My 2 Cents-
What irritates me the most about this article is the writer.
Jon Lee Anderson, a staff writer, began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998.
This guy minimizes the violence of the cop killers and communist revolutionaries and butters them up ("was never convicted" , "Columbia University educated and now advises rappers") but demonizes others including the guy who tried to take out the Communist butcher Castro.
The writer cannot hide his sympathies for these anti-American radicals and thus is a Communist prick himself.
The sad thing is he is not alone. The 60's radicals hold the highest offices in the land. We are all fvcked.
Assata Shakur, who escaped from prison in New Jersey while serving a life sentence, has been living in Cuba since 1984.
When a cold war winds down, what happens to its spies and traitors? The British double agents Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean were able to see out their days in Moscow while it was still ruled by Communists, without fears that their hosts might betray them and send them back to an unforgiving Great Britain.
Other scenarios, such as that of the United States and Cuba, are more complicated. On December 17, 2014, the same day that the United States and Cuba announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, an exchange of long-imprisoned spies and double agents also took place. Three Cuban sleeper agents who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998 were released from U.S. federal prisons and flown home. Simultaneously, Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a C.I.A. double agent who had been held in a Cuban prison since 1995, was flown to the U.S., as was Alan Gross, a State Department contractor who was arrested in 2009 for smuggling Internet equipment onto the island for dissident groups.
But the fates of many fugitive citizens who were given refuge in the United States or Cuba remain in limbo. Among them are people sought back home for crimes including murder, kidnapping, bank robbery, and terrorism. Curious about such people, I recently asked an American official what prevented the U.S. government from arresting, and possibly extraditing, Luis Posada Carriles, an eighty-eight-year-old Cuban exile living in Florida, on terrorism charges.
Posada, a former C.I.A. operative who spent most of the past half century involved in efforts to violently destabilize the Castro government, has been on the top of Cuba’s most-wanted list for decades. I ticked off the long list of his alleged crimes—most notably, the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, in 1976, which killed all seventy-three passengers onboard, and a number of bombings and assassination attempts across the Western Hemisphere. As recently as 1997, Posada admitted to planning the bombing of a Havana hotel, which killed an Italian tourist.
The official listened calmly, nodding his head as I spoke. Eventually, he told me, “The complication is that Cuba is also harboring people that the United States would like to see face justice back home.” He mentioned Joanne Chesimard, who goes by the name Assata Shakur, the aunt of the late rapper Tupac Shakur and a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a short-lived offshoot of the Black Panther Party that was devoted to armed struggle.
Shakur, a native New Yorker, has been living in Cuba since 1984. She arrived there after several years on the lam, following her escape from a prison in New Jersey, where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a U.S. state trooper. (She was also tried for but not convicted of crimes including bank robbery, kidnapping, and other murders.) Shakur was granted political asylum in Cuba, where she was given a job and a home. She is now sixty-nine, remains on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted list, and is the undisputed doyenne of the estimated seventy-odd American fugitives living in Cuba. Her 1987 memoir, “Assata: An Autobiography,” whose cover features a photograph of her looking over her shoulder at the camera, can be found in many of Havana’s state-run bookstores, alongside books about Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
Most of the American fugitives in Cuba are radicals of Shakur’s era. Charlie Hill, who is in his mid-sixties, was a member of a militant group called the Republic of New Afrika, which sought to create an independent black nation in the American South. Hill was accused, with two comrades, of killing a policeman in New Mexico in 1971. Several weeks later, the three men hijacked a passenger plane to Cuba, where they were granted asylum. Both of Hill’s comrades have died, but he remains in Havana. And there is the Columbia University graduate Cheri Dalton, who goes by Nehanda Abiodun, also a veteran of the Republic of New Afrika. Abiodun is sought for her involvement in the armed robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in New York in 1981, in which two policemen and a security guard were killed. She is also thought to have helped Shakur break out of prison. Abiodun, who either fled to Cuba with Shakur or followed shortly after, has reinvented herself there as a mentor to rap artists.
