Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Miami Herald, February 15, 1985, Editorial: "Arocena and Terror."

Often, looking back provides an indication of how much -- or how little -- progress has been made. The conviction of Omega 7 terrorist Eduardo Arocena in Federal court in Miami provides an excellent opportunity for Dade Countians to look back.

A decade ago, this community was fearful even to denounce terrorism. A few anonymous thugs wrapped themselves in the Cuban flag and threatened to bomb and kill anyone who dared question whether their actions benefited the cause that they purported to espouse.

Radio commentator Emilio Milian had his legs blown off by a bomb beneath his car. He had incurred the terrorists' wrath by criticizing their indiscriminate violence in South Florida. Months earlier, anti-Castro leader Jose Elias de la Torriente had been shot in the back. The list goes on and on.

Terrorism continued as a way of life in this community until the early 1980s. A Little Havana businessman offered a cigar to Cuba's Fidel Castro. His cigar factory was fire-bombed repeatedly. A local magazine publisher was bombed because of ideas allegedly contrary to the cause of a free Cuba. Terrorists even bombed Miami's Mexican and Venezuelan consulates in reprisal for those governments' policies.

In the last couple of years, ever since Arocena's arrest, local terrorism has abated. This is not to infer that either Arocena or Omega 7 were responsible for the terrorism of a decade ago or for all anti-Castro terrorist activities in the United States since. Arocena has been convicted twice -- recently in New York, and now in Miami -- but only of specific other terrorist acts.

Arocena's conviction is a watershed for this community. In spite of threats against the judge and jury, Arocena was tried and convicted locally. His jury included three Hispanics. Both of his trials elicited media interest but surprisingly little community sympathy for him. All are clear signs that progress indeed has been made.

Arocena's dual convictions signal clearly that terrorism, even when committed by those who assert a just cause, will not be tolerated in this nation. Much credit is due Federal law- enforcement officials who took on the arduous task of infiltrating a close-knit organization to obtain the necessary evidence to convict Arocena. Credit also goes to the Cuban- Americans and community leaders in general who took it upon themselves to convince Federal officials that terrorism in this community was unacceptable. This community will profit from their efforts.

Copyright (c) 1985 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, February 13, 1985, "Arocena Guilty of Arms Charges, Reputed Omega 7 Chief Caught with Cache of Machine Guns" by Jay Ducassi.

Eduardo Arocena, reputed mastermind of Cuban exile group Omega 7, was convicted Tuesday of harboring an illegal terrorist arsenal.

A federal jury took 2 1/2 hours to convict the former New Jersey longshoreman -- who federal officials say is "Omar," the cryptic figure who headed Omega 7 -- on 23 charges of possessing illegal weapons and conspiracy to possess the weapons.

The six-man, six-woman jury -- including three Latins -- also convicted Milton Badia, formerly a licensed firearms dealer.

Arocena stood impassively as the guilty verdicts were read and made no comment afterward. He was taken away from the courtroom by federal marshals.

Arocena's wife Miriam, who attended the entire two-week trial and sat near her husband in the spectator area, walked away from the courtroom in tears.

U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler withheld setting a sentencing date, pending a presentence investigation.

Arocena, who was accused of possessing a cache of firearms, including three machine guns and silencers found at his Little Havana apartment, faces a maximum 115-year sentence.

Badia, convicted of one count of conspiring to manufacture and possess firearms, faces five years in prison.

Arocena already has been sentenced to life plus 35 years for gunning down a Cuban diplomat and for several New York area bombings.

U.S. Attorney Stanley Marcus is expected to decide whether to try Arocena for a third time on charges of bombing the Mexican and Venezuelan consulates in Miami and several South Florida businesses. The Mexican bombing alone caused more than $2 million in damages.

After Tuesday's verdict, Mrs. Arocena said, "It's too bad they chose to believe the lies of Gomez."

Nestor Gomez, a confessed member of Omega 7 who made a deal with federal prosecutors in exchange for his testimony, testified that he fired a machine gun at the front of a Miami drugstore on Arocena's orders. The machine gun used, FBI agents said, was later found in Arocena's apartment.

The drugstore, Hispania Interamericana, was targeted
because it has an arrangement to send shipments of medicine, clothes and other items to Cuba on behalf of Cuban exiles in the United States.

"We weren't really expecting this verdict," said Arocena's court-appointed lawyer, Miguel San Pedro. "We had raised our hopes that he would not be found guilty." San Pedro said he will appeal.

"The government is obviously pleased with the verdict," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick Mann, who used 2,600 pages of documents, taped conversations and the 2,500 pages of transcript from Arocena's first trial to prepare the case.

Hoeveler turned the ninth-floor courtroom, where an evidence table bristled with machine guns, pistols and silencers, over to the jury for deliberation shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Though federal prosecutors say Arocena headed Omega 7, he has steadfastly denied the he has ever belonged to the group.

In the two-week-long trial, Mann presented taped conversations, testimony of confessed Omega 7 members and an arsenal of firearms, silencers and ammunition FBI agents testified were found at Arocena's apartment when he was arrested in July 1983.

Arocena has denied that he has ever owned illegal weaponry.

The trial presented thorny security problems for U.S. marshals, who were forced to evacuate the federal courthouse shortly after the case began. The three-hour evacuation was prompted by an anonymous phone call Jan. 30 warning of an impending breakout of prisoners during the early morning transfer from jail to the courthouse.

Later the same day, the marshals service began providing round-the-clock protection for Judge Hoeveler in court and at his Coral Gables home, after Hoeveler reported receiving an anonymous threatening phone call at his residence.

Copyright (c) 1985 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, November 14, 1984, Editorial: "Arocena's Fallacy."

