Monday, December 20, 2010

Trial opens for suspect in 1990s Cuba bombings

Posted on Monday, 12.20.10
Trial opens for suspect in 1990s Cuba bombings
Associated Press

HAVANA -- A Salvadoran man accused of being involved in a 1990s bombing
spree at Cuban tourist hotels went on trial Monday on terrorism charges,
the government said.

Havana has blamed Cuban-American exile groups for the deadly attacks and
claims that Francisco Chavez Abarca confessed to being hired to plant
the bombs by a U.S.-based opponent of former President Fidel Castro.

Chavez Abarca's trial was taking place at Havana's state security crimes
court, the state-run Cubadebate website reported. It was not clear what
sentence he would face if convicted, or how long the trial would last.

Chavez Abarca was detained in Venezuela in July as he tried to enter the
country on a false passport. Venezuelan authorities alleged he was
plotting violence ahead of congressional elections there and swiftly
extradited him to Cuba, where he was jailed.

In September, Cuban state television aired a confession in which Chavez
Abarca said that he was hired to plant the bombs by Luis Posada
Carriles, an 80-year-old anti-Castro militant and former CIA operative
who lives in the United States. Chavez Abarca said that Posada Carriles
told him the hotel attacks were backed by the CIA, although he
acknowledged he could not be sure it was true.

On the television program, Chavez Abarca also participated in what was
described as a re-enactment of several of the hotel bombings, showing
how and where he placed the explosives. He said he was paid $2,000 for
each blast.

He appeared calm as he detailed the bombing campaign, but it was
impossible to tell if the confession was made under duress.

Two other Salvadorans, Ernesto Cruz Leon and Otto Rene Rodriguez, were
convicted for their involvement in the bombings and sentenced to death,
though the island's Supreme Court recently commuted their sentences to
long prison terms.

Three Guatemalans were also convicted in Cuba for their roles in the

The hotel blasts, which killed one Italian tourist and wounded several
other people, came just as Cuba was turning to tourism as a source of
much-needed cash following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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