Castro foe looks back on life, denies part
By Frances Robles. email@example.com
PANAMA CITY, Panama - The 75-year-old alleged
Cuban terrorist may have come to the end of his
road: a comfortable tropical jail with a lovely
view of the Panama Canal.
Luis Posada Carriles, accused of fighting President
Fidel Castro with bombs and bullets for 40 years,
has lost 20 pounds, gotten skin cancer and still
mumbles from the time most his tongue was shot
off years ago. His career as CIA operative, accused
bomber and fugitive ended three years ago, when
he was arrested here on charges of plotting to
On Wednesday a judge began a three-day hearing
that may decide the fate of Cuba's most wanted
man, plus three other Cuban exiles, on lesser
charges of possession of explosives and illicit
association. Posada is also charged with entering
Panama in 2000 using false documents.
A hearing in December ended after just hours
when leftist activists filed an injunction seeking
a reinstatement of the murder charges. The motion
failed. Now the defense is hoping the current
hearing will be converted into a full-fledged
''My old tired heart has made enough rounds,''
Posada said in an interview with The Herald on
Monday at Panama's El Renacer prison. "I'm
going to eat my steak, drink my wine and struggle
for my country. That will be my life's end.''
Depending on the outcome of this hearing, he
could be sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence
on the explosives charge, or he could be released,
credited with time served. If he is released,
he said, he plans to disappear.
He is best known for his alleged involvement
in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed
73, including a Cuban fencing team. He also claimed
(and later denied) responsibility for the 1997
string of Havana hotel bombings, and he has been
accused but never convicted of masterminding several
conspiracies to kill Castro. The Cuban government
press even pins John F. Kennedy's murder on him.
And here he is just outside Havana's reach, nicely
dressed, sitting under a tree on the grounds of
the penitentiary on the shores of the canal, with
co-defendant Pedro Remón, a Miami salesman.
They want to tell their version of how they landed
in prison. They act married.
Posada makes jokes that Remón winces at.
Remón finishes Posada's sentences, reminding
his 40-year friend what he meant to say.
''Look, we're not Saint Francis of Assisi,''
said Remón, once convicted of conspiracy
in the machine-gun murder of a Cuban diplomat
at the United Nations, who died in front of his
son. "I'm just saying all these charges they
say about us are not true. We are freedom fighters.''
Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985
while prosecutors appealed his acquittal on the
1976 airliner bombing, and later lived underground
in El Salvador, painting and allegedly hatching
various conspiracies to hunt down his No. 1 enemy.
Cuba and Venezuela have filed motions for extradition;
both have been rejected.
In mid-2000, someone using a secret code phrase
-- ''Without country but without lord'' -- telephoned
him, reporting that Cuban Intelligence Directorate
Chief Gen. Eduardo Delgado wanted to defect. But
he would do so only if Posada was there to guarantee
''How many people have defected from Cuba? They
didn't need four or five people to help them,
'' said a Cuban government official monitoring
this week's hearing.
The plan was hatched to pick up Delgado at the
Ibero-American Summit that November in Panama
City. Helping Posada were to be Remón;
Gaspar Jiménez, a Miamian who served time
for the attempted kidnapping and murder of Cuban
diplomats in Mexico, and Guillermo Novo, whose
conviction in the 1976 murder of a Chilean diplomat
in Washington was overturned on appeal.
''All of these men at one point or another were
part of the terrorist establishment in Miami,''
said former Miami prosecutor Alberto Milián,
whose father Emilio lost his legs in a car bombing
initially linked to Jiménez.
The four men were in Panama when Castro landed
in the capital and made a stunning announcement:
Cuba's most wanted man was in town in a plot to
kill him. Panamanian police arrested the four,
and later found a bag with 33 pounds of explosives
that allegedly belonged to them.
Posada now insists he has never set any bombs
and denounces terrorism. He has killed, he said,
but only when both sides were armed. He denies
reports from the late 1990s that he admitted to
The Herald and The New York Times that he masterminded
the string of Havana bombings, which killed an
Italian-born tourist from Canada.
A Salvadoran man jailed in Cuba has identified
Posada as the man who prepared the bombs and paid
him to set them off. Other evidence gathered independently
by The Herald also linked Posada to the Havana
''I think I did what I had to do,'' Posada said.
"I'm doing what I have to do as a Cuban patriot.''
Remón added, ''No innocent person was
ever killed'' by anti-Castro groups. He didn't
mention the Italian.
Asked if he would kill Castro if he had the chance,
Posada said sure.
''Just like if there was a roach there, I would
stomp on it,'' Posada said, acting it out with
his black dress shoes. "I'm old, but so is
Castro. Castro is going down, we're heading up
and we can help push him down a bit.''
