[News] Posada Carriles: ‘The bin Laden of the Americas’

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 5 14:52:42 EDT 2011

Posada Carriles: ‘The bin Laden of the Americas’

Horace Campbell

2011-05-05, Issue <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/527>527

The news regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden 
by United States military forces hit the airwaves 
on Sunday, 1 May 2011, prompting jubilation among 
many people in the United States and other places 
around the world. This triumphalism of US 
citizens, who were directly or indirectly 
affected by the military activities of bin 
Laden’s al Qaeda group, emanated from the belief 
that bin Laden’s death served justice to the 
victims for the 11 September 2001 attack on the 
US. It is, however, important to note that as 
dreadful as bin Laden was, modern international 
terrorism did not begin with him. As quiet as it 
is kept, international terrorism did not begin on 
11 September 2001. Before Osama bin Laden, there 
was Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, also 
known as Posada Carriles or ‘Bambi’, according to a de-classified CIA file.

On 6 October 1976, plastic explosives stuffed in 
tubes of toothpaste brought down Cubana Flight 
455 leaving Barbados for Cuba. This singular 
attack on the Cubana Airline killed all 73 
passengers on board, including some of the best 
athletes in the Caribbean, and was especially 
felt among Cuban youths who lost 24 members of 
their Olympic fencing team. This fencing team had 
recently competed and obtained all gold medals in 
the Central American and Caribbean Championship. 
Investigations by the governments of Cuba, 
Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad, Venezuela and the 
United States ascertained that the mastermind of 
the explosion was Posada Carriles. The Caribbean 
demanded that Carriles and his accomplices be brought to swift justice.

Carriles was a key operative in many CIA 
campaigns against Fidel Castro and Cuba. 
Additionally, Posada was involved in a wider 
campaign of political repression involving 
kidnappings and assassinations all across South 
America. This campaign, called Operation Condor, 
had the special imprint of the dictators in 
Argentina and Chile. Orlando Letelier was a 
former minister of Chilean president, Salavador 
Allende’s government, who along with his 
secretary was assassinated by a car bomb 
explosion in Washington, D.C. on 21 September 
1976. This was an example of American supported 
terrorism spilling on to the streets of the 
capital of the United States. Posada Carriles was 
directly linked to Operation Condor and to the 
assassination of Orlando Leteiler. It was only 
weeks after this killing on the streets of 
Washington that terror struck the Caribbean in the attack on the Cubana flight.

Carriles was reported to have boasted about his 
involvement in the bombing of the Cubana 
aircraft. He was for a short time incarcerated in 
Venezuela, but later ‘escaped.’ After this ‘ 
escape’ on 18 August 1985, and hiding out for 15 
days, Posada was whisked away from Venezuela and 
transported to Aruba on a shrimp boat. From 
Aruba, he travelled on a private aircraft to 
Costa Rica and afterwards to El Salvador where he 
was at the frontline in the terror campaign 
against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

The trail of blood and destruction left by 
Carriles in the Caribbean, South and Central 
America over the past 50 years are a hallmark of 
the veritable history of the CIA in the Americas. 
During the military destabilisation and 
devastation that was called the ‘Contra Wars,’ 
Posada Carriles was a key asset for the 
right-wing US forces, and he has been associated 
with death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala. 
Posada, while working as security advisor to the 
government of Guatemala, carried a Guatemalan 
passport. This was a country where 40-50,000 
people disappeared during the war and 
approximately 200,000 were killed. In the 1990s, 
it was from this genocidal space where Posada and 
the Cuban National Foundation planned more terrorist attacks against Cuba.

In 1997, Carriles masterminded a series of 
bombings in Havana that killed a tourist. The 
Panamanian government in 2000 convicted Carriles 
in an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro who 
was visiting Panama for a summit. Posada Carriles 
served four years in prison before he was 
pardoned by the Panamanian president in her last 
week in office. Undoubtedly, the Panamanians 
succumbed to pressures from the US security forces.