Seldom do closing arguments highlight as starkly the guts of an issue as did those in the New York trial of convicted terrorist Eduardo Arocena, the founder of Omega 7. Arocena's conviction for murder and bombings in Miami and New York and his sentence to life in prison plus 35 years are significant. But even the seriousness of the crimes and the severity of the penalty pale in comparison to the weight of the issue that was debated in the Federal trial: Can ideologically motivated terrorism be condoned in the United States?

The answer is No. Terrorism is not an acceptable way to seek change in the United States, no matter how holy the cause may seem. U.S. District Judge Robert Ward summarized the issue well when he said: "The court has no doubt that Arocena steadfastly believes" . . . in his anti-Castro, anti-Communist campaign. "The problem is that the means Arocena followed to achieve his end are in violation of the laws of this country."

The judge's comments are important because Arocena, while maintaining his innocence of the specific charges, reiterated his conviction that the acts themselves -- among them the murder of a Cuban diplomat -- are justifiable for political reasons.

Arocena's attorneys argued that their client's actions were akin to those by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when he fought to oust the British from Israel after World War II. The lawyers argued that the distinction between a terrorist and a freedom fighter depends exclusively on the perspective from which the events are analyzed.

The fallacy of the argument is obvious. Mr. Begin was carrying out his missions in Palestine, directly against those he considered the oppressors of his people. Arocena, in contrast, acted in the United States on behalf of foreign political goals and imperiled innocent Americans in the process.

To agree with Arocena's defense would be to justify Arab terrorists in carrying out their war against Israel in the United States, or to condone an attack in the United States by an Irish Republican Army partisan against a British official.

Fortunately most international terrorist organizations that struggle against foreign governments decided decades ago that violent acts in the United States would damage their cause. This is a lesson that freedom-loving Cubans should learn. Their crusade against Castro is harmed severely by acts such as those carried out by Arocena and other members of Omega 7. Neither American public opinion nor American courts are intimidated by these despicable acts of terrorism that insult the concept of democracy by perverting American freedom to break American laws and endanger American lives and American property.

Copyright (c) 1984 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, November 10, 1984, "Terrorist is Sentenced to Life in Jail, Omega 7 Chief Eligible for Parole in 1993" by Joe Starita.

Eduardo Arocena, a Cuban exile who founded the anti-Castro terrorist group Omega 7, was sentenced in federal court on Friday to life in prison plus 35 years for his role in two murders and a spate of bombings in Miami and New York.

"The court has no doubt that Arocena steadfastly believes" in his anti-Castro, anti-Communist campaign, U.S. District Judge Robert Ward said moments before sentencing.

"The problem is that the means Arocena followed to achieve his political end are in violation of the laws of this country."

Arrested by FBI agents in Miami in July 1983, the 42-year- old former New Jersey dockworker will be eligible for parole in about 8 1/2 years, but U.S. prosecutors said they would argue strenuously to prevent such an early release.

In a final pre-sentence summation to the judge, Miami defense attorney Luis Fernandez invoked the names of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Menachem Begin and Bob Dylan to try to show that Arocena is not a terrorist, but rather a freedom- fighting Cuban patriot who loves the United States.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Tabak responded by saying that Arocena is a cowardly killer who, lacking the courage to conduct his personal war in Cuba, sought refuge in the United States where he endangered the lives of innocent U.S. citizens with his craven acts of terrorism.

In an unusual speech to the judge before he was sentenced,
Arocena said that although he himself had nothing to do with the activities he is convicted of, he wholeheartedly supports the bombings and murders.

"With all the respect to your honor and to the legal system," Arocena said, "I will never bow my face in any situation. Nor will my knees tremble in any situation.

"If I have to rot in jail, I will rot in pleasure," he said as the judge looked up, smiled briefly and looked back down. "I don't have to feel sorry about anything. I'm in agreement with all of the acts my compatriotas have done. Every one of them."

Arocena had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and has been held in lieu of $750,000 bond since his arrest 16 months ago. Judge Ward said that Arocena will be allowed to apply the time he already has served against his sentence.

Arocena's wife, Miriam, said the conviction is just one more example of a country growing dangerously soft on communism.

"Poor America," she said. "I am sorry for this country. My husband is a good father, a good husband and a good Cuban patriot. He is not a terrorist."

On Sept. 22, a 12-member jury convicted Arocena of participating in numerous terrorist activities, ranging from perjury, bombings and drug dealing to the the first-degree murder of a Cuban diplomat.

Judge Ward gave Arocena a life sentence for his part in the murder of Felix Garcia Rodriguez, an attache to the Cuban Mission who was machine-gunned to death in Queens in 1980.

He also was convicted of the attempted car-bomb assassination of the Cuban U.N. Ambassador Raul Roa and of ordering bombings at the Cuban, Soviet, Venezulan, Mexican and Nicaraguan diplomatic missions in New York and Miami, as well as bombings at Madison Square Garden and Kennedy Airport.

He was acquitted of a bombing at Lincoln Center.

Convicted on 25 counts of a 26-count federal indictment, Arocena faced a maximum sentence of three life terms plus 235 years.

Miami defense attorneys Fernandez and Humberto Aguilar said they would appeal the sentence. Arocena, who listened impassively as the sentence was translated into Spanish, also is under indictment in Miami on numerous federal charges.

Arocena appeared to hurt his own chances of an early parole with his final statement to the judge.

Declaring that he had been the innocent victim of a government witch-hunt, Arocena said that with every arrest of freedom-fighters like himself, the United States moves one step closer to a Communist takeover.

"I am ready to put up with whatever you have," said Arocena. "I'll take as many years as you have. I won't blink.

"If to struggle for my country, if to sacrifice my family is to be a terrorist, then I am a terrorist. Your honor, do your duty," Arocena concluded, "I've done mine."

Earlier, defense attorney Fernandez objected to the word 'terrorist' appearing 26 times in an eight-page pre-sentence report on Arocena. He suggested that a number of prominent government leaders could be considered terrorists in some contexts.

