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04/27/2011

Cuban exile militant Orlando Bosch dies in Miami at 84

April 27, 2011 |  4:30 pm

Prominent Cuban exile militant Orlando Bosch, who was acquitted in Venezuela in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner, has died in Miami. He was 84.

The opponent of Cuba's Fidel Castro died Wednesday after a lengthy hospital stay in suburban Miami. Bosch's wife, Adriana, said he had suffered complications from various illnesses and had been hospitalized since December.

Bosch and fellow militant Luis Posada Carriles were both accused in the 1976 bombing that killed all 73 people aboard the flight from Venezuela to Cuba.

Venezuelan authorities arrested Bosch and held him for 11 years. They failed twice to convict him and finally freed him to return to the United States. The federal government then held Bosch for three years in a Miami jail as an "undesirable alien" and released a report linking him to right-wing terrorist groups responsible for 50 bombings in Miami, New York and Latin America. While Posada was awaiting a retrial after an acquittal by a military court, he escaped from a Venezuelan prison. Posada was recently acquitted on charges of lying to U.S. immigration authorities about his past.

Adriana Bosch said she wanted her husband to be remembered not by the accusations he had faced, but as a great father, husband and medical doctor by training who spent much of his life fighting for the liberation of communist Cuba.

Federal attorneys told a judge in 1990 that they had tried to deport Bosch to 31 countries but all refused. Cuba wanted him returned there to stand trial, but the U.S. government refused that request.

Others cast Bosch in a different light than his supporters.

"Orlando Bosch lived a life of unrepentant terrorist violence. The verdict of history, rendered by formerly secret CIA and FBI intelligence reports, and court records, is that he was a mass murderer masquerading as a freedom fighter," said Peter Kornbluh, head of the independent National Security Archives' Cuba project, which has declassified CIA and FBI intelligence documents about the bombing.

Bosch was released in 1990, thanks in part to a very public campaign on his behalf by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami).

"He was a freedom fighter for Cuba and passed away without seeing his beloved homeland free of the Castro dictatorship," Ros-Lehtinen said Wednesday in a statement.

In Miami, Bosch once told a judge that the U.S. had built up a voluminous file against him titled "terrorist."

"Nonetheless, the government of the United States has never wanted to go into the depths of that file to understand that my persistence, my insistence and even my intransigence are the product of a past, a sinful past, wherein the sovereignty and the freedom of my country were put in the balance and the right to belligerence was sacrificed in order to liberate Cuba from its tyrannous oppressors," he had said.

Wayne Smith, a former chief of the U.S. Interest Section in Cuba and a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for International Policy, said of Bosch: "He was someone who did a disservice to the cause of democracy and freedom."

Smith told the Associated Press that there were always people, out of hatred for the Castro regime, who applauded Bosch's action, adding: "but the things he did were unconscionable."

-- Associated Press

 

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