Against Terrorism! in Bruxelles
Against Terrorism! in México
Against Terrorism! in El Paso, Texas
May 7, 2007
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The anti-Castro Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles is set to stand trial in El Paso, Texas later this week. Posada is linked to a series of deadly attacks, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. But in a move decried around the world, Posada will not be standing trial for terrorism. Instead, immigration charges – accused of lying to U.S. authorities when he came into the country two years ago. The Bush administration has refused to extradite Posada to Cuba or Venezuela, saying he would face torture.
There are several new developments in Posada's case. Authorities have filed documents showing the FBI believes Posada plotted a series of deadly bombings in Cuba in the 1990s. Meanwhile both Posada and the U.S. government are trying to disqualify potentially damaging evidence from his trial. Defense attorneys have filed a motion to omit Posada's statements from a 2006 interview with immigration officials. For their part, government prosecutors have filed a motion to effectively bar Posada from discussing his ties with the CIA.
Former President George H.W. Bush headed the CIA at the time of the October 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. These developments come as the public-interest documentation center the National Security Archive has released new information further linking Posada to that attack. For more we go to Washington, D.C. where I'm joined by Peter Kornbluh. He is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive where he directs the Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects.
* Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, a public-interest documentation center in Washington. Peter directs the Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects.
AMY GOODMAN: The anti-Castro Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles is set to stand trial in El Paso Friday. Posada is linked to a series of deadly attacks, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all seventy-three people on board. But in a move decried around the world, Posada will not be standing trial for terrorism -- instead, for an immigration infraction, accused of lying to US authorities when he came into the country two years ago. The Bush administration has refused to extradite Posada to Cuba or Venezuela, saying he would face torture.
Well, there are several new developments in Posada’s case. Authorities have filed documents showing the FBI believes Posada plotted a series of deadly bombings in Cuba in the 1990s. Meanwhile, both Posada and the US government are trying to disqualify potentially damaging evidence from his trial. Defense attorneys have filed a motion to omit Posada's statements from a 2006 interview with immigration officials. For their part, government prosecutors have filed a motion to effectively bar Posada from discussing his ties with the CIA. Former President George H.W. Bush headed the CIA at the time of the October 1976 bombing of the Cubana Airliner that killed seventy-three people.
These developments come as the public interest documentation center, the National Security Archive, has released new information further linking Posada to that attack. For more, we go now to Washington, D.C., where I’m joined by Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, where he directs the Cuba and Chile Documentation Projects. Good to have you with us, Peter.
PETER KORNBLUH: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter, start with this new document that you have just posted on your website, a handwritten document believed to be Posada's.
PETER KORNBLUH: Well, this is a document that was written by an employee of Luis Posada’s, a man named Hernan Ricardo Lozano. Ricardo was actually convicted of actually placing a bomb on this plane, but he clearly did so at the behest of Luis Posada and another anti-Castro terrorist, Orlando Bosch. We have declassified FBI and CIA documents based on confidential sources in Venezuela that said that Posada engineered the bombing of the Cubana flight on October 6, 1976.
But now we have what can be called a scouting report on targets for terrorism that Posada's employee Hernan Ricardo wrote by hand and that was found by Venezuelan investigators, according to my sources in Posada's office, after the plane went down. This is a report that basically details all of the potential sites for terrorism in Trinidad, in Panama City, in Bogota, Colombia, and elsewhere, that had links to Cuba. It was a report that appears to have been written in the late spring or very early summer of 1976. For example, it starts with a paragraph on Barbados, and it says, and I’m quoting, “On the island of Barbados, there exists only one place with a link to Cuba, and that place is in downtown Bridgetown and is the office of the airline BWIA, British West Indian Airways.” And then, on July 14, 1976, this office of BWIA was struck by two bombs.
This scouting report also details the plane schedule of Cubana airline flights in and out of Barbados, even identifying the plane that would fly in on Wednesdays from Trinidad and then fly out to Jamaica and onto Cuba, originating, that flight, in Venezuela. That was the flight on October 6, 1976, that was brought down by a bomb on the plane.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, why is information just coming out now -- I mean, especially from Venezuela, which has wanted Posada extradited for years?