A fugitive from Caribbean justice, in 2005, 
Carriles turned up in the United States, where he 
was arrested and charged with minor immigration 
offences. Instead of prosecuting Carriles for the 
bombing of Cubana Flight 455 and other terrorist 
acts, the United States only accused him of 
obstruction of justice and perjury. Specifically, 
the US accused Carriles of lying to an 
immigration officer about the manner in which he entered the United States.

In this post-9/11 world, where the United States 
has manufactured jurisdiction, pressured or cut 
deals with other countries to extradite those on 
its terror watch or most wanted lists, these 
negligible charges reinforce the double standards 
of the United States in relation to terrorism and 
terrorists. The governments of the Caribbean, 
especially Barbados, Cuba, Trinidad and 
Venezuela, which have pursued Carriles for over 
30 years, were outraged when Carriles was 
acquitted of even these minimal charges in a 
trial held in El Paso, Texas on 8 April 2011. The 
fact that he was tried on immigration and perjury 
charges instead of charges related to acts of 
terrorism was itself an indicator of the blowback 
that confronts the US as it seeks to present 
itself as a force against terrorism 
internationally. Today, in the aftermath of the 
killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Caribbean people 
are calling on President Obama to extradite Posada to Venezuela to stand trial.


Posada Carriles has been identified with acts of 
international terror for over 50 years. Born in 
Cuba in 1928, Carriles left Cuba after the 
overthrow of the Batista dictatorship and joined 
the forces fighting against Fidel Castro in Cuba. 
Because he was fighting communism – in this case, 
communism in Cuba – in the eyes of the US, Posada 
Carriles was not a terrorist, but a freedom 
fighter. But ‘fighting for freedom’ US-style was 
not confined to terrorist acts solely against 
Cuba. As noted above, these acts were carried out 
against the peoples of the Caribbean and 
Venezuela. Carriles was trained in the use of 
explosives by the CIA, and his use of a tube of 
toothpaste for the bomb came from training that 
he and his forces received from the CIA. Although 
Carrilles was an anti-communist zealot, it was 
his training by the CIA and CIA finances that made him a lethal force.

It was the same anti-communist zeal that was 
inspired within the Caribbean when the US 
mobilised in the war against the Soviet Union in 
Afghanistan. In this war, the tactics and 
strategies of Carriles and the Caribbean 
terrorists were mobilised to train anti-communist 
forces of all forms, especially persons such as 
Osama bin Laden. Sources from the West itself do 
not contest the fact that during the anti-Soviet 
jihad, bin Laden and his fighters received 
American and Saudi funding. Bin Laden himself had 
security training from the CIA. This training 
followed the lines that had been refined with the 
anti-communist Cubans. The strength of the 
recruitment of Osama bin Laden was that, unlike 
Posada, Osama provided some of his own money and 
helped raise millions from other wealthy 
anti-communist Arabs. Osama bin Laden then 
recruited hundreds of thousands for his jihad. 
Today, many countries in Africa are suffering the 
repercussions of this alliance between the CIA and Osama bin Laden

It was a strange twist of history that the 
release of Posada Carriles came on 8 April 2011 
approximately nine days before the 50th 
anniversary of the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion 
of Cuba. This aborted invasion continues to have 
a decisive effect on the politics of the US. The 
failure of this invasion is one of the alleged 
reasons that sections of the US intelligence and 
military establishment decided to assassinate 
President John F. Kennedy. This has been the 
allegation in numerous books on the assassination 
of President John Kennedy. The most recent book 
outlining in detail the culpability of the 
intelligence agencies was written by James 
Douglass, ‘JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died 
and Why It Matters’. Douglass presents a very 
compelling argument that Kennedy was killed by 
‘unspeakable’ forces within the US national 
security establishment and pointed to the links 
of these unspeakable forces to international 
terrorism. Scholars and researchers are still 
awaiting the declassification of the information 
on a CIA elite intelligence unit called Operation 
40 to shed more light on JFK’s assassination.

