CASTRO'S CUBA: ASYMMETRIC THREAT TO THE U.S.?
PART TWO: Castro's Intentions
By Servando González
July 25, 2002
A speech on May 6 by U.S. undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton brought up the issue of Fidel Castro's capabilities for waging asymmetric warfare against the United States. But, as we know, the military equation has two main variables: capability and intent. This article deals with Castro's intentions.
In a speech on May 27, 2002, Cuban leader Fidel Castro claimed that Americans should not fear an attack from Cuba and that the U.S. could count on Cuba's support in the war against terrorism. This was Castro's first response to a President Bush's speech expressing the U.S. hard-line position against the Castro regime. It seems, however, that Castro's words are in strong contradiction with his actions
Testifying before a U. S. House Committee in June, 1965, Fidel's older sister in exile in Florida, Juana Castro Ruz, said that "Fidel's feelings of hatred for this country cannot even be imagined by Americans. His intention, his obsession to destroy the U.S. is one of his main interests and objectives."
In 1975 Castro told Senator George S. McGovern that, during the crisis, he would have taken a harder line than Khrushchev. Recently declassified documents show that, on October 26, Castro demanded an assurance from Khrushchev that, if the U.S. invaded Cuba, the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear attack against the United States. In a clear reference to the use of nuclear weapons against the United States, Castro urged Khrushchev to consider the "elimination of such a danger," and added, "there is, I believe, no other choice." But, apparently not happy with the Soviet Premier's non-committed answer to his plight, Castro had taken some specific steps to "help" Khrushchev push the button.
On October 3, 1962, a few days before the onset of the crisis, Castro sent one of his trusted men to New York on a key mission. The man chosen for the job was Roberto Santiesteban Casanova, who had just been appointed to a minor post at the Cuban mission to the United Nations. His diplomatic passport identified him as an "attaché" to the Cuban mission. Santiesteban's professional field, however, was not diplomacy. Quite the contrary, he was an expert in terrorist techniques, just graduated from a highly secret school of terrorism and subversion, not far from Havana.
As soon as Santiesteban arrived in New York, he contacted the rest of his team, including José Gómez Abad and his wife Elsa, both attachés at the Cuban mission, and José García Orellana, a Cuban immigrant who ran a costume jewelry shop in Manhattan. FBI estimates of how many others were involved in the plot range from twenty-five to fifty people. The secret mission of the terrorist team was to accomplish Castro's orders to blow up a big portion of Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty, Macy's department store, several subway stations, the 42nd street bus terminal and Grand Central station, as well as several refineries along the New Jersey shore, including the Humble Oil and Refining Company in Linden. To this effect they stored a huge cache of explosives at Garcia's shop.
But the saboteurs' plan was too ambitious and included too many people, and soon the FBI got word of it and detained the main conspirators. Had their plan worked out the way it had been conceived, it would undoubtedly have ignited American public opinion and prompted retaliation against Cuba. Had it occurred during the tense days of the crisis it may have been taken for a Russian preemptive attack on the United States and may have triggered a spasm-like retaliatory strike on the Soviet Union, with unpredictable consequences. In a speech delivered in October 1996 at the United Nations, Castro made a remark that perhaps passed unnoticed by many of the delegates. In an obvious reference to the U.S. embargo on Cuba, he said: "We lay claim to a world without ruthless blockades that cause the death of men, women, and children, youth and elders, like noiseless atom bombs."
During a visit he paid later to Harlem, he delivered a very similar message, using almost the same words: "As we were saying today at the United Nations, it's [the U.S. embargo] like a noiseless atom bomb." The inference is very clear. If the U.S. has used atom bombs (the embargo) against Cuba, then Castro believes he has the right to defend himself in kind, using atom bombs against the United States.
After his visit to New York in 1996, Castro seemed to be in great spirits. But not for long. At the same time that some people in the American government were looking for ways to normalize the relations between the two countries, Castro ordered two small American civilian planes flying outside Cuba's territorial waters to be shot-down, just because he "felt humiliated."