PETER KORNBLUH: Well, you know, legal documents in various investigations sometimes are under court seal. They're very difficult to get. These are documents that I have been trying to get for well over a year now. There exists a rich body of international evidence on the bombing of Cubana Flight 455. This is evidence that was gathered in Trinidad, when Hernan Ricardo and his accomplice Freddy Lugo were arrested after the plane was blown up, evidence generated by Cuban investigators, evidence that was presented to a commission in Barbados, and declassified US intelligence documents, which were generated by the bombing, as well.
And all of this evidence is not only immediately relevant to a discussion of Posada's guilt and the issue of bringing him to justice for the bombing of this plane, but it's also relevant to investigators looking at the whole issue of how major jets can be brought down by liquid explosives. In this case, we had Posada engineering a bomb, apparently, that was a C4 explosive stuffed into a Colgate toothpaste tube. And so, this could not be more relevant to the issue of detecting and deterring the use of liquids and gels today on planes that pose a threat to innocent civilians traveling abroad.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about the role of the CIA and whether or not this is going to come out in any way in, not this terrorism trial, but in this trial for an immigration infraction?
PETER KORNBLUH: There's still immediate evidence that the CIA was involved in the bombing of the Cubana flight. But Posada had been a CIA operative in the ’60s and into the ’70s. And the US attorneys who are trying to prosecute him now on immigration fraud charges basically may have two motivations. The most benign motivation for them trying to suppress evidence of his involvement with the CIA and his ability to bring this up at trial is that they don't want him to muddy the waters, saying that he was trained to come into the country illegally, you know, in and out of the United States illegally, using false passports by the CIA, and he was just continuing on with that type of training. They want to have a pure effort to, I think, convict him and hold him for as long as possible on these charges.
The more sinister interpretation could be that they believe that there's still very significant secrets about his role with the CIA. He certainly told the people that worked for him in 1976 that he was still a CIA operative. They believed he was. And the CIA wants to protect the secrets of the past, the sinister secrets of multiple attempts on Castro's life, on efforts to undermine and overthrow the Cuban government -- dark and murky and violent, dangerous, and a shadowy history that Posada was obviously in the center of.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Kornbluh, we have to break, but when we come back, I also want to ask you about the FBI going to Cuba to investigate, gather evidence around the issue of terrorism and Posada's connection to it, and also ask about the US congress members, the politicians who are trying to stop this. We're talking to Peter Kornbluh, directs the Cuban and Chile Documentation Projects at the National Security Archive. And after we finish with Peter, we will be joined by a father and daughter. Max Lesnick was close to Fidel Castro, then split with him, came to the United States. Now, his daughter Vivian Lesnick has done a film about him called The Man of Two Havanas. Luis Posada is also a central player in Max Lesnick’s life and mission right now in the United States. We'll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at the National Security Archive. Can you talk about the FBI going to Cuba and US congress members’ response to this?
PETER KORNBLUH: The FBI recently went to Cuba to gather evidence about Posada's role in a series of bombings of hotels, tourist hotels, in 1997. One Italian businessman was killed, eleven people were injured, as bomb after bomb went off in the lobbies of major hotels and other tourist sites like discotheques at that point. Posada is actually under investigation for this now, and a grand jury in New Jersey is weighing evidence of his orchestration of these crimes, as well as his financiers in the New Jersey area actually providing him money to undertake these acts of terrorism.
And the FBI’s visit to Cuba is extremely important. It would be the third time since 1998 that the FBI has been to Cuba to hold discussions with the Cuban authorities about terrorism and evidence of exile terrorism going on in the United States, Cuban Americans being involved in planning terrorism against Cuba from the territory of the United States itself. The first time that they went, the FBI went in 1998, the Cubans gave them papers and evidence of plots that were being planned, but instead of rounding up those people planning these acts of terrorism, the FBI rounded up a team of Cuban spies who were operating in Florida and spying mostly on Cuban exile groups, such as the groups that have been tied to Posada in the past. And those men were rounded up. Five of them are in jail now, serving long sentences for conspiracy to commit espionage. I write about them in the current issue of The Nation magazine (*), in case anybody would like to follow up, but --
AMY GOODMAN: Peter, in that piece, "Terror and the Counterterrorists, (*)" you begin by talking about the Ibero-American summit that took place in Panama, November 17, 2000, which links to this and also links to Posada. Explain what happened.
