International terrorist called Miami home in 1961
The international terrorist known as Carlos The Jackal reveals in a letter that he lived in Miami in 1961, two blocks from the Orange Bowl.
BY PHIL GUNSON
Special to The Herald
CARACAS - The Venezuelan-born international terrorist known as Carlos The Jackal has revealed for the first time that he lived in Miami in 1961, two blocks from the Orange Bowl, and was once picked up by the FBI.
In a letter written from his French prison, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, best-known for taking hostage a dozen OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in 1975, reflected on the recent death of his father, a communist who named his children after Soviet leaders. It was written in August and published this week by the government-run Caracas daily Vea.
Most of Ramírez's 20-year streak of terrorism, which made him as notorious as the Palestinian Abu Nidal, was carried out on behalf of Arab groups. He was captured in Sudan in 1994 and is now serving a life sentence for the murder of two French policemen in the mid-1970s.
''My first two conspiratorial experiences were with my father, in Bogotá in 1960 and in Miami in 1961,'' he wrote. He lived with his father in ``an apartment with a backyard in the Latinoquarter of Miami, just two blocks from the Orange Bowl stadium.''
His father, José Altagracia Ramírez, was then active in a struggle against Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt, who was elected after a pact between the country's two major political parties, and regularly received visits from Venezuelan exiles.
''I used to keep an eye out for the FBI,'' he adds, ''so that our guests could move around freely. But that did not stop me being picked up one time by FBI agents who were following Col. Pulido Barreto and Col. Abel Romero,'' two retired military officers then involved in a conspiracy against Betancourt.
MOVED TO FRANCE
The young Ramírez would later move to France, where he met up with radical Palestinian Marxists and joined in a string of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets throughout Europe and the Middle East.
The French media nicknamed him ''Carlos The Jackal'' following the police shooting, amid erroneous reports that a copy of the Frederick Forsyth thriller The Day of The Jackal had been found in his Paris apartment.
In his letter, Ramírez reiterates his backing for the ''Bolivarian revolution'' led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. His father, a founder of the Venezuelan Communist Party and close friend of current Vice President José Vicente Rangel, was also a strong Chávez supporter.
CAUSING A STIR
Rangel, who was twice the communist party's presidential candidate in the 1970s, caused a stir in 2001 when he declared that the young Ramírez could not be considered a terrorist because he had never been convicted of terrorism in Venezuela.
He corrected himself a month later after Ramírez expressed support for the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States and said that Osama bin Ladens campaign ``is mine too.''
Chávez himself raised eyebrows with a 1999 letter to Ramírez, published by a French magazine, in which he addressed the jailed terrorist as ''distinguished compatriot'' and expressed ''profound faith in the cause and in the mission.'' Chávez later said the letter ``did not imply political solidarity.''
A former Venezuelan consul in Paris, Nelson Castellano, however, claimed last year that embassy staff were pressured by the Caracas government to assist Ramírez. Castellano was fired.
Chávez is a former army officer linked in the past to leftist guerrilla organizations. He staged a failed military coup in 1992 but was elected president in 1998.
At the daily Vea, no one from the editorial staff was available to explain how it received the Ramírez letter. Its chief editor, Guillermo García Ponce, is a leading member of the Venezuelan Communist Party and a Chávez supporter.