Miamian afraid to go to hearing
By Nancy San Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Miami developer says Cuba has asked Panama
for his extradition in order to keep him from
testifying on behalf of Luis Posada Carriles,
an exile arrested there amid allegations that
he planned to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Santiago Alvarez, 62, said he learned of the
extradition request from a Panamanian government
official who urged him to stay away from the three-day
court hearing that began Wednesday for Posada
and three other exiles jailed in Panama.
Alvarez said he was set to testify for the defense,
but declined to comment on what he knew about
the Posada case or the case behind Cuba's extradition
request, a 2001 attempt by three Miami-Dade Cubans
to infiltrate the island. The three were captured,
along with several weapons.
Soon afterward, the Cuban government publicly
accused Alvarez of financing the ''terrorist''
mission that involved a planned attack at the
famed Tropicana nightclub and recruiting farmers
for an anti-Castro insurgency.
''I should be there [Panama] but I can't risk
being jailed,'' Alvarez said. "Castro is
using international law to limit the movement
of people he considers enemies.''
Man who stole plane to Cuba is arrested
A Nevada man was ordered held without bail Wednesday
in Miami for allegedly violating probation imposed
after he stole a plane in the Keys and crash-landed
on the Cuban coast two years ago.
When Milo John Reese did not return home from
work last week, his wife discovered the family
car was at the Reno airport and that he had booked
a flight for himself.
Reese, 57, was not allowed to leave Nevada but
was arrested after traveling to Florida. He had
served a six-month prison sentence and lived temporarily
at a halfway house before moving home in July.
A report by his probation officer listed a similar
round of problems in June. Reese left the halfway
house without permission and showed up at the
federal public defender's office in Miami.
Concerns were raised about Reese's mental competency
after Cuba sent him back for prosecution. He was
getting mental health counseling in Reno and was
required to account for his prescription medication
as conditions of probation.
Reese has a history of disappearing and once
faked his death in Nevada.
His attorney said at the time that Reese was
afraid to land once he took off. But Monroe County
investigators found a note in his car saying he
planned to fly to Cuba and to "try to kidnap
Controversial dealer closes his art gallery
By Jay Weaver And Luisa Yanez.
Faced with mounting financial and legal troubles,
a prominent art dealer accused of selling fake
Cuban paintings shut down his Coral Gables gallery
over the Labor Day weekend.
José Martínez-Cañas acknowledged
in court papers that his gallery, Elite Fine Art,
owes almost $200,000 to more than a dozen artists
formerly from Cuba as well as others from Panama,
Colombia and Chile.
He disclosed that the gallery owes creditors
almost $656,000 -- including $41,750 in back wages
to himself. That's about $100,000 more than he
listed as assets in a Miami-Dade Circuit Court
petition to liquidate his business.
Martínez-Cañas, 66, refused to
say why he closed his gallery at 3140 Ponce de
''I don't want to comment at all,'' he said by
phone from his Coral Gables home. His two attorneys
did not return calls.
The gallery, which opened in 1987, was a pioneer
in Latin American art. For the past two decades,
Martínez-Cañas carved out a figure
as a sophisticated arbiter of artistic Hispanic
But earlier this year, his gallery was sued twice
for allegedly selling two forged paintings of
the late Cuban modernist masters Amelia Peláez
and Mario Carreño.
The two buyers further claimed that Martínez-Cañas
gave them fake certificates of authenticity, purportedly
signed by a Cuban museum curator who specializes
in the Vanguardia movement that predated the Castro
revolution. The curator, Ramón Vázquez
Díaz, has denied signing the certificates,
Coral Gables attorney Roberto Martínez
is representing a Miami Beach collector who claims
he was duped when he bought a questionable Peláez
painting for $135,000 from Martínez-Cañas.
The lawyer said the closing of the gallery will
prevent other buyers from having similar experiences.
''This is the forged art equivalent of a Ponzi
scheme,'' Martínez said. "It couldn't
last. He did it too frequently.''
Martinez's client, Timothy Heuer, a real estate
investor, is listed among people who allegedly
owe money to Elite Fine Art. His debt: $130,650.
But Martínez said Heuer owes the gallery
nothing. He said that after Heuer confronted Martínez-Cañas
about his purported Peláez painting, the
gallery owner refused to reimburse him. Instead,
he offered to swap another painting by the late
Heuer refused to accept the exchange.
''This guy is shameless,'' said Martínez,
a former U.S. attorney in Miami.
Another lawyer, Yvette Murphy, is representing
an Ecuadorean insurance executive who paid $150,000
for the alleged Carreño painting from Martínez-Cañas.
