Life With Luis Posada
Luis Posada on everything from his favorite singers to his thoughts on the Iraq war and Cuba after Castro.
The 1998 New York Times series by Bardach and Rohter:
"Plot on Castro Spotlights A Powerful Group" (May 5, 1998)
"A Bomber's Tale: Part 1" (July 12, 1998)
Taking aim at Castro.
"A Bomber's Tale: Part 2" (July 13, 1998)
Decades of intrigue.
"Cuban Exile Leader Among 7 Accused of Plot" (August 26, 1998)
I first met Posada in June 1998 when I was writing an investigative series on Cuban exile militants for the New York Times. I had interviewed one of his most trusted friends and came home one night to find a message on my answering machine in his distinctive, gravelly voice. When I called back, he suggested that we meet and talk—but in a neutral location, not the U.S.
On his instructions, I flew to Aruba. Accompanying me was my co-writer, Times Caribbean bureau chief Larry Rohter. I stepped off the plane on my own as it had been pre-agreed with Posada that I would meet him alone. Larry went on to the hotel, where we had booked rooms. After each session with Posada, we would meet and discuss the highlights and I would pass on my notes and tapes, so that Larry could continue to work on the story.
Posada greeted me cheerfully at the airport, but bore little resemblance to the famous photo of him from 1985, showing a chiseled-featured, elegant man with a mass of wavy black hair. His hair was largely gray now, though he still had the spryness of a much younger man. He carried my bags to a waiting van and off we went to his safe house—an airy split-level, hidden from view by a high stucco wall and a security gate. Posada served me some ice tea, while a maid fussed about in the kitchen.
Considering his fugitive status, Posada was remarkably breezy. I switched on my tape recorder and we talked for several hours. Barely a half-hour into our first conversation, Posada yanked his shirt over his head to point out the vestiges of an attempt on his life in Guatemala in 1990. His torso was ribboned with scars, both arms had been pierced by slugs and there was a 10-inch gash on his chest where bullets had grazed his heart. His jaw had been shattered, leaving him with a strangled voice, "like that of a deaf-mute," as one former associate put it. "I was very handsome once," he said with a wink.
Sometimes, Posada would reach over and turn off my Radio Shack tape recorder, allowing only hand notes. He explained at the time that he had granted the unprecedented interview because he needed to generate publicity for his bombing campaign of Cuba's tourist industry, launched in 1997. Otherwise, investors and tourists would continue flocking to Cuba, he said, supplying an economic lifeline to Castro. Posada explained that the targets of his campaign were property, not people. The death of an Italian tourist was accidental, he said; the man had been "sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time."
As our first session wrapped up, Posada gave me a copy of his self-published memoir "Los Caminos del Guerrero"— The Paths of the Warrior – and one of his larger canvases depicting the countryside near his native Cienfuegos, both warmly dedicated. But the attention he garnered from the Times' series was more than he had bargained for.
On my last day in Aruba, Luis Posada came by my hotel, where he had met and chatted with Larry Rohter. By then he clearly had some reservations about the New York Times story and was worried he had been too forthcoming. He handed me three pages of notes on 5" x 7" yellow lined notepaper, written in Spanish and English in his crisp upper-case handwriting.
First was his Ideology—itemizing the crimes of Fidel Castro, which, by his account, justified armed struggle and "using violence and whatever means" to remove Castro from power. Then he sought to protect himself, writing:
"He does not admit the bombs in the hotels
but he does not deny either."
There was also concern that I not divulge too much about the house we met in—or his involvement with three men who had recently been arrested in Cuba on a sabotage run. Most of all, he had concerns about the names of his contacts in "government agencies" as well as his alliance with Jonas Savimbi, the late strongman of Angola, who, he told me, "hates Castro as much as we do."
He concluded with some editorial guidance to the Times:
"No lays [lies] but is a lot of ways to say de [the] truth."
—Ann Louise Bardach
(Scroll down for an English translation)
39 years of oppressive dictatorship
150,000 political prisoners
1,500,000 political exiles
More than 4,000 Cubans lost in the waters of the Caribbean, of Cubans who tried to leave the island in fragile boats.
The absence of freedom of expression, of freedom of movement for a hungry people, oppressed and terrorized by communist repression without hope of change. This gives the right to all free Cubans to take up arms against the tyrant, using violence and whatever means at our disposal to derail this terrible system and bring freedom to our country.
He does not admit the bombs in the hotels
-but he does not deny either -very careful with the place in which we met. Not a good description of the house, cars, so and so.
-No mention the three guys who were captured.
-No mention (please) the relation[ship] with people of government agencies.
-Sambimbi [Jonas Savimbi] - NO
-Explain about New York Times
No [lies] lays but [there] is a lot of ways to say de [the] truth
Not a biography