The city of Miami, Florida, may have started out as a retirement mecca for winter-worn pensioners from northern climes. However, after the beginning of the Cold War and US military and Central Intelligence Agency intervention in Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guyana, the Bahamas, and other Western Hemisphere nations, Miami became a refuge for exiled wealthy businessmen escaping populist revolutions and elections in South and Central America, and spies. The retirement and vacation capital of the United States quickly became the “Tropical Casablanca.”
Now home to thousands of limited liability corporations linked to the CIA, as well as private military contractors, sketchy airlines flying from remote Florida airports, the interventionist US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and exiled oligarchs running destabilization operations in their native countries, Miami—or MIAMI, “Military Intervention and Mercenaries, Inc.”—serves as the nexus for current Trump administration “regime change” efforts.
The latest example of Miami being a hive of CIA operatives came after five Americans, one Serbian permanent resident of the United States, and another Serbian national, were arrested by the Haitian National Police in Port-au-Prince with weapons, advanced communications devices, drones, and other military hardware amid anti-government protests linked to CIA regime change operations. The government of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant is under US pressure to sever its diplomatic and financial links with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who the Trump administration is attempting to replace with Juan Guaido, a CIA agent-of-influence and US puppet.
The Americans and Serbs were subsequently transferred to Miami on the authorization of Haitian Justice Minister Jean Roody Aly, who was assured by the Donald Trump administration that the seven men would be criminally tried by the United States. Once in Miami, the US Attorney’s Office in Miami, which takes its orders from the CIA-friendly Attorney General, William Barr, declined prosecution of the men but “debriefed” them, a term usually applied to intelligence agents who are caught and expelled by foreign authorities. The decision by the Haitian administration to release the seven men has resulted in a political firestorm in Port-au-Prince, with the Haitian Senate demanding answers about the role Moise played in ordering the Central Bureau of the Judicial Police of Haiti to release the individuals, described by Prime Minister Céant as “mercenaries” and “terrorists.”
Two of the Americans—Christopher Michael Osman and Christopher Mark McKinley—are former US Navy SEAL officers. Another, Kent Leland Kroeker, is a former US Marine. A fourth American, Talon Ray Burton, is a former US Army military policeman and an ex-employee of the American mercenary Blackwater firm, which was founded by ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince, the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
The fifth American, Dustin Porte, also ex-US military, is the president of Patriot Group Services, a subcontractor for the US Department of Homeland Security.
The two Serbians, Vlade Jankvic and Danilo Bajagic, were permitted to fly to Washington, DC, after arriving in Miami from Haiti. An eighth man arrested with the Americans and Serbs, Michael Estera, a Haitian national, remains in Haiti. Curiously, Estera had earlier been deported to Haiti from the United States.
McKinley reportedly changed his name from Christopher Heben. In 2015, a jury found Heben not guilty of filing a false police report claiming an African-American man shot him outside a store in Ohio. He subsequently changed his last name to McKinley, the same name of one of the Ohio-born US presidents. Heben previously served with SEAL Team 8 in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq. After leaving the Navy, Heben was found guilty of forging physician prescriptions for anabolic steroids. McKinley runs a security company called Invictus Group. It is noteworthy that Augustus Sol Invictus, also known as Austin Gillespie, is a far-right white nationalist, who ran for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for the US Senate in Florida in 2016. He was also a speaker at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which led to neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan violence against counter-protesters.
For Miami, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the 1960s, Miami and Dade County was the home to hundreds of CIA mercenaries, many with ties to criminal organizations, including the Mafia. In addition to, once again, serving as the home to CIA mercenaries, Miami International Airport has reverted to its traditional role of smuggling illegal weapons to Latin American hot spots. The latest incident involved a Boeing 767 cargo plane, belonging to 21 Air LLC of Greensboro, North Carolina, being seized by Venezuelan authorities on February 3 for transporting weapons and ammunition from Miami International Airport to Valencia, the third largest city in Venezuela.
The mercenaries arrested in Haiti appear to be unprofessional clowns. The CIA has a history of hiring such bumbling fools. In 1985, the CIA, trying to recruit American mercenaries for its Operation PEGASUS covert war against Nicaragua, held recruiting sessions in a rather seedy Miami Howard Johnson’s motel room. Other CIA case officers recruited Cubans, including known drug dealers, at bars, such as “Cherries” in Key Biscayne. Garbage in, garbage out has always been the unofficial motto bestowed by critics upon the “Black Knights of the Potomac.”
