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El Paso Diary: Day 21 in the Trial of Posada Carriles

A Gentleman on the Stand

by José Pertierra
Feb. 28, 2011
Reprinted from CounterPunch

At 9:00 a.m. sharp, Judge Kathleen Cardone entered the courtroom. Her last encounter with the defense attorneys and prosecutors had been exactly one week ago, when the judge continued the trial to "calmly deliberate" about whether to grant either of the pending motions from Luis Posada Carriles' attorney: one calling for a mistrial, the other calling for a dismissal of the first three counts of the indictment. Those counts pertain to the false declarations made by the defendant about the 1997 bombings in Havana.

We could all feel the tension in the courtroom. Judge Cardone extended the attorneys a bleak greeting, and Prosecutor Timothy J. Reardon, III, as he does first thing every morning, stood and politely approached the podium. "Good morning, Your Honor. The government is ready for the trial," he said, knowing full well that the judge had not as yet ruled on whether to halt the proceedings. The lead defense attorney, Arturo Hernández, also stood and from counsel table cheerfully greeted the judge.

Judge Cardone's decision

"The Court would first like to address the defense counsel's motions for a mistrial or for a dismissal of counts 1, 2 and 3 of the indictment," said Judge Cardone. She then pulled out a piece of paper and read her decision out loud.

The legal impasse between the parties arose from defense counsel's allegations that the prosecution had failed to disclose certain "exculpatory" documents before the expiration of deadlines laid down earlier by Judge Cardone.

According to attorney Hernández these so-called "exculpatory documents" show that a key government witness—a criminal investigator from Cuba—is biased against Posada Carriles and had fabricated evidence in an unrelated case several years ago.

The defense counsel also alleged that the FBI knew, yet had failed to disclose, that a secretary in Guatemala, Cecilia Canel, had made statements seemingly exculpating Posada Carriles from responsibility for the bombs that exploded in Havana in 1997 and that the government had withheld two FBI reports that are favorable to the defense's theory of the case.

As prologue to her decision, Judge Cardone read aloud from the defense counsel's written motion of February 11 some of the allegations against the government concerning the exculpatory evidence. She looked firmly at the prosecutors and said, "This court has set orders for discovery deadlines. I find that the government has not met those deadlines and has withheld documents from the defense attorneys. What's more," said the judge, "if the defense had not found out on its own that these documents existed, the prosecution probably would not have turned the documents over."

"I have reflected long and hard on this," said Judge Cardone still staring at the prosecutors. She paused. At that moment, the fate of the government's case against Luis Posada Carriles hung by a thread. Government attorney Bridget Behling stole a furtive peek at her colleague, Jerome Teresinksi, who sat to her left. She looked worried. So did he.

"I have asked myself whether the government has made an untimely disclosure," Judge Cardone continued. "The answer is affirmative," she declared. "Has the defendant been prejudiced by the untimely disclosure?" she mused.

Without articulating an answer to her last question, the judge suddenly stated, "I am going to deny the motions …" She paused a moment before adding "…for now." "But I am warning you," she said to the prosecutors, "If this kind of thing should happen again…" Her voice trailed off. She didn't finish her sentence. She didn't have to.

Judges rarely declare a mistrial for failure to meet discovery deadlines unless there is evidence of prejudice to the defendant's due process rights. Here Judge Cardone did not find such prejudice and therefore could not take such a radical decision as a dismissal.

"Anything else before I convene the jury?" the judge asked. Attorney Hernández, who began the morning brimming with confidence, mumbled a disappointed "no." He didn't even bother to embellish his reply with the customary "Your Honor."

The jury comes in

The gavel sounded three times. The guard opened the side door to the courtroom, and the jurors slowly filed in to their seats. None had the slightest idea why they had been given so many days off other than what Judge Cardone had told them a week ago—that there were some "legal matters" that needed to be resolved.

After the jurors were seated, the witness returned to the stand. "It's been a long time since you were last here," said government attorney Timothy J. Reardon to the witness. "Please give the ladies and gentlemen of the jury your name." With that question, Reardon resumed the direct examination of Roberto Hernández Caballero. It's been almost two weeks, since the witness testified. He was dressed today in a light green suit, with a black shirt and black tie.

A Game of Football at Hyannis Port with President Kennedy

The lead prosecutor is a veteran Justice Department litigator. His father, Timothy J. Reardon, Jr., was a very close friend of President John F. Kennedy and one of his closest aides in the White House. Decades ago, father and son played football at Hyannis Port with the Kennedy clan.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy delivered the eulogy for Reardon's father in 1993. He told of the time a young Timothy J. Reardon, III, intercepted a football thrown by the recently elected President Kennedy. His father made him return the ball to the President, because "you must never intercept the pass of the President-Elect of the United States."

Today the boy who intercepted President Kennedy's pass is an experienced litigator with the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division and is responsible for prosecuting a former CIA agent who has been the mastermind of much of the terrorism unleashed against Cuba during the last fifty years—a terrorist campaign that originated in Washington.

A new paradigm?

Government policy is only a memorandum, a record of an agreement policymakers may retract tomorrow. For decades, the United States Department of Justice has given anti-Cuban terrorists a pass. Things may be changing.

It is significant that its Counterterrorism Unit is prosecuting Posada Carriles with the full collaboration of the Cuban government, using as a star witness a lieutenant colonel from Cuba's counterintelligence unit as well as documents prepared by forensic specialists in Cuba. The American Justice Department's Counterterrorism team working hand in hand with the Cuban Ministry of the Interior's Counterintelligence team to stem five decades of U.S.-sponsored terrorism against the island is a new paradigm for U.S.-Cuba relations.