In World War II, he noted, Roosevelt approved of the devastating bombing of Dresden and Berlin, Germany, while Truman authorized the first use of nuclear weapons against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At that point, Judge Ward interrupted the attorney, saying he did not believe the war analogies appropriate. "Those things happen when a state of war exists between two countries . . . and it is the sincere hope of everyone I'm sure that we never see another war."

Fernandez also quoted a line from a Bob Dylan song, telling the judge that it is difficult for non-Cubans to comprehend the loss of their homeland. "As Bob Dylan once said, 'You can't criticize what you don't understand,' " a line from The Times, They Are A'Changing.

The defense attorney journeyed far from the Manhattan courtroom Friday morning to cite yet another example.

"In Israel, perhaps at one time, Menachem Begin would have been called a terrorist," Fernandez said. "But now he is widely regarded as a hero."

Ward quickly interrupted, objecting to the analogy.

Begin, the judge pointed out, was fighting in his country to oust the British. Arocena, on the other hand, had been welcomed in this country as a political refugee.

If Arocena wanted to express his displeasure of the Cuban government while in this country, it should have been done "orally, or in writing, but it should not be expressed by killing and using explosive devices," Ward said.

Cuban exile reaction in Miami to Arocena's sentence was mostly one of disappointment.

Antonio Varona, president of the Cuban Patriotic Council, an umbrella exile group, said that in Arocena the U.S. government had found the perfect "scapegoat."

"I think it was never proven that Arocena had actually participated in any of the events nor that he was the mastermind behind it," said Varona. "The sentence is excessive and very unjust."

Varona said, however, that the council disapproved of terrorist activities in the United States.

Andres Nazario Sargen, president of Alpha 66, a militant anti-Castro group, also said that the sentence was excessive. He said that Arocena was perceived in the Cuban community as a "fighter for the Cuban cause."

"We might disagree with his strategy, but we have to admire the person," Nazario said. "We each have our ways of fighting."

Alpha 66's way of fighting communism is through the infiltration of anti-Castro insurgents in the island to carry out acts of sabotage. According to Nazario, several of these raids have taken place this year.

"But we are constantly persecuted by the government that claims we are violating U.S. neutrality laws and several of our members have been imprisoned," Nazario said. "Arocena's sentencing is part of the government's persecution of the struggle for the liberation of Cuba."

Former newsman Emilio Milian, whose legs were blown off by a car bomb after he broadcast anti-terrorist editorials, thought the Arocena sentence was "fair."

"I have to condemn terrorism because I have been a victim of it," Milian said. "Terrorism has no place in a democratic system. Anyone who thinks that by blowing up bombs here in the United States, they are helping to defeat Fidel is just wrong."

[This article was supplemented by information from Herald Staff Writer Barbara Gutierrez and Herald wire services.]

Copyright (c) 1984 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, September 23, 1984, "Omega 7 Leader Found Guilty of Murder, Bombings" by Joe Starita

A federal jury Saturday found Eduardo Arocena, leader of the anti-Castro terrorist group known as Omega 7, guilty of murdering a Cuban diplomat and of participating in numerous bombings in New York and Miami.

After deliberating for more than four days, a duration that surprised both prosecutors and defense attorneys, the 12-member jury returned its verdict at 3:55 p.m. Jurors found Arocena guilty on 25 of 26 charges, including murder, conspiracy to murder, transporting explosives, possession of bombs and perjury.

The only count he was acquitted on was in connection with the bombing of Avery Fisher Hall in New York.

A 41-year-old former New Jersey dockworker, Arocena faces a mandatory life sentence on the murder conviction and could be sentenced to more than 200 years on the other charges.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Ward set sentencing for 10 a.m. Oct. 26 in New York federal court.

"We expected it (the guilty verdict)," said Miami defense attorney Humberto Aguilar. "I thought the jury was marvelous. They questioned everything. They went over all of the evidence presented at the trial very carefully, and you can't ask for more than that.

"I think justice was done," said Aguilar, who admitted that he was surprised the jury took more than four days to render its verdict. "I thought Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning would have been more realistic," he said. Jurors began deliberating Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Tabak, the government's chief prosecutor who, in addition to working on other cases, spent more than two years compiling evidence against Omega 7, also said he believes justice was served.

"The jury deliberated very carefully and took all of the judges instructions very seriously," Tabak said. "The government is gratified by the verdict."

When the verdict was announced, Arocena's wife, Miriam, seated in the courtroom amid about 20 friends and relatives of the defendant, dropped her chin to her chest and began to sob.
Arocena, listening to the Spanish translation on a headset, remained impassive.

"He (Arocena) said that he accepted the verdict," said defense attorney Aguilar. "He was very calm. He said, 'I've only lost one -- there's more to go.' "

In addition to his conviction in New York, Arocena faces more charges in Miami and New Jersey.
Although Aguilar said he believes additional trials would
serve no purpose, he said Arocena, for one, probably would not oppose them.

"He has a political message, and this (a courtroom) is probably the best forum for him," Aguilar said.

"But considering he's already been convicted here and is facing a mandatory life sentence, any more trials would be a total waste of time and taxpayers' money," he said.

Throughout the five-week trial, prosecutors had contended that Arocena, acting as Omega 7 leader Omar, either ordered or participated in bombings of the Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Mexican consulates, Replica magazine, American Airways Charter and Padron Cigars in Miami, as well as other bombings in New York. In addition, he was also charged with trying to kill Raul Roa Kouri, Cuba's delegate to the United Nations.

The six-man, six-woman jury, made up of 10 blacks, one white and one Hispanic, also found Arocena guilty of participating in the 1980 murder of Felix Garcia Rodriguez, an attache for the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, who was shot to death in New York in 1980.

