macheteros central committee, the highest body in the organization.
"Because of the Hartford case, the leadership of the Macheteros is in disarray right now," said one federal official. "They were highly trained and very sophisticated, but many of them face prison time and their future is in doubt. But there are willing replacements, and within a few months they will know what they need to know to be effective terrorists and killers."
The Macheteros have set up a network of support services throughout Puerto Rico to finance and shield their members, including safehouses and retreat routes to other countries, principally Cuba and Nicaragua.
During one raid on a safehouse, a federal official said, "we found radios, scanners, and tons of weapons. At a number of safehouses, we also found lists of police and FBI officials and evidence that the Macheteros had penetrated every government agency in Puerto Rico."
The lists, according to one official, included home addresses and telephone numbers of local police and FBI agents. Also uncovered were copies of income tax returns for several FBI agents assigned to Puerto Rico.
At another safehouse, federal authorities found a police computer printout listing names, rank, and Social Security and badge numbers of all police personnel on the island.
On yet another list were the names of more than 15,000 individuals who were identified as "friend, enemy or approachable."
Federal officials said several smaller organizations have begun to operate under the Macheteros banner, largely because the name has become "very popular" on the island. The most active, the officials said, are the Organization of Volunteers for the Puerto Rican Revolution (OVRP), the Armed Forces of Popular Resistance (FARP) and the Revolutionary Commandos of the People (CRP).
The training that members of these groups and others are receiving in Nicaragua and Cuba, the officials said, is being directed by the Americas Department of the Cuban Communist Party in Havana.
"The Americas Department was set up to foment revolution in the Americas," said one federal official. "It was put together by Castro, and members reported directly to him. He has put out an edict to continue to harass Puerto Rico and to hurt the U.S. at any opportunity."
Once trained, the official said, they will try to accomplish several goals. These include acts of violence at non-Puerto Rican targets on the island and to further penetrate labor unions and infiltrate government agencies and the military.
"They will target symbols of U.S. power and commerce on the island, those things they perceive as tools of political and military oppression and economic exploitation," said one federal official. "And as their training and weaponry become more sophisticated, their potential for death and destruction becomes greater."
The Macheteros has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist incidents over the past several years: