Two of the world’s most notorious and wanted terrorists died last week. But while one of them grabbed all the world’s attention and headlines, the other passed quietly, without headlines (at least not in the US), without flag-waving, USA-chanting crowds partying in the streets. You know who the first guy is. I’ll give you a hint as to who the second one is: he died a hero in Miami.
I’m talking about Orlando Bosch, who after Osama bin Laden is the world’s most wanted terrorist. And one you’ve probably never even heard of. Allow me to introduce you.
Orlando Bosch was born in 1926 in a small Cuban village east of Havana. The Cuba he came of age in was a corrupt, crime-infested cesspool where a US-backed aristocracy ruthlessly crushed all dissent and kept everyone save for the ruling elite living in abject poverty. Bosch, a pediatrician by profession, at first welcomed the Cuban revolution that toppled the brutal and corrupt Batista regime. But he soon became disillusioned with the revolution’s leadership, headed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Bosch left Cuba in 1960, settling in Miami, as so many exiles of that nation have done over the decades since the revolution. It wasn’t long before he was organizing terror attacks against Castro’s Cuba, but the Kennedy administration did not view these acts of sabotage as terrorism. President Kennedy, sore at communist government for nationalizing American businesses and creating a more equitable society (heaven forbid!), infamously declared that he wished “the terrors of the earth” upon Cuba. And that’s exactly what Orlando Bosch delivered.
“Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken… Cuba [to] bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government,” State Department official Lester Mallory said in 1960. The following year, a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles launched the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. Bosch said he did not participate in that doomed mission because of America’s failure to assist him in an anti-Castro operation that took place while he was still living on the island. But he had plenty of other bloody plans in the works.
By 1963, Bosch was in contact with the CIA. He was a member of the anti-Castro Operation 40 as well as general coordinator of the Insurrectional Movement of Revolutionary Recovery (MIRR). He was arrested in 1968 for an attack on a Polish freighter in Miami and served four years of a ten year prison term before fleeing the United States to hide out in Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and finally Venezuela. He was arrested there in 1974; he admitted to bombing Cuban and Panamanian buildings in Caracas but somehow managed to secure his release and flee to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao.
Bosch, dickishly defiant as usual, after blowing up a Polish freighter in 1968.
His next home was Chile, which had recently experienced a CIA-orchestrated coup in which Salvador Allende, the country’s democratically elected president and a genuine agent of positive change, was ousted in favor of the murderous tyrant General Augusto Pinochet. Bosch “lived quietly as an artist,” according to the Pinochet regime, while carrying out a sting of mail bombings against Cuban embassies in four different countries. According to the US government, he is at least partly responsible for the attempted 1975 assassination of Emilio Aragones, the Cuban ambassador to Argentina, and the bombing of the Mexican embassy in Guatemala the following year.
That year, 1976, was a big one for Bosch. He helped select the Cubans who would carry out the car-bombing assassination of former Chilean minister Orlando Letellier in central Washington, DC in broad daylight. Letelier’s American aide, newlywed Ronni Moffitt, was also killed in this gruesome attack. The year also saw Bosch consolidate various anti-Castro terror groups under the umbrella group Commandos of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU).
But the biggest thing Bosch did in ’76, what he’ll always be remembered for in Cuba and beyond, is orchestrate the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 along with his partner in crime (and fellow Miami resident) Luis Posada Carriles. Two bombs placed aboard the commercial airliner blew it to pieces shortly after takeoff from Barbados on a balmy October afternoon in 1976, killing all 73 passengers and crew aboard. The entire Cuban junior Olympic fencing team, just kids, were slaughtered. Shortly after this barbaric act of terrorism, one of the bomb planters phoned Bosch to inform him that “a bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed.”
“You have to fight violence with violence,” Bosch declared a few years after the bombing. “At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people.” Exactly what violence he was referring to on Cuba’s end I do not know; not once in all the decades that Washington was waging its campaign of terror against the people of Cuba did Castro retaliate in kind.
Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles were both arrested and stood trial for the bombing of Flight 455 in Venezuela. In those pre-Hugo Chavez days, that country was one of Washington’s closest allies and all too willing to do what America commanded. It was also one of the most corrupt countries in a notoriously corrupt region. Posada literally walked right out of prison after bribing guards, while Bosch had to wait for Otto Reich, the Reagan-appointed, fiercely anti-Castro US ambassador to Venezuela to help secure his freedom. While he was locked up in Venezuela the city of Miami celebrated “Orlando Bosch Day”; replete with a religious ceremony and a civic proclamation. Hundreds of supporters turned out to celebrate the pediatrician-turned-murderous terrorist.
Bosch illegally re-entered the United States in 1988 to a hero’s welcome in Miami. He was arrested on a parole violation but released after six months when Miami Cubans pressed future governor Jeb Bush, then a budding politician, to get his father, the President of the United States, to intervene on Bosch’s behalf. This, despite the fact that the US government knew all about his role in the bombing of Flight 455 and other terrorist attacks.
Incredibly, Orlando Bosch sought political asylum in the United States. Initially, his bid hit rough waters. This was a man, after all, who had admitted before a Congressional committee that he had personally helped orchestrate nearly a dozen terrorist air strikes against Cuba using American planes and pilots. Bosch was also linked over 30 “acts of sabotage and violence” in multiple countries, including the United States. His lengthy rap sheet included kidnappings, bombings and murders on three continents. Bosch himself had openly admitted his guilt; he even used the word “terrorism” to describe his organization’s activities. The Department of Justice wisely rejected Bosch’s bid for asylum. Here’s how Associate U.S. Attorney General Joe Whitley described him:
“For more than 30 years Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy for terrorist violence. He has threatened and undertaken violent terrorist acts against numerous targets, including nations friendly toward the United States and their highest officials. He has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death. His actions have been those of a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.”
But Orlando Bosch was never deported. He had powerful friends, among them Senator Connie Mack and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Republicans and the latter the first Cuban-American elected to Congress. She was predictably anti-Castro and employed Jeb Bush, her campaign manager, to lobby President Bush (senior) on Bosch’s behalf. The President obliged with a full administrative pardon and legal U.S. residency. The city of Miami once again celebrated the man the FBI once called the western hemisphere’s “most dangerous terrorist.”
And so it was that this unrepentant terrorist with the blood of hundreds of innocents on his hands was released from custody, free to live in Miami and to plan and carry out future acts of terrorism, thanks to the direct intervention of President George H.W. Bush. Lamented the New York Times:
In the name of fighting terrorism, the United States sent the Air Force to bomb Libya and the Army to invade Panama. Yet now the Bush Administration coddles one of the hemisphere’s most notorious terrorists.
Bosch lived out his later years in complete freedom, lauded as a hero in Miami, ever unrepentant. “There were no innocents on that plane [Cubana Flight 455],” he defiantly declared years after the attack, “they were all henchmen.” Roseanne Nenninger Persaud of Guyana, whose 19 year-old brother Raymond was one of the “henchmen” killed aboard flight 455, said Posada and Bosch ought to be “treated like bin Laden.” “If this were a plane full of Americans, it would have been a different story,” Nenninger told the New York Times.
And speaking of bin Laden, even after the horrific events of September 11, 2001, when President George W. Bush declared to the world that any nation that provides safe haven for terrorists is as guilty as the terrorists themselves, Orlando Bosch and his ilk were living it up, sipping sangria under the subtropical South Florida sun, utterly unconcerned about ever facing justice in the United States.
Multiple foreign countries have requested their extradition to stand trial for their crimes. Not only has the United States refused these requests, it has also failed to recognize the men as terrorists. Not only does America harbor these criminals, a sizable percentage of one our nation’s largest metropolitan areas approves of their bloody deeds. When Orlando Bosch was arrested after returning to the United States, most Cuban-American businesses in Miami shut down in protest. When he was freed, there were parties.
Bosch died a free man after a lengthy hospital stay in Miami. He was 84 years old. His funeral was resplendent with “patriotic fervor,” with mourners calling it a “sad day” and religious leaders lamenting a “great loss.”
Not nearly as great as the loss of life caused by Orlando Bosch.