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Mayor fears Omega 7 impact - Jersey Journal, October 8, 1987

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Posted by GET NJ on September 29, 2003 at 17:04:14:

In Reply to: Menendez calls report a 'mischaracterization' - Hudson Dispatch, October 8, 1987 posted by GET NJ on September 28, 2003 at 17:26:18:

Menendez fears impact of his link to Omega 7

By Agustin Torres

Jersey Journal
October 8, 1987

Union City Mayor Robert Menendez said hsi candidacy for state assembly has been damaged for controversy over recent statements attributed to him.

Menendez is under fire for having donated to the defense fund of a Cuban expatriate who was tried and convicted in federal court of being the leader of Omega 7.

The mayor is also being criticized for being a proponent of violence and breaking laws to insure a "free Cuba," a position he says he never took.

Menendez denies that he ever sanctioned violence or law breaking, claiming published quotes were taken out of context while he was explaining the use of civil disobedience in this country. But critics of the mayor charge the mayor of trying to back out of statements that he now regrets.

"We are a government of law not men," said administration critic of Libero Marotta, a former local Democratic Party chairman. "If (Menendez) were honorable, he should step down as state assembly candidated (Democrat in the 33rd District). (Hudson County Executive candidate Robert) Janiszewski and (Democratic Party Chairman Frank) Rodgers should tell him to step down. He should also step down as mayor."

Fellow Commissioner Bruce Walter supported the mayor.

"If anyone knew the individuals involved, they would realize that the statements attributed to the mayor are inaccurate," Walter said. "I know the mayor as a law abiding individual and a concerned person."

Lately, Menendez has been surrounded by controversy.

During the summer, he attended a Teamsters Local 560 rally and gave a speech supporting the union demands that a federal court appointed trusteeship should be removed from an organization that the Justice Department insists is mob-infiltrated. The mayor said he plans to attend a future Teamster rally demanding the federal courts allow the election of new union officers.

He attended a fundraising dinner Friday for Eduardo Arocena who is described by Federal prosecuters as the leader of Omega 7. The mayor said he spent $200 for a table of 10 to help pay the legal cost of Arocena's appeal.

Arocena lost a December 1985 appeal in the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan letting stand a 1984 conviction for murder, bombings and perjury. Arocena was accused of organizing the assasination of a Cuban attache in Queens and bombings at Cuban, Soviet and other missions in this country.

Omega 7 had its hey-day in the late '70s and has a history of bombings, including at some Hudson County pharmacies and travel agencies. These included the Dec. 20, 1977 bombing of El Macen, 3504 New York Ave., Union City and an Elizabeth travel agency on the same day.

There is also suspicion among law enforcement officials that the downtown Union City machinegun slaying seven years ago of the controversial Julio Negrin was the work of Omega 7 or a splinter group.

Menendez said the Arocena fundraising was organized by several Cuban fraternal groups and Spanish-language newspaper personalities.

The mayor did not deny that he has supported the defense of other individuals accused of being members of Omega 7.

He said he supported the defense of Hudson residents Alvin Ross and the Novo brothers, Ignacio and Guillermo, who were initially found guilty in the 1976 bomb-slaying of former Chilean dimplomat Orlandlo Letelier. In that case, Cuban-Americans in Union City donated defense and the trio was eventually acquitted.

Some Cuban-Americans look upon Omega 7 defendants as "freedom fighters" against Fidel Castro and communism.

Yesterday, Jose Tereiro Napoles, editor of the bi-monthly Spanish-language newspaper Mensaje, called the criticism of Menendez an attack by those "who have always been anti-Cuban."

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