As U.S. And Cuba Explore a Renewal Of Diplomacy, What Becomes Of Victor Gerena, Other Notorious Fugitives? 2

(Courtesy:  Hartford Courant)

(Courtesy: Hartford Courant)

By Edmund H. Mahony, Hartford Courant

There is probably no one with a greater interest than Victor M. Gerena in the talks underway between the U.S. and Cuba about re-establishing diplomatic relations.

In 1983, he and other members of a group of Puerto Rican nationalists — a group armed, advised and financed by the Cuban government — stole $7 million from a West Hartford armored car depot in what was then the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history.

The Cubans sneaked Gerena into Mexico City. They stashed him in a safe house, lightened the color of his hair and gave him a phony diplomatic identity. Eventually, they put him and much of the money on a plane to Havana, where Gerena disappeared into the shadowy community of murderers, bombers, robbers and hijackers Cuba has sheltered from prosecution in the U.S and other countries since the 1960s.

For decades, the U.S. fugitives hiding in Cuba have been of little interest to anyone beyond a handful of journalists, law enforcement agencies and the families of their victims. But as President Obama presses an effort to reopen embassies and lift credit and trade restrictions, the fugitives have been discovered by critics and are emerging as a potential impediment to normalization.

Last week, Obama said he intends to remove Cuba from the government’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, effectively opening Havana to commercial lenders. Cuba has been on the list for 30 years, with Iran, Syria and Sudan. The last time the state department reviewed the list, in 2013, it decided against Cuba’s removal because of its continued willingness to provide safe haven to fugitives wanted on terror charges.

Congress has 45 days to challenge the decision to remove Cuba from the list and opponents were lining up last week within Congress and among law enforcement agencies, Cuban exiles and families of victims killed by fugitives who have lived comfortably in Cuba for decades

“In the midst of our global war on terrorism, simply put, how can Obama and this administration remove a state that sponsors terrorists from the State Sponsor of Terror list?” said Joseph Connor, whose father died in a 1975 bomb attack at Fraunces Tavern in New York by a Puerto Rican nationalist group supported by Cuba. “This action shows Obama’s utter disregard for Americans like my father, who was murdered by Castro’s clients and it tells the world we condone terrorism.”

Others want return of the fugitives to be a condition of normalization or, at a minimum, that the fugitives be used to leverage other concessions.

Article continues here:  Terrorist Victor Gerena


  1. In war time and in peace time—and during the in-between periods—such as periods of détente and of coexistence between nations, the latter, so characteristic of the historic cold war between the east and the west, throughout all of history, the facts of evidence by nations´ actuations have demonstrated, unequivocally, diplomatic postures between nations will fluctuate accordingly. The United States and Cuba are no exception to this. Though there comes a time during the periods of diplomatic restoration, consistent with the changes in a nation´s posture toward another, it then becomes tricky and somewhat difficult to conjugate “the past wrongs” into “the present rights” looking into the future through diplomatic accords to be hammered-out.

    Allow me to provide you a better example on “this very precise issue of nations harboring criminals, terrorists” or any other name you can come up with descriptive of “the wrongs of the past” as originated by certain individuals:

    Enter World War II. Perhaps you will remember our government in the United States harbored fugitives from Germany´s SS and killers of millions of Jews, on United States soil (we imported these criminals and gave them United States citizenship), after second world war and not just one German SS officer or Nazi murderers, but over one thousand five hundred (1,500) murderers and fugitives from Germany´s Nazis. No one in their right mind will deny this. You will recall officers from the Hitler´s SS where part of “Operation Paperclip” which was from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program in which over 1,500 German scientists, technicians, and engineers from Nazi Germany and other foreign countries were brought to the United States for employment in the aftermath of World War II. It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), and in the context of the burgeoning Cold War. One purpose of Operation Paperclip was to deny German scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, as well as inhibiting post-war Germany from redeveloping its military research capabilities.

    You will perhaps know that although the JIOA’s recruitment of German scientists began after the Allied victory in Europe on May 8, 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman did not formally order the execution of Operation Paperclip until August 1945. Truman’s order expressly excluded anyone found “to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism”. However, those restrictions would have rendered ineligible most of the leading scientists the JIOA had identified for recruitment, among them rocket scientists Wernher Von Braun, Kurt H. Debus and Arthur Rudolph, and the physician Hubertus Strughold, each earlier classified as a “menace to the security of the Allied Forces”. Now we all know the Allied Forces lost thousands of lives at the hands of the Nazi enemy and millions of Jews were killed in concentration camps. The Nazis didn´t steal $7 million dollars in an armored car, they did a lot more than that, to say the least.

    To circumvent President Truman’s anti-Nazi order and the Allied Potsdam and Yalta agreements, the JIOA worked independently to create false employment and political biographies for the scientists. The JIOA also expunged from the public record the scientists’ Nazi Party memberships and regime affiliations. Once “bleached” of their Nazism, the scientists were granted security clearances by the U.S. government to work in the United States. Paperclip, the project’s operational name, derived from the paperclips used to attach the scientists’ new political personae to their “US Government Scientist” JIOA personnel files.

    There seems to be a recurring theme here with what I suspect stem from grave political undertones accusing our President for establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. We are in a period of diplomatic restoration between the nations of Cuba and the United States as we did with China back in 1972. There is a bigger picture evolving here and it´s time to move-on. Mr. Simmons, regarding Gerena, I ask you, is there a monetary reward for this subject? Do we know if the Cuban government will interfere—and even look the other way, perhaps even help and assist—with bounty hunters from the United States who will now be able to enter as “civilian tourists” the island and abscond with these criminals and bring them back to justice to the U.S.? This is not stuff that can be widely thrashed-out in a public blog or discussion forum, but let us not interpret that stuff like this may not be already underway or even surface as an unofficial conduct between these two nations–now–in a diplomatic restoration mode soon to occur.

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