Castro's behavior, though shocking, came as no surprise to people who really know him. In his book The Fourth Floor, Earl E. T. Smith, former U.S. ambassador to Cuba from 1957 until Castro took power in 1959, tells how he conducted intensive research into Castro's background and spent days talking to people who had known him closely from childhood. "It was the unanimous opinion of these people," writes Smith, "that Fidel was an unstable terrorist. Luis Conte Agüero, one of Castro's best friends when both were students at the University of Havana, says that Fidel Castro has "the mentality of a gangster."
Political scientists have discussed about what they call "crazy states." Though several definitions have been given, the most accurate is that crazy states are the ones under the absolute control of crazy leaders. It is a big mistake, however, to think that just because the person controlling a state is a lunatic, he must be clumsy, erratic, or incompetent in carrying out his irrational goals. As Hitler's early history has proved, it is a big mistake to underestimate the power of leaders who profess the craziest of ends. A crazy leader can be both wise and cunning. Moreover, unbound by traditional moral or ethical restraint, he has a distinct advantage over his rational counterparts when he decides to choose his means.
As a crazy leader himself, Fidel Castro has always had an advantage. He is so utterly convinced of the righteousness of his ends that he lacks ordinary inhibiting scruples in choosing his means. He has never had any moral or ethical conflicts when matching means and ends. He has always considered the instrumental value of his means, not their moral value.
As soon as Castro began losing the military support of the Soviet Union and the Russians could no longer resupply him with conventional armaments, he began preparing for his coming war with the U.S. by focusing on the development of biological weapons the poor man's nuclear weapons which might be effective even without using his army. The fact perhaps explains why Castro didn't object to Russian President Vladimir Putin's suggestion to stop working on the Juraguá plant.
Several observers believe Castro was sending a clear signal to the United States when in January 28, 1998, his speech carried the threat, "This lamb cannot ever be devoured, neither with airplanes, nor with smart bombs, because this lamb has more intelligence than you and in its blood there is and always will be poison for you!"
For many years Castro has been accusing the United States of spreading deadly diseases in Cuba. Knowing Castro's mind-set, and his penchant for projecting the blame on others as a self- justificatory mechanism, one may think that his accusations are just a product of his paranoid mind. But there is compelling evidence that, at least on one occasion in 1971, the CIA used biological warfare against Cuba in an effort to destabilize the Castro regime. In 1977 an unnamed intelligence source said he was given a sealed, unmarked container at Fort Gulich, containing African swine fever, a debilitating disease, for spreading in Cuba. Also, in 1981 Castro made the claim that an outbreak of hemorrhagic dengue fever in Cuba was the result of U.S. bacteriological warfare. If, as it seems, his accusations are true, Castro has the perfect justification for using bacteriological warfare against the United States. As the saying goes, even paranoids have enemies.
In 1989 General Rafael del Pino Díaz, the highest ranking Cuban defector, said that at the time of the Grenada operation in 1983, Castro ordered Cuban MiG 23 pilots to program their computers to attack targets in Florida. Among the selected targets was the Turkey Point nuclear plant South of Miami, which Castro said had the potential of producing a nuclear disaster larger than Chernobyl. According to Gen. del Pino, Castro's words were: "I don't have nuclear bombs, but I can produce a nuclear explosion."
In a forthcoming book, Inside Castro's Bunker, General del Pino expands on the subject. According to del Pino, Castro's initial plans were to destroy Homestead Air Force Base, but then decided to destroy Turkey Point instead. Castro's words, says del Pino, were: "I want to do something that they will remember for the rest of their lives and then, when we are gone, history will remind them that we were the only ones who made them pay dearly for their imperialistic arrogance around the world."
On July 1980, while he was visiting Nicaragua to celebrate the Sandinista takeover. Castro bragged, "We have agents of absolute confidence all over the United States who are ready to undertake whatever actions are necessary at the time of our choosing. The Yankees can not even begin to imagine the capabilities we have in their country. You all read about the riots in Miami . . . We can accomplish things that would make the riots in Florida look like a sunshower."