PETER KORNBLUH: Yes, well, Luis Posada knew that Fidel Castro was going to be speaking in Panama City in November of 2000. He rounded up a team of co-conspirators, including Guillermo Novo, who was involved in an assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt in Washington in September of 1976. They went into Panama City, but their assassination mission had been intercepted by Cuban intelligence by very similar spies operating in the exile groups in the United States, and this intelligence on this operation, which included, by the way, thirty-three pounds of C4 explosives that Posada was apparently going to use to blow up the auditorium that Fidel Castro was going to be speaking in in November of 2000.
Fidel Castro arrived in Panama City. He used this intelligence to hold a press conference. He said, “I’m not the only one here. Luis Posada is here. And Cuban authorities provided videotape and intercepts and other intelligence to the Panamanian authorities, and they arrested Posada at a downtown hotel. They found a gym bag filled with C4 explosives. And eventually, he and his co-conspirators were prosecuted and convicted of a lesser crime of endangering public safety.
But this goes to show you, you know, that gathering intelligence does save lives, does stop terrorist attacks. Just like the CIA is now attempting to penetrate al-Qaeda cells, the Cuban intelligence has for years been attempting to penetrate and gain intelligence on exile groups with proven track records of violent acts against Cuba and other civilians.
But now we have a situation where the FBI is obviously working again with the Cuban authorities to gather information on the hotel bombings, and if Luis Posada is actually indicted in New Jersey, and other co-conspirators from the New Jersey area, of funding and conducting these attacks against the hotels, I do believe that this will be a very, very important statement by the Justice Department to bring terrorists to justice, frankly, and could be a turning point in the history of US-Cuban relations.
AMY GOODMAN: And the congress members who are objecting to the FBI going to Cuba to investigate these charges of terrorism?
PETER KORNBLUH: The Cuban American delegation in Congress, including Iliana Ross-Lehtinen from the Miami area and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, have now said that this is -- they have now condemned the FBI for going to Cuba to gather this evidence. This, frankly, is one of the most outrageous thing that a responsible congressman and congresswoman could say. They basically are trying to politicize an investigation into a series of active international terrorism. They are essentially trying to protect people like Luis Posada from the justice that they deserve. And it seems to me that they, frankly, should be condemned by other members of Congress who recognize that the United States has an interest in pursuing terrorists of whatever political bent and insuring that the United States of America is not used as a territorial base for acts of terrorism against Cuba or any other country.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet right now Luis Posada remains free, was released from jail, is in Miami. What do you predict will happen in this immigration trial, and do you think he will be charged with terrorism?
PETER KORNBLUH: Well, let me just say that I hope that he is charged by a grand jury, indicted by a grand jury on multiple acts of terrorism -- in 1997, orchestrating this series of hotel bombings, to which, by the way, he actually admitted to the New York Times he had done. And that is part of the evidence that’s being given to this grand jury.
First, I do believe that he will quickly be prosecuted this Friday and next week for immigration fraud. The evidence that he snuck into this country illegally, that he's trying to protect the people who actually brought him, is pretty overwhelming. So he did lie. This is obviously a minor infraction, and a judge may just say, “Well, you've been in jail for two years, and at age seventy-nine you don't deserve to be in jail anymore for lying on your immigration forms.”
But -- and if he is freed, obviously there's going to be another international outcry, and fingers will be pointed at the Bush administration for a double standard on the war on terror and even accusations of protecting one of the individuals who, frankly, is at the top -- he’s in the top ten list of international terrorists that are alive today.
AMY GOODMAN: Peter Kornbluh, I want to thank you very much for being with us, senior analyst at the National Security Archive, also was editor of a special issue of The Nation magazine that’s just come out called "Cuba: What's Next?"
The Nation: Terror and the Counterterrorists (*)
26 April 2007, New York, NY – Today The Nation Magazine released its first-ever special issue devoted to the future of Cuba. With Cuba and the media buzzing about the possible return of Fidel Castro next week to the public stage, what now?