During the trial, federal prosecutors presented 85 witnesses and nine hours of taped telephone conversations between Arocena and FBI agents.

Testifying on his own behalf last week, Arocena repeatedly denied that he was Omar and that he had anything to do with any of the bombings and murder-conspiracy charges he is being tried for.

The only defense witness during the trial, Arocena told jurors that FBI agents, frustrated that he would not cooperate in their investigation of Omega 7, kidnapped him, drugged him and threatened his family. He was arrested in Miami by FBI agents in July 1983.

Arocena indicated he will appeal the conviction.

After the verdict was announced, about a dozen Cuban Americans who came to the courthouse to support Arocena said they were dismayed at the trial's outcome.

"As you know, the government of the U.S. is in conversations with Castro right now," said Pedro Hernandez, president of the Union City, N.J.-based Cuban Defense League. "As a staunch anti-Communist, Arocena is a threat to any relationship between the U.S. and Castro.

"So I think Mr. Arocena has been set up by the FBI and the government," Hernandez said. "To make the Cuban exile freedom- fighter disappear would be a nice gesture to Castro. That is the name of the game with this trial here."

Copyright (c) 1984 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, August 22, 1984, "Cop: Arocena Said He Led Omega 7" by Stephen K. Doig

A city police detective who spent six years investigating anti-Castro bombings in New York testified Tuesday that Miami businessman Eduardo Arocena admitted in September 1982 that he was "Omar," the mysterious mastermind behind the terrorist group Omega 7.

According to Detective Robert Brandt, the admission came during an eight-day period in which Arocena first gave detailed information about other Omega 7 members, took Brandt and FBI agent Larry Wack to Miami to search for explosives, and then abruptly went into hiding for 10 months.

Arocena was captured in July 1983 in Miami, and now is on trial on 26 counts of conspiracy, murder and perjury.

Arocena, a short, pudgy, mild-looking 41-year-old, called Wack and Brandt about meeting on Sept. 24, 1982. It was just three weeks after he had spent half a day before a federal grand jury here denying any connection to Omega 7 -- in the face of considerable circumstantial evidence to the contrary.

At their first meeting, in a room at the Holiday Inn Jetport in New Jersey, Brandt said Arocena would say only that he was there "representing Omar" to find out what the government wanted to know.

But the next day, after a breakfast of eggs and cheeseburgers at a nearby diner, Brandt asked Arocena directly: "Eddie, are you Omar? I want to know who I am talking to."

Arocena put his hand on his head and thought for a moment.

"Yeah, I am Omar," Brandt said Arocena finally replied.

Arocena, though insisting that he wouldn't be taped or testify in court, then signed consent forms in English and Spanish waiving his right to an attorney during the interviews.

And he began to talk, particularly about Pedro Remon, who, Arocena said, led the Omega 7 cell in the New York area.

"He told us there was a feud between himself and the Pedro Remon group," Brandt testified. "He said they were going to kill him."

According to Brandt, Arocena told them details about numerous bombings and attempted bombings of Cuban diplomatic buildings and of groups and companies suspected of dealing with Castro.

And Brandt said Arocena fingered Remon -- who now is in jail on contempt charges for refusal to testify before a grand jury -- for at least two of Omega 7's bloodiest acts, the machine-gun slayings of Committee of 75 member Eulalio Negrin in 1979 and Cuban attache Felix Garcia Rodriguez in 1980.

Brandt said that Arocena, who admitted ordering the murders, said that he tried to get Remon to abort the Garcia murder mission because there were no other Cuban diplomats in the same car.

"He didn't want to kill one Cuban," Brandt said of Arocena. "He wanted to kill five."

Arocena also described how he, Remon and other Omega 7 members tried to kill Raul Roa, the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations, with a remote-controlled car bomb on March 25, 1980.

According to Brandt, Arocena described how they briefly blocked Roa's parked car with a van while Remon surreptitiously placed the bomb, loaded with plastic explosive, under the car's gas tank with magnets. Roa's unsuspecting chauffeur was in the car at the time.

But when Roa came out to leave, his car bumped lightly into another one and the bomb fell off onto the street.

"Mr. Arocena had the transmitter in his hands," Brandt said. "Remon told him to blow the bomb, but some children were passing by and he decided not to blow it."

The bomb had had an earlier, also unsuccessful mission, Brandt added. It had been built in 1979 by Omega 7 to kill Fidel Castro during his visit to the United Nations, but security was too tight for the attempt.

Brandt said Arocena gave details about Omega 7 bombings at the ticket offices of the Russian airline Aeroflot, a Cuban concert at Lincoln Center, at the Mexican consulate, and at the TWA terminal at Kennedy International Airport, among others.

Over the next several days, in New Jersey, then at FBI headquarters in New York, and finally at a Ramada Inn in Miami, Brandt said Arocena continued to cooperate. In Miami, he talked with local agents about a string of Omega 7 bombings there and promised to help find a claimed 600 to 800 pounds of explosives cached by Omega 7.

But on Sept. 30, 1982, Arocena failed to show up at the Miami hotel room for another meeting with agents. The next day he called Brandt and Wack.

"He said 'I'm going to run,' " Brandt recalled. "And he hung up."

The trial will resume today with cross-examination of Brandt by defense attorneys Humberto Aguilar and Luis Fernandez.

Copyright (c) 1984 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, July, 23, 1983, "FBI Agents Arrest Omega 7 'Mastermind'" by Jim McGee and Bob Lowe

Eduardo Arocena, the man authorities say is America's most dangerous anti-Castro terrorist, was arrested Friday in connection with a 1980 bombing attempt on a Cuban diplomat.

At 12:45 p.m., shotgun-wielding FBI agents knocked at the door of a small, sparsely furnished apartment in Little Havana where Arocena has apparently lived for several months.

