This week's Miami New Times features an article about Robert Alonso, a man who believes he is at war with the government of Venezuela. The article by Janine Zeitlin is a summary of Alonso's life as a Cuban exile and anti-Chavez activist, now living in Miami. Alonso left Cuba at the age of 11, on an old Spanish ship, an event where Alonso believes he committed himself to fighting dictatorships.
Today, Alonso is director of Venezuela Sin Mordaza, a magazine that is very critical of the Venezuelan government, which also includes articles by Carlos Alberto Montaner, Antonio Esquivel, just to name a few that are also very critical of the Cuban government.
I ran into the name Robert Alonso earlier this year when I wrote the 13-part post called "No Defense for Terror." You see, Alonso is another, like Humberto Fontova and Enrique Encinosa, who came to the aid of Luis Posada Carriles after he was arrested in 2005, trying to exculpate him in the eyes of the public. In "No Defense for Terror" I confronted some of these arguments that were in favor of Posada Carriles and found out they were either false or exaggerated. I focused mainly on Fontova and Encinosa after I realized that Alonso was just repeating what the other two were saying, and also because I was getting tired of writing.
But, Robert Alonso did add a new twist in the defense of Luis Posada Carriles and his involvement (or non-involvement) in the case of the Cubana flight bombing of 1976. You see, Zeitlin of the Miami New Times leaves out the part when Alonso was a so-called "independent" journalist in Venezuela during the 70's and 80's. Working in Venezuela at the time, Alonso began investigating the case of the Cubana flight bombing and the arrest of Luis Posada Carriles, a case he later called "The Trial of the Century" for a 1985, 50-minute documentary, which can be viewed on Google Video in five parts (in Spanish). The video (which is very informative) is essentially a soapbox for Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch and their defense team. The documentary ends happily with the news of Luis Posada Carriles having escaped from prison in 1985.
Twenty years later, Robert Alonso, now exiled in Miami, appears on Miami Spanish TV with Maria Elvira Salazar (you can watch the edited version of the interview (in Spanish) on Google Video, courtesy of Guarimba TV). Alonso comes on the show (August 2005) for one important purpose: to defend Luis Posada Carriles who was arrested a few months ago (May 2005). Maria Elvira Salazar gives Alonso an entire show to dust off his 1985 book titled "Los Generales de Castro" (Castro's Generals) and present his version of events that absolve Posada Carriles from the bombing of Cubana flight 455, and instead accuse the Cuban government of the sinister plot. (Alonso also admits that he is "very friendly" with Posada Carriles, especially since they both come from the same city in Cuba.)
There are four important arguments in Alonso's defense: 1) the suspicious involvement of Ricardo Morales Navarrete as a possible double-agent and confessed involvement; 2) the forensic results of the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE) lab led by Erick Newton; 3) suspicious refusal of the Cuban government to recover the Cuban flight wreckage from the bottom of the sea; and 4) the identification of seven mysterious "generals" from the Cuban military who were supposedly on the doomed flight, but never included within the official list of 73 victims on board.
The first two arguments I have dealt with already because they were repeated by Fontova and Encinosa. Alonso, like the others, fails to mention that Morales Navarrete confessed to being one of many involved in the bombing, or at least knowing those who conspired in it. According to two persons who interviewed him (Diosdado Diaz and Osmeiro Carneiro), Morales Navarrete is as guilty as Luis Posada Carriles for the bombing of Cubana flight 455.
The results of RARDE should also be seriously doubted since the poor lab techniques used and the political influence of a Venezuelan official in the "independent" forensic investigation most likely favored Posada Carriles' defense.
The refusal of the Cuban government to recover the Cubana flight wreckage from the deep water is suspicious, especially since it could have provided important evidence in the case, but to create a grand conspiracy around this fact alone is irrational. There's plenty of other important evidence to inquire about in this case.
Finally, Alonso presents a very unique theory. In his interview with Maria Elvira Salazar, Alonso tells us that the Cuban government very likely blew up the plane because of seven Cuban military officials on board who would threaten Fidel Castro's leadership upon their return to Cuba. According to Alonso's personal investigation of the Cubana flight bombing, he discovered that there were seven unidentified men on board after examining the photo's taken by Hernan Ricardo inside the doomed plane. (Hernan Ricardo was eventually sentenced to 20 years in 1986 for his involvement in the bombing.) Supposedly, Ricardo took enough photos of all the ill-fated passengers for Alonso to conclude that there were seven men left off the "official" death count of 73 passengers. We are to assume further that these seven men secretly boarded the flight and that Ricardo's film has now been concealed by the Venezuelan government, or Cuban government, in a vast conspiracy to completely erase the whereabouts of these seven men (who were supposedly gaining great respect among their men after battles in Angola), and any other person or memory of those who knew them, because Fidel Castro alone feared their possible influence upon their return.
I've tried to get a hold of a copy of "Los Generales of Castro," but the book is out of print. And, unfortunately, the theory of the seven generals has not been reported elsewhere, or on the internet. But, how fortunate for Alonso to have his theory presented to a wide audience with Maria Elvira Salazar, who was delighted in accepting everything Alonso said.
If one reads the Miami New Times article on Alonso carefully one will see that the life of Robert Alonso, told to Janine Zeitlin, is very mysterious itself. Not only does he get "murky" when asked about specifics of his secret life (which he also long withheld from his own wife), Zeitlin notices some embellishments too. I think Zeitlin's instincts may have been accurate when she wrote that Robert Alonso "has knack for storytelling." This may also extend to his supposed activism.
Just discovered this. There's an article about Robert Alonso from 2002 published online from El Nacional, a Venezuelan newspaper. The article by Eric Colon, titled "Robert Alonso: The History Behind the Venezuelan Ed Wood" further supports the characterization of Alonso having a "nack for storytelling."
In the early eighties, according to the article, Alonso produced a very popular and controversial Venezuelan television show called "Lo Increíble" (The Incredible). It was shaped by the popularity of such American shows like "That's Incredible" where guests would perform "daring human feats with extraordinary precision." This means things like catching bullets with your mouth, or performing "psychic" stunts.
But, in Venezuela, Robert Alonso pushed the boundaries with his show. According to Colon, Alonso's show "adapted the format of investigative journalism to amazing fiction and the paranormal." Colon recalls shows "that demonstrated three-headed frogs and paralytic bullfighters." Robert Alonso also admits to making things up for the show, especially after his bosses asked for an additional half-hour of programming.
The Colon article covers additional history not found in the Miami New Times by Zeitlin, such as Alonso's run in with the corrupt media, and a stint in jail where he organized a concert for inmates, starring his famous sister, Maria Conchita Alonso.
But, what I found most fascinating about the article was this brief exchange with the reporter:
Colon: What's your opinion on the practice of journalism [in Venezuela]?
Alonso: That every good journalist should lie.
Colon: Are you sure? And they never accused you of being a swindler? Of being a fraud?
Alonso: No. On the contrary, they gave me awards and provided tributes... completely satisfied as long as your voice is lost within the frenetic song of the macaws and the dusk.
A "nack for storytelling" indeed.