This episode of the killing of a US President and 
the efforts of the CIA to assassinate President 
Fidel Castro of Cuba have now been well 
considered as high points of US support for 
international terrorism. No less a body than the 
United States Senate Select Committee to Study 
Governmental Operations with Respect to 
Intelligence Activities, chaired by Senator Frank 
Church (D-Idaho) in 1975 discussed alleged plots 
to kill foreign leaders. Known as the Church 
Committee, this Senate body investigated alleged 
plots to kill: Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Fidel 
Castro (Cuba), Rafael Trujillo (Dominican 
Republic), Ngo Dinh Diem (Vietnam) and Rene 
Schneider (Chile). The report established that 
the US government was implicated in several of 
these assassination plots. The 
Committee’s report stated that, ‘short of war, 
assassination is incompatible with American 
principles, international order and morality. It 
should be rejected as a tool of foreign policy.’ 
Despite this admonition by a committee of the 
United States Senate, the CIA, working with its 
agent Carriles, stuffed explosives in tubes of 
toothpaste to kill young Caribbeans a year later.

Any terrorist organisation needs a pool of 
citizens willing to carry out acts of terrorism. 
After the debacle of the Bay of Pigs (17-19 April 
1961), the US intelligence and military circles 
found a pool of willing accomplices from among 
the ranks of those Cuban exiles who were bent on 
overturning the socialist experiment in Cuba. 
These exiles had repaired to Miami, Florida and 
acted as a conservative force in US politics for 
over half a century. They not only supported the 
most brutal dictators in Latin America but were 
hired by the US to destabilise the Democratic 
Republic of the Congo so that the African 
independence project could be derailed.

Posada Carriles hailed from this Cuban exile 
Community in Florida; he was associated with 
groups that carried names such as Alpha 66, the 
F4 Commandos, the Cuban American National 
Foundation, and Brothers to the Rescue. Among the 
more infamous of these American ‘ freedom 
fighters’ were Orlando Bosch (recently deceased) 
and Jorge Mas Canosa. Numerous reports from 
quality news outlets identified Posada Carriles 
as someone who had been in the service of the CIA 
since 1961. According to a lengthy New York Times 
article in 1998, titled 
Bombers Tale: Taking Aim at Castro; Key Cuba Foe 
Claims Exiles’ Backing,’ we are told:

‘Jailed for one of the most infamous anti-Cuban 
attacks, the 1976 bombing of a civilian Cubana 
airliner, [Carriles] eventually escaped from a 
Venezuelan prison to join the centerpiece of the 
Reagan White House’s anti-Communist crusade in 
the Western Hemisphere: Lieut. Col. Oliver L. 
North’s clandestine effort to supply arms to Nicaraguan contras.’

The experiences of US terror throughout Latin 
America during the Reagan years require that 
peace activists internationally have a different 
orientation on terrorism than the United States. 
The long-standing war in Colombia in the so 
called ‘war on drugs’ was part of a process of 
militarisation and destructive terrorism that 
wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and Central 
America. Posada Carriles along with Elliot 
Abrams, a foreign policy official within the 
administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and 
George W. Bush, who was convicted in 1991 for 
withholding information from Congress in the 
Iran-Contra affair; and John Negroponte and other 
luminaries of the conservative forces in the US 
played key roles in supplying and supervising the 
CIA-backed contra mercenaries who were based in 
Honduras. This Contra War claimed over 50,000 lives.

During the same period, Honduran military death 
squads, operating with Washington’s support, 
assassinated hundreds of opponents of the 
US-backed regime. Negroponte later surfaced as US 
Ambassador to Iraq and was a leading spokesperson 
in the ‘war on terror.’ Negroponte had held 
cabinet-level positions in both George W. Bush’s 
and Reagan’s administrations such as the first 
ever Director of National Intelligence and US 
Ambassador to the UN (Bush) and Deputy National Security Advisor (Reagan).

