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Orlando Bosch Ávila (18 August 1926 – 27 April 2011) was a Cuban exile, former Central Intelligence Agency-backed operative, and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization". Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called Bosch an "unrepentant terrorist". He was accused of taking part in Operation Condor and several terrorist attacks, including bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner on 6 October 1976 in which all 73 people on board were killed, including many young members of a Cuban fencing team and five North Koreans. The bombing is alleged to have been plotted at a 1976 meeting in Washington, D.C. attended by Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, and DINA agent Michael Townley. At the same meeting, the assassination of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier is alleged to have been plotted. Bosch was given safe haven within the US in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, who in 1976 as head of the CIA had declined an offer by Costa Rica to extradite Bosch.
Background and personal life
Bosch was born on 18 August 1926 in the village of Potrerillo, 150 miles east of Havana. "Bosch's father was first a policeman in Potrerillo and later a successful restaurant owner in the same village. His mother was a teacher." In 1946 Bosch enrolled in the University of Havana medical school, where he first met Fidel Castro; Bosch was president of the medical school student body while Castro was head of the law school student body. After graduating, Bosch moved to Toledo, Ohio for a paediatric internship.
Bosch's first wife, Myriam, was a fellow medical school graduate and moved with him to Miami in July 1960, along with their four children, which soon became five. They divorced ten years later, when Bosch was in prison. In 1976 he had another child with his second wife, Adriana. He returned to the United States in 1988, despite being wanted for parole violations, saying "I have a loving wife who resides in the United States and five American children with whom I want to share the last years of my life."
After meeting Castro at the University of Havana, Bosch went on to play a part in underground cells that later carried out the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Bosch himself did not take part, being forced to flee to Miami to escape arrest. He returned to Cuba after the Revolution, but rapidly became disillusioned, leaving Cuba in July 1960 after helping to organize a failed anti-Castro rebellion in the Escambray mountains. In his autobiography, Bosch wrote that he had refused to participate in the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion because the US had refused to help the Escambray rebellion.
Bosch was in contact with the CIA in 1962 and 1963, as the agency itself admitted, as recorded in the National Security Archive. At this time, Bosch was the General Coordinator of the Movimiento Insurreccional de Recuperacion Revolucionaria (Insurrectional Movement of Revolutionary Recovery, MIRR), which in 1967 became Poder Cubano (Cuban Power).
In 1968 Bosch was arrested in Florida for an attack on a Polish freighter with a 57 mm recoilless rifle and was sent to prison for a ten-year term. He served four years before being released on parole in 1972, and fled the country, leaving on 12 April 1974. He moved to Venezuela, where later that year "he was arrested and jailed for two weeks by Venezuela authorities after admitting to two bombings of Cuban and Panamanian buildings in Caracas. He was mysteriously released and turned up in Curaçao where he told a Cuban exile radio newsman from Miami: "We will invade the Cuban embassies and will murder the Cuban diplomats and will hijack the Cuban planes until Castro releases some of the political prisoners and begins to deal with us." He told The Miami News in June 1974 that he was the head of Accion Cubana, and claimed the organization was responsible for a series of bomb attacks on Cuban consulates in Latin America since August 1973.
Bosch moved to Santiago, Chile on 3 December 1974, staying in a military house. According to the government of Augusto Pinochet, Bosch "lived quietly as an artist", while the US government held Bosch responsible for postal bombings of Cuban embassies in four countries. The US also accused Bosch of involvement in the August 1975 attempted assassination of Emilio Aragones, the Cuban ambassador to Argentina, and the September 1976 bombing of the Mexican Embassy in Guatemala City. After an arrest in Costa Rica which saw the US decline an offer by the authorities to extradite Bosch to the United States, he was deported to the Dominican Republic, where June 1976 saw the founding of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU). Bosch returned to Venezuela on 23 September 1976, aged 50.
|“||You have to fight violence with violence. At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people.||”|
|— Orlando Bosch, 1979 statement while jailed in Venezuela |
Bosch entered Venezuela in mid-September 1976 under the protection of Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez, according to the National Security Archive. A CIA document described a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser in Caracas, Venezuela, held between 22 September and 5 October 1976, to support Bosch's activities. The informant quoted Bosch as making an offer to Venezuelan officials to forgo acts of violence in the United States when President Carlos Andrés Pérez visited the United Nations in November, in return for "a substantial cash contribution to [Bosch's] organization." Bosch was also overheard stating: "Now that our organization has come out of the Letelier job looking good, we are going to try something else." Several days later, Posada was reported to have stated that "we are going to hit a Cuban airplane" and "Orlando has the details." (Both the Bosch and Posada statements were cited in an 18 October 1976 report to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger posted by the National Security Archive on 17 May 2005.)