Terrorists in our midst

As the historian Peter Kornbluh, of the National Security Archive, told me, "After the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedys unleashed a wave of violent exiles against Cuba through Operation Mongoose as well as more autonomous actions." The purpose of the CIA undercover operation known as Mongoose was to destroy the Cuban revolution. Its plans included the assassination of President Fidel Castro and other leaders, the use of sabotage and attacks on civilian targets. Terrorism was a favorite weapon of the United States in its undeclared war against Cuba.

The head of Operation Mongoose was the then U.S. Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, from the same Justice Department where Timothy J. Reardon, III, now works. While still attorney general, Kennedy began distancing himself from the Cuban extremists of Operation Mongoose.

Author David Talbot described Robert Kennedy's conundrum with the so-called Cuban exiles. "As he tried to establish control over CIA operations and to herd the rambunctious Cuban exile groups into a unified progressive front, Bobby learned what a swamp of intrigue the anti-Castro world was. Working out of a sprawling Miami station code-named JM/WAVE that was second in size only to the CIA's Langley, VA, headquarters, the agency had recruited an unruly army of Cuban militants to launch raids on the island and even contracted Mafia henchmen to kill Castro—including mob bosses Johnny Rosselli, Santo Trafficante and Sam Giancana, whom Kennedy, as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee in the late 1950s, had targeted. It was an overheated ecosystem that was united not just by its fevered opposition to the Castro regime, but by its hatred for the Kennedys, who were regarded as traitors for failing to use the full military might of the United States against the communist outpost in the Caribbean."

Robert Kennedy's growing understanding of the mentality of these Cuban extremists led him to suspect them of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, Kennedy called zEnrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams, a Bay of Pigs veteran and one of the leaders of the Cubans involved in Operation Mongoose, and told him point-blank, "One of your guys did it."

After President Kennedy's assassination, the United States government continued to rely on the Cuban exiles for its dirty war against Cuba. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, they were also used to help prop up military dictatorships and repressive governments in Chile, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and elsewhere. Posada Carriles was dispatched to Venezuela to head the Special Operations division of the country's intelligence service—the DISIP. In later years, he helped train death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala, becoming eventually a "special adviser on security" to Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo.

As Posada Carriles' own attorney, Arturo Hernández, told the Court in pleadings he filed months ago, "Everything that my client has done has been in the name of Washington." During opening arguments to the trial now under way in El Paso, defense counsel told the jury, "Luis Posada Carriles has been an ally of the United States his entire life. Always on the side of our country."

Have things changed? If so, has 9-11 changed them so much that the United States is now going after the terrorists it unleashed against Cuba and Latin America for decades?

Although it is true that Washington is not prosecuting Posada Carriles for terrorism or murder, it has indicted him for perjury and obstruction of an investigation into international terrorism. Some of the alleged false declarations he made involve immigration infractions, but others have to do with a campaign of terror against Cuba in 1997—that resulted in the murder of a thirty-two-year-old Italian businessman in Havana named Fabio Di Celmo.

Has the torch been passed to a new generation of prosecutors at the Department of Justice?

The Bombs

This morning Reardon showed the Cuban investigator, Hernández Caballero, several photographs from the places in Cuba where a series of bombs exploded in 1997: the Copacabana, Chateau Miramar and Tritón hotels, as well as the most famous restaurant in Cuba La Bodeguita del Medio. Two weeks ago, Reardon had shown him similar photos of the bombing damage at the Meliá Cohiba and Capri hotels, as well as at the most representative of Cuba's hotels El Nacional. The jury listened attentively to the Cuban investigator as he described the photos while looking intently at the photographs on their personal television monitors.

"We can see there the bar in the lobby of the Copacabana Hotel. The entire right side was destroyed by an explosive device," said the investigator. "That bloodstain on the floor is from the person who was wounded and later died from the wounds he suffered in the explosion," the witness pointed out.

Defense counsel shot up from his seat and objected. "This witness is not competent to offer an opinion about cause of death," he said. Posada Carriles' attorney also does not want the jury to hear that Fabio Di Celmo bled to death as a result of a piece of shrapnel launched by an explosion at the Copacabana Hotel.

He is also counting on the jury never learning that the bomb was placed at the hotel by a Salvadoran named Raúl Cruz León at the urging of Francisco Chávez Abarca and under the direction of Luis Posada Carriles. Both Cruz León and Chávez Abarca confessed, and Posada Carriles boasted the following year to the New York Times of being the mastermind behind the crime.

Raúl Cruz León admitted to Cuban authorities that he arrived at the Copacabana on September 4, 1997 at around 10:30 a.m., sat down in the lobby/bar, and asked for a "Bucanero" beer, before going to the bathroom to assemble and activate the bomb that he deposited in the base of a metal ashcan located at the right hand corner of the bar. When he finished his beer, he exited the hotel, leaving behind the bomb that took the life of Fabio Di Celmo.

"How far away from the blood was the focus of the explosion?" asked Reardon. "Just 5 or 6 meters," answered the investigator. The prosecutor did not ask and the jury did not realize that the hotel also suffered damage from broken glass, a suspended ceiling, lamps, furniture and the floor of the bar, valued at $16,700.60 Cuban pesos and more than $3,000 U.S. dollars.

