Luis Posada Carriles had been living in Central America, where he helped supply the Contras, a U.S.-supported paramilitary militia that fought against the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
After the Iran-Contra affair broke, Posada Carriles moved from El Salvador to Guatemala, where he thought he'd be safe. But on Feb. 28, 1990, assassins nearly killed him.
Writing in his 1994 memoirs, Posada Carriles said that day had started like most others. He put on a coat and tie, got into his car and left his apartment building at 8:30 a.m.
Waiting nearby, he said, a man fired at him, missing. According to Posada Carriles' account, here's what happened next:
Posada Carriles hit the accelerator. Other men fired from behind and from his right side, hitting his car, but missing him.
Posada Carriles grabbed his 9 mm Beretta and continued driving. A white pick-up with two men riding in the back chased him. Posada Carriles slammed on the brakes and suddenly the pursuing truck was right alongside him. He jumped out of the car and exchanged gunfire with the assailants. He writes:
I see that the two men collapsed, but feel that I've also been hit with several bullets. I felt deep pain in the left arm, the chest and my jaw was numb. I was bleeding profusely, but didn't lose consciousness.By then, the pick-up had taken off. Posada Carriles said he managed to drive to a gas station about three kilometers (1.8 miles) away. He wrote:
Blood covered my body and flooded my shoes. Near the gas station, some four blocks away, was a hospital. A woman got out of a car, put her hand on me and prayed for me.Posada Carriles later blamed Cuban agents and their Guatemalan accomplices for the assassination attempt.
But the anti-Castro militant, who had been shot 12 times, somehow survived.
Posada Carriles described his wounds during a June 17, 1998, interview with journalist Ann Louise Bardach.
Here's what he said, according to a transcript filed in U.S. District Court earlier this month:
Bardach: Oh, my God. Si. He's showing me the wounds here. Oh, my God. He has a scar here ... from ... across his chest... and a bullet wound in the back ... hold on (Noise; microphone or recorder.) ... for when we win the war, I'll have a picture for you.
But there's a bullet wound in the ... left arm... wait a minute... un momentico [just a minute] ... okay.
Posada Carriles: Ah! Over on the left, there's one bullet wound here, one the left arm, that came in the left and came out... okay. And then, across the chest... and then in the right arm there's another bullet or piece of shrapnel that went through the arm ... Yeah.
Bardach: Then. across the chest, there's also ...
Posada Carriles: Another here ... is here. ... around three inches north of the navel, and then across the upper chest, from the armpit, I would say, to around six inches in length. Uhm, there's another slash across the chest. And then the most serious damage was done to the jaw. because the bullet went in one side, went out the other side ... it severed the jaw... The tongue, the tongue was very, very damaged.
Bardach: The tongue was very damaged, which has left him with a slight speech impediment. Did it affect, uhm, the ability to swallow? Masticate... would we say masticate, the, uhm ... creating saliva?
Posada Carriles: Yeah.
Bardach: Right. And that's what he would like to operate on to remove some of the ... bone damage in the chin and the neck (Noise; microphone or recorder.) ... want cosmetic surgery to change yourself so no one can re ... re ... ?
Posada Carriles: Touch here.
Posada Carriles: The bullet... is in here.
Bardach: Oh, there's a bullet wound also ...
Posada Carriles: The bullet is right here. Right? ... and this is it, here.
Bardach: Oh, my God!
Posada Carriles: And the other places, I don't know. But uhm... uhm... they took my... uhm ...because my, my bone from ...They took the jaw from here ...And they put it up here.
Bardach: Yeah. So he says his jaw is shorter... the chin, because they took bone from his chin and you can see in the earlier pictures it was broader and they, they reconstructed the jaw closer to the ear. Right? So it took three surgeries. (Noise; microphone or recorder.)
Posada Carriles: Yeah.