On October 6, 1976, Cubana de Aviacion Flight 455, a Douglas DC-8, took off from Bridgetown in Barbados headed toward the beautiful tropical destination of Jamaica. With clear skies and nothing but sand, sea and relaxation ahead of them, the passengers settled in. It seems there was a bomb under an empty seat, and when the plane reached 18,000 feet it blew up. The plane banked and started heading downward. Eight minutes later, a second bomb went off in the toilet, the plane went into the ocean and everyone on flight 455 perished.
73 people died that day including the championship fencing team. Until 9/11 it was considered one of the worst terrorist attacks in history. The plane was a Cuban state owned plane. Fidel Castro immediately accused the CIA of having something to do with the crash, or at least supporting his enemies that blew up the plane…
In fact, there was a CIA-linked operative by the name of Louis Posada Carriles (nick named Bambi) that was one of the four men accused of the crime. Carriles was an anti-Castro Cuban exile and a CIA asset (Code name AMCLEVE/15) from 1965 to 1967, and again from 1968-1974…. He was paid $300 a month for the training of other exiles from Cuba.
Posada was accused and denied his role in organizing a series of hotel, restaurant and discotheque bombings in Havanna during 1997. (1) He was also prosecuted in Panama on charges of trying to assassinate Fidel Castro with 200 pounds of dynamite and C-4 explosives. “This explosive has the capacity to destroy any armored vehicle, buildings, steel doors, and the effects can extend for 200 meters…if a person were in the center of the explosion, even if they were in an armored car, they would not survive. The indictment described the destructive capacity of the explosives found in Posada’s possession in Panama City, where Fidel Castro was attending an Ibero-American summit in November 2000.” (2)
In 2005 Posada requested asylum in the US, he was granted extradition by the Venezuelan government where he was being kept. He came to US only to be arrested the next day by Homeland Security. He was not sent back to Venezuela because it was feared he would be in danger of torture and murder. He was given bail instead and stayed in the US.
Posada was at one time a tool used by the CIA in the US government’s fight against Castro. His life has been dedicated to attempting to force out the communist ruler of his country. Once trained and utilized, he was later seen as a terrorist in his own right.
He went on trial in Texas in 2011 for lying to U.S. authorities and about his alleged involvement in bomb attacks in Havana in 1997. His case was very public because of the threats of terrorism after 9/11. Chavez considered Posada the biggest terrorist on his continent at one time. Posada’s attorney filed a motion that argued, “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.” Further that he argued that because the CIA utilized him, they were complicit. (3) He was acquitted on all charges….
Posada never admitted his role in the bombing of flight 455. Instead he blamed the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, of which he was a member. 4 men were tried, Freddy Lugo and Herman Ricardo Lozano each got 20 years. Orlando Bosch was acquitted and moved to Miami. Posada was held for 8 years awaiting trial and finally fled.
The Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU) was founded in June of 1976 in the Dominican Republic. It united various anti-Castro groups, and for 3 months before the plane was bombed the group waged war on Caribbean countries. (4)
A monument was erected in Payne’s Bay, St. James, Barbados in memory of the 73 people killed on the jet. Castro and other Cubans visited it several times. Louis Posada Carriles is still alive and lives comfortably in Florida with his family. President Obama visited Cuban during his second term, and opened the country up to the US once more. The Bay of Pigs (a topic for another time) along with the Cuban Missile Crisis created 55 years of distrust and separation between the countries, and helped create the environment for the bombing of Cuban flight 455. Will there be a fresh start? Here is hoping.
What I found interesting about this story was Posada. A man who first appeared to the CIA at the Bay of Pigs and then developed as an asset. Utilized for his position against Castro and his positioning in South and Central America, he was virtually created and eventually protected by the US in their fight against Castro, and communism during the cold war.
- The CIA Files on Louis Posada Carriles, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB334/
- El Paso Diary Day 25: Graymail and Secret Memos. Freethefive.org.