"How many places did you go on September 4, 1997, where there had been explosions?" asked the prosecutor. "To three places in the morning and one more that night. Four in all," answered the witness. That day, bombs exploded at the Copacabana, the Chateau Miramar, the Tritón hotels, and finally at the Bodeguita del Medio restaurant.

With the assistance of the photos, the witness described to the jury the destruction at the Chateau Miramar. While he was there investigating, another bomb went off at the Hotel Tritón, just 3,000 meters away. "I got there in five minutes," said the witness.

"When I arrived at the Tritón," Lt. Col. Hernández Caballero told the jury, "There was already a group of experts on the scene. The alarm and worry on the faces of the guests and workers at the hotel was evident. The location of the explosion was also visible." The witness commented that three consecutive explosions had taken place in a brief period of time.

While the Cuban investigator testified, Posada Carriles' attorney held his glasses in his hand, nibbling on them, while scrutinizing the members of the jury. It was as though he was trying to read their minds. The jurors paid no attention to him. They were concentrating on Hernández Caballero's testimony. Reardon showed the witness photo after photo.

"You can see in this particular photograph one of the aluminum beams that was violently severed and landed against the wall of the Tritón's lobby," the witness pointed out. "This other shows the back of the sofa that was thrown 15 to 20 meters by the force of the explosion. It landed at the hotel entrance," he added.

The Cuban investigation established that the Hotel Tritón suffered damage to glass in the lobby, display cases and doors, its suspended ceiling, lamps and furniture, of $3,661 dollars. The same Raúl Cruz León placed the bomb at the Tritón Hotel--between the planters behind the sofa, close to some children from Spain who were vacationing in Cuba with their parents. One of them, just 14 years old, alerted the guard on duty, who immediately evacuated the children and everyone else in the lobby. There was no time to deactivate the device before it exploded. Thanks to the alertness of the Spanish boy, there were no deaths or injuries at the Tritón.

The jury doesn't know any of this, because it is not part of the case against Posada Carriles. In El Paso, he is not on trial for murder—only for perjury.

Reardon showed the Cuban investigator another photo of the Hotel Tritón. Hernández Caballero explained, "This is a photo from just before the bomb's explosion. There were some children..." At that, Posada Carriles' attorney objected. "That is beyond the scope of the witness' personal knowledge, Your Honor. It's hearsay," he said. The judge sustained the objection.

Except for the details of the photographs shown to them, therefore, the jury will not get to hear much of what happened at the Tritón Hotel on September 4, 1997.

The fourth bomb on September 4, 1997 exploded at the Bodeguita del Medio restaurant in the heart of Old Havana. "It's possibly the most famous restaurant in Cuba," said the investigator as the jury members listened to him closely. "The explosion was at around 11:50 p.m.," said Hernández Caballero. "I arrived there at 1:00 a.m."

Reardon showed him several photos of the Bodeguita. "This is the part of the restaurant where the explosive device went off," he said, pointing to the Terrace Bar located on the second floor.

Although the El Paso jury won't ever learn it, the Cuban people know that Cruz León admitted to having placed the bomb behind a refrigeration unit on the restaurant's second floor, on the afternoon of September 4, 1997, after having ordered some drinks and roasted meat. He confessed to having programmed the timer on the bomb so that it would go off approximately seven or eight hours later. Reardon showed the Cuban investigator another photograph from the restaurant. "This is the crater caused by the explosion," said the witness. "Pieces of the ceiling fell on some Mexican tourists who were eating downstairs and injured them."

The limitations of the U.S. judicial system prevent the witness Hernández Caballero from saying that the Mexican tourist, Marco Polo Soriano Villa suffered a head injury. Or that Juan José Huerta Lluviano, another Mexican tourist suffered a mild concussion and a one-centimeter scalp wound. And that Ramón Soriano Ledesma, Octavio Soriano Ledesma and Nicolás Rodríguez Valdés were also wounded in the explosion. The purpose of Hernández Caballero's testimony in El Paso is simply to establish that there were explosions in Havana in 1997. Nothing more. Having met the goal, Prosecutor Reardon ended the direct examination of Roberto Hernández Caballero.

An agitated Posada Carriles

During the break, Posada Carriles stood up to nervously ask one of his attorneys, Felipe Millán, when "la Bardach" would testify (Ann Louise Bardach, the New York Times journalist, to whom he boasted of having been the mastermind of the 1997 explosions in Havana). He also asked Millán about María Elvira Salazar, a Miami television journalist who also interviewed him about the matter. In that interview Posada is clearly heard to have said, "I have no remorse whatsoever, and accept my historic responsibility. They can call me whatever they want. The only option that we Cubans have is to fight a violent regime with violence."

Posada Carriles was also visibly upset when he heard the Cuban investigator describe the destruction left behind by one of the explosions. He blurted, "Está loco."

The cross-examination

Arturo Hernández, Luis Posada Carriles' lead attorney, approached the witness and began the cross-examination in a solemn tone. He asked the witness his name, his birthplace (Matanzas, Cuba) and his profession. But the Miami attorney did not contain his hostility toward the witness for long. "Whom do you work for?" he asked. "Isn't it true that you work for the Castro regime?"

"I work for the Cuban government. The Interior Ministry. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Operations, the Department of Crimes Against State Security," said Lt. Col. Hernández Caballero calmly. "Isn't it true that you work for counterintelligence?" Posada Carriles' attorney asked accusingly, as if it were illegal to be so employed. "Yes," said the witness, "I work investigating crimes that affect Cuban state security, but mainly I am an investigator."