The Nation and guest editor Peter Kornbluh writes in this issue:
"Perhaps more than any other nation over the past fifty years, Cuba has consistently faced both threatened and real assassination attempts, sabotage efforts, armed attacks and bombings, infamous among them the midair destruction of a Cubana passenger plane in 1976.
Yet even in the post-9/11 world, US soil continues to be used for such purposes.
In fact, the Five are better understood as counterterrorism agents whose goal was to protect Cubans and other innocent victims from the violence of committed terrorists like Luis Posada. The Bush Administration's handling of these two historically inseparable cases is a reminder that, when it comes to Cuba, US policy-makers refuse to recognize the difference between those who commit acts of terror and those seeking to counter them."
Terror and the Counterterrorists
On November 17, 2000, shortly after arriving in Panama City for a summit of Ibero-American leaders, Fidel Castro held a press conference to announce that the legendary Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada Carriles had also come to Panama--on an assassination mission. The Cuban authorities subsequently supplied a video of Posada and three co-conspirators meeting in front of their hotel. Within forty-eight hours Panamanian officials located a gym bag containing thirty-three pounds of C4 explosives that Posada apparently had planned to use to blow up the auditorium where Castro was scheduled to speak.
How did the Castro government know of Posada's plot? Cuban intelligence, known as the DGI, had a high-level mole in one of the exile groups reporting on the assassination operation as it evolved. The Cuban spy program potentially saved dozens of lives and averted an act of international terrorism.
Perhaps more than any other nation over the past fifty years, Cuba has consistently faced both threatened and real assassination attempts, sabotage efforts, armed attacks and bombings, infamous among them the midair destruction of a Cubana passenger plane in 1976. (CIA and FBI documents implicate Posada, who was once paid by the agency as a demolitions trainer, as the mastermind of that attack.) Long after the CIA abandoned its direct efforts to overthrow the Castro regime and terminate its leadership, militant anti-Castro groups continued their campaign of violence. After viewing a 1977 CBS special titled The CIA's Secret Army, on violent Cuban exile operations in Florida, President Jimmy Carter was, according to a recently declassified White House memorandum, "appalled at the idea that people could use US territory as a base for terrorist actions."
Yet even in the post-9/11 world, US soil continues to be used for such purposes. As recently as November 2005, Posada's leading financial benefactor in Miami, Santiago Alvarez, was caught with a military-grade arsenal of machine guns, grenades, silencers, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition--leading to speculation that violent exiles were planning another major operation against Cuba.
Just as the CIA escalated its efforts to penetrate Al Qaeda after 9/11, the DGI has devoted considerable resources to infiltrating hard-line anti-Castro organizations in Miami and monitoring the activities of Alvarez and other exile leaders with a track record of violence. In the mid-1990s Cuba sent more than a dozen operatives to Florida to establish a spy ring code-named the Red de Obispos--the Wasp Network. Most of the agents were assigned to penetrate groups such as the Cuban American National Foundation, Brothers to the Rescue and Alpha 66; one, Antonio Guerrero, was hired on as a sheet metal worker at the Boca Chica air base, where he took notes on the types of military aircraft landing and taking off and monitored the level of activity on the base.
In September 1998, the FBI moved in. Five agents--Guerrero, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández, René González and Ramon Labañino--now known as the Cuban Five--were detained, thrown into solitary confinement for seventeen months, prosecuted for conspiracy to commit espionage (as there was no evidence they had gathered any classified US information) and given maximum sentences ranging from fifteen years to double life in prison. When a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals threw out their convictions in August 2005, issuing a unanimous decision that the Five had not received a fair trial, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's office immediately appealed to the full Circuit Court to revisit the ruling.
Gonzales's concerted effort to keep the five Cuban spies in prison stands in sharp contrast to his inaction on keeping Posada behind bars. After being pardoned in Panama in August 2004, Posada snuck into the United States in March 2005 and requested political asylum; he was detained only after publicity on his terrorist background--much of it generated by declassified CIA and FBI documents posted on the website of my organization, the National Security Archive--threatened to undermine the Bush Administration's credibility in the "war on terror." But Gonzales has refused to certify Posada as a terrorist under the provisions of the Patriot Act--certification that would allow the government to detain him indefinitely. Instead, the Justice Department has treated Posada as just another illegal immigrant, charging him only with lying about how he arrived in the country.
