Cuban Terrorism in the United States in 1965

by Col. Esteban M. Beruvides
(U.S. Army, retired)

The following historical excerpts are events that occurred in the mid-sixties. These events take on greater meaning today as we are involved in a “war against terrorism”.

Thirty six years ago, U.S. press organizations reported terrorist activities with similar objectives as those perpetrated on September 11, 2001: the destruction of U.S. symbols such as the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and the Washington Monument.

These terrorist activities, reported in February 1965 by these news organizations (Diario las Americas (DLA), New York Times (NYT), and French Press Agency (AFP), connect the actions with the Communist government of Cuba. In the year 2001, as in years past, the United States continues to officially include Cuba in the list of terrorist governments and by which officially accuses Cuba of terrorism. It is for this reason, that in addition to the book where this is published, we have decided to also publish this information on the electronic magazines Guaracabuya and Guama, where this is available to millions of people around the world.

FEBRUARY 18, 1965

New York Terrorists connected to Fidel. The NYPD and the FBI upended a conspiracy destined to create a large-scale campaign of terror in the United States, which would have started with the destruction of 3 national monuments: The Statue of Liberty in New York, The Philadelphia Liberty Bell and the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital. The chief of the NYPD, Michael Murphy stated that the main conspirators were 3 black male extremists of the “Black Liberation Front” and 1 white French-Canadian woman, a supporter of Quebec’s independence from Canada. All four were detained yesterday here in the United States. Murphy characterized all 3 men as firm supporters of Fidel Castro and Chinese communism.

They are Robert Steele Collier, 28 years old and leader of the group, Walter Augustus Bowe, 32 years old, and Khaicel Sultan Sayyed, 22 years of age. The 26-year-old Canadian Michelle Duclos(*), resident of Montreal, is a part-time radio and television host. Murphy said that the conspirators did not care if their “symbolic action” to be carried out with explosives were going to cause the death of innocent people. The objective of the campaign was to instill terror in the country’s population. Officer Murphy added that the group was also planning the destruction of other installations in the United States.

Without offering more details Murphy revealed that the plan to explode the Statue, that resides on an island in the New York bay, was conceived shortly after an interview between Collier and the Cuban Minister of Industry Ernesto Guevara Serna in the headquarters of the United Nations. Guevara was visiting the United Nations at the time. After an investigation of the “Statue” and the purchase of a miniature replica, the conspirators decided to expand their scheme to the simultaneous destruction of the 3 most visited national monuments. A Police spy discovered the conspiracy. Raymond A. Wood, 31 years old, black cadet at the Police Academy, informed that he had knowledge of Collier, Bose and Sayyed for almost 1 year. Wood received instructions to befriend the three and to cultivate a close relationship with them. Shortly after his graduation at the academy, Wood was incorporated to the Special Studies Section of the Police department and was assigned to act as a spy within the Extremist group.

Wood was able to gain the confidence of the extremist group to the extent that he was assigned with very delicate tasks. Immediately of learning of the terror plan the NYPD alerted federal authorities and Royal Mounted Canadian Police. It was the Canadian Police that called this morning alerting that Ms. Duclos and three men were on their way to New York with a load of dynamite. The car was followed across the border and during the rest of the journey. The young woman fearing that they were going to be discovered decided to hide the dynamite in a remote area in the outskirts of New York. Later, from her hotel, she called Wood and instructed him to pickup the explosives. Wood called Collier to join him and both went to retrieve the explosives, where the police was waiting for them. At around the same time Federal agents arrested the other 3 conspirators in Downtown New York. The three men live in New York, Collier and Bowe are married and each have one child. Collier, born in Boston, studied Electrical engineering in his native city. Both men were members of the “Committee for the Fair Treatment for Cuba”, organization where Lee Harvey Oswald was a member.