Through the years, I’ve met several of the American fugitives in Cuba. One of them, the quiet and unassuming William Lee Brent, was the bodyguard of the Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver. After a 1968 shootout with police in San Francisco, Brent hijacked a jet to Havana, where he went on to teach English in elementary and secondary schools. When I met him, back in the nineteen-nineties, he expressed a bittersweet nostalgia for life in the United States. Not long afterward, he wrote a memoir, “Long Time Gone,” about his life on the run. Brent died, of pneumonia, in 2006.
I also ran into Robert Vesco, a flamboyantly wealthy American financier who became an outlaw, in 1973, after the S.E.C. accused him of robbing a mutual fund of over two hundred million dollars. Vesco moved between the Bahamas, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica before fleeing to Cuba, in 1983. Before long, he was rumored to be assisting the Castro government with its international financial dealings. When I saw him, one day in 1994, we were the only two people waiting at a baggage carousel in a tiny room in the Havana airport terminal for Caribbean flights. I’d been advised by Cuban officials not to show any interest in him, and so I tried my best not to make eye contact. He seemed to have similar concerns, and discreetly moved behind a nearby pillar.
Another day, I met Vesco’s wife and two sons after giving a talk at an international school in Havana. She and her boys came up to thank me for my talk, and we chatted for a while. They went by the last name Quinn, and had Costa Rican passports, but the faculty at the school knew who they really were. Shortly after that, Robert Vesco fell afoul of the Cuban authorities. In 1995, he was arrested, on suspicion of being a spy; he was eventually convicted of “fraud and illicit economic activity” and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. (In a curious twist, Richard Nixon’s nephew, Donald Nixon, Jr., who was visiting Vesco at the time of his arrest and apparently doing business with him, was also arrested and questioned by Cuban authorities, but was later released and allowed to leave Cuba.) Vesco never made it out of prison; he died, of an illness, in 2007, two years short of his release date.
A pair of rogue former C.I.A. agents also saw out their days in Havana. After eleven years of covert service, from 1957 to 1968, Philip Agee was apparently conscience-stricken by what he had seen and done, and became a whistle-blower, publishing a tell-all book, “Inside the Company: CIA Diary,” in 1975. Agee was expelled, under U.S. pressure, from a handful of Western European countries and finally ended up in Cuba. In the years before his death, in 2008, Agee ran a Web site called cubalinda.com, which helped Americans who wished to circumvent the travel ban.
Frank Terpil, the other former C.I.A. agent in Havana, died in March. Not one to suffer from a guilty conscience, Terpil was a more colorful personality than Agee, and happily told his story to various television documentarians over the years. Terpil, who left the C.I.A. in 1971, was reportedly fired for unspecified inappropriate activities, which may have included making money on the side during a posting in India. Terpil later sold his services to Muammar Qaddafi and the Ugandan despot Idi Amin. In 1981, an American judge sentenced Terpil, in absentia, to fifty-three years in prison for charges that included conspiring to smuggle guns to South America. Terpil made it to Cuba, so the story went, via the Cuban embassy in Beirut, where he asked for asylum in 1982, as the Israelis invaded Lebanon. Once in Cuba, he lived under the pseudonym Robert Hunter and, if anyone asked, claimed to be Australian.
William Morales, a former leader of a radical Puerto Rican guerrilla group that was known as the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or F.A.L.N., is another longtime fugitive and Havana resident whom I have met a couple of times through the years. Beginning in the nineteen-seventies, the F.A.L.N. waged an armed campaign for Puerto Rican independence. It carried out a number of bombing attacks in and around New York, including the 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing, which killed four people and injured more than forty. Morales was the F.A.L.N.’s bomb maker, and a bomb-making explosion in 1978, which blew off most of his fingers and left his face badly scarred, led to his arrest and made him easy to identify. Still, Morales somehow managed to escape from the prison ward of Bellevue Hospital, where he was undergoing treatment, and made his way to Mexico.