With Posada indicted only on immigration fraud, his lawyers have, not surprisingly, convinced three different courts that he should be released. On April 19, he posted $350,000 in bail and returned to Miami. The man that the same Justice Department has described in court filings as "an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots" will now live comfortably under house arrest until his trial, scheduled for May 11.
In Cuba, freeing the Five and keeping Posada in prison have become cause célèbres. The first thing travelers see upon arrival at José Martí International Airport outside Havana is a huge placard featuring photographs of the "heroes of the Republic of Cuba" and demanding "Freedom for the Cuban Five"; similar signs line the corridors of major hotels. Huge public rallies have been held to call for justice for Posada's many victims and to denounce US hypocrisy for releasing him to his wife's Miami home. Fidel Castro emerged from his convalescence to accuse the Bush Administration of freeing "a monster." The Five are frequently referred to as presos políticos--political prisoners.
In fact, the Five are better understood as counterterrorism agents whose goal was to protect Cubans and other innocent victims from the violence of committed terrorists like Luis Posada. The Bush Administration's handling of these two historically inseparable cases is a reminder that, when it comes to Cuba, US policy-makers refuse to recognize the difference between those who commit acts of terror and those seeking to counter them.
"The Man of Two Havanas": Max Lesnik on His Transition From Cuban Revolutionary to Exile to Target of Terrorist Attacks by Anti-Castro Cuban Militants in Miami
May 7, 2007
Transcript of a broadcast of:
“The Man of Two Havanas” is a new documentary about Max Lesnik. Lesnik was a close friend of Fidel Castro's who was exiled to the U.S. following a public disagreement over Cuba's ties to the Soviet Union. But instead of joining Castro's right-wing Cuban-American opponents, Lesnik became an outspoken critic of the U.S. embargo and covert warfare to bring down the Cuban government. For his views he was the target of several attacks that nearly cost him his life. In a moment we'll hear from Max Lesnick and his daughter Vivien Lesnik Weisman, director of the “The Man of Two Havanas.” But first, a preview of the film.
* The Man of Two Havanas
A preview of the film “The Man of Two Havanas", which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival here in New York. The film is directed by Max Lesnik's daughter, Vivien Lesnik Weisman. Vivien and her father join me in the firehouse studio.
* Vivien Lesnik Weisman, director of "The Man of Two Havanas", which recently premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival in New York. She is the daughter of Max Lesnik.
* Max Lesnik, former Cuban revolutionary turned exile, Max later became the target of terrorist attacks by anti-Castro Cuban exiles. He's currently a journalist with Radio Miami.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to The Man of Two Havanas, a new documentary about Max Lesnik. Lesnik was a close friend of Fidel Castro’s, who was exiled to the United States following a public disagreement over Cuba’s ties to the Soviet Union. But instead of joining Castro's rightwing Cuban American opponents, Lesnik became an outspoken critic of the US embargo and covert warfare to bring down the Cuban government. For his views, he was the target of several attacks that nearly cost him his life.
In a moment we'll hear from Max Lesnik and his daughter Vivien Lesnik Weisman, who is director of the film The Man of Two Havanas, but first an excerpt of the film.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Did the Dolphins just win the Super Bowl? Some kind of Cuban American Mardi Gras? We are celebrating the imminent death of the non-plus, ultra-evil-doer of the twentieth century: Fidel. These are my people. However, since I don't see Castro as the root of all evil in the universe, well, I’m a little out of step with my tribe, and I could give a [beep], but there is a complicating factor: my dad. He gives a [beep]. He really does care, and he has from the very beginning.
Back in Havana, he was a revolutionary, and he fought alongside his buddy, Fidel. Then he fought Fidel, and it was “Miami, here we come.” But his animosity for Castro didn’t last. Now, he wanted dialogue. Really, he wanted peace. That's the when the [beep] hit the fan.
