The Jeb Connection - Part I

18 July 2005

  Saul Landau

The Jeb Connection - Part I
At Our Expense: The Costly Relationship between Jeb Bush and Right Wing Cuban Exiles
Saul Landau
Radio Progreso Weekly, 25 July 2002

Aspiring political scientists might ask: What has Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s appointment of Raoul Cantero III to Florida’s Supreme Court got to do with the war against terrorism and principles of democracy?

Look for the answer in novelist and essayist Gore Vidal’s quip that American democracy’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it has allowed the rich to steal from the poor and convince the poor that they themselves voted for this best of all possible systems. But in 2000, in Florida, did more people actually vote for George W. Bush than Al Gore? Election theft means that the thief owes those who aided and abetted big time.

It’s one explanation for Governor Jeb Bush, the Prez’s younger brother, catering to the right wing Cuban Americans who have thrown big money into the Republican cause and had ordered some their more aggressive members to bully the vote counters. George W. himself paid off his abettors and donors by appointing right wing Cuban Americans to Cabinet and sub-Cabinet positions, including Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter American Affairs. Reich uses his extreme anti-Castroism to insure that no positive moves will occur between the United States and Cuba, which also means that the Cuban American gang in south Florida keeps a job flow going into Radio and TV Marti and rewards its intellectuals with grants from The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other government agencies for writing nonsense proposals about the future of Cuba .

But Jeb Bush’s relationship with the ultra right Cuban Americans began in the 1980s, long before Jeb appointed Cantero to the Florida Court. In 1984, Jeb chaired the Dade County Republican party. A man formerly linked to Batista’s police in Cuba, Camilo Padreda, served as Dade County Republican finance chairman. According to Stephen Pizzo, in the September-October 1992 Mother Jones, "Padreda made his living as a developer who specialized in deals with the corrupt Department of Housing and Urban Development".(HUD)

Two years later, Padreda named Jeb his leasing agent for "a vacant commercial-office building, which Padreda had built with $1.4 million in federal loans - loans approved by HUD officials, oddly enough, even though they knew there was already a glut of vacant office space in Miami ". Indeed, the loans to Padreda also came through despite the fact that in 1982 the Government had indicted him for stealing $500,000 from the Jefferson Savings and Loan Association in McAllen, Texas. The government charged another Cuban exile, Hernandez Cartaya, in the plot and added charges of drug smuggling, money laundering, and gun running.

But, Pizzo wrote, "the Jefferson Savings case would never go to trial". Jerome Sanford, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the case said that CIA had informed Justice that Cartaya was an Agency man. The government dropped the charges against Padreda. Subsequently, Sanford filed a Freedom of Information Act for documents, but the CIA denied Sanford's request on "national security" grounds.

As Pizzo recounts Jeb’s business affairs’ history, he discovered that Jeb rented most of the space in Padreda's HUD-financed office building to an HMO, International Medical Centers (IMC). Miguel Recarey, another right wing Cuban American ran the HMO and, according to the MJ article "carried a 9-mm Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol under his suit coat and kept a small arsenal of AR-15 and Uzi assault rifles at his Miami estate". Recarey "had participated in the ill-fated, CIA-inspired mob assassination plot against Fidel Castro in the early 1960s" organized by mob boss Santos Trafficante.

In 1985, Recarey hired Jeb Bush as IMC's "real-estate consultant". Jeb never made a real-estate deal, but made a $75,000 fee. According to the MJ article, "Jeb's real value to Recarey was not in real estate but in his help in facilitating (using his family influence) a special exemption from Health and Human Services (HHS) rules for IMC" that allowed it to take on a larger patient load.

In 1986, "IMC was collecting over $30 million a month in Medicare payments; in all, the company would collect $1 billion from Medicare". In an opinion piece for the Miami Herald last May, Jeb Bush denied the MJ allegations and claimed that he had worked hard for his $75,000 commission. He did not sue the magazine.

Recarey was tried and convicted for bribing HHS officials, but in 1987 fled for Venezuela before serving time. While US Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich worked zealously for the "Cuban Patriot" Orlando’s Bosch’s release, he apparently did little to get Venezuela to return the criminal Recarey to the United States. Jeb’s relationship to Recarey may or may not have included knowledge of some of the folks who regularly met at the space Jeb had rented to IMC. (1)

In the mid 1990s, Jeb also hung out with Manuel Diaz, a former business associate of Savings and Loan scandal figure Charles Keating, Jr. According to Pizzo, Jeb, "serving as Florida 's secretary of commerce, arranged a private meeting for Diaz with Florida 's Republican governor Bob Martinez. Promptly afterward, Diaz Farms landed a lucrative, $1.72 million, state-highway- landscaping contract - despite the fact that Diaz had little prior highway-landscaping experience".

When citizens protested, Pizzo wrote, Florida officials "explained that the extraordinary speed in issuing the contract had occurred because the state was anxious to spruce up 113 miles of freeway for the coming visit of the pope".

Jeb had to have read about Diaz's association with Keating and had he done any research he would have known that Diaz was totally unqualified for the highway contract that he helped him obtain. Later on, Manuel Díaz and his Díaz Farms became very controversial, accused of failing to deliver trees on a contract with Dade County. ( See Miami New Times, August 31, 2000 , "At Long Last Busted", by Tristram Korten.)

