CANF, Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, and the totally compromised testimony used to bury Gerardo Hernández Nordelo alive

When the U.N.’s Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigated the siting of the February 24, 1996 shootdown off the coast of Cuba of two light aircraft registered to the Miami group “Brothers to the Rescue,” suddenly all the evidence supporting U.S. claims about it occurring over international waters became very difficult to find.  And this despite the fact that the U.S. government expected an incident to occur and had warned all its radar installations, and presumably, satellite eyes, to be especially alert that day.  But with the objective evidence suddenly missing, the ICAO investigators came up with a weird, subjective “triangulation” to support U.S. claims about the location.  Naturally, the ICAO Council refused to endorse such a bizarre report.

One of the points of that triangulation came from Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Bjørn Johansen, first officer on the ship Majesty of the Seas, who thanks to Brazilian researcher Fernando Morais, we now learn “based his testimony about the site of the shoot-down on a visual observation of the site where his own ship was – which he wrote down on a piece of paper – and not the electronic register that marked the ship’s location in the Florida Strait.”  Now you tell us.  Jean Guy Allard has more:

The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) behind the main testimony against Gerardo Hernández Nordeloespañol

By Jean-Guy Allard
Translation: Machetera

The main witness for the federal prosecution against the Cuban Gerardo Hernández Nordelo was the first officer on a U.S. cruise line whose owners contributed at least $25,000 to help create the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), and whose paramilitary wing organized, financed and promoted terrorist actions against Cuba.

Hernández, one of the five anti-terrorists arrested by the FBI while he was infiltrating Cuban American terrorist groups, was sentenced to two life sentences plus fifteen years in prison for a charge related to the downing of two light aircraft belonging to a counter-revolutionary organization in Miami that illegally flew over Cuban territory on February 24, 1996, despite warnings not to do so.

The Norwegian-American Bjørn Johansen, first officer on the cruise-ship Majesty of the Seas, belonging to Royal Caribbean Cruises, had Pete Whelpton as his second in command when the aerial incident occurred.  Whelpton was a CANF member and director of a so-called Commission for the Economic Development and Reconstruction of Cuba, well-known for its attacks on the island.

While Johansen met on various occasions with the FBI and agreed to collaborate with it, Whelpton was never investigated in relation to his political activities.

This information surfaced in an article in the latest edition of The Havana Reporter, an English language weekly published by Prensa Latina.  The Havana Reporter reported that Fernando Morais, an author of a book about the Cuban Five called The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, recently published in Brazil, commented on these facts at the book launch in Brazil.

In a series of articles published by The New York Times in 1995, the president of the Cuban American National Foundation at the time, José Francisco “Pepe” Hernández Calvo mentioned Royal Caribbean Cruises as one of 40 businesses who contributed $25,000 to create his organization.

This is the same “Pepe” Hernández who was opportunely saved in 1997 from facing charges in the saga of the La Esperanza yacht, intercepted in Puerto Rican waters on its way to carry out an assassination attempt against the Cuban leader Fidel Castro at Isla Margarita.  Hernández had provided a 50 caliber Barrett rifle to the murderous crew.

The most absurd part of the case against Gerardo Hernández and the rest of the Cuban Five occurred in May of 2001 when midway through the trial proceedings, the federal prosecutors admitted that there was insufficient proof against Hernández on the “third count” related to the aircraft, and requested that it be withdrawn because of the impossibility of obtaining a conviction.

The deliberately hostile Judge Joan Lenard refused to receive the request.  The prosecution then presented an extraordinary appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, where the same request was rejected.  The jury, led by an employee of the U.S. federal government, oriented itself against the accused, most notably through its belief in the testimony from the Norwegian-American sailor.

In the case of Gerardo Hernández, the prosecution maintained that the aircraft had been downed in international waters.  The United States has repeatedly refused to turn over its satellite imagery from that date for fear of confirming the truth of the statements coming from Cuban authorities about the location of the incident.

3 responses to “CANF, Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, and the totally compromised testimony used to bury Gerardo Hernández Nordelo alive

  1. Very nice.

    Machetera, “Brothers to the Rescue” was infiltrated at the very highest levels by Cuban intelligence.

    Just one or two days after the shootdown, the Cuban agent fled to Havana and held an incredible press conference detailing at GREAT length all the various bombing and strafing runs that Brothers to the Rescue had conducted during his tenure there.
    It was written up in USA Today the following morning.
    I am convinced that there is evidence revealed within that press conference that would help the Cuban 5 very much.
    Is there any way to obtain a transcript of that press conference?

    • Matt, I don’t have access to that transcript and believe it would be hard to get at this point. I do have copies of the Lucia Newman interview with Roque, here, and the Juventud Rebelde interview (Spanish only) here. The information that Roque provided about BTTR’s concealed activities is only part of the story though. The bigger story is that wherever the shootdown occurred, the US govt. could not make a case that Gerardo Hernández had anything to do with it, and admitted as much to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. That the jury convicted him anyway, without proof, and that he has received no relief on appeal, is something truly criminal.

      • Hi Machetera,

        I’ve passed the Bar and have some familiarity with what is involved.

        This evidence would go to another purpose, i.e. to PROVE that BTR had engaged in terrorist activities and such evidence would would very much strengthen that particular complete affirmative defense.

        It’s always important to mount defenses on several different fronts at once and this would strengthen dramatically that particular “necessity” defense.

        Thanks for the cites and I’m a huge fan of your work!

        I’m thinking there must be copies or video tapes in Habana somewhere.

        I was a huge advocate at the time of pushing McKenna (one of the Cuban 5 lawyers) to INSIST that Roque’s videotaped testimony under oath be permitted from Cuba, but I think McKenna as a sole practitioner was simply overwhelmed.

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