Consider for a moment what would happen if American intelligence agents on the ground in a foreign country uncovered a major terrorist plot, with enough time to prevent it. And then consider how Americans would react if authorities in that country, rather than cooperate with us, arrested and imprisoned the U.S. agents for operating on their soil.
Those agents would be American heroes. The U.S. government would move heaven and Earth to get them back.
This sort of scenario has occurred, except that, in the real-life version, which unfolded 15 years ago last month, the Americans play the role of the foreign government, and Cuba — yes, Fidel Castro’s Cuba — plays the role of the aggrieved United States.
In the early 1990s, after the demise of the Soviet Union made the collapse of Cuba’s communist government seem inevitable, Miami’s militant Cuban exile groups ratcheted up their efforts to overthrow Castro by any means possible, including terrorist attacks. In 1994, for example, Rodolfo Frometa, the leader of an exile group, was nabbed in an FBI sting trying to buy a Stinger missile, a grenade launcher and anti-tank rockets that he said he planned to use to attack Cuba.
In 1995, Cuban police arrested two Cuban Americans after they tried to plant a bomb at a resort in Varadero.
Those actions clearly violated U.S. neutrality laws, but America’s justice system mostly looked the other way. Although Frometa was charged, convicted and sentenced to almost four years in jail, law enforcement agencies rarely investigated allegations involving exile militants, and if they did, prosecutors rarely pursued charges. Too often, Florida’s politicians served as apologists for the exile community’s hard-line elements.