by Hugo J. Byrne

A commonly accepted premise is that Washington truly opposes, and has always opposed, the Castro regime. President Bush’s recent hardening of the so-called trade embargo often is misconstrued as hard evidence supporting that premise. But now, with intelligence reports indicating that Fidel Castro is bed ridden, probably suffering from a terminal ailment and temporarily replaced by his brother Raul, some analysts are pointing to other evidence punching large holes in that old premise.

Is the Bush White House secretly in cahoots with the Cuban regime? Of course, not. However, some recent events vis-a-vis the Cuban exiled community could demonstrate at least that the administration is regarding the continuation of the Castro family's dictatorship as a nuisance that could be accepted, when compared to the possibility of a bloody struggle liberating the Island Nation. That interpretation of those events by the Cuban-American voters could lead to a devastating blow to Republican Party hopes for Southern Florida in the November 2006 congressional elections. Many individuals among the exiled community feel frustrated and betrayed. The fear among republican political pundits is that their frustration may translate into absenteeism from the voting booths.

The eye of the storm surrounds a shady Cuban expatriate named Gilberto Abascal. Abascal is the U.S. star witness in the government case against Cuban activists Santiago Alvarez and Oswaldo Mitat. Their trial is scheduled for September 11 and the charges against the activists are illegal possession of firearms and sneaking one illegal alien into the U.S. territory, namely, another well known Cuban activist, Luis Posada Carriles.

A paid informer for the FBI ($25,000+ between August 2005 and March of 2006) and, according to overwhelming -if circumstantial- evidence presumably also a double agent for Fidel Castro’s intelligence, Abascal arrived in the U.S. in 1999, about seven years ago. The record shows that Abascal visited Cuba several times between 2001 and 2005.

Just four months after arriving in the U.S. Gilberto Abascal, according to his own statements, felt “homesick”, and decided to return to the Island. Detained off the coast of Florida, Abascal was found in possession of numerous photographs showing equipment belonging to and activities being undertaken by the anti-Castro organization Alpha 66. His explanation for taking the pictures back to Cuba could be the subject of a joke not unlike those of the popular performer Guillermo Alvarez-Guedes (celebrated Cuban-American comedian): “It was meant to inspire anti-Castro feelings among the people in Cuba”.

Abascal has been involved in other activities, more serious in nature and with severe consequences. Last April, the Federal Court that will try the government case against Alvarez and Mitat received information from the prosecutors that in 2001 Abascal made contact six times with Castro’s agents in Cuba, discussing a failed armed incursion against the regime. Those contacts could have led to the capture of three anti-Castro commandos in the north coast of Las Villas.

In a previous letter to the Court dated February 27, the same U.S. government prosecutors denied Abascal's involvement with Castro’s intelligence. That inconsistency, together with some unfortunate statements by the former Undersecretary of State for Latin America, Roger Noriega, while serving as Undersecretary, did not help to dispel Cuban-Americans' suspicion of U.S. collusion with the Castro brothers, at least in certain sensitive matters. Referring to Posada Carriles, Noriega boasted that the U. S. had no interest in ”extending political asylum to someone guilty of criminal acts”. “Guilty”?

In his statement, Noriega did not make any reference to the confession of conspiracy by the late Ricardo Morales Navarrete (AKA “el Mono”) in the terrorist bombing of a Cuban jetliner over Barbados in 1976. Castro and Chavez are blaming Posada for that offense. Morales' admission of guilt is recorded in a federal Florida Court. The double agent “Mono” Morales, then plea-bargaining on federal drug charges, admitted his actions, describing how he delivered $18,000 to the actual perpetrators of the bombing during a meeting at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City just weeks before the attack. The State Department could easily obtain the transcripts of “el Mono’s” statements to the Court. A notorious Castro agent at the time, Morales was successfully used by the Cuban regime to smear Dr. Orlando Bosch and his friend and former associate Luis Posada Carriles, blaming both for the terrorist offense. Posada was tried twice in Venezuela and found not guilty both times for lack of evidence. Castro’s influence with the Venezuelan government arbitrarily kept the Cuban leader in prison until his successful escape.

Ignorance of official records so closely related to his statements should have disqualified Undersecretary Noriega to serve the Nation at such a responsible level. But many Cuban-Americans believe Noriega knew the score very well -as did Bush- and just pretended.

Back to Abascal. Since his name became notorious among the Cuban American community, Abascal was placed on the “federal witness protection program”. But apparently Abascal was not the party needing protection, but the people in his environs: Abascal allegedly assaulted the President of Royal Palms Condominiums in Hialeah Gardens. He was arrested May 1st after allegedly pushing the victim violently against a wall. According to reports, the incident was the result of Abascal's refusal to obey the Condominiums parking lot rules, where his motorbike was incorrectly parked.

The star witness of the United States government against Alvarez and Mitat appears to produce an unending flow of dubious publicity. This “star” is always shining. We just learned from the press that on August 26 Abascal was allegedly the victim of an attempt against his life. “El Nuevo Herald” newsman Wilfredo Cancio Isla reported on that day that according to some “unknown sources” Abascal had been shot at by unknown assailants while the alleged victim was driving his pick-up truck, August 19, in the area known as Los Ranchos. Los Ranchos is adjacent to Hialeah Gardens.

Some sketchy details in Cancio Isla’s report indicated that Abascal was armed and able to “return fire in self defense”. Also, according to Cancio’s report the only information source on this incident was an anonymous caller to the Herald. The informant was so familiar with the attempt that was able to give details about the weapon used by the aggressor (Cal.45), the number of bullet holes in the vehicle, etc. Apparently, no verification of this incident could be obtained from the police at Miami Lakes or from anybody else. The alleged victim was contacted by phone, and according to Cancio’s piece, while admitting being shot at, Abascal declined to provide details. And so went the “Perils of Pauline”.

What kind of federal prosecution witness could be arrested for allegedly assaulting another citizen in a parking lot? Can the “star” witness for the prosecution of a weapons charge case be allowed to roam Florida roads with a loaded firearm in his pick-up truck? If we are to believe Abascal’s claim to be the victim of an attempt against his life, who is providing protection for this witness under the federal witness protection program, the Keystone Cops? Oh yes, lets not forget that all witnesses under police protection, no matter how intense, in the end always get “hit” by the all resourceful mob (but mostly in Hollywood).

Is the case against Alvarez and Mitat solely based upon the deposition of one individual with the peculiar credentials and the dubious characteristics of Gilberto Abascal? That could honestly be perceived as intellectual disdain toward the Cuban-American community by the Bush administration’s Justice Department, almost matching the despicable era of Janet Reno. It would also deserve the perception of a total lack of seriousness, matched by a certain willingness to accept the continuation of the sad present state of affairs of the Cuban people, while pretending to advance the end of it. The worst consequence of this appearance of duplicity could be felt next November. And the administration could not blame anybody but itself.

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