Ex-CIA operative, Luis Posada Carriles Carriles was smuggled into the United States via yacht and was noticeably anxious about interviews he had given to the New York Times on the bombings in Cuba, according to a top prosecution witness who testified on Tuesday.
Cuba native Posada Carriles, 82, has spent a lifetime using violence to destabilize communist political systems, but he is not on trial for his Cold War past. Instead, he faces 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud for allegedly lying during immigration hearings about how he sneaked into the U.S. in 2005
In the1998 interviews with the Times, Posada Carriles claimed responsibility for the1997 bombings of Havana hotels and a tourist restaurant that killed an Italian tourist. Posada Carriles has since recanted those comments.
Government informant Gilberto Abascal, also a Cuba native, testified Tuesday that it was those interviews that Posada Carriles was concerned as he headed to the U.S. in March 2005. Abascal also testified that Posada Carriles came into the U.S. by traveling aboard a yacht from Isla Mujeres, near the Mexican resort of Cancun, to Florida — testimony that contradicted Posada Carriles's account to immigration officials that he paid a people smuggler to drive him from Honduras to Houston.
Abascal said the yacht owner, longtime Posada Carriles financial backer Santiago Alvarez, told Posada Carriles, "What's going to hurt you with the government is what you told the reporter," referring to Times journalist Ann Louise Bardach. Alvarez and Posada Carriles also both referred to the interview as "the only thing" Posada Carriles would have to worry about with U.S. authorities, Abascal said.
Abascal was expected to be back on the witness stand Wednesday to face more questions from Posada Carriles attorney Arturo Hernández, who already got him to admit that he went years without paying federal income taxes in the U.S. and then lied about it on official forms — effectively committing perjury.
"I apologize. I have made thousands of errors and I am not perfect," replied Abascal, who has been feeding the FBI information since 1999 and been paid for it since July 2005.
Abascal is the only witness who places Posada Carriles on the yacht as it sailed from Isla Mujeres to Miami. Posada Carriles admits making contact with the yacht in Isla Mujeres, but says he did so only to pick up cash. Alvarez and others said to have been aboard have been jailed for refusing to testify against Posada Carriles.
Abascal said that once Posada Carriles landed, Alvarez ordered another passenger, Ruben López Castro, to travel to the Texas border, reserve a hotel room in Posada Carriles's name and purchase a false bus ticket from Houston to Miami. He also said Alvarez told the group that if asked about the boating trip, they should say it was to give Posada Carriles $10,000 to finance his trip over the U.S. border by land.
Posada Carriles is public enemy No. 1 in Cuba, even featured on propaganda billboards. He participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion, though he was not one of the invaders who made it to Cuban soil. In the 1980s, he helped support U.S.-backed "contra" rebels in Nicaragua.
Posada Carriles was arrested in Panama amid a plot to kill Castro during a visit there in 2000. He went to prison before being pardoned.
Cuba and Venezuela accuse Posada Carriles not only of the 1997 bombings, but also of organizing an explosion aboard a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. A U.S. immigration judge has previously ruled he can't be deported to either country because of fears of torture.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.