"During a trial in the city of Tampa in 1997, you were asked if you worked for the DGCI. Is that true?" asked the attorney. "Yes. I work for the Directorate of Counterintelligence," answered Hernández Caballero. "But I'm not a counterintelligence expert. I investigate the facts after the crimes have occurred."

Defense counsel continued his barrage, "Yet you never told us that you worked for the DGCI."

"Because no one asked me," answered Hernández Caballero.

The defense attorney then whipped out the trick he had been keeping up his sleeve for the Cuban witness.

"Don't you remember that in 2001 you testified in Miami in the case of the five Cuban spies and denied ever working for the DGI?"

Lt. Col. Hernández Caballero smiled, sipped a little water and savored it before answering. "I don't work for the DGI. One thing doesn't have anything to do with the other," he answered amiably.

The Miami attorney obviously doesn't know that the DGCI is one thing (counter-intelligence) and the DGI something else (intelligence). They are different institutions in Cuba. Hernández Caballero works for one, but not for the other.

In Spanish, caballero means gentleman. When Hernández Caballero testified in the case of the Cuban Five in Miami, one of the defendants in that case, René González Sehweret, said he had been "a gentleman on the stand." And that's also how he conducted himself in El Paso.

The lawyers skirmish

"Your Honor, I want to make a proffer," said attorney Hernández. In legal parlance, a proffer is a preliminary offering of what will later be shown by testimony or other evidence.

To allow him to make his points outside the presence of the jurors, Judge Cardone dismissed the jury. She then asked the Cuban witness to step outside.

"We're going to establish that the mission of this witness is to conduct investigations, so that this [Castro's] tyrannical regime can continue to exist," said Posada Carriles' attorney. "This has been a complete bamboozlement of the jury by the Government to present this witness as a cop, an FBI agent or an investigator," he continued. "This person falsifies documents," he insisted, without proof. "The purpose of Castro's intelligence services is to kill or jail my client," he alleged, practically shouting. "It is the will of the dictator."

The judge then gave the floor to Reardon, but immediately tried to take it away.

Reardon began his rebuttal with a retort made famous by Ronald Reagan during his 1980 Presidential debate with Jimmy Carter, "There you go again."

"There is a back door to the front door," Reardon continued. He was referring to a decision Judge Cardone made some weeks ago in which she had prohibited the defense attorney from turning the case into a trial against Cuba in order to divert attention from Posada Carriles.

But Judge Cardone cut Reardon off before he could say more.

"Your Honor," insisted Reardon, by now very irritated. "The Court has given the defense counsel every opportunity to lay a foundation for his arguments. May I be given the same opportunity as Counsel? This court has been very liberal with the defendant, but the Court must draw a line when bias is invoked. This is way beyond the pale. Defense counsel is now confusing the jury," said Reardon. He then reminded Judge Cardone, "This witness is here to testify about the places where bombs exploded."

Posada Carriles' attorney always insists on having the last word, and he managed to do so again. "This is unbelievable naiveté by government counsel," said the Miami attorney. "The DGI and the DGCI [here the attorney appeared to have at last understood that the agencies are not the same] have engaged in extraterritorial murders in the United States and around the world. This is bias that needs to come out. If the Court allows me to call witnesses, we will show what Villa Marista is all about," he concluded.

After listening to Posada Carriles' attorney, Judge Cardone ruled that although this case is not against Cuba, she would allow defense counsel to inquire about the witness' bias against Posada Carriles, thus opening the door to questions and accusations against Cuba. "This is a plea for pity and jury nullification," said Reardon, greatly irritated.


The judge then reconvened the jury. "Are you a communist?" snapped Posada Carriles' attorney, pronouncing the word communist as if it were a sexual perversion. "Isn't it true that you have fabricated evidence? Do you know Cuba's position on the shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes? Isn't it true that Castro's regime is a sponsor of terrorism?"

Posada Carriles' attorney unleashed a barrage of accusatory questions on the witness with no link to the issues related to the case at bar.

"These questions poison the jury," Reardon objected. "I overrule the objection," said the judge. "You may proceed with your questions, Mr. Hernández." And proceed he did: with question after question meant to impress upon the jury the notion that the witness is a communist who fabricates evidence and probably tortures people at a mysterious detention facility in Havana. Posada Carriles' attorney didn't offer any proof for his allegations. He didn't have to. After all, as Judge Cardone has said repeatedly during this trial, "this is cross-examination."

Unruffled, the Cuban investigator responded to all of the questions. "Yes, I'm a member of the Communist party. No I have not fabricated evidence. I don't know the details of Cuba's official position on the shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes. No, Cuba neither sponsors nor supports terrorism."

Tomorrow, Posada Carriles' attorney will continue with his cross-examination of the witness. Today he was unable to score any points. He found himself up against a professional investigator who answered every question respectfully despite the disrespectful questions put to him by Luis Posada Carriles' attorney.

Lt. Col. Roberto Hernández Caballero remains a formidable witness, and it will be difficult for defense counsel to impeach him. He led the investigations into the bombings in Havana. He was easily able to identify the bombing scenes and describe them in detail to the jury. All the prosecutors want him to do on the stand is to evidence that bombs exploded in Havana in 1997. Today, he did that in spades.

