“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
So said President George W. Bush to a joint session of Congress nine days after the September 11 attacks, and it is by this logic that when these words were spoken, the state of Florida was governed by a “hostile regime” headed by none other than his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush. Although Jeb Bush has recently faced criticism from fellow Republicans for supposedly being soft on immigration, his biggest immigration-related offense came in 1990, when he helped secure safe-haven for the anti-Castro Cuban terrorist, Orlando Bosch.
The formerly CIA-connected Bosch was most famously implicated in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed 73 people, as well as the assassination of former Chilean politician Orlando Letelier by car bomb right in Washington, D.C. two weeks earlier, which also killed his American assistant. Bosch had also served time for firing a cannon shell at a Polish freighter. Although Bosch was later acquitted by a Venezuelan court in the Cubana case, this was largely because the evidence gathered in Barbados was ruled inadmissible on a technicality.
President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general once called Bosch an “unrepentant terrorist,” and around that time the federal government released a report linking Bosch “to right-wing terrorist groups suspected in about 50 bombings in Miami, New York and Latin America.” In addition, the Justice Department accused Bosch of personally engaging in more than 30 terrorist acts. The administration sought to deport Bosch to 31 different countries, but all refused him take him. Yet despite this record of international violence and terror, then wealthy real estate developer Jeb Bush and Rep. Ileana-Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) were among those who successfully lobbied George H.W. Bush have Bosch released from U.S. custody from his status as an “undesirable alien,” after which Bosch settled down in Florida.
About a decade after helping secure Bosch’s release, Jeb Bush secured Florida’s governorship, a post from which he would appoint Bosch’s former attorney, Raoul Cantero III to the Florida Supreme Court despite having never served as a judge.
Bush served as governor from 1999 to 2007.
Bosch died in 2011 in suburban Miami at age 84.
At the heart of this shameful terrorist-coddling, of course, is politics. Approximately 1.4 million of the country’s 2 million people of Cuban descent reside in Florida. As is to be expected, no other group is as anti-Castro as this one, but often it ventures into obsession. Back in 1995, for example, Miami politicians were thinking about introducing a tourism tax in an effort to raise revenue for the sole purpose of running anti-Castro ads on local television. As one professor noted at the time, “Miami is the only place where a candidate for mayor has to have a foreign policy. The tourism tax proposal shows that you can still make a few bucks if you put your eggs in the anti-Castro basket. The Cuban obsession is still here.”
As an erstwhile swing state, Florida is regarded as crucial in presidential elections. Unlike most Hispanic voting blocs, the Cuban community has reliably voted Republican thanks in large part to the party’s tough anti-Castro, pro-embargo rhetoric when campaigning in the Sunshine State. (However, the GOP’s advantage is sliding as in 2012, Obama polled at 48% among Cuban-Americans after notching 35% in 2008.) Going soft on the Cuban government or advocating an end to the ridiculous embargo is a political non-starter.
Which is fine. Reasonable people can disagree over the efficacy or prudence of sanctions or supporting pro-democracy elements in foreign countries. But when it comes to allowing terrorists safe harbor, there really is no rational defense for such behavior. So it will be interesting to see how presidential candidate Jeb Bush explains to the American people that he helped release a terrorist into their midst.