This dubious behavior follows a pattern of Bush family political appointments. Daddy Bush named the mediocre Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court, which illustrated the family’s criteria for political favors: Screw excellence, fairness, and qualifications; reward your friends those who contribute money and help you steal elections. Once in office, assume the moral high ground while covering up and lying about previous dirty deeds.

These Machiavellian political axioms have served the White House well during its ten-month run, with its war against terrorism banner waving. The Bushes tried to contain the Enron scandal as an accounting problem. Yet, the President and Vice President had huge and direct stakes in this company that donated generously to their political campaigns. Enron executives sat secretly with VP Dick Cheney to design a national energy plan. Cheney has still not revealed what transpired during those secret sessions. I expect him to argue that the terrorists might make use of it.

Indeed, after World Com and other "accounting" scandals touched people in high places and the media revealed that President Bush and Vice President Cheney had played by the same rules that he now was denouncing as criminal, some people began to wonder about his sincerity. The President had warned the world that on his war against terrorism "you’re either with us or against us".

Most of us presumed that when W said terrorists he meant people who blew up civilian airliners. But Jeb apparently didn’t read his older brother’s remarks that way. He knew all about the man he recently appointed to Florida ’s Supreme Court. Raoul Cantero seemed to show little concern for the terrorism carried out by his former "Cuban patriot" client Orlando Bosch, a comment quite contrary to former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh’s assessment of Bosch as an "unrepentant terrorist".

Was Bother Jeb soft on terrorism when he appointed Cantero? Bosch had "good intentions", Cantero said when he represented him in the 1989 deportation hearings brought by the Justice Department. Cantero had read the Jan 23, 1989 report from the Associate Attorney General’s office (Exclusion Proceeding for Orlando Bosch Avila). He knew that a 1979 House Assassinations Committee document said that Bosch "approved" of the 1976 bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner in which 73 people died. Bosch called that terrorist exploit "a legitimate act of war". Bosch said: "you have to fight violence with violence. At times you cannot avoid hurting innocent people".

In the report, Acting Associate Attorney General Joe D. Whitley argued that, "the evidence leads me inescapably to the conclusion that Bosch would instigate, plan, and participate in terrorist actions in the United States if and when it served his purpose. I therefore conclude that he is a threat to the national security...the security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists, whose target we too often become. We could not shelter Dr. Bosch and maintain our credibility in this respect".

The material that led Whitely to this conclusion referred to Bosch’s 1968 trial and conviction in Federal Court for firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter docked in Miami. It included "confidential" information linking him to "some 16 episodes involving bombings, attempted kidnappings, assassination and attempted assassinations in the United States, Spain, the Caribbean and South America".

The 1989 Justice Department document stated that one of its reasons to exclude Bosch was, "threats conveyed by Bosch to leaders of other countries to damage ships and planes". That same brief to deport Bosch also states "that in June, 1974 Bosch publicly admitted having sent package bombs to Cuban Embassies in Lima, Madrid, Ottawa and Buenos Aires". Two of the bombs resulted in injury to embassy employees and a Spanish postal employee.

The FBI had reported that in 1974 and 1976 "Bosch was in possession of bombs, explosive materials and an automatic weapon".

Thanks to Jeb Bush, and Raul Cantero III, his lawyer, and promises of future campaign donations by anti-Castro Cuban-Americans, Bosch got a pardon rather than the boot out of the country. Jeb helped bring this terrorist back to Florida . Cantero has never recanted his pro-Bosch position. But last December Bosch, the "Cuban patriot" with "good intentions", admitted to Miami New Times reporter Kirk Nielsen he was "shipping explosives to Cuba".

Is a double standard on terrorism part of Bush family values or is it simply the Bush method of conducting business, politics or profit earning activities? Terrorists with Arab sounding names might well have reason for optimism if their cases land for appeal before Cantero’s court. By changing their names to Gomez or Rodriguez and faking anti-Castro credentials they could pose as Cuban patriots whose bombs only had the best of intentions.

Lest one think this is an overstatement, think about last year’s amazing decision, in which Jeb concurred. The White House decision, over FBI and INS protests, agreed to release anti-Castro Cuban terrorists Virgilio Paz and Jose Dionisio Suarez, who pled guilty to the 1976 car-bombing in Washington DC of former Chilean Chancellor Orlando Letelier. An American woman, Ronni Moffit also died in that terrorist act.

Jeb Bush, after making the Cantero appointment as yet another pay off to right wing Cuban American money and power might well chant the Bush family slogan: "Long live the war against terrorism, and democracy isn’t about consistency or honesty in politics, but it is good for family business".

Copyright 2002 Radio Progresso Weekly


About the authors

Saul Landau

TNI Senior Fellow and former Director of TNI (1976), Landau was an award-winning filmmaker, journalist and author. Landau wrote on US politics and foreign policy and produced more than forty films on social, political and historical issues, and worldwide human rights. He died from cancer at age 77 on September 9 2013.

Landau wrote fourteen books and received an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Assassination on Embassy Row, a report on the 1976 murders of Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier and his colleague, Ronni Moffitt.

Gore Vidal said, "Saul Landau is a man I love to steal ideas from"

Saul received the Bernardo O'Higgins award from the Chilen government in 2010.

In 2011, he produced 'Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up' with Danny Glover and Fidel Castro, a film about 50+ years of US-Cuba relations.