José Pertierra practices law in Washington, DC. He represents the government of Venezuela in the case to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.

Translated by Manuel Talens and Machetera. They are members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity (



Diario de El Paso: Un caballero en el estrado

por José Pertierra
23 de febrero de 2011
Tomado de CubaDebate

Febrero 22, 2011. El Paso,Texas.- A las 9:00 de la mañana en punto, entró la Jueza Kathleen Cardone a la sala judicial. Su último encuentro con los abogados y fiscales había sido hace exactamente una semana, cuando suspendió el juicio para poder “deliberar con calma” sobre si concedía la petición del abogado de Luis Posada Carriles para anular el proceso o, por lo menos, desestimar los tres primeros cargos de la Causa: los que tienen que ver con las declaraciones falsas del acusado sobre las bombas en La Habana en 1997.

La tensión pesaba sobre todos en la Corte. La Jueza Cardone saludó secamente a los abogados, y el fiscal Timothy J. Reardon III se paró y-como hace siempre- le ofreció los buenos días. “El gobierno está listo para el juicio”, anunció Reardon sabiendo que la jueza tenía aún que decidir precisamente la cuestión de la viabilidad de un juicio. El abogado defensor, Arturo Hernández, entonces le extendió un optimista saludo a la jueza.


“La Corte quiere dirigirse a la moción del abogado defensor de anular el caso y a su petición de desestimar los cargos números 1, 2 y 3 de la Causa”, dijo la Jueza Cardone y sacó un papel en el cual había escrito su decisión para leerla sin equivocarse.

La disyuntiva legal deriva de la queja del abogado Hernández que la fiscalía no compartió con la defensa dentro del plazo que le había impuesto la jueza algunos documentos. Específicamente, dijo Hernández en una moción que presentó el 11 de febrero, la fiscalía no compartió unos escritos que supuestamente muestran que el testigo Roberto Hernández Caballero está parcializado contra Posada Carriles y acostumbra a falsificar evidencia.

También que una secretaria en Guatemala, Cecilia Canel, hizo unas declaraciones anteriormente que exculparían a Posada Carriles de responsabilidad por las bombas que estallaron en La Habana en 1997 y que existen dos informes del FBI que del mismo modo lo eximen de culpabilidad.

Como prólogo a su decisión, la Jueza Cardone leyó en alta voz parte de la petición de Arturo Hernández y concluyó que las acusaciones del abogado defensor son ciertas. Es más, dijo la jueza, “si la defensa no se hubiera percatado de que esos documentos existían, la fiscalía probablemente no los hubiera divulgado”.

“Yo he reflexionado largo y tendido sobre esto”, dijo la Jueza Cardone mientras que miraba a los fiscales. “Es cierto que se dilataron en divulgar los documentos, pero de todos modos voy a denegar las mociones”, anunció, dejando caer un “por este momento”. Es decir, subrayó que existe la posibilidad de que conceda la moción en el futuro si se entera de alguna otra violación.

Es difícil desestimar un caso por este tipo de violación, salvo que la jueza concluya que la infracción haya socavado la defensa. Aquí no hay evidencia de semejante cosa, y por eso la Jueza Cardone no pudo desestimar el caso. “¿Algo más antes que convoque al jurado?”, preguntó la jueza. Arturo Hernández quien aparentaba esta mañana mucha confianza de que su moción estaba ganada, respondió con un huraño “no”. Ni siquiera, lo adornó con la frase “Su Señoría”, como acostumbra siempre llamar a la jueza.


Escuchamos tres fuertes toques del mazo. El guardia abrió la puerta lateral de la sala y los integrantes del jurado desfilaron a sus asientos. Ninguno tiene la menor idea del por qué tuvieron un receso de tantos días. Esa información no es compartida con el jurado.

“Ha pasado mucho tiempo desde la última vez que usted estuvo aquí”, le dijo el fiscal Reardon al testigo. “Háganos el favor de darle a los caballeros y las damas del jurado su nombre y apellido”. Con esa pregunta, Reardon reanudó el interrogatorio de Roberto Hernández Caballero, que la jueza había suspendido hace varios días. El investigador cubano vestía hoy un traje verde claro, con una camisa negra que combinaba con una corbata negra. La última vez que la Jueza Cardone lo dejó testificar fue hace trece días.


El fiscal es un veterano litigante del Departamento de Justicia. Su padre, Timothy J. Reardon Jr., era íntimo amigo del Presidente John F. Kennedy y uno de sus más cercanos asistentes en la Casa Blanca. Los dos Reardons jugaban fútbol americano en Hyannis Port con la familia Kennedy, y en la despedida de duelo de Reardon padre, en el año 1993, el Senador Edward M. Kennedy contó de la vez que el joven Reardon interceptó un balón lanzado por el recién electo Presidente Kennedy en el año 1960. El padre le pidió a su hijo que le devolviera la pelota al Presidente, porque “uno jamás debe interceptar un pase del Presidente electo de los Estados Unidos”.

Ahora el niño que le interceptó el balón al Presidente John F. Kennedy, es un experimentado fiscal de la Sección Antiterrorista del Departamento de Justicia, cuya responsabilidad es procesar a un ex agente de la CIA que ha sido uno de los autores intelectuales del terrorismo contra Cuba durante últimos cincuenta años. Un terrorismo que fue creado y dirigido desde los Estados Unidos. Y amparado por Washington.

