Cuban exiles in Miami raised $15,000 to pay a small group of criminals from El Salvador to set off bombs in tourist hotels in Cuba, according to a published report Sunday.
The bombings, which killed an Italian tourist, were the work of a ring of Salvadoran car thieves and armed robbers who had met during military training, The Miami Herald reported, citing anonymous sources in the local exile community.
Money to finance the bombings was raised by Luis Posada Carriles, a veteran of the exiles’ secret war against Cuban President Fidel Castro, the paper said.
Posada was charged and twice acquitted of a terrorist bombing in 1976 that killed 73 people on a Cuban-bound jetliner that had taken off from Venezuela. Despite Posada’s acquittals, Venezuelan authorities kept him in jail for nine years - until his escape in 1985. He settled in El Salvador under a false name.
Posada reportedly approached Miami exiles in mid-1996, using his renown as an anti-Castro warrior to solicit funds from wealthy Cuban-Americans.
“He contacted Miami and said he had reliable Salvadorans, young men from the military academy, ready to go into Cuba and set off small explosives in tourist hotels,” one Miami exile, who wasn’t named, told the newspaper.
Cuban police have said a Salvadoran confessed that he had been offered $4,500 per bombing and claimed that the money had come from the Cuban American National Foundation, an anti-Castro lobby based in Miami. The foundation, however, denied any involvement in the bombings.
“Some of the money came from big names, but not from the well-known (anti-Castro) organizations,” said another unidentified exile. “In fact, some little guy, a small businessman, who apparently had just closed a big deal, handed over an envelope with several thousand in cash.”
Exile sources also said the deal with the Salvadorans was for no more than $3,000 per mission.
Eleven bombings targeting Cuban tourist hotels and a restaurant from April 12 to Sept. 4 wounded six people in addition to the tourist who was killed.
Police in Cuba have arrested one Salvadoran in the bombings. Raul Cruz Leon remains in custody there, charged with six of the bombings.