In 1966 Castro, as chief coordinator of international terrorism, hosted in Havana the Tricontinental Conference, a Cuba-based international organization for promoting revolution, particularly by violent means, including terrorism. More than 500 representatives from virtually every terrorist group in the world attended the conference. A secretariat to the organization was created at the America Department, a branch of the Cuban intelligence services, to select what groups to support and to promote subversion and terrorism. Several training camps were created, where would be terrorists were trained in urban guerrilla warfare, kidnappings, assassinations, and other types of terrorist activities. Many terrorists groups received their training there, among them the Uruguayan Tupamaros, the Argentinean Montoneros and ERP, the Colombian FARC, M-19, and ELN, the Chilean MIR and Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez, the Peruvian MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Lima in 1984 and the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in 1985), the Basque ETA (which still has a general headquarters in Havana), the Irish IRA, and the Sandinista, Guatemalan and Salvadoran guerrillas. Moreover,
Castro also supported American terrorist groups like the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the Porto Rican FALN (Armed Forces of National Liberation), who between 1974 and 1985 organized 120 terrorist bombings in the U.S., the Macheteros, responsible for highjacking a Wells Fargo armored truck in Connecticut in September 1983 and robbing $7.2 million dollars some of which found its way to Havana. Both the FALN and the Macheteros were organized by Castro's intelligence services and some of them received their terrorist training in Cuba.
It has been extensively documented that members of the Black Panther organization were trained in Cuba in terrorist operations. Also, in the mid-seventies the CIA reported that close to 300 Palestinians were undergoing training in Cuban camps. It is known also that Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the infamous "Carlos, the Jackal," attended the Tricontinental Conference in Havana in 1966 and was trained in Cuba in urban guerrilla tactics, explosives, sabotage, and other terrorist activities. It is highly revealing that when several Ibero-American heads of state attending the 2000 Ibero- American Summit in Panamá passed a resolution condemning ETA's terrorist acts, Castro refused to sign the document.
Since late 2000, Castro has been working frantically creating a strong alliance of anti- American Muslim countries. Visits to Cuba by Muslim leaders of all levels, as well as visits by members of the Castroist government to anti-American Muslim countries, have increased considerably. In July of 2001, Hojjatoleslam Hajj Seyed Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeneileader and founder of the Islamic republic of Iran visited Cuba for the celebration of the triumph of Fidel's revolution. According to official Cuban reports, Fidel Castro himself, accompanied by his distinguished guest, led the combative march of 1.2 million Cubans along Havana's sea side Malecón avenue.
Apart from celebrating another anniversary of the victory of Castro's revolution, the event main purpose was to make three key demands to the U.S.: an end to the blockade, the release of the five Castro spies detained in a Miami jail, and the end of U.S. acts of terrorism against Cuba. In May of 2001 Castro made a long trip visiting several anti-American Muslim countries, among them Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Qatar, Syria and Libya. Iran, Libya, and Syria, together with Cuba, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan, have been since 1993 in the U.S. Department of State yearly report "Patterns of Global Terrorism."
Upon his arrival in Iran, the second stage of his journey, Castro was prodigal in praising Iranian Islamism. Afterwards, he made an emphatic declaration: "I have not come to speak of trade, but of politics and of culture." Observers noted attentively an affirmation by president Mohammed Khatami: "The cooperation between Iran and Cuba will be able to confront the hegemony and the injustice of the great arrogance [of the United States]." Speaking at Tehran University on May 10, 2001, Castro vowed that "the imperialist king will finally fall."
During Castro's meeting with Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian leader proposed an "Irano-Cuban cooperation" against the U.S. Referring to "U.S. hegemony," Khamenei said that Tehran considers the "American regime as an arrogant power, seeking a unipolar world, to which we seriously object."
"The U.S. is weak and extremely vulnerable today," Khamenei stressed, adding that "U.S. grandeur can be broken, and if this takes place, it will be a service rendered to mankind and even the American people." For his part, Castro said that he is not "afraid of America, and the Cuban nation, 40 years after its revolution, is now stronger than ever." "Iran and Cuba," Castro added, "in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees. The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up."