Es una gran ironía histórica que sea Timothy J. Reardon III el que está ahora dirigiendo el caso contra Luis Posada Carriles, y que lo esté haciendo con la colaboración de un testigo de la contrainteligencia cubana y documentos preparados por peritos de la Isla.

Como me dijo el historiador Peter Kornbluh, “después de Playa Girón, los Kennedys desataron una ola de exiliados violentos contra Cuba a través de la Operación Mangosta y otras acciones autónomas”. Mangosta fue una operación encubierta cuyo propósito era destruir a la Revolución cubana. Sus planes incluían el asesinato del Presidente Fidel Castro y otros dirigente, a través del uso del sabotaje. El terrorismo fue un instrumento de una guerra no declarada por Estados Unidos contra Cuba.

El encargado de la Operación Mangosta era el entonces Fiscal General de la República, Robert F. Kennedy, del mismo Departamento de Justicia donde ahora trabaja Timothy J. Reardon III. Sin embargo, la tarea del Departamento de Justicia hoy en El Paso es diferente a la que tuvo en los años 60. En vez de enviar ataques terroristas contra la isla, el Departamento de Justicia de los Estados Unidos colabora con el gobierno cubano para procesar a uno de los autores más conocido de la guerra sucia contra Cuba. Un hombre que fue reclutado, entrenado y pagado por la CIA para realizar sus violentas actividades delictivas.


Esta mañana, Reardon le mostró al inspector cubano, Roberto Hernández Caballero, varias fotografías de lugares en Cuba donde estallaron una serie de bombas en 1997: los hoteles Copacabana, Chateau Miramar Tritón, y el restaurante La Bodeguita del Medio. Hace dos semanas el inspector había identificado fotos similares sobre las bombas que estallaron en el Meliá Cohiba, el Capri y el Hotel Nacional. El jurado escuchó atentamente al inspector cubano describir las fotos que veían claramente en los monitores personales situados a la par de sus asientos.

“Ahí se ve el bar del lobby del Copacabana, donde toda la parte derecha fue destruida por el artefacto explosivo”, dijo el inspector. ”Esa mancha de sangre en el suelo es de la persona que resultó herida y posteriormente murió por las heridas que sufrió por la explosión”, señaló el testigo.

El abogado de Posada Carriles se opuso a esa respuesta. “El testigo no es competente para opinar sobre la causa de la muerte del fallecido”, dijo el abogado. El abogado defensor no quiere que el jurado se entere de que a Fabio Di Celmo lo mató una esquirla, lanzada por la explosión, que le cortó la yugular y causó que se desangrara. Que esa bomba la puso un salvadoreño llamado Raúl Cruz León, a instancias de Francisco Chávez Abarca bajo la dirección de Luis Posada Carriles. Todo esto lo sabemos, porque tanto Cruz León como Chávez Abarca confesaron, y Posada Carriles alardeó de su autoría intelectual al New York Times el año siguiente durante una entrevista en Aruba. Cruz León confesó que llegó al hotel Copacabana el 4 de septiembre de 1997 alrededor de las diez y treinta de la mañana, se sentó en el lobby-bar y pidió una cerveza “Bucanero”, antes de irse al baño a ensamblar y activar el artefacto explosivo que depositó en un cenicero de pie, metálico, que estaba situado en la esquina derecha de la barra. Cuando terminó de tomarse la cerveza, se retiró del hotel dejando la bomba que cobró la vida a Fabio Di Celmo.

“¿A qué distancia de la sangre estuvo el foco del artefacto explosivo?”, preguntó Reardon. “Solamente 5 ó 6 metros”, respondió el inspector. La fiscalía no le preguntó, y el jurado no se enteró de que el Hotel sufrió también roturas de cristales, del falso techo, de las luminarias, los muebles y el piso del bar. Los daños fueron tasados en $16,700.60 pesos cubanos, más tres mil dólares estadounidenses.

“¿A cuántos lugares de los sucesos de explosiones fue usted el 4 de septiembre de 1997?”, preguntó el fiscal. “A tres en la mañana, y uno más por la noche. Cuatro en total”, contestó el testigo. Ese día, estallaron bombas en el Copacabana, el Chateau Miramar, el Tritón y finalmente, en la Bodeguita del Medio.

Daños en el Hotel Tritón

Con la ayuda de unas fotos, el testigo le describió al jurado la destrucción en el Chateau Miramar. Estando ahí, explotó otro artefacto en el Hotel Tritón, a solo 3000 metros del Chateau Miramar. “En cinco minutos llegué”, dijo el testigo.

“Cuando llegué al Tritón”, le expresó el Teniente Coronel Hernández Caballero al jurado, “ya había un grupo de expertos en el lugar. Se pudo apreciar consternación y alarma entre los huéspedes y empleados del hotel. También se pudo apreciar donde ocurrió la explosión”. El testigo observó que ocurrieron tres explosiones consecutivas en breve lapso de tiempo.

Mientras testificaba el inspector cubano, el abogado de Posada Carriles, masticaba la pata de sus espejuelos y miraba al jurado detenidamente. Como si estuviera tratando de leerle la mente. Los integrantes del jurado ni cuenta se dieron, porque estaban concentrados en el testimonio de Roberto Hernández Caballero. Reardon le mostró foto tras foto al testigo.