As the case of Carriles and many others 
demonstrate, long before the anti-communist 
jihad, long before Bin Laden, and long before 
declaring the infamous global war on terror, the 
US had trained and enlisted some of the world’s 
most notorious terrorists and called them ‘ 
freedom fighters.’ Most sections of the US media 
acknowledge that the FBI and the CIA were quite 
aware of the terrorist activities of Posada 
Carriles. Posada Carriles was a ‘ freedom 
fighter’ for the US in the Caribbean and Latin 
America, while Osama bin Laden was a ‘freedom 
fighter’ for the US in Asia and just as Jonas 
Savimbi was a ‘freedom fighter’ in Africa. This 
was the same period when those legitimately 
fighting for liberation in Africa were deemed to 
be terrorists. The same CIA and the US military 
labelled the African National Congress of South 
Africa a terrorist organisation and its leaders were considered terrorists.

Carriles’ escapades as an American ‘freedom 
fighter’ did not end with his escape from 
incarceration in Venezuela in the 1980’s or with 
his links to the 1997 Cuban bombings. Carriles 
was complicit in many terrorist activities 
directly or indirectly related with many of the 
over 600 plots to assassinate Castro. In 2000, 
Posada was arrested with 200 pounds of 
explosives, along with three associates. Five 
Cubans who worked to expose to the US authorities 
the terrorist activities of the Cuban American 
National Foundation and other exile groups in 
Miami were arrested by the US in 1998. The Cuban 
Five, also known as the Miami Five (Gerardo 
Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, 
Fernando González, and René González), are five 
Cubans convicted in Miami of espionage, 
conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal 
activities in the US. These Cubans, who exposed 
acts of terrorism planned from US soil, are still 
incarcerated while Posada Carriles walks free.


While the FBI and the US security forces were 
working to convict the Cuban Five, right before 
their very noses, the conspirators planning 
September 11 were being trained at a flight 
training school in Florida to use airplanes as 
weapons against US targets. Subsequent to the 
attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on 
11 September 2001, security efforts to ‘ make the 
world safe from terrorism’ became a major 
preoccupation for the US government, influencing 
global politics, banking and commerce, diplomacy 
and the movement of ideas and peoples across the 
globe. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks 
there was an outpouring of solidarity from all 
parts of the globe for the citizens of the United 
States. The US government sought to benefit from 
this solidarity and ascribed unto itself the task 
of leading the international effort to combat 
terrorism (supposedly on behalf of the rest of 
the world). For a short moment, the media 
represented Afghanistan as the base for 
international terrorists, and in particular Osama 
Bin Laden. The US government launched a war 
against the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 
October 2001, and Central Asia became one of the 
primary fronts in the war against terrorism.

President George W. Bush argued after the 
September 11 attacks that, ‘aiding and harboring 
terrorists’ was on the same level as committing 
terrorist acts. The fact that 30 years after the 
attacks on the Cubana Airlines the US continued 
to harbour the known perpetrators of the crime, 
brought to the fore the reality that the US 
government had been committing terrorist acts 
long before September 11 and its so-called war on 
terror. It was much clearer after 11 September 
2001 that the rule of harbouring terrorists only 
applied to those who the US deemed to be terrorists.


The full details of the comings and goings of 
Carriles in the service of the CIA is in the 
public domain. When Posada Carriles entered the 
US in 2005, the vigilance of the Caribbean 
investigators ensured that his quiet return was 
publicised. There was a massive demonstration in 
Cuba exposing the double standards of the Bush 
administration that was fighting terrorism but 
protecting terrorists. Posada Carriles was 
arrested and charged with eleven counts of 
perjury and obstruction only after the publicity 
from the Caribbean and the calls from Venezuela 
for him to be extradited back to Venezuela to stand trial.