The man known as the "Omar" in the commuinques of Omega 7, the most feared anti-Castro group, answered the door himself, clad only in his underwear.

Told he was under arrest, Arocena surrendered quietly.

His one-room apartment abuts the parking lot of Sorrento's, a popular Little Havana restaurant on Southwest Eighth Street. Inside, agents saw several machine guns.

Clad in a blue pullover shirt and designer jeans, Arocena was taken to the Miami FBI office and later to a magistrate's hearing in federal court.

He was held without bond on a single charge of illegally receiving explosives and transporting them interstate during a 1980 attempt to murder the Cuba's representative to the United Nations.

As federal agents led Arocena to his court hearing, a reporter called out in Spanish, "Why did you do it? Was it for the revolution?"

"Of course," replied Arocena as he walked calmly with his hands cuffed behind his back. "All for the liberation of my country."

During the Friday afternoon hearing, a federal prosecutor told U.S. Magistrate Peter Nimkoff that Arocena had changed his "location, appearance and identity" to hide from authorities since October.

Officials consider Arocena one of the most elusive figures in the anti-Castro terrorist underground.

Believed to be the mysterious "Omar" who writes cryptic communiques on behalf of Omega 7, the 40-year-old Arocena disappeared 10 months ago after he was accused in an arrest warrant of trying to kill Cuba's representative to the United Nations, Raul Roa Kouri.

An FBI affidavit accused Arocena and four associates of the 1980 assassination attempt, one of more than 30 bombings and two murders that have been under investigation by a federal grand jury in New York.

The bombing attempt failed when Kouri's car hit a bump, jarring loose a bomb of C4 plastic explosives attached underneath, according to an FBI informant.

The informant, described in court documents as being involved in the March 1980 bomb plot, said the device was to have been detonated later during the ambassador's trip.

According to the informant, Arocena brought the explosives from New Jersey to New York in a rented car and, along with the others, tailed the ambassador with a remote-control detonation device.

The paunchy Arocena scowled and chewed gum in the federal courtroom while awaiting his hearing. His once close-cropped, brown hair was combed past his shirt collar. He sported a mustache.

He said nothing in court. Attorney Jose Villalobos said that FBI agents had tried to talk to Arocena and that his client "wishes not to speak to them anymore." The hearing was continued until Tuesday at 2 p.m. to give Arocena time to find permanent legal counsel.

"The FBI says he is one of the most dangerous people in the U.S.," Villalobos told The Herald. "The person I knew was a gentle person, a business person, far from being a wild-eyed revolutionary."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick Mann said the government plans to move Arocena to New York, where the explosives charge was orginally filed. He said he expects Arocena to fight the move.

During the ten months that Arocena was the subject of an intensive federal manhunt, he apparently melted into a quiet life in Little Havana, avoiding FBI agents and Miami police investigators.

"We believe a majority of his time probably has been spent in this area," said Joe Corless, head of Miami's FBI office. "...It is likely he received assistance from some individuals to avoid apprehension."

He apparently lived in a one-bedroom apartment behind a home at 3034 SW 7th St. Lime trees grace the backyard of the small, brown and white apartment. Two garbage cans were stacked against one outside wall.

Friday afternoon, while neighborhood children played nearby, FBI agents waited outside the apartment for a search warrant that would allow them to seize and examine Arocena's belongings.

They are especially interested in the high powered machine guns and what appeared to be bombmaking components they think are inside the room, law enforcement sources said.

The arrest of Arocena in Miami is a major break for the FBI's terrorism task force in New York, which has directed the Omega 7 investigation. It came after dogged, tedious stakeouts by Miami FBI agents.

Law enforcement sources and neighborhood residents gave this account of Arocena's arrest:

Acting on a tip about 2 a.m. Friday, FBI agents staked out several locations in Little Havana where Arocena was thought to be staying.

At some point, one agent thought he saw a person resembling Arocena walk to the room behind the home at 3034 S. W. 7th St. He and other agents took up surveillance positions and waited.

Arocena remained inside the apartment throughout the morning. FBI agents waited nearby, at one point distrubing a neighborhood guard dog.

At 12:45 p.m., agents decided to move in. They knocked on the door. Arocena answered, looking down the barrel of a shotgun.

"They [the FBI agents] jumped over the back fence, with guns in their hands, with walkie talkies," said Madelina Ramos, 24, a neighbor.

Arocena formerly lived in New Jersey, and worked as a longshoreman on the Newark docks. During the late 1970s, the focus of Omega 7 attacks was the New York-New Jersey area.

Apparently under the heat of an FBI and New York Police Department investigation, Arocena moved to Miami in 1980.

He and his wife bought a $90,000 home at 10001 SW 14th Terr. and set up the Beta Import-Export firm in downtown Miami. Authorities believe the move explained the resurgence of Omega-7 activity in South Florida.

Investigators say that the quiet, studious Arocena has been the strategist behind the group's eight-year campaign of terror directed at symbols of Castro's Cuba and those perceived to be the country's friends.

They also believe Arocena has actively participated in some of the attacks -- building and detonating bombs -- while presiding over the small but volatile terrorist group.

[Herald Staff Writers Jay Ducassi, Sandra Dibble and Jennifer Schenker contributed to this report.]

Copyright (c) 1983 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, January 27, 1983, Editorial: "Bombs vs. Democracy"

Ordinarily, this newspaper would not dignify a threat from terrorists by stooping to respond. And that principle will govern in this instance, in which The Miami Herald has been threatened with attack. The threat came in a two-page, typewritten note signed by "Omar, chief of commandos, Omega 7."

The Herald identified this "Omar" as Eduardo Arocena of Miami in a Jan. 16 story. Mr. Arocena is a fugitive, identified by the FBI as the leader of Omega 7, a group of anti-Castro exiles that claims responsibility for more than 30 bombings and two assassinations in the past eight years.

