Monday, October 4, 2010

The Seattle Times, September 12, 1997, "Bombings Have Mark of Exiled Cuban, Some Say" by Juan O. Tamayo.

FBI agents say they have found no evidence yet linking Miami Cubans to a Salvadoran man arrested for six explosions in Havana, but Bay of Pigs veterans said yesterday the bombings had the earmarks of a notorious exile bomber nicknamed "Bambi."

Relatives of the Salvadoran jailed in Cuba, Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, 26, said he told them he was going to Havana on vacation, and said his trips there were arranged by a Cuban-born travel agent living in San Salvador.

But the arrest of a Salvadoran citizen in Havana lent credence to reports that the bombs could be the work of a CIA and Bay of Pigs veteran, Luis Posada Carriles, nicknamed "Bambi," who was last reported to be living in El Salvador.

Security sources in Havana said Cruz had made a full videotaped confession and revealed he had been hired abroad, providing the numbers of the bank account from which he received the $4,500 he was allegedly paid for each bomb.

An Interior Ministry communique Wednesday said Cruz was arrested Sept. 4 for six bombings and charged that he was a mercenary paid by a Miami group "under the control" of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Cuba's communique said he had confessed to two bombings on July 12, as well as the four blasts Sept. 4, including one in which an Italian-Canadian businessman was killed.

The FBI office in Miami, which has been investigating possible U.S. links to the Cuban bombings since mid-June, said it would have no comment on its inquiry.

Posada, who told a Miami television station in an interview last year that a bombing campaign against tourist targets in Cuba would shrivel up Cuban President Fidel Castro's main source of hard currency, could not be reached for comment.

Friends said Posada moved to El Salvador last year or early this year after he was forced to leave neighboring Honduras amid allegations he set off 41 bombs there in 1995 as part of a military-backed campaign to scare President Carlos Roberto Reina into abandoning plans to trim back the military.

Those bombs were much like the ones in Cuba - small in power but brilliantly placed and often detonated in bunches of three and four.

Posada, who has been known since childhood as "Bambi" for his excitable ways and doe eyes, trained as a demolitions expert for the Bay of Pigs invasion and later went into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. He left in 1965 to join a CIA-backed paramilitary group.

CIA officials began withdrawing funding for the operation after the exiles shot up a Spanish freighter leaving Cuba, and Posada wound up in Venezuela working for the Venezuelan secret police while still reporting to the CIA.

In 1985 he headed to El Salvador to work in a White House-approved program to air-drop supplies to Nicaraguan guerrillas then fighting the leftist Sandinista government - what eventually became the Iran-contra scandal.

Copyright (c) 1997 The Seattle Times