“Ahí se ve una de las vigas de aluminio que fue lanzada violentamente y terminó en la pared del lobby del Tritón”, señaló el testigo. “Esta otra muestra el espaldar del sofá que fue lanzado 15 a 20 metros por la fuerza de la explosión: cayó en el entrepiso del hotel”, añadió. No le preguntaron al testigo, pero la investigación cubana estableció que el Tritón sufrió daños de rotura de cristales en el lobby, vidrieras y puertas, del falso techo, de las lámparas y los muebles. Las pérdidas fueron tasadas en 3,661.00 dólares, más 2,700 pesos. Cruz León colocó la bomba del Tritón entre las macetas que estaban detrás del sofá, cerca de unos niños españoles. Uno de ellos, de solamente 14 años, le alertó al custodio, quien inmediatamente evacuó a los niños y a los demás que estaban en el lobby. No dio tiempo para desactivar el explosivo. Sin embargo, gracias al niñito español no hubo heridos o muertos en el Tritón.

De nada de esto se enteró el jurado, porque no es parte de este caso contra Posada Carriles. En El Paso, solamente lo juzgan por mentiroso, no por asesino. Cuando Hernández Caballero tuvo ante sí una nueva imagen del Tritón, comentó en tono seguro que “esta es una foto momentos antes de que explotó la bomba. Allí estaban unos niños . . . .” Ahí se quejó el abogado de Posada Carriles y logró que la Jueza Cardone no permitiera que el testigo cubano le explicara al jurado todo lo sucedido en el Tritón aquel 4 de septiembre de 1997. Cruz León confesó posteriormente haber escuchado la explosión del Tritón desde el taxi en el cual se montó minutos antes de que estallara la bomba. Eso tampoco lo sabe el jurado de El Paso.

La cuarta bomba del 4 de septiembre de 1997 estalló en el Restaurante La Bodeguita del Medio, situado en el casco histórico de La Habana Vieja. “Es posiblemente el restaurante más famoso de Cuba”, le dijo el inspector cubano a los integrantes del jurado que lo escuchaban atentamente. “La explosión fue alrededor de las 11:50 de la noche”, dijo Hernández Caballero. “Yo llegué a eso de la 1:00 de la mañana”.

Reardon mostró varias fotos de La Bodeguita. ”Este es el área del restaurante donde estalló el artefacto explosivo”, señalando el Bar Terraza, ubicado en la segunda planta.

Aunque el jurado de El Paso no se enterará, el pueblo cubano sabe que Cruz León confesó haber colocado la bomba detrás de un equipo de refrigeración en la segunda planta del restaurante, en la tarde del 4 de septiembre de 1997, después de haber pedido un asado y unas bebidas. Confesó haber programado el artefacto explosivo para que estallara aproximadamente siete u ocho horas después. Reardon le mostró al inspector cubano otra fotografía del restaurante. “Este es el cráter causado por la explosión”, dijo el testigo. “Una losa cayó sobre unos turistas mexicanos que estaban comiendo abajo y los lesionó”.

El sistema judicial estadounidense no le dio a Hernández Caballero la oportunidad de contar que el turista mexicano, Marco Polo Soriano Villa, sufrió un trauma craneal. Juan José Huerta Lluviano, otro turista mexicano, sufrió una conmoción cerebral leve y una herida epicraneal interparietal de un centímetro. Y que Ramón Soriano Ledesma, Octavio Soriano Ledesma y Nicolás Rodríguez Valdés también resultaron heridos a causa de la explosión. El propósito del testimonio de Roberto Hernández Caballero en El Paso es simplemente establecer que ocurrieron explosiones en La Habana en el año 1997. No más. Establecida la meta, el fiscal Timothy J. Reardon III concluyó el interrogatorio.


Durante la pausa, se levantó Posada Carriles para preguntarle con nerviosismo a uno de sus abogados, Felipe Millán, cuándo se supone vendrá a testificar “la Bardach” (Ann Louise Bardach, la periodista del New York Times, ante quien alardeó ser el autor intelectual de las explosiones de 1997 en La Habana). También le preguntó a Millán sobre “María Elvira Salazar”, una periodista de la televisión de Miami que también lo entrevistó al respecto. A ella Posada le dijo: “No tengo remordimiento ninguno, y acepto mi responsabilidad histórica. Que me llamen lo que quieran llamarme. La única opción que tenemos los cubanos es combatir a un régimen violento, con la violencia“.

Posada Carriles también se alborotó al escuchar el testimonio de Roberto Hernández Caballero y dijo en un momento en que el testigo describía la destrucción que había dejado una de las bombas: “Está loco”.


Arturo Hernández, abogado principal de Luis Posada Carriles, se acercó al podio y comenzó el contrainterrogatorio en tono solemne. Le preguntó al testigo su nombre, lugar de nacimiento (Matanzas) y su profesión. Pero la furia del abogado miamense no tardó en brotar. ”¿Para quién trabaja usted?”, preguntó. “¿No es cierto que usted trabaja para el régimen de Castro?”.

“Trabajo para el gobierno de Cuba. El Ministerio del Interior. La Dirección Criminal de Investigaciones y Operaciones, Departamento de Delitos contra la Seguridad del Estado”, dijo calmadamente el Teniente Coronel Roberto Hernández Caballero. ”¿No es cierto que usted trabaja para la contrainteligencia?”, planteó el abogado de Posada Carriles -como si eso de por sí fuese un delito. “Sí”, dijo el testigo, “trabajo investigando los delitos que atentan contra la Seguridad del Estado cubano, pero soy principalmente un investigador”.

