A Look at Castro-Sponsored Terrorism

Monday, November 26, 2012
The Hartford Courant takes an in-depth look at the $7 million heist of a Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1983 -- at the time, the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history.

Here's an excerpt:

Over the decades leading to [Norberto] Gonzalez's capture last year in the Puerto Rican mountains, the U.S. listed Los Macheteros as a terrorist organization and blamed it and a related group for more death and destruction than any other terror network operating in the U.S. until al Qaeda struck New York in 1994 and 2001.

The Macheteros killed two U.S. sailors, blew up eight National Guard jets and attacked two federal courthouses with Cuban supplied rockets, all in Puerto Rico. The related Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by the initials FALN, launched a bombing campaign against mainland targets, including Mobil Oil and the Fraunces Tavern in New York.

The Macheteros led the FBI on a chase around the Caribbean, from Puerto Rico to Mexico, Panama and Cuba, as the organization met to negotiate a division of the money and more guns with the government of their principal supporter and supplier, Cuban President Fidel Castro. The robbery confirmed a belief long held by FBI agents in the Caribbean that Castro had been training and supplying the militant wing of the independence movement since the 1960s.

The FBI was so alarmed by the robbery and related violence that the bureau sent a team to San Juan to end it. When the agents helped draft the first Wells Fargo indictment in 1985, they argued —unsuccessfully — to name senior Cuban government figures as conspirators [...]

Filiberto Ojeda Rios, the founder of Los Macheteros and an officer in the Cuban intelligence service, died in Puerto Rico in 2005 while exchanging gunfire with the FBI agents trying to arrest him. Of the 17 others, Gonzalez was the last to be captured. Authorities found a loaded machine gun and a bomb making manual in the apartment where he lived on the generosity of friends.

That leaves Gerena and $7 million in cash. Records seized from Los Macheteros and other evidence collected by the FBI leave little doubt about where both ended up: Cuba.