Our cause is just, it’s just to slay
Fidelista Cubans on any given day
If cops ever catch us, we could care less
Proud members of GAS will never confess
We are GAS
You bet your ass
We got class
We kill for cause and cause is a killer
Posada’s his name, he’s our Godzilla
We whack Commy dragons, they go straight to hell
The Commy of Commys his name is Fidel
We are GAS
We kick your ass
We are nass–ty
(Lyrics from the GASeous hymn)
GAS, or Geezers Assassination Society, a Miami source claims, refers to a secret club formed by four recently pardoned anti-Castro terrorists, all in their twilight years. The group offered honorary membership — women can only become honorary members — to outgoing Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso, who on August 26, released the convicted men. A Panamanian court had sentenced them and two others to 7 and 8-year terms for threatening public security and falsifying documents. The prosecutor presented a large cache of explosives and related gear with the defendants’ fingerprints on them. Witnesses avowed that the men planned to use this material in 2000 to bomb Cuban President Fidel Castro–not engage in playful fireworks — during a scheduled speech at a Panamanian university.
GAS membership requires that aspirants swear in blood rituals to dedicate the remainder of their lives–when not seeing prostate specialists to plotting to assassinate Castro. GAS stole its credo — Viva la Muerte!–from Nazi pilots during the Spanish Civil War (1936-9).
The newly pardoned admirers of those Nazi aces caught a waiting airplane that carried them out of Panama. The plane stopped in Honduras to allow the padrino of Latin American terrorism, Luis Posada Carriles (76), to disembark. Guillermo Novo (65), Pedro Remon (60) and Gaspar Jimenez (68), the other august GAS founders, all with impressive criminal records, continued on to Miami, where perspective GASers and groupies greeted them.
Out-going President Moscoso apparently contravened Panamanian law by issuing the pardons before the appeals process had ended. Moscoso immediately phoned US Ambassador Simon Ferro, saying she had complied with Washington’s request to release the men. Their arrival in Miami coincided with President Bush’s campaign stop there. Bush had declared himself a mortal enemy of those who harbor terrorists. Apparently, he made a nuanced exception for anti-Castro terrorists–“zealous patriots.”
Some Panamanians suspect that Moscoso deposited millions in a Swiss bank prior to issuing the pardons. Such an act would have helped offset the hurt feelings she suffered from the worldwide criticism of her actions. I empathize with Moscoso. The poor woman had become addicted to the lavish lifestyle she developed in her five years as President. But she spent only $23 million of public money on her personal needs and only $3 million on trips abroad. Her critics charged her with disguising personal tourism as state missions since her overseas junkets accomplished nothing for Panama. I say: “No one’s perfect.”
Unkind Panamanians call her a kleptomaniac. More generous compatriots consider this a slight exaggeration. But, her defenders point out, she resisted pressure to pardon the anti-Castroites until their advocates offered a sufficient sum of money.
The newly liberated but still grumpy seniors had shared membership in various terrorist organizations like Omega 7 and the Cuban Nationalist Movement and had received support from the prestigious Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) for their ongoing but unsuccessful efforts to whack Cuba’s leader. They had, however, dispatched other, lesser Cuban officials and destroyed Cuban property in New York, Argentina, Mexico, Barbados and elsewhere.
Indeed, part of GAS’ pledge week activities require aspirants to memorize Posada’s decades of failed assassination attempts, just as religious Christians return to the film, “The Passion of Christ,” to internalize the pain of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, en route to his crucifixion.
The Prince of terrorists, Posada Carriles, achieved world status in 1976 by directing the sabotage of a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados. Shortly after taking off from Barbados International Airport, the bomb exploded on board, the plane plunged into the sea and all 73 passengers and crew members died. Posada denied involvement, but police nabbed two of the plotters who identified Posada as the man who hired them to place the bomb on the plane before they disembarked in Barbados.
Posada’s wife told a Venezuelan journalist of her mate’s emotions. “When he started with the Barbados affair, I knew he would be successful because the ‘poor guy’ had dedicated so much effort, with so much passion” (We Placed the Bomb and So What, by Alicia Herrera).
Born Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, he became known as Bambi to his terrorist pals–how sweet. He served on dictator Fulgencio Batista’s repressive forces until the January 1959 revolutionary takeover. Posada then swore vengeance.
In 1963, after the Bay of Pigs, the CIA trained Posada at Fort Benning, Georgia on the fine points of spying, using explosives and other lethal devices. In 1971, he partnered with Antonio Veciana, founder of Alpha 66, another anti-Castro terrorist group, to plan a movie script type plot to assassinate Castro.
In 1996, Veciana told me how he and Posada had recruited a couple of Venezuelan hit men, disguised them as a TV news crew and sent them to Santiago, Chile before Castro arrived on a visit. Meanwhile, the assassins “blended in” with the rest of the media. CIA technicians had outfitted one of their news cameras with a gun that would fire when they activated the camera. Fortunately, for Fidel, the assassins chickened out. Posada became enraged over their cowardice, Veciana continued, and recruited other assassins to use the same camera on Castro when he stopped in Caracas for a press conference on his return to Cuba. But those whackers also had second thoughts.
The plot failed again. But killing Castro remained the driving force in Posada’s life. Veciana quit the assassination business in 1973 after an unknown gunman shot him in the head.
Perhaps, Posada’s frustration over the failed 1971 hits abated after the “success” of his 1976 Barbados air sabotage. But, alas, Venezuelan authorities charged him with that crime and threw him in prison, where he remained until August 1985, when leaders of CANF bribed prison authorities to help Posada “escape.”
Lt. Col. Oliver North then engaged him in the late 1980s to re-supply the CIA-backed Contras from El Salvador. In 1990, in Guatemala, a gunman shot Posada in the face. Down, but not out, the determined Castro slayer hatched a plot to bomb Cuban hotels to deter the tourist trade. In one hotel bombing, an Italian tourist died. Cuban police nabbed a Salvadoran man who fingered Posada as his recruiter. The attacks did reduce tourism for a brief time.
In a New York Times interview (July 12, 1998) with Anne Bardach and Larry Rohter, Posada described “the Italian tourist’s death as a freak accident.” But “I sleep like a baby,” he said. “That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Posada told the Times that he “still intends to try to kill Castro, and he believes violence is the best method for ending Communism in Cuba.”
Inevitably, the violence-prone Posada linked his fading professional destiny with another pit bull-like GAS founder, Guillermo Novo.
When the newly freed Novo landed in Miami in late August he passed quickly through US Immigration. Luckily for him, his name wasn’t Ted Kennedy or the authorities would have questioned him about terrorist connections. “We beat you,” Novo crowed to Fidel, who wasn’t listening. There were no reports that Castro had conceded or even acknowledged Novo’s existence.
Novo, like Posada, eligible to collect social security, swore eternal allegiance to terrorism as the only way to remove Castro. Terrorism has animated his life since 1964 when he fired a bazooka at the UN building in New York while Che Guevara addressed the General Assembly.
In 1979, a Washington DC jury convicted him of conspiring to assassinate former Chilean Chancellor Orlando Letelier. Novo appealed and got acquitted at a second trial, but was convicted of perjury for lying about his knowledge of the assassination conspiracy. But he had already served his time, the judge ruled. Novo rejoiced in the courthouse hall. Since then, he’s had little to laugh about.
Both Novo and Posada have earned reputations as serious men. So, when they smile, it’s not because they’ve succeeded in whacking Fidel. Remember, young babies also evince smiles when GAS enters their system.
SAUL LANDAU is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. His new book is The Business of America.