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Puerto Rico Castro Plot Trial Set

March 24, 1999

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ A federal judge has set a Nov. 12 trial date for seven Cuban-Americans charged in Puerto Rico with plotting to kill Fidel Castro.

The date was set during a closed meeting Tuesday between U.S. District Court judge Hector Laffitte and lawyers in the case, El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported Wednesday.

A U.S. Coast Guard boat stopped four of the men in a yacht off Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, on Oct. 26, 1997, after they gave an incorrect registration number to a request for identification.

Agents later discovered machine guns, night-vision goggles and ammunition on the boat. They claim one of the men then blurted out that they were on their way to kill Castro at a conference in Venezuela.

A federal grand jury has charged them and three others _ including Jose Antonio, a director of the Cuban American National Foundation _ with conspiring to kill someone protected under international law.

It is the first time the United States has charged someone with trying to assassinate Castro.

Laffitte ruled in January to move the trial to Miami, where most of the defendants live, because planning for the assassination was allegedly done there. But he changed his mind Feb. 22, saying the men had lied to authorities in Puerto Rico, therefore continuing the conspiracy on the island.

Legal experts had speculated it might be harder to get a conviction in Miami because of its large Cuban-American population.

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