This is how the New York Times in 2006 carried 
story of his detention in the United States:

‘Cubana Airlines Flight 455 crashed off the coast 
of Barbados on Oct. 6, 1976, killing all 73 
people aboard. Plastic explosives stuffed into a 
toothpaste tube ignited the plane, according to 
recently declassified police records. Implicated 
in the attack, but never convicted, was Luis 
Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile who has long 
sought to topple the government of Fidel Castro. 
Today, Mr. Posada, 78, is in a detention center 
in El Paso, held on an immigration violation 
while the government tries to figure out what to 
do with him. His case presents a quandary for the 
Bush administration, at least in part because Mr. 
Posada is a former CIA operative and United 
States Army officer who directed his wrath at a 
government that Washington has long opposed. 
Despite insistent calls from Cuba and Venezuela 
for his extradition, the administration has 
refused to send him to either country for trial.’

The strength of the terrorist alliances with the 
US ensured that Carriles understood that he was 
above the law. As his attorney, Felipe D. J. 
Millan, tellingly asked in the above New York 
Times article, ‘How can you call someone a 
terrorist who allegedly committed acts on your 
behalf?’ Mr. Millan went further to defend 
Carriles’ actions that though Carriles was 
considered a terrorist in Latin America and the 
Caribbean he indeed was a freedom fighter for the 
US. Mr. Millan maintained that by denying or 
ignoring the fact that Carriles acts were 
committed in his fight for America, ‘would be the 
equivalent of calling Patrick Henry or Paul 
Revere or Benjamin Franklin a terrorist.’

When Carriles was acquitted on all charges in the 
El Paso court on 8 April, the Caribbean community 
was collectively outraged. In Barbados, where the 
initial terrorist act was committed, the 
editorial of the main newspaper, The Nation, was: 
Recall Over Acquittal of Cuban Exile.’

The Venezuelan government protested the acquittal 
and demanded that the United States comply with 
international treaties and extradite Posada 
Carriles to face trial before a Venezuelan court. 
The Venezuelan government further mentioned that, 
‘the legal proceedings in El Paso represented 
little more than a continuation of Washington’s 
protection of the CIA terrorist, which, the 
Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry said, has 
become an emblematic case of US double standards 
in the international fight against terrorism.’ 
The Cuban government described the verdict as an 
‘outrage’ and an ‘ insult,’ charging that 
Washington continues to harbor and protects ‘the 
Osama bin Laden of Latin America.’


Students in Africa who do not know the history of 
United States terrorism will need to study the 
country’s intricate plot to assassinate 
presidents and freedom fighters at home and 
abroad, in addition to understanding the 
relationship of some US law enforcement agencies 
to international terrorism. The US justifies its 
creation of the United States Africa Command 
(AFRICOM) on the grounds that it is assisting the 
fight against terrorism in Africa. People that 
really care about Africa must question the 
credibility of AFRICOM against the background of 
the US tradition of training terrorists to fight 
for American interests while labelling freedom 
fighters as terrorists. How credible is the US 
war on terror when the country harbours such a 
brutal terrorist as Posada Carriles while keeping 
in custody the Cuban Five? Brutal terrorism of 
the Posada genre is reinforced by the economic 
terror against Cuba as manifest in the illegal 
economic blockade against Cuba. The conservative 
forces of the Cuban National Foundation in 
Florida are now connected to counter 
revolutionary forces against the rights of ordinary citizens in the US.

Students in the US who study International 
Relations are seduced by the discourse on 
fighting against terror, but these students are 
presented with abstractions that leave out the 
history of US-sponsored terrorism, especially in 
the past 50 years. Illegitimate US aggression 
throughout the globe by the CIA and sections of 
the US armed forces is a familiar political 
phenomenon and is well documented for those who 
care for the truth. The Federation of American 
Scientists has chronicled the numerous 
interventions by the US since 1945 and among the 
activities listed have been armed aggression, 
destabilizing governments, suppressing movements 
for social change, assassinating political 
leaders, perverting the course of elections, 
manipulating labour unions, manufacturing ‘news’ 
teaching torture, creating death squads, engaging 
in biological warfare and drug trafficking, 
training mercenaries, and working with Nazis and 
their collaborators. Scholars and activists who 
write on low intensity wars have been 
highlighting the ways in which the government of 
the United States was the principal supporter of 
terrorism. Noam Chomsky has been forthright in 
documenting the ways the US has acted as the 
leading terrorist state in the world, showing how 
these relationships have operated in Latin America for decades.

