Accused Cuban bomber calmly confesses on TV
September 16, 1997
Web posted at: 1:15 p.m. EDT (1715 GMT)
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HAVANA (CNN) -- A Salvadoran man arrested by Cuban police on
charges of planting at least six bombs targeting tourist
sites calmly confessed to the attacks, one of them fatal,
during a government-run television broadcast.
Cuban officials said the man, who identified himself as Raul
Ernesto Cruz Leon from El Salvador, spoke of his own free
will Monday night, although that could not be verified
Cruz Leon admitted he planted the bombs that exploded at two
Havana hotels on July 12 and three other hotels and a
restaurant on September 4. An Italian businessman died in one
of the September blasts.
"There in El Salvador, I was given the mission to come (to
Cuba) and plant explosive artifacts in a certain number of
tourist sites -- they gave me a list -- generally hotels, to
create panic among tourists," Cruz Leon said.
Cuba claims anti-Castro group is behind bombings
Dark-haired and casually dressed in black jeans and a
gray-green shirt, Cruz Leon appeared to be in his 20s or
early 30s. Speaking clearly, he showed no signs of
nervousness or fear.
Cruz Leon did not reveal exactly who had sent him on his
bombing missions. That information was provided by Cuban
counterintelligence officer Col. Adalberto Rabeiro, whose
testimony took up most of the one-hour TV program.
Rabeiro said the Salvadoran was part of a "network of
drug traffickers and terrorists" in El Salvador, which was
"organized, supplied and paid by the (Cuban American
National) Foundation" to carry out the bomb attacks in Cuba.
The Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) is
a leading Cuban exile group that fiercely opposes Cuban
President Fidel Castro and his Communist rule. The group has
denied previous Cuban accusations linking it to the bombings.
Rabeiro did not reveal how Cuban authorities had come to
suspect the CANF.
"It is not convenient for the moment, for our work, to reveal
to the enemy all that we know and how we know it," he said.
Authorities do, however, claim to possess incriminating taped
telephone conversations between the Salvadoran, who was
posing as a tourist, and people who allegedly trained and
supplied him in El Salvador.
Did he act alone in Cuba?
In his televised testimony, Cruz Leon said he acted entirely
alone inside Cuba, traveling to the island on two separate
occasions to carry out the bomb attacks.
"They sent me with sufficient modern methods to guarantee my
security so I didn't have to contact anyone in Cuba," he
told the interviewer.
Rabeiro also said Cruz Leon had smuggled C-4 plastic
explosives into Cuba. The explosives were hidden in the soles
of his shoes, and also wrapped in insulating material and
concealed inside a TV set.
According to Rabeiro's lengthy explanation, Cruz Leon had
used a sophisticated electronic device hidden inside a small
calculator to set the timing of the detonators used in the
The detonators were smuggled into the country inside false
marker pens and a clock radio, the intelligence officer said.
Cuban TV showed pictures of the equipment. Cruz Leon was
shown unscrewing the back of a TV set to point out where the
explosives were hidden. Rabeiro said Cruz Leon had displayed
intensive training to place the bombs, often checking out the
sites the day before.
Death penalty possible
Cuba previously described Cruz Leon as a mercenary who
confessed to receiving $4,500 for each of six bombings.
He has been charged with terrorism and sabotage, crimes that
in Cuba carry sentences ranging from 10 years in prison to
the death penalty.
Meanwhile, Cuban prosecutors reportedly were seeking the
death penalty for a U.S. man charged with inciting terrorism.
Walter van der Veer was arrested a year ago while allegedly
trying to organize an uprising against the Cuban government.
High-level Cuban officials told CNN they want to make
something unmistakably clear to anyone who may want to use
violence in an effort to destabilize the government. Try it
and Cuba will impose the maximum penalty -- death by firing
squad -- even if that means an international backlash.
Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman and Reuters contributed to this report.