This newspaper will not honor such terrorists by debating them any more than it will be intimidated by threats from anyone. What must not be permitted to pass without rebuttal, however, is the perverse and twisted reasoning employed by this "Omar" who signed the two-page threat.

In part, the threat read as follows: "For our part, we feel offended that The Herald would publish the information about Omega 7, for we consider it a cave of Communists who serve Russia, just like The New York Times and The Washington Post, since they concentrate their efforts on attacking and destroying democracy so this great country will fall into the arms of international communism...."

This passage demands rebuttal because, though its language is extreme, its sentiment is sadly common. Many well-intentioned people misunderstand the role that this nation's independent press necessarily plays in securing American democracy. Many feel that when newspapers criticize the Government and the powerful, they act destructively. This is a terrible misconception.

A vigilant, critical press is essential to the American way of life. It always has been so. The Founding Fathers deliberately made freedom of the press one of the four primary freedoms guaranteed to American citizens as birthright. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution empowers the press with freedom precisely because the nation's founders intended the press to be an ever-watchful critic and check upon the power of Government.

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. President, and perhaps the New World's first and foremost political genius, put it thus: "No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying...that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first objective should therefore be, to leave open to him all avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is therefore the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions."

America's newspapers, The Miami Herald proud among them, are bulwarks of American democracy. It is those who would silence them, such as Omega 7's Omar, who serve America's enemies.

Copyright (c) 1983 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, January 25, 1983, "Omega 7 Threatens Death to 'Traitors'" by Ana Veciana-Suarez

A letter purportedly from Omega 7 Monday threatened "traitors" it said provided the information for a Miami Herald article that identified the leader of the anti-Castro terrorist group.

The note, written in Spanish, demanded that the newspaper disclose its sources, and issued a warning.

"We do not doubt that traitors who have crossed our paths have given information about us in private and succumbed to the
pressure of the authorities, selling themselves to the highest bidder. In both cases the punishment for betrayal is paid with death," it said.

The two-page, typewritten note, received in the mail at Spanish-language radio stations WQBA and WRHC, was signed, "Omar, chief of commandos, Omega 7."

The note criticized a Jan. 16 story in The Herald, which cited FBI sources and identified Miamian Eduardo Arocena as "Omar." The communique, however, declined to "go into detail about the truth of said article."

Omega 7 has claimed responsibility for more than 30 bombings and two assassinations in the past eight years. The last three bombings occurred two weeks ago in Miami. Arocena, the man the FBI has identified as leader of the group, has been a fugitive since he was named in an arrest warrant last October.

"For our part, we feel offended that The Herald would publish the information about Omega 7, for we consider it a cave of Communists who serve Russia, just like The New York Times and The Washington Post, since they concentrate their efforts on attacking and destroying democracy so this great country will fall into the arms of international communism..." the communique said.

"We would like to tell you that on many occasions we have caressed the idea of attacking them and destroying their nests and doing a favor for this country," it added.

The communique also said the terrorist group would rather have articles about its activities published by Miami's Spanish- language weeklies, which it called "true champions of the Cuban cause."

Broadcasters from both WQBA and WRHC read the communique on news programs, but said they would not give copies of it to law enforcement officials unless requested. Both the FBI and Miami police said Monday they were unaware that the radio stations had received a note from Omega 7.

Copyright (c) 1983 The Miami Herald
The Miami Herald, January 16, 1983, "Unmasking of a Master Terrorist: Omega 7's 'Omar' is on the Run" by Jim McGee

Eduardo Arocena speaks softly but with passion. He prefers three-piece suits, does not drink or smoke and is unfailingly polite with his neighbors. He has been trained in karate, enjoys the music of Wagner and is known as a family man.

Omar lives in a world of patriots and traitors. He makes bombs, orders assassinations and writes cryptic communiques. He is the mastermind of Omega 7, a stern jefe who trains subordinates with care and believes that Communists deserve death. He is wanted by the FBI.

Eduardo Arocena is Omar. Omega 7 is his creation. Miami, where he has lived quietly with his wife and two children, is his base of operations.

Those are the conclusions of law enforcement authorities who consider him America's most dangerous anti-Castro terrorist.

"Omega 7 is a small, cellular group headed by Eddie Arocena ," acknowledged FBI Deputy Assistant Director Kenneth Walton, who heads a New York-based anti-terrorism task force. "... Arocena is Omar."

Omega 7 has claimed responsibility for more than 30 bombings and two assassinations. Three more bombings occurred last week in Miami. Despite heavy pressure from the FBI, the group continues to operate with impunity.

Arocena is currently on the run. He disappeared into the terrorist underground in October after he was named in an arrest warrant issued after an FBI affidavit said he and four associates tried to kill Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations in 1980.

"I haven't got the slightest idea what it could be about," Arocena said in August, after receiving a subpoena for a New York grand jury investigating Omega 7.

There is clearly more to the federal grand jury investigation in New York than that single bombing attempt: "We're talking about 30 bombings and two murders," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Tabak.

Until now, Arocena 's status as the nation's preeminent anti-Castro terrorist has been a closely guarded secret.

"He [Arocena] started Omega," said a Justice Department official. "He is probably the most dedicated patriot in the Cuban field that the law enforcement community has ever experienced in seven years of bombings and murders."

Last week, three Miami-area businesses were the targets of bombs fashioned from C-4 plastic explosive, a battery and a timing device. Police recovered one of the bombs intact and say it is similar to others claimed by Omega 7.

'We are back again'

"What's happening is Miami is becoming a war zone," said Police Sgt. Edward Buff, a bombing investigator.

Tuesday's bombings come at a time when Arocena is under increasingly heavy pressure from the FBI. The bombs were accompanied by a communique signed by "Omar, Chief of Commandos, Omega 7."