The US Africa Command created a disinformation 
platform, Operation Objective Voice, to confuse 
Africans. One of the requirements of 
psychological warfare and information warfare is 
for some truth to serve as the basis of the 
information that is being peddled. The experience 
of Posada Carriles is one of the examples that 
expose the false narrative that the US is 
genuinely involved in a war against terror. There 
is so much public information on the details of 
the Cubana Airlines flight 455 that any objective 
voice within the US military today would seek to 
distance themselves from the forces within the 
state that supported dastardly acts of terror and 
international crimes. In reality, however, the 
criminal actions associated with killing 73 
Caribbean youths are compounded by the economic 
terrorism unleashed by the US banking system and 
the forces that spread the doctrine of 
neo-liberal capitalism. Billions of dollars are 
scooped up from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin 
America by the US financial oligarchy and these 
are the forces that benefit from all forms of 
terror. Direct crimes such as those of Carriles 
and the economic crimes of the International 
Monetary Fund are two sides of the terror of 
international capitalism. These forces 
collaborated yesterday to assassinate John F. 
Kennedy and are at work today to ensure that in 
spite of the economic crisis, billions are spent 
on weapons and the spread of wars in Afghanistan, 
Libya and other parts of the world. Is it 
possible that Carriles was not incarcerated 
because he has information that would be even 
more explosive than the facts revealed in the 
books on Operation Condor, ‘The Condor Years: How 
Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to 
Three Continents’ and ‘JFK and the Unspeakable: 
Why He Died and Why It Matters?’ According to an 
organisation called the 
Committee to Free the Cuban Five:

‘A footnote in a document filed by Posada’s lead 
defense attorney on January 28, 2010, is quite 
revealing about the kind of classified 
information that Posada Carriles threatens to 
expose in the course of the trial. His attorney, 
Arturo Hernández, argues in that motion, ‘ The 
Defendant’s CIA relationship, stemming from his 
work against the Castro regime through his 
anti-communist activities in Venezuela and 
Central America, are relevant and admissible to 
his defense.’ The motion furthermore alleges that 
the US government had been complicit in 
bomb-setting in Cuba and asked the court to 
compel the government to declassify all 
information that shows the ‘ involvement, 
knowledge, acquiescence and complicity [of the 
U.S. Government] in sabotage or bombings in 
Cuba.’ Also, the motion requests disclosure of ‘ 
[t]raining, instructions, memos or other 
documents reflecting orders to the Defendant to 
maintain secrecy and not disclose his 
relationship or information regarding his 
activities on behalf of the U.S. Government or any of its Agencies.’

Now that many Americans feel that justice have 
been served with the death of bin Laden, the 
question is: do the citizens of the Caribbean and 
their relatives and acquaintances, who were 
victims of Posada Carriles’ terrorism, deserve justice?

The acquittal of Carriles reminds us of the 
dangerous intersection between militarism, 
terrorism and those forces that profit from war 
and mind control. Could the global war on terror 
be an exercise in mind control just as the trial 
and acquittal of Carriles exposed the 
contradiction of decades of unleashing terror? 
The fact that the Obama administration could not 
reverse the intersection of history and the 
contemporary heritage of the operations of the US 
terror machine ensure that it is up to the peace 
movement to intensify the efforts to dismantle 
the financial-military-information complex that 
remains above international law.


* Horace Campbell is professor of African 
American studies and political science at 
University. He is the author of 
Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary 
Moment in the USA’. See <http://www.horacecampbell.net>www.horacecampbell.net.
* Please send comments to 
<mailto:editor at pambazuka.org>editor at pambazuka.org 
or comment online at <http://www.pambazuka.org/>Pambazuka News.

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