Miami has been a historical hub for right-wing Cuban exiles, most employed by the CIA, who have maintained the goal of overthrowing the government of Cuba. Even though Cuba is no longer governed by members of the family of Fidel Castro, the Trump administration has increased sanctions and the US embargo on Cuba with the avowed aim of overthrowing President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel. The presence of SOUTHCOM in Miami provides the CIA with a base of operations to conduct regime change liaison with Miami-based oligarchs from not only Venezuela and Cuba, but Nicaragua and Bolivia. During the CIA’s heyday in Miami, Cuban exiles were recruited to fight illegal CIA wars and insurrections in the Congo, Angola, Ghana, and Mozambique. In some cases, the Miami-based covert operations involved members of Israel’s Mossad, who were able to blend into Miami’s sizable Jewish population without any suspicion. Today, the Latin American right-wing oligarchs in Miami have found comfortable allies in the city’s large expatriate Russian- and Ukrainian-Jewish population of tax evaders, embezzlers, professional assassins, weapons smugglers, drug kingpins, human sex traffickers, and multi-million dollar investors in Trump’s condominiums.
Some of Latin America’s wealthiest oligarchs have fled, along with their money, to the Miami area. They have been joined, in some cases, by the commanders of genocidal death squads, including Gilberto Jordán of the Guatemalan “Red Berets,” the Kaibiles. Jordán’s military unit specialized in murdering helpless Guatemalan Mayan families, including infants. He found a safe haven in Delray Beach, north of Miami. Although Jordán, a US citizen—thanks to the “good offices” of the CIA—was arrested by US authorities in 2010, he was merely convicted of lying on his US immigration papers and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The federal sentencing document stated that in November 1982, Jordán’s unit entered the village of Dos Erres where Jordán ordered his men to systematically kill the men, women and children of the village, raping the women and girls, before hitting the villagers in the head with sledgehammers and throwing them into the village well.
Bolivia’s former Defense Minister, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, another genocidal murderer of indigenous villagers, lives in a gated community in affluent Pinecrest in Miami-Dade County. He and his fellow Miami exilée, former Bolivian President Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada, were sued in US court in Fort Lauderdale for $10 million in compensatory claims by family members and survivors of the 2003 “Black October” deaths of 67 indigenous protesters in the village of Sorata. In 2014, a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, pursuant to the provisions of the Torture Victim Protection Act. The Bolivian genocidal duo appealed the decision and last year, US Judge James Cohn, a George W. Bush-nominee, overturned the verdict, even though there was a previous unanimous jury verdict siding with the plaintiffs. The Bolivian genocide twins are now biding their time in Miami until Trump, working with the blatantly neo-Nazi regime of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, organizes the overthrow of Bolivian socialist President Evo Morales, that nation’s first native Aymara president. Bolsonaro and Bolivia’s fascists-in-waiting will then be free to jointly target their nations’ indigenous tribes for annihilation, without a peep from the White House.
Another one of “Miami’s finest” was Telmo Ricardo Hurtado, nicknamed the “Butcher of the Andes” for his Peruvian military unit’s massacres of Peruvian indigenous villagers. In 2009, Hurtado was found guilty of lying on his US visa application and deported back to Peru. Another South Florida war criminal was Juan Angel Hernández Lara, the commander of Honduras’s Special Forces Battalion 3-16, a death squad formed by the CIA in the 1980s. Lara specialized in torture involving fingernails and plastic bags over victims’ heads. Lara was later found living in a $250,000 home in Wellington in Palm Beach County.
Under the Trump administration, which coddles Latin America’s neo-fascist leaders of Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Argentina, its more likely to extend a hearty welcome to genocidal death squad leaders and continue to deport largely indigenous refugees at the US southern border seeking asylum from uniformed mass murderers.
Equally notorious in Miami’s “Little Havana” neighborhood of right-wing Cuban exiles were two terrorists, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, both responsible for the terrorist bombing in October 1976 of Cubana Flight 455, en route from Bridgetown, Barbados, to Kingston, Jamaica. All 73 passengers and crew were killed, including children. In addition to Bosch and Posada Carriles, members of the pre-Hugo Chavez CIA-trained Venezuelan intelligence service, General Sectoral Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP) were implicated in the attack. Veterans of DISIP are behind the current CIA efforts to toppled President Maduro, many of them also having sought and received sanctuary in the Miami area, particularly Doral.
It is no surprise that Miami and South Florida, once again, buzzes with activity as Trump’s CIA launches coups in Latin America. While dodgy CIA contractors meet with one another in Miami bars that resemble Rick’s Café in the movie “Casablanca,” or for science fiction fans, the weird alien-crowded bar on the planet Tatooine in “Star Wars,” Trump regularly rubs shoulders with Latin American oligarch members of his faux-posh Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago billionaires’ and multi-millionaires’ club. Some of these wealthy members once relied upon some of Latin America’s most notorious mass murderers for security in their native countries. And, if Mr. Trump has his way, they will do so again in countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, and Bolivia.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).