It referred to "abuses" by a federal grand jury in New York that has been aggressively investigating Omega 7 and to the FBI, which has sought to arrest Arocena .

The note concluded with this chilling warning: "The new betrayal awoke Medusa. We are back again."

During the late 1970s, Arocena operated from New Jersey, say officials who have studied Omega 7, and his primary targets were in Manhattan.

At the time, he worked for the Newark Waterfront Commission as a longshoreman, the trade he learned as a young man in Cuba.

"He was an honest man," said Salvador Rassi, his supervisor at the port. Arocena often practiced karate, Rassi said, and enjoyed the classical music of Wagner, Beethoven and Chopin.

At night and on his days off, officials allege, Arocena trained and directed a small band of terrorists and also served as a kind of chief executive officer to the suspected ruling council of Omega 7.

Throughout the late 1970s, the Omega 7 operation in New Jersey ran smoothly. The name Omar was widely feared in Cuban communities. The FBI was fooled by what amounted to a clever disinformation campaign.

Operation moves south

In the final months of 1980, however, Arocena made a decision that would later touch Little Havana. Apparently as a result of pressure from the highly regarded FBI-New York Police Department anti-terrorism task force, he moved south.

Arocena quit his job as a longshoreman and moved with his wife, Miriam, to Miami. They bought a $90,000 home at 10001 SW 14th Ter., near Florida International University. He set up Beta Import-Export, working from a modest office at 1937 NW 22nd St.

Beta's office space is now a tailor's shop.

"They left this place," said the new tenant.

Arocena 's neighbors in Miami say he was often seen playing baseball with his two children, a boy and a girl, and caring for the family pet, a small black and white spotted dog. When he left for work in the morning, they said, he was always neatly attired in a suit and tie.

He was "close to his children, you could see that," said Juana Carrandi, who lives next door. "He seemed a good person. ... Eduardo was a family man, one who brings everything home for his family. He liked to be home."

Another neighbor said she once thought Arocena was a car dealer because "every day he would come home in a different car" and he seemed to travel frequently.

"He didn't talk at all, outside of saying hello," she said. " He was very serious, very reserved." Arocena 's wife declined to comment. "Pretend that I am widowed or divorced," she said. "I don't want to be bothered any more... Go ask the FBI."

Second exile to Miami

Like many Cuban exiles during the so-called 1980 Freedom Flotilla, Arocena reportedly traveled by boat to the port of Mariel in an effort to help a relative leave Cuba.

About the same time Arocena moved south, a second exile, who investigators allege worked closely with Arocena in New Jersey, also moved to Miami. Pedro Remon left behind a job with a freight company and was hired as a sales representative with Ryder Truck Lines in Miami.

Since the move, officials who have studied Cuban terrorism have concluded that Omega 7's center of gravity has shifted to Miami, that South Florida has become the new setting for
Arocena 's anti-Castro rage.

"You're having actions and we aren't," Walton said from his New York FBI office. "... We in New Yorkhave not eradicated these people. We have exported them."

The latest rash of bombings in Miami suggests that the work of the federal grand jury has neutralized only a single, now- inactive cell of the original Omega 7.

Officials say that Tuesday's bombings suggest that there may be other cells of Omega 7 in South Florida and that Arocena 's ability to strike appears undiminished.

"It is obvious we don't know the whole Omega plan and what he's got access to," said one official. "If it is as bad as we think it is, he's got a pretty long arm."

Arocena at all levels?

Investigators now believe Omega 7's structure probably resembles a pyramid, with Arocena at the top, followed by a ruling council of which he is a member, followed by several "cells" or close-knit groups of "action members." Estimates of the size range from a handful of Arocena loyalists to more than 100 secret supporters.

Whatever the structure, investigators say, it appears that
Arocena works at all levels, taking part in the planning, financing and training and the building and placing of bombs.

"Omega 7 is anywhere Arocena takes off his three-piece suit," Walton said.

The contradictions that surround his life are characteristic of recurring themes within the anti-Castro movement. They combine a passionate Cuban nationalism with a coldblooded appetite for violence.

Details of his youth in Cuba are sketchy. He was born on Feb. 26, 1943, to a family in the province of Las Villas. He is remembered as self-effacing and a quiet youth, a bit of a loner who gained local recognition as an amateur wrestler.

He was 15 the year Fidel Castro came down from the Sierra Maestra.

In 1965, Arocena stowed away on a cargo ship. His journey into exile led first to Morocco, then Spain and finally to New York, where he arrived in 1966 aboard the cargo ship the SS Independence.

Ernesto Rodriguez, now retired in Miami, was a friend of Arocena 's in New Jersey. He said that the longshoreman was an avid student of Cuban history and that together they would often visit bookstores in Elizabeth, N.J.

"To me, he is not a terrorist," Rodriguez said. "To me, he is a patriot. A working man. A good friend. A good Cuban. ... I don't believe that he is a murderer. He is a man of family."

Observed exile leaders

Arocena was, it seems, always an anti-Communist. During his early years in the United States, he reportedly circulated among various anti-Castro exile groups and impressed his associates as a quiet and studious observer of exile leaders.

"He sat in the background and watched them make asses of themselves," said one source familiar with Arocena 's early life. "He saw their mistakes and he capitalized on them."

During the period leading up to the mid-1970s, it appears that Arocena also studied the art of mayhem, learning most of what he knows about making bombs from manuals that were commercially available.

People who have met Arocena say he projects a compelling sense of physical power and personal dignity. He can be persuasive when he speaks of "the cause," but is not a braggart and rarely gives rein to his emotions.

"He has got absolutely total tunnel vision," Walton said. "His entire life has to do with Omega 7. Obviously. He left his family. He's on the run.

"Arocena is a very erudite, articulate, dedicated anti- Communist Cuban. But he's got his head screwed on wrong. ... What he does is build bombs and shoot people. That doesn't make him a romantic folk hero. He's a killer and a bomber."