On 6 October 1976 Cubana Flight 455 was destroyed after takeoff by the detonation of a bomb that had been placed in the aircraft toilets. All seventy-three people on board were killed, including many young members of a Cuban fencing team and five people from North Korea. The bombing would have been plotted at the same meeting, attended by Luis Posada Carriles and DINA agent Michael Townley, where the assassination of the former Chilean minister Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. in 1976, was decided upon.
Bosch was arrested in Caracas on 8 October 1976, and held for nearly four years while awaiting trial for his role concerning the Cubana Flight 455 bombing. He was acquitted along with three co-defendants (one of them Luis Posada Carriles) of these charges in September 1980, with the court finding that the flight had been brought down by a bomb but that there was insufficient evidence to prove the defendants were responsible. Bosch was convicted of possessing false identification papers, and sentenced to 4 and a half months, set against time already served. Defending himself, he would later say, infamously, "All of Castro's planes are warplanes."
When asked if he was responsible for the Cubana Flight 455 bombing in an interview for the 2006 documentary 638 Ways to Kill Castro, Bosch responded, "I'm supposed to say no", and then described the justification for such attacks as being because there existed a state of war between Castro and his opponents. In his 2010 memoirs, Bosch denied having authored the bombing, stating that Castro had "accused me, without evidence, of being the intellectual author of the sabotage of Flight 455 and many other acts with which I had nothing to do."
Miami area law enforcement officials linked Bosch to several dynamite bombings, including a blast in the offices of Mackey Airlines in 1977, after the airline announced plans to resume flights to Cuba.
- Miami Herald, 27 April 2011, "Prominent exile militant Orlando Bosch dead in Miami at 84, family says"
- Kornbluh, Peter (9 June 2005) "The Posada File: Part II." National Security Archive.
- Landau, Saul (25 July 2002) "At Our Expense: The Costly Relationship between Jeb Bush and Right Wing Cuban Exiles." Transnational Institute
- Heather Dewar, Miami Herald, 29 June 1989, Passion for Free Cuba Drove Bosch to Extreme
- CIA, CIA memorandum CIR-316/04881-76, released 20 May 2005. George Washington University archive
- The Miami News, 13 December 1968, Bosch Gets Ten Years In Exile Bomb Terror
- The Miami Herald, 27 September 1980, "Venezuelans Absolve Bosch in Bombing of Plane" (archived at LatinAmericanStudies.org)
- The Miami News, June 1974, Bosch Declares War On Castro
- Jean-Guy Allard, Granma, 26 December 2005, The U.S. ignored Costa Rican proposal to extradite Bosch
- Terrorists, but Our Terrorists by Kirk Nielsen, Miami New Times, 20 December 2001
- CIA, Intelligence Information Cable DB-315/10256-76 Archived 13 February 2013 at WebCite, released 17 May 2005. George Washington University archive
- Sandhu, Sukhdev (9 March 2009). "Che Part Two and 638 Ways to Kill Castro: killing Fidel Castro". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- Tracey Eaton, Huffington Post, 14 December 2010, "Accused Cuban Bomber Defends Legacy, Denies He's a Killer"
- "An Interview with Veteran Anti-Castro Militant Orlando Bosch" by Andy Robinson, La Vanguardia (16 August 2006)
- "The Bosch Case Does Violence to Justice", The New York Times (20 July 1990)
- Cuba Seeks U.S. Arrest of Castro Foe by Michele Kelemen, NPR (7 May 2005)
- "Why the U.S. Refuses to Prosecute Orlando Bosch for Cubana Airlines Flight 455" (video report by Democracy Now!; 10 October 2006)
- "Orlando Bosch's Terrorist Curriculum Vitae", Granma (31 January 2002)
- "On George Bush's Pardon of Anti-Cuban Terrorist Orlando Bosch", World Socialist (26 October 1999)
- "Who is Orlando Bosch?" by W. T. Whitney Jr., People's Weekly World (29 April 2006)