In an interview with reporters from the Al-Jazeera TV station, based in Qatar, Castro emphatically declared that he was not ready for a reconciliation with the U.S. As a matter of fact, continued Castro, "I will never reconciliate myself with the Capitalist system." During a five-hour speech on the occasion of commemorating the 40th anniversary of his revolution, Castro brought up again the subject of a U.S. invasion of Cuba. Talking about some anti-Castro organizations in the U.S., Castro claimed, in a typical Freudian projection mechanism, that they "dream about a war confrontation" between Cuba and the U.S., adding that "their hatred is such, that they would like to see our motherland suffering a demolishing genocidal attack similar to the one suffered by the Serbian people."
More recently, National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón declared in a lengthy proclamation that "the economic blockade imposed by the United States of America on Cuba constitutes an act of genocide." Likewise, the word "genocide" keeps popping up in Castro's speeches in his references to the U.S.
When an epidemic of dengue fever broke out in Cuba in the mid-seventies, affecting 350,000 people, among them this writer, Castro immediately claimed Cuba was under a U.S. biological attack. But when Soviet General Lebedenski and a team of military scientists visited Cuba, Castro asked him to analyze the strain to verify his suspicions. The Soviet scientists found no evidence of this, and suspected that it was a natural outbreak, because the strain happened to be Cuban, not American. Perhaps Castro, following the CIA's example, was testing his biological weapons on the Cuban people.
In their book America the Vulnerable, Joseph Douglass and Neil Livingstone informed that Russian instructors at Cuban chemical warfare schools in the 1980s boasted that Castro was prepared to kill tens of millions of Americans with toxins he had stockpiled. One must keep in mind that Castro has an irrational hatred for the United States. Following Castro's reasoning one can arrive at the conclusion that, if it were true, as he claims, that the U.S. has been committing genocidal actions against Cuba, then he would be morally justified to commit genocidal actions against the U.S. It seems that, as it happens all the time, Castro's twisted mind has found a good excuse to justify his plans.
Norberto Fuentes, a Cuban writer in exile who was close to the highest levels of the Cuban intelligence, mentioned that Castro's plans for a Cuban military attack on the U.S. territory were laid down many years ago and, as late as 1999 were still operative. Fuentes tells how Carlos Aldana, at the time Castro's main ideologue, was writing down the ethical principles justifying a devastating Cuban attack on the U.S territory. Information obtained from the "Wasp Network," a net of Cuban spies captured in Florida, and the arrest of Ana Belen Montes, Castro's high-level mole inside the Defense Intelligence Agency, indicates that Castro is still actively planning the destruction of the United States.
It is useful to remember that, in an unusual interview on Cuban TV in the evening of January 4, 2001, Raúl Castro advised the American "imperialists" that it would be better for them to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba while Fidel was still alive than in the future. Most analysts of Cuban politics were confused about the true meaning of Raúl's words. Why does he believe that it would be easier to normalize relations now than after Fidel's death? Apparently Castro was concerned that he was getting old and perhaps may die before bringing America to its knees, destroyed and humiliated.
As I have mentioned above, on several occasions Fidel Castro has mentioned the U.S. embargo on Cuba as a genocidal action. This can only mean that he already has found the right pretext he needs to retaliate in kind. Under this light Raúl's words should not be interpreted as an advice, but as an ultimatum: either the U.S. unconditionally stops the embargo and normalizes relations with the Castro government while Fidel is still alive, or he will retaliate in kind.
Since late 2000, subtle signals emanating from Havana made evident that Castro is up to something big. The magnitude of Castro's thirst for revenge against the United States and the American people is not in any way constricted by any moral bounds. For people closely observing Castro's actions the only questions are: what? where? and when?
© 2002 Servando González - All Rights Reserved
Servando González is a Cuban-born American writer and intelligence analyst. His book The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol, a study of Castro from the point of view on intelligence and espionage, was published early this year. His book The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis will appear this Fall.