Puerto Rican authorities probe alleged Castro murder plot
May 6, 1998
Web posted at: 5:16 p.m. EDT (2116 GMT)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- A grand jury on Wednesday was following up on leads suggesting that there may have been a plot to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro during a summit off Venezuela's coast last November. But as the grand jury
continued its investigation, the Cuban-American National
Foundation strongly rejected allegations of its involvement
in any such plot.
The suspected assassination effort apparently fell apart when
the boat La Esperanza broke down near Puerto Rico. During the
rescue operation, U.S. Coast Guard officers made a startling
discovery: rifles, ammunition, nightscopes, a satellite phone
and military fatigues that had been stashed away below deck.
A customs agent later testified that one of the four men
arrested claimed that the weapons were part of a plot to kill
The men are awaiting trial on charges of lying to U.S. agents
and officials told CNN that indictments were a possibility.
They added that more people could be charged.
The grand jury was addressing the key question of whether
there might be a link to the powerful Cuban-American National
Foundation. That suspicion was raised when the grand jury
reportedly reviewed documents suggesting that the seized guns
were owned by the foundation's president, Francisco
Hernandez was subpoenaed to testify in the investigation,
along with foundation member Jose Antonio Lama, the registered owner of the boat.
The foundation went on the attack on Tuesday and strongly
criticized The New York Times for publishing an article about
the ongoing investigation.
"We vehemently reject the malicious insinuation that we have
in any way been involved in any illegal activity to rid Cuba
of Fidel Castro," the organization said in a statement.
Historically, the foundation's main thrust has been
political, and its late founder, Jorge Mas Canosa, helped
influence several U.S. presidents to maintain Washington's
embargo on Cuba.
Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.