MAX LESNIK: A group of fascists tried to kill me in Little Havana, but anyway, this is the situation that any real newspaper man or journalist have to face when you want to openly explain your position.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Bombings, drive-by shootings, assassination attempts on his life -- but who would do this to us? We were Americans now. It must be the communists, right? Wrong, my father became the focal point of the anti-Castro terrorists. These were Cuban Americans, people just like you and me. Well, not exactly. They were trained by the CIA. What most people don't know is that terrorism in America did not begin on September 11. In the 1970s and the 1980s there was a reign of terror in Miami. There was as many as seven bombings in one day and hundreds per year. The culprits were not communists, they were Americans, Cuban Americans, and my dad was at the epicenter.
AMY GOODMAN: Vivien Lesnik, narrating the film about her father, The Man of Two Havanas. And now, we're going to go on and see another clip of that film that focuses on that issue of terrorism.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: On October 6, 1976, a Cubana Airlines plane took off from Venezuela, heading towards Cuba. The seventy-three passengers included the entire Cuban fencing team. In Havana, a hero's welcome awaited them. The young athletes were bringing home from the Central American Games a gold in every category. They only made it as far as Barbados.
CUBANA 455: We have an explosion, and we are descending immediately. We have fire on board. This is Cubana 455. We are requesting immediately, immediately landing.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Cubana 455, you are cleared to land.
CUBANA 455: That’s worse! Get down to the water, Felo, close to the water!
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: What should have been a welcoming parade for the victorious young athletes on board Cubana 455 was instead a state funeral. The entire country mourned. The incident transformed them into revolutionary martyrs. Castro accused the CIA.
FIDEL CASTRO: [translated] The CIA directly participated in the destruction of the Cubana plane in Barbados.
PETER KORNBLUH: The CIA believed that a terrorist group of Cuban exiles led by Orlando Bosch was planning to blow up a Cubana airliner. Not a single agency in the US government passed along this extraordinary intelligence as a warning to the Cuban government.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: The tragedy that came to be known as Barbados was an awakening for a new generation of Cubans that had not known hate, had not known fear. With Barbados, all that changed. A national wound had been inflicted.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: [translated] It was absurd. It was the Olympic fencing team. Imagine, almost children.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada and two Venezuelans were charged with that crime, which was the first act of airline terrorism in our hemisphere.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: The downing of the Barbados plane was buried on page eight of the New York Times and hardly got a mention in other newspapers. Most Cubans in Miami thought this act of terrorism was a well-deserved blow. Orlando Bosch was often quoted: “All of Cuba's planes are war planes and therefore legitimate targets.”
ORLANDO BOSCH: In this war against communists, a lot of innocents have been sacrificed, and we know some more has to be if we want to make the victory, the final victory.
AMY GOODMAN: Orlando Bosch in the film The Man of Two Havanas, but that film is about Max Lesnik. His daughter did the film, Vivien Lesnik Weisman, and they both join us here in New York, as the film has just debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! And before we get into Posada, in particular, and Max Lesnik, your concerns, as you are a Cuban American here in this country, Vivien, why did you do this film about your dad?
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Well, first I wanted to explore my relationship with my father. It's a personal film, as well as a political film. But my dad is -- he has one passion, and that's Cuba. So in order to understand my father better, I had to understand his passion. So therefore I went to Cuba. I got to know my country, the Cuban people, and was immersed in all the information about the terrorist groups that had targeted him throughout my childhood.
AMY GOODMAN: Had you understood this through your life?
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Well, I was aware when I was growing up that we were bombed and that there were drive-by shootings in our house, and I lived in a constant state of siege, like a war zone. And Orlando Bosch --
AMY GOODMAN: And you're talking about here in the United States, when you lived in Florida.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Yes, that’s in Miami. And we were targeted by these people, the anti-Castro terrorists. And the two names, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, I can't remember a time when I didn't know those names, because they were constantly being discussed. And one of the groups that targeted my father was under the umbrella terrorist group that Orlando Bosch headed.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, Max Lesnik, as Vivien -- in this film, The Man of Two Havanas, you, Little Havana in Miami and Havana, Cuba, as she tells the story, you were one of the revolutionaries with Fidel Castro. Describe your early years in Cuba before you split with Castro.
MAX LESNIK: I was a young leader of Ortodoxo Party.
AMY GOODMAN: Of the Orthodox Party?
MAX LESNIK: Orthodox Party, the same party that Fidel Castro belong at that time. I met Fidel in the University of Havana, year 1949, where I was only eighteen years old. Fidel was maybe twenty, twenty-one. Both together fought -- not the revolution, but in some way I started with the student movement fighting for reforms and going to all -- the way the student at that time in Cuba did, fighting the police.