She said the now-defunct gallery cannot hide from
Murphy said she is familiar with several other
collectors who are ''concerned'' because they
have purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars
in artwork from Martinez-Cañas' gallery.
They are trying to verify the authenticity of
their paintings through scientific tests, art
experts and ownership history.
Joel Tabas, a Miami lawyer who specializes in
bankruptcy law, said Martínez-Cañas'
gallery liquidation in state court would face
less scrutiny than in federal court. But he said
that while the gallery's dissolution would appear
to shield it from a lawsuit judgment, that may
not be the case.
Tabas said disgruntled creditors could have the
gallery placed in involuntary bankruptcy in federal
court for starters. He also said Martínez-Cañas
himself could face lawsuits if his clients accuse
him of fraud.
''Anyone who makes a misrepresentation under
the guise of a corporation may have personal exposure,''
Martínez-Cañas, a Cuban exile who
has a criminal history from a 1977 bank-fraud
conviction in Puerto Rico, has his defenders.
Gina Pellon, 77, a respected Cuban-born expressionist
painter who has had her works on display at Elite
Fine Art several times in the last decade, had
only praise for Martínez-Cañas.
''In my dealings with him, I always found him
to be a gentleman,'' she said in a telephone interview
Wednesday from her home in Paris, where she has
lived since 1959.
"In all the years I dealt with him, not
once did I have a problem with him over any of
She said she heard the news from Martínez-Cañas
four days ago.
''He told my friends not to tell me he was closing
the gallery, that he wanted to call me and all
the other artists and that's just what he did,''
she said. "It was very upsetting to me.''
Pellon said her association with Martínez-Cañas
was usually profitable for both her and the gallery,
where her work always sold well. She had up to
six shows there, and her paintings sold for anywhere
from $5,000 to $20,000.
In court papers, Martínez-Cañas
said the gallery owed Pellon $12,500.
''He owes me no money, but he does have several
of my paintings on deposit which could be worth
that amount,'' she said.
'BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT'
Francisco Mestre, who has purchased dozens of
paintings from the gallery, said Martínez-Cañas
has always been an honest businessman.
Mestre, who sells construction equipment, said
he purchased a Wifredo Lam painting for $30,000
-- only to discover later that it was not authentic.
Martínez-Cañas agreed to credit
''To me, I still give him the benefit of the
doubt that he didn't know that the [Lam] painting
was false,'' Mestre said. "I've had an excellent
relationship with him.''
But one of Martínez-Cañas' chief
competitors, Ramón Cernuda, who owns a
gallery across the street, said he was surprised
Martínez-Cañas had not paid his
''If he has not sold the paintings, they're a
consignment that must be returned,'' Cernuda said.
"If he sold the paintings, he has to pay
Grammy performer goes from rags to verge of
By Oscar Corral, email@example.com.
Posted on Mon, Sep. 01, 2003 .
Tony Laurencio had been sleeping in his 1987
Econoline van for months, siphoning electricity
for a lamp with an extension cord from his friend's
Little Havana house.
His clothes hadn't been washed in days. The reading
material in the van -- Keyboard and Future Music
magazines and an operating manual for a synthesizer
-- had grown stale. Laurencio wondered whether
pursuing his dream as a keyboardist and songwriter
was really worth it.
But then, Jorge Villamizar, lead singer/songwriter
for the local music sensation Bacilos, dropped
in on Laurencio at a commune-style house for artists
known as the Monkey Village in Little Havana,
where Laurencio kept his clothes in a friend's
closet. It was early 2002, and Bacilos was getting
ready to record its follow-up album, Caraluna.
Laurencio, 29, and Villamizar were old acquaintances
from the Miami music scene. The band needed a
keyboardist. It was an invitation that has led
to this: On Wednesday night, Laurencio, Villamizar
and the rest of Bacilos will stand on a stage
at AmericanAirlines Arena to perform at the Latin
Grammys, the ultimate gathering of Latino star
power. They will perform Mi Primer Millon (My
First Million) from Bacilos' Caraluna, the most
nominated band and album this year at the awards
''It's just another gig,'' Laurencio says modestly,
his beach ball-size trademark Afro swaying as
he shrugs. "But I'm excited.''
For the unknown number of musicians toiling away
in a quest for recognition in South Florida's
rising music scene, Laurencio's tale is one of
success, at least for now.
In the near-decade he has played in Miami, Laurencio
has performed with some of the biggest local names,
including Javier García, Latin rock band
Volumen Cero, Oski Foundation, and the Richard
Shepard Band. He also has jammed on occasion with
the likes of DJ Le Spam.
