Cuban anti-communist activist

Born: February 15, 1928;

Died: May 23, 2018

LUIS Posada Carriles, who has died aged 90, was a fierce critic and opponent of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro and dedicated much of his life to trying to overthrow the dictator's government. To some he was a terrorist; to others a freedom fighter who did what was necessary to attempt to overthrow a dictatorship.

Carriles was among a core group of Cuban exiles the CIA trained in the early 1960s in a failed effort to overthrow Castro's fledgling communist government. Unlike others who had opposed Castro, Posada never renounced violence as a way to bring about change on the island and was accused of organising a succession of 1997 Havana hotel bombings and a 1976 Cuban airline bombing that killed 73 people.

Acquitted in 2011 by a federal jury in El Paso, Texas, of lying to US officials about his role in the Havana bombings to win political asylum, he always maintained his opposition to Castro. "If Castro came through the door, I'd kill him," he said in 2009, "not because I hate him but because I'd kill a cockroach too."

Posada always publicly denied involvement in the bombing of the Cuban airliner that had taken off from Barbados, the deadliest in-flight explosion until the 1988 Pan Am flight bombing over Lockerbie.

But in a 1998 New York Times interview, he took credit for the Havana bombings, which killed an Italian tourist, before later recanting.

He enjoyed an official and sometimes tumultuous relationship with the CIA until 1975. Yet throughout his years living in Latin America, he retained at least some contact with US officials, culminating in the 2011 trial and acquittal. He returned to a hero's welcome in Miami's Cuban community.

Born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, in 1928, Posada studied chemistry at the University of Havana, and briefly worked for the Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company.

Following the Castro forces' final triumph in the Cuban Revolution on New Year's Day 1959, he joined the political opposition and was imprisoned briefly. He fled to Mexico and eventually the US in 1961.

Several years after arriving in the US, he divorced his first wife and married Elina Nieves, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

He trained for but never participated in the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba organised by the CIA. Through that experience, he became lifelong friends with the late Cuban exile and political kingmaker Jorge Mas Canosa, a reported benefactor and with whom he graduated from the US army's officer training school at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Early on, Posada's CIA handlers described him as reliable and even a reasonable voice among the exiles, whom he was willing to inform on, according to declassified agency documents.

In 2004, he was convicted in Panama in connection with a failed assassination attempt against Castro.

While in prison, Posada became a prolific painter. His subjects ranged from Cuban revolutionary leader and poet Jose Marti to Mother Teresa and then-Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso, who pardoned him in 2005 at the behest of several Cuban-American politicians from south Florida.

Posada resurfaced in Miami in 2005. Two months later he was arrested following international pressure on the George W Bush administration to hold him to the same standard as other accused terrorists.

The US refused to turn him over to Venezuela or Cuba, citing fears he might face torture, nor did it ever try him directly on any terrorist charges, just the immigration charges.

Opinions were as widely split over the verdict as they were over Posada himself. Some believed the trial was too little too late, others thought it was a politically motivated case against an ageing patriot.

He is survived by his wife and two adult children.