Then happened something incredible. At that time, Cuba was a democracy, but with defects, corruption, but democracy like your organization Democracy Now! But that system was overthrown by Batista. He was a sergeant in the ’33 revolution, and then he took power by arms in 1952. Then happened to Cuba the worst thing that can happen in a democracy: the overthrow of the system by a military group of -- commanded by Batista, that was a senator at that time.
Then after that, the only way to change the situation is through the arms, because Batista don’t permit any play in democracy or something like free expression. Then Fidel went to hills in Oriente province, the most -- the oriental section of the island. I was related to the group that went to the center part of the island, the Escambray Mountains, and by that time we fought for two years as guerrillas, combatant. Then, the first of January, Batista left the country, and the Revolution took power.
AMY GOODMAN: You were the first person in Havana of the group?
MAX LESNIK: I was one of the first --
AMY GOODMAN: Before Fidel Castro got there?
MAX LESNIK: Before Fidel. Fidel arrived to Havana in January the 8th, but I was in Havana the day that Batista left, because I was going forth from the Sierra to the city to organize the clandestine movement, and then Batista left the night of January the 1st, and then I go openly to the radio station and television station. I suppose I was the one of those who appear on television telling Batista left and we are here. In reality, only were a lot of people like milicianos in the city of Havana, but the rebel army was in Oriente and in Las Villas. I was alone fighting the government, because they was afraid that it’s true that I say that we have an army here, that it’s [inaudible] in a way functioned the joke.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break. When we come back -- you parted ways with Fidel Castro and came to the United States. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We'll continue with Max Lesnik and his filmmaker daughter Vivien Lesnik in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are filmmaker Vivien Lesnik Weisman, who has directed the film The Man of Two Havanas about her father, Max Lesnik, former Cuban revolutionary turned exile, later became the target of terrorist attacks by anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami, currently a journalist with Radio Miami. Max Lesnik, you parted ways with Fidel Castro. Why? How did you end up coming to the United States?
MAX LESNIK: The main reason was the new relation between Cuba and the Soviet Union. I was not an anti-communist, only I was democrat. And at that time, remember in the ’50s, the war was split into camps: the Soviet Union, one part, and the other one, the occidental democracies. But anyway, my position as a revolutionary was Cuba will have a revolution and I pretend that goal free of both camps. To tell you the truth, it was an idealistic aspiration. Fidel was smarter than me at that time. And when the American government tried to overthrow the Revolution, he go to the other camp and asking for help from the Soviet Union.
I disagreed with that position, and then I went to the underground fighting against my revolution. Then, the only choice was to escape, because they pressured me. Then I arrived in this country in 1961. But my disagreement with the opposition at that time was that all those groups against the government where controlled by the CIA, and I discussed with Fidel how you are going to embrace Soviet Union and then all the groups in opposition were controlled by the American government through the CIA.
AMY GOODMAN: You started a magazine in Miami?
MAX LESNIK: I started a magazine in Miami.
AMY GOODMAN: It was bombed how many times?
MAX LESNIK: Eleven times.
AMY GOODMAN: By who.
MAX LESNIK: By those terrorist groups that were fighting first with the CIA, and after --
AMY GOODMAN: Fighting and supported by the CIA.
MAX LESNIK: Supported, trained by the CIA, and then going to Cuba to make activities in terrorism. And then, when I denounced the flight of Cubana, one that was going down in Barbados, they focused on me, because I denounced terrorism in the United States and outside the United States, made by Cubans, related with the CIA or in some way with the right wingers of all the Latin American countries.
AMY GOODMAN: You live in a city in Miami, where you have Orlando Bosch Day. We're talking about Luis Posada, who worked with Orlando Bosch. He, too, lives free in Miami. Talk about their significance right now and why this has become such a mission in your life.
MAX LESNIK: Posada Carriles now is the most notorious terrorist in our hemisphere. It’s like Osama bin Laden of the Americas. And it’s incredible that this government, Bush administration, say that we are at war against terrorism all around the world, and we receive Posada Carriles like a friend. This is not realistic, because all the policy of the government go down there. We don't have the moral force to tell to the world, we are against terrorism, but Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, our terrorists, are living freely in Miami.