''He is a person who has always seemed to remain
positive about what he does, and that's infectious,''
said Andrew Yeomanson, aka DJ Le Spam, who rose
to national recognition by playing a Thursday
night gig in Little Havana's Hoy Como Ayer nightclub.
"I've DJ'd weddings and Tony would be there
playing the ceremony music. I've known plenty
of musicians who get bitter about the whole thing
and quit. But not him.''
Since his high school days at Belen Jesuit Preparatory
School, where there was no formal music program,
Laurencio played with local cover bands, frequenting
proms and parties.
''I've known I was going to do music since I
was 4,'' Laurencio said. "That's when I first
remember playing music. I watched Star Wars, came
home and figured it out by ear on my parent's
After high school, Laurencio stayed in Miami,
stalking the local rave scene for the latest sounds
in the nascent electronic ''techno'' music. It
opened his eyes to a different Miami: pulsating
beats spewed by keyboards ricocheting from speakers;
ambient rhythms driven by dubbed sounds; hypnotic
melodies twisted by a deluge of overlapping layers.
All of it with a backdrop of young revelers dancing
After a two-year stint in Orlando in the mid-1990s,
where Laurencio dropped out of Full Sail sound
engineering school, he returned to Miami, playing
with a series of pickup bands and creating his
own electronic music.
While his old friends had moved on to stable
jobs, spouses and even children, his life still
consisted of shopping for clothes at thrift stores,
relying on charity for some meals, squeaking by
on local gigs.
''Nobody struggled harder,'' said local musician
Jesse Jackson, who played with Laurencio in a
jam band called Elastica Beat.
Laurencio's parents, who are both Cuban-born
doctors, worried that their son had chosen a path
that would ultimately lead to failure, or worse,
drug addiction and destitution. They encouraged
their son to get a formal education, a job, and
put music second.
''He does not have a life conducive to having
a family and raising kids,'' said Laurencio's
mother, María Eugenia Laurencio. "The
life these musicians lead is very difficult. But
he's happier playing his music and not having
one cent than making millions and sitting down
behind a desk in a company.''
Laurencio, like other musicians and industry
insiders, complains that the infrastructure for
live music in Miami is not good. There are few
venues to play. Scouts for talent are older than
in other cities. Breaking through in Miami, they
agree, is not easy.
'SCENE NOT GOOD'
''If you had to come here and earn your living
by playing live music, the scene is not good,''
said John Echevarria, president of Universal Music
Latino in Miami. "For us it's a problem.
Miami being the capital of Latin music generates
very little locally because there is no local
But some of Laurencio's friends think that although
there are few venues for live music, the dream
of making it big is very real. Fabio Patiño,
a Mexican-born drummer and singer, moved to Miami
chasing his own musical dreams. He met Laurencio
in the late 1990s, while Laurencio was playing
with the Richard Shepard Band at the Marlin bar
in South Beach. Richard Shepard played there Monday
nights. Bacilos headlined on Saturdays.
''Musicians can't survive in other countries,''
Patiño said. "Here, with two or three
gigs a week, you can rent an efficiency and just
live and play music. Seeing Tony play at the Grammys
is super motivating to other musicians in the
scene. This country, and this city, give a chance
to artists to develop.''
After working on their new album, Laurencio hadn't
done anything with Bacilos for a while.
But earlier this year, Bacilos' managers approached
Laurencio at Guitar Center, where he was working
part time selling keyboards to pay the bills.
They asked Laurencio to tour with the band.
''This is where my life changed drastically,''
Laurencio said. "I had to decide whether
to quit my day job. And I did.''
Villamizar said Tony was the perfect match for
''It's a question of fate,'' Villamizar said.
"We needed a keyboard player, and Tony had
the perfect musical and human qualities.''
When he's not playing with Bacilos, Laurencio
plays with a band called Suénalo Sound
System at Paco's Tavern in Miami Beach. It's a
little-known venue, the kind Laurencio says is
the lifeblood of struggling musicians. The lead
singer, Itagu, who also is the lead singer of
a band called Locos por Juana, said that while
all musicians dream of success, it's not about
''The artist that dreams of money will never
make it,'' Itagu said. "You have to believe
in your own movie, your own life. Tony believed
in his own movie.''
While Laurencio is considered a success by his
musical peers, he has not struck pay dirt. He
gets a daily stipend from Bacilos when he tours
with them and gets a flat rate for recording.
But he is not complaining. He says the real dream
come true for him has been traveling around the
Americas with Bacilos on a studio's dime.
Still, he bought himself a new car a few months
ago and has a solid roof over his head. He has
donated the Ford Econoline van to the members
of Suénalo, many of whom don't have their
''I spent some of the happiest days of my life
in that van,'' Laurencio said. "I had to
donate it to music.''