Arocena 's personal habits are said to be spartan. He scorns drinking, womanizing and drug abuse and demands an unswerving commitment to his personal crusade against Fidel Castro.

"He [Arocena] is not your typical Latin," said a source familiar with Arocena . "There is one Arocena in every 5,000 Cuban exiles."

Officials who have made a career of investigating Omega 7 record its birth sometime in late 1974. Law enforcement sources say they believe it stemmed from Arocena 's frustration with the lethargy of the anti-Castro movement.

Attack pattern the same

The first recorded attack was on Feb. 1, 1975, when a bomb was placed at the Venezuelan mission to the United Nations. From that opening salvo to last Tuesday's bombings in Little Havana, the pattern has been basically the same.

Omega 7 would rise up from working-class Cuban neighborhoods, attack the symbols of their anti-Communist hatred, then disappear into a frightened, tightly knit community where witnesses don't talk and victims don't remember.

Their targets have included Cuban diplomats, exiles who favored a dialogue with Fidel Castro, nations that are friendly with Havana, and airlines that scheduled flights to the island nation. Three men have been killed.

Bombs are their weapon of choice, but they have also used machine guns. An Arocena -planned attack, investigators say, is typically well thought out and skillfully executed. No innocent bystander has ever been seriously injured.

"They are more professional than some of the other terrorist groups," said Walton, whose task force is credited with pioneering innovative law enforcement strategies against terrorism. "Their targets indicate a higher degree of selectivity."

Omega 7's most dramatic attack was the Dec. 11, 1979, bombing of the Soviet Mission to the U.N. It caused a diplomatic furor. The most vicious was the shooting of Committee of 75 member Eulalio Negrin in front of his 12-year-old son.

They also took responsibility for trying to intimidate a major Spanish language newspaper, El Diario La Prensa, and were blamed for a harassment campaign against a Roman Catholic priest who favored the dialogue with Cuba.

Linked to other groups

In the past, law enforcement officials have ventured several theories on Omega 7. Earlier this year, FBI Director William Webster testified that Omega 7 was the "action arm of the Cuban Nationalist Movement [CNM]." Others claimed it was an umbrella organization for all exile groups.

"That's what we thought referring to the CNM connection," said Arthur Nehrbass, commander of the Metro-Dade Police Organized Crime Bureau and a former head of the Miami FBI office. "It's not true."

The CNM is a dangerous anti-Castro group with ties to Miami and it has been linked to such notorious acts as the assassination of former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier. But the CNM was never Omega 7, officials now say. The connection was camouflage.

"Omega 7 ... is a separate entity," Walton said. "And the connection with CNM, if there is any connection at all, is probably ethnic rather than philosophical.

"They [Omega 7] permitted Armando Santana [a CNM leader] and his brothers to imply a connection in order to confuse law enforcement. And they were very successful."

Law enforcement sources say two characteristics set Arocena apart from other exile terrorists and help explain his success: He has never sought personal recognition for what he views as revolutionary activities and he has generally refused to work with the CIA.

"Arocena is very dedicated," said a veteran terrorism investigator. "... He thinks it is the only way to fight."

Clues to unraveling

Much of the FBI's evidence against Arocena and other Omega 7 members remains concealed by grand jury secrecy. But there are some clues to how his New Jersey operation came unraveled.

On Dec. 22, 1980, a powerful blast rocked the Cuban Embassy in Canada. Within hours of that bombing, say investigators, a U.S. Border Patrol official stopped two Miami Cubans at the Canadian border.

One was Ramon Sanchez, a Miami exile who has long been associated with anti-Castro revolutionary causes. The other was Pedro Remon, 38, then an unknown quantity to law enforcement.

Telephone toll records later reflected frequent calls between Remon's telephone number and Arocena 's, according to an FBI affidavit. That link reportedly led agents to focus on
Arocena .

In October, warrants were issued for Arocena and Remon after an FBI affidavit said both had participated in the March 25, 1980, attempted bombing of a Cuban diplomat.

After their arrival in Miami, Remon and Arocena apparently parted ways, according to various sources. Each has denied knowing the other or having worked together.

Remon for his part appeared to prosper, but remained a key suspect in the Omega 7 investigation. In July, Sanchez said he and Remon discovered an FBI eavesdropping device in Remon's car.

"They [the FBI] have been trying to connect us with some of the killings and bombings in New York and Canada," said Sanchez, who said he was speaking on Remon's behalf. He said he and Remon, who are both members of the Organization for the Liberation of Cuba, are not members of Omega 7.

Two issues unresolved

Both Remon and Sanchez are now in a New York jail on contempt charges for refusing to answer grand jury questions. Remon is on temporary leave from Ryder Truck Lines, where he is remembered as a good salesman and sharp dresser who never discussed politics.

"He did a good job for us," said Ryder supervisor Lewis Dixon.

As a result of the grand jury's work, officials now believe the original Arocena -trained Omega 7 cell in New Jersey has been crippled.

But at least two issues remain unresolved.

Defense attorneys representing suspected Omega 7 members say that wiretaps were authorized under the foreign internal security act but that the Justice Department won't say why.

Walton acknowledges: "There is obviously an international connection as it applies to Omar and Omega 7 ... intelligence, acquisition of explosives, firearms, transportation, false identity, passports, perhaps even money."

Sources familiar with the investigation say there are indications that Arocena has developed extensive contacts among right-wing groups in Argentina and other South American countries.

If they exist, such links would be reminiscent of the relationship that surfaced between the CNM and the Chilean secret police after the assassination of Letelier.

The second issue is less complicated but more important to Miami.

Omar remains free.

[Herald Staff Writers Jay Ducassi, John MacCormack and Neil Brown also contributed to this report.]

Copyright (c) 1983 The Miami Herald