AMY GOODMAN: Vivien, you describe well in The Man of Two Havanas the political support for them and the connections going to Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and, of course, the current President George W. Bush's brother. Talk about his relationship to the congress members, Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: The congresspersons, the Cuban American congresspersons from Florida, have always protected the terrorists. Iliana Ross-Lehtinen ran her political campaign -- one of the main themes was “Free Orlando Bosch,” and Jeb Bush at the time was her campaign manager.
AMY GOODMAN: And his father was President at the time?
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: At the time, yes. And when she won the election, behind the scenes, Jeb Bush talked to his father and George Bush overruled his Justice Department that called Orlando Bosch a terrorist. They had much evidence, many of it coming from our own intelligence, from the CIA, and he overruled his Justice Department and allowed Orlando Bosch to stay in Miami.
AMY GOODMAN: This is George H.W. Bush.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: George H.W., George I. And he lives freely in Miami.
AMY GOODMAN: And Diaz-Balart, the other congress member.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Congressman Diaz-Balart was part of the fundraising campaign before he was a congressman, and he has actively supported -- he has also -- the congresspersons were very active in behind-the-scenes talks with President Moscoso of Panama, who -- one of her last acts before leaving power was pardoning Luis Posada and the other Cuban Americans that were going to blow up the auditorium in Panama where Castro was going to be speaking. Peter Kornbluh addressed that. There were thirty-three pounds of C4 plastic, which would have not only killed Castro, but it would have killed hundreds of Panamanian students.
AMY GOODMAN: In her last act, one of her last acts as president of the country.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: One of her last acts as president. And she summers in Key Biscayne, where the Cuban American right wing live, and she had friendly relations with the Cuban American rightwing elite.
AMY GOODMAN: Max Lesnik, how have you have co-existed there in Miami? So your magazine was blown up time after time after time. You ultimately close the magazine. Now you're a radio journalist.
MAX LESNIK: Yes. How I live there? Because it’s my duty to live there. I am Cuban. The Cuban community is very powerful. And I’m a journalist, like you live here. I -- my career now isn’t as a politician, only as a journalist. But my duty as a Cuban and living in America is fight in some way terrorism and the other way to try to maintain a little light in the security of the Miami Cuban community.
AMY GOODMAN: You returned a few years ago to Cuba -- it's all documented in The Man of Two Havanas -- with your wife. You met with Fidel Castro.
MAX LESNIK: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: What was that reunion like, given that you had last left there fighting him?
MAX LESNIK: It happened in 1976, when Mr. James Carter was the President. At that time, I was the hope that the Carter administration will change the relation with Cuba, was very tense at that time. As a matter of fact, President Carter before, when he was “Jimmy Who?,” he came to Miami to meet Cubans that tried to help him to go to the White House, and I interviewed him, Mr. Carter, for the magazine, Replica magazine. I asked him one question: what will you do as President of the United States with Cuba and Castro government? He answered to me, “I will try to press for human rights in Cuba.” And I then asked, “Can you go to Cuba?” He said, “If I need to go to Cuba, I will go to Cuba.” After that, I realized that maybe Jimmy Carter will change the policy, because I was advocating for dialogue between Cubans from Havana and Cubans from Little Havana, dialogue between the American government and the Cuban government.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Fidel Castro will return to power?
MAX LESNIK: Now? Not as he was before. I suppose as an [inaudible] statement, not in the working day. He may retain the position of president of the country, but in Cuba that happened now, a very succession of power as the constitution said. Raul Castro, the general, is the brother, but anyway, by the constitution is the second man in command, and he will be in charge. But remember that Raul is seventy-five years old. He's not a young kid. And then, I suppose a new generation will be in power in the next four or five years.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for joining us, Max Lesnik, a Cuban revolutionary turned exile, now at Radio Miami in Florida, and Vivien Lesnik Weisman. Her film is called The Man of Two Havanas. It will be shown now around the country. It started here at Tribeca Film Festival.
VIVIEN LESNIK WEISMAN: Thank you. We hope so.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will link to the website at democracynow.org. Thank you so much.