I first met Morales in 1983, in a Mexico City prison called Reformatorio del Norte. He had been tracked down by Mexican federal police and arrested, following a shootout in which one of the cops and Morales’s two companions had been killed. Because of his mangled hands, Morales had not fired any weapons himself, but he was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of the federale because he was heard to shout to his sidekicks, “Mata el hijueputa” (“Kill the son of a bitch”). I spent most of a day talking with Morales, in the hopes of being able to publish an interview with him, and recall him as having a madcap sense of humor. He spoke freely with me on the condition that I would not publish anything until he had consulted on the matter with his comrades. (Later, through an intermediary, I was sent word that the F.A.L.N.’s politburo disapproved of the idea, so the interview had to remain off the record.) In 1988, the Mexican government, which apparently wanted to thumb its nose at the U.S. request for Morales’s extradition, released him from prison and allowed him to travel to Cuba.
I saw Morales again in 1999, at the University of Havana, where a throng of journalists had gathered to listen to the recently installed Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez give a speech to an audience that included Fidel Castro, Castro’s brother Raúl, and most of Cuba’s politburo. It was an extraordinary occasion, at which Chávez spoke for ninety minutes and Fidel sat attentively, smiling and listening to him as if to a prodigal son. At some point, I spotted Morales standing next to me; he was instantly recognizable, of course, because of his mutilated face and hands. When I introduced myself and reminded him of our previous encounter, he lit up and shook my hand warmly, and we whispered to each other as Chávez’s speech dragged on.
At one point, Morales leaned over to me and quipped that, except for Pope John Paul II, who had come to Cuba the year before, he had never seen “el viejo,” as he called Fidel, sit and listen to somebody else talk for so long. What we were witnessing, it turned out, was the beginning of a close friendship between the Cuban leader and the younger Venezuelan man, a bond that ended only with Chávez’s death, from cancer, three years ago. That same day, the two men signed their first “oil for doctors” deal, in which Cuba received much-needed shipments of Venezuelan oil in exchange for tens of thousands of Cuban doctors going to work in Venezuela’s slums and countryside.
According to his F.B.I. rap sheet, which offers a hundred thousand dollars for information leading to his arrest, Morales is now sixty-six and “should be considered armed and dangerous and an escape risk.”
The status of Morales, Shakur, and the other American fugitives has been repeatedly raised by American diplomats in the negotiations that the U.S. and Cuba have conducted since December, 2014. In June, there was talk that Shakur and the others might be extradited, but both Hill and Abiodun told journalists that their Cuban handlers had reassured them that they were “safe.” There was no word from Shakur, who has kept a low profile for some time. Indeed, as long as Cuba’s government continues to claim to be a “revolutionary” one, it seems highly unlikely that its officials would turn over the aging American radicals to the U.S. criminal-justice system. To do so would be to betray the promise of safe refuge it made them back in the days of the Cold War, when their acts of violence had a political context.
In the U.S., meanwhile, Posada also seems to be on safe ground. In his last known violent conspiracy, he and three accomplices were apprehended in Panama, in 2000. They were in possession of two hundred pounds of explosives and were plotting to kill Castro, who had arrived to attend a regional heads-of-state summit. Posada and the others were duly tried, convicted, and imprisoned, but, in 2004, in the final hours of her administration, Panama’s outgoing conservative President, Mireya Moscoso, pardoned them and allowed them to slip away.
Soon enough, Posada reappeared in the United States, where he was arrested, on charges of immigration fraud: he was accused, bizarrely enough, of lying to U.S. immigration authorities about his involvement with the bombings in Cuba. He was soon released on bond. In 2011, after a trial in which his lawyer indicated that Posada was prepared to go public with the details of his C.I.A. past as part of his defense, he was found not guilty on all charges.
So Posada remains a free man, in Miami, where, by all accounts, he lives peaceably. He is still regarded as a hero by some Cuban exiles for his role in the anti-Castro cause. He may well be the mastermind of the first terrorist bombing of a civilian passenger jet to have ever taken place in the Western Hemisphere, but, as the American official told me, “It’s complicated.”
Jon Lee Anderson, a staff writer, began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998.
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