“Durante un juicio en la ciudad de Tampa en 1997, a usted le preguntaron si trabajaba para el DGCI: ¿cierto?”, preguntó el abogado. “Sí. Trabajo para la Dirección de Contrainteligencia”, respondió Hernández Caballero. “Pero no soy un experto de la contrainteligencia. Investigo los hechos después que han ocurrido crímenes”. “Pero ahora usted no nos dijo que trabajaba para la DGCI”, le dijo el abogado de Posada Carriles acusatoriamente al testigo. “Nadie me preguntó”, respondió Hernández Caballero. En ese momento, el abogado defensor sacó de la manga la trampa que le tenía guardada al testigo cubano.

“¿No recuerda usted que en el 2001 usted testificó en Miami en el caso de los Cinco espías cubanos y dijo que nunca había trabajado para el DGI?”. El abogado pensó que el testigo había testificado de forma contradictoria. Aseguró que primero había dicho que era de la contrainteligencia y cuatro años más tarde que no. Roberto Hernández Caballero se sonrió, tomó un poco de agua y lo saboreó antes de responder. ”No trabajo para el DGI. Una cosa no tiene que ver con la otra”, contestó amablemente.

El abogado de Miami obviamente no sabía que una cosa es la DGCI (la contrainteligencia) y la otra es la DGI (la inteligencia). Son diferentes instituciones en Cuba, con diferentes estructuras. Hernández Caballero trabaja para una, pero no para la otra. Hernández Caballero fue el único testigo cubano que testificó en el caso de los Cinco en Miami. René González Sehwerert lo describió como “un caballero en el estrado”. Y así fue también aquí en El Paso.


El abogado de Posada Carriles entonces sacó el tema de Villa Marista. Pidió interrogar a Hernández Caballero sobre ese centro de investigación. Para que el abogado defensor argumentara sin que lo escuchara el jurado, la Jueza Cardone despidió al jurado y también al testigo por unos 20 minutos. “Voy a establecer que este testigo tiene como misión investigar para que el régimen tiránico de Castro pueda seguir existiendo”, dijo el abogado de Posada Carriles. “El gobierno quiere embaucar al jurado cuando lo trata de presentar como un policía o un investigador”, continuó. “Esta persona falsifica documentos”, afirmó sin pruebas. “El propósito de los servicios de inteligencia de Castro es asesinar o encarcelar a Luis Posada Carriles”, alegó casi gritando. “Esa es la voluntad del tirano”.

La jueza entonces le dio la palabra a Reardon, pero inmediatamente trató de quitársela. Reardon comenzó diciendo que el abogado de Posada Carriles estaba tratando de colar por la puerta trasera lo que no había podido colar por la delantera. La referencia era a una decisión de hace varias semanas en la cual la jueza había prohibido que el abogado defensor convirtiera este caso en una juicio contra Cuba, para desviar la atención de Posada Carriles. La Jueza Cardone no dejó que Reardon terminara su argumento.

“Su Señoría”, insistió un ya muy irritado Reardon. “Usted le ha dado todas las oportunidades posibles al abogado defensor para que haga sus argumentos. ¿Puede extenderme la misma oportunidad a mí? Esta corte ha sido muy liberal con el acusado, pero tiene que establecer límites. La defensa se ha pasado y está ahora confundiendo al jurado”, dijo Reardon.

El abogado de Posada Carriles siempre insiste en la última palabra y aquí la logró nuevamente. “La DGI y la DGCI (parece que el abogado al fin comprendió que son diferentes instituciones) han orquestado asesinatos extraterritoriales en los Estados Unidos y alrededor del mundo”.

Después de escuchar al abogado de Posada Carriles, la Jueza Cardone dijo que aunque este caso no es contra Cuba, ella permitirá que Arturo Hernández indague sobre la parcialidad del testigo contra Posada Carriles”, insinuando que permitirá preguntas y acusaciones contra Cuba. “Esto es simplemente una manera de generar la lástima del jurado hacia el acusado”, dijo Reardon muy irritado.


La Jueza convocó nuevamente al jurado en ese momento. “¿Es usted un comunista?”, espetó el abogado de Posada Carriles, como si le estuviera insinuando que es un pervertido sexual. “¿No es cierto que usted falsifica evidencia?¿Sabe usted la posición de Cuba sobre el derribo de los aviones de Hermanos al Rescate? ¿No es cierto que el régimen de Castro apadrina al terrorismo?” Estas y otras preguntas incendiarias les hizo el abogado de Posada Carriles al testigo. “Estas preguntas envenenan al jurado”, le dijo Reardon a la Jueza Cardone. “No”, le contestó la jueza. “Usted puede proceder con sus preguntas, Sr. Hernández”.

El inspector cubano respondió a todas, sin perturbarse. “Sí, soy miembro del Partido Comunista. No, no he falsificado evidencia. No conozco los detalles de la posición oficial de Cuba sobre el derribo de las aeronaves de Hermanos al Rescate. No, Cuba no apadrina ni apoya al terrorismo”.

Mañana el abogado de Posada Carriles continuará su contrainterrogatorio. Hoy no pudo anotar puntos contra el testimonio del Teniente Coronel Roberto Hernández Caballero. Se encontró con un investigador profesional que le respondió respetuosamente, a pesar de las irrespetuosas preguntas que le lanzó el abogado de Luis Posada Carriles.

José Pertierra es abogado y tiene su bufete en Washington DC. Es el representante legal del gobierno de Venezuela para la extradición de Luis Posada Carriles.

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