At the time the charges were brought the District Attorney declared that Ms. Duclos had offered her 3 co-conspirators a hiding place until they could find a way to seek refuge in Cuba or some other communist country. This afternoon when officer Wood arrived at the police station, commissioner Murphy asked him for his silver badge and gave him the gold badge of detective. His promotion from officer to detective in less than 1 year of service is an extremely rare occurrence. Interesting facts of the case: Collier, who appears as the spokesman for the group, said that he wanted to make a statement that would dramatize and promote the cause of the black man in the United States and that he did not care how many innocent people died. Collier went on a trip paid by Fidel Castro to Cuba with a group of 84 students in August of 1964. When the group arrived a few weeks later back at New York’s airport the group’s spokesman Charles Berrard announced that the 14 blacks that participated were officially organizing themselves under the name “Black Liberation Front”.

There is surprise as to the connections of the French-separatists; the same people that were responsible 2 years ago for a wave of terrorist attacks in Montreal. George Schoeters, who had been a guest of Fidel Castro from 1959 to 1960 and had worked several months at the “INRA”, had a established a good relationship with the dictator. Miss Michelle Duclos who was arrested as a conspirator in the terrorist plan said that she was a member of one the French-Canadian separatist groups. Another of the detainees, Walter Augustus Bowe, judo instructor, was described by the police as a member of the “Committee for the Fair Treatment of Cuba” since 1960 and as a person who has had a very close relationship with Castro regime since the beginning of the revolution. After an investigation that was conducted at the time it was discovered that the “Committee for the Fair Treatment of Cuba” was financed by the Cuban Embassy at the United Nations. The Committee’s first president Robert Taber, an American journalist, fled to Cuba. Later Taber returned to the United States where he resigned from the organization. He subsequently disappeared. Vincent Theodore Lee, black man from Tampa Florida, is the last known leader of the group. It was same Vincent T. Lee who denied that Lee Harvey Oswald, president Kennedy’s assassin, was a member of the “Committee”, even after Oswald testified that he was the secretary of the New Orleans chapter and the he had distributed Committee pamphlets in favor of Castro. Sayyed, the other detained terrorist, of Arabic descent, was arrested last December when he was picketing in the United Nations for a communist movement called “Pan-African Students”. As a result of this case, police authorities have tightened security measures… (Edward V. McCarthy, Diario de las Americas, 2-18-65)

FEBRUARY 19, 1965

  * “Che” is linked to conspiracy against National monuments: Is “Che” Guevara the real mastermind behind the conspiracy? “Unlikely scenario; to see Fidel Castro’s famed lieutenant inspired by the fanatical detonation of explosives”. This was the title of the conservative newspaper “Journal American” and reflects one of the hypothesis surfacing after the detention by the FBI of the four members  of the “National monument Conspiracy”. According to the police, Robert Collier, the brain of the group, who planned to dynamite the Statue of Liberty, spoke to Cuban Minister of Industry “Che” Guevara during his recent visit in New York. This was not the first time that Collier had spoken to Guevara. Last year, Collier interviewed with Guevara in a trip that he had realized to Cuba against the wishes of the U.S. State Department. The plot could have designed during that first interview, claimed “Journal American”. Additionally, since the other 2 members of the conspiracy, Walter Rowe and Jalil Sayyed are, according to police, suspected of being Castro and Communist China sympathizers, the newspaper does not hesitate to declare the following: “It is feared in Washington that these violent groups, following the path of Mao-Tse-Tung, could spread terror in the streets of not only New York and Philadelphia but also Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and other cities that have a large black population”. This same hypothesis is also expressed in a less alarming manner by the liberal New York Post, that writes the following: “There exists a cynical struggle in the heart of America’s left to exploit the anger and the hopes Afro-Americans. (NYT, AFP, DLA, 2-19-65, p. 1 and 12)

Additional Notes:

On May 10, 2001, El Nuevo Herald (Miami, Florida) published an Associated Press report that cited Iranian news agencies citing Castro:

“The United States Government is weak and we see them up close. I can assure you that we are not afraid of that country”…. “The nations and countries of Cuba and Iran can put the United States on its knees”.

The joint political will of these two countries, considered to be “enemies” of the United States, and the strengthening of economic ties are the focus of Castro’s visit to Iran.

(*)  According to information to be published in the upcoming book Cuba: Anuario Historico 2001 Vol. 2, by Esteban Beruvides, Ms. Michelle Duclos, convicted former terrorist, who served 5 years in prison for transporting explosives in an effort to destroy U.S. national monuments, is currently serving as the Canadian Ambassador to Algiers.