Exile says Cuban-Americans paid him to target Castro He says lobby's leaders financed bomb attacks

July 12, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MIAMI -- A Cuban exile who has waged a campaign of bombings and assassination attempts aimed at toppling Fidel Castro says that his efforts were supported financially for more than a decade by the Cuban-American leaders of one of America's most influential lobbying groups.

Luis Posada Carriles said he organized a wave of bombings in Cuba last year at hotels, restaurants and discotheques that killed an Italian tourist and alarmed the Cuban government. Posada said he was schooled in demolition and guerrilla warfare by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960s.

In a series of tape-recorded interviews at a walled Caribbean compound, Posada said the hotel bombings and other operations had been supported by leaders of the Cuban-American National Foundation. Its founder and head, Jorge Mas Canosa, who died last year, was embraced at the White House by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

A powerful force in both Florida and national elections, and a prodigious campaign donor, Mas Canosa played a decisive role in persuading Clinton to change his mind and follow a course of sanctions and isolation against Cuba.

Although the tax-exempt foundation has declared that it seeks to bring down Cuba's Communist government solely through peaceful means, Posada said leaders of the foundation discreetly financed his operations. Mas Canosa supervised the flow of money and logistical support, he said.

"Jorge controlled everything," Posada said. "Whenever I needed money, he said to give me $5,000, give me $10,000, give me $15,000, and they sent it to me."

Over the years, Posada estimated, Mas Canosa sent him more than $200,000. "He never said, 'This is from the foundation,' " Posada recalled. Rather, he said with a chuckle, the money arrived with the message, "This is for the church."

Foundation leaders did not respond to repeated telephone calls and letters requesting an interview to discuss their relationship with Posada. But in a brief statement faxed to the New York Times, the group denied a role in his operations, saying "any allegation, implication, or suggestion that members of the Cuban-American National Foundation have financed any alleged 'acts of violence' against the Castro regime are totally and patently false."

Posada, 70, who has survived several attempts on his life, told a friend recently that he was afraid he would not live long enough to tell his story.

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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