Friday, May 2, 2008

The Miami Herald, May 8, 1976, "Contrasting Bomb Suspects: 'Braggadocious,' 'Hermitish'" by Edna Buchanan.

A pro-Arab, anti-Castro militant who wore knee-high boots and a beret on the Florida Atlantic University campus where he penned "violent oriented" letters to the school newspaper, Antonio de la Cova, 25, used to brag that he knew a lot about violence in Miami.

Thursday, de la Cova was one of three college students charged with the attempted bombing of an adult bookstore in Miami.

De la Cova once claimed he was shot at in an FIU [Florida International University] campus parking lot.

He was wearing a Palestine Liberation Organization armband at the time, he said in his complaint to campus police. He said he shot back four times with a .22-caliber pistol he kept in his car. Campus Security Lt. George Harper said no arrests were made in the May, 1974 incident and no evidence was ever found to substantiate the report.

A masters candidate in history at the University of Miami, de la cova was fired from a teaching job at Miami's Inter-American Military Academy last January for failure to keep control of his eighth-grade students.

He sometimes wrote for Libertad, the Spanish-language newspaper whose editor, Rolando Masferrer was killed by a car bomb last Oct. 31.

His most recent effort, an article in issue No. 180, dated Jan. 2, 1976, was a chronological account of terrorist violence, including Miami's 47 bombings and 33 attempted bombings since January, 1975. Federal agents now say de la Cova had first-hand knowledge of some of those bombings.

Lucila Masferrer, widow of the slain editor, said the slightly built De la Cova who was an admirer of her husband: "Was constantly asking questions and carrying notes and clippings. It never occurred to me that he could be violent..."

A different viewpoint came from FAU history professor Dale Hoak who taught de la Cova, admired his intellect but wrote the University of Miami recommending against de la Cova's acceptance into the master's program because of his penchant for violence.

"I told them I would be apprehensive about admitting him," professor Hoak said Thursday. "We had meetings in our department trying to seek his expulsion from campus, but we had problems, legally, about getting evidence. Some of my colleagues felt personally threatened. I tried to completely separate his politics from his academic performance, but at the same time, his political activities seemed to border on the violent."

Hoak said de la Cova "would flaunt, he would imply he was either involved or had direct knowledge of some of the right wing anti-Castroites in Miami - destructive activities. He said he had participated in a raid on some Cuban ships at sea. He was braggadocious..."

Fellow students say de la Cova's FAU friends were mostly Arab students in the chemistry department.

In one letter to the school newspaper he wrote: "I believe everyone has a right to his own homeland."

Friends say de la Cova had visited Northern Ireland several years ago, witnessed a fatal bombing and had expressed a "fear of bombs" since.

He played the guitar and harmonica at a campus coffee house following his trip - singing a song he wrote condemning such violence.

"I'm baffled," Mrs. John Latham said softly. Her straight-A, college student son, a 1972 graduate of Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan High School, was being held in lieu of $200,000 bond on bomb charges.

The slightly built, bespectacled 22-year-old lived quietly in a small ground-floor apartment at 1721 NW 15th Vista in Boca Raton for nearly two years.

Neighbors described him as quiet, "straight-looking" and almost "hermitish."

A physics student, young Latham has 50 credit hours accumulated at Florida Atlantic University where he carries a perfect 4.0 average.

FAU declined to discuss Latham's scholastic achievements further, based on his right to privacy under the Buckley Amendment. School officials sent letters to all 4,000 FAU students advising them of their rights to privacy. Only 27 said they wanted privacy protection. Latham was one of them.

FAU physics department chairman James B. McGuire called Latham a good student and echoed Mrs. Latham's bafflement.

"This simply doesn't fit with anything he did in class."

Little is known about Blas Jesus Corbo, 21, student at the north campus of Miami-Dade Community College, except that he swore under questioning Thursday that he was unaware of any bomb plans, that attempts had been made to recruit him into an activist group, but that he was only along for the ride that ended in his arrest.

Corbo told U.S. Attorney Robert Rust that he was returning home from a date Wednesday night when Antonio de la Cova met him near his apartment and invited him for a drive.

"Ride where?" Corbo said he asked.


"What's that mean?" Corbo said he answered.

"You know, around. We do it a lot," he quoted de la Cova. "You know, we get something to eat and things."

He knew nothing of the bomb, he says, until he saw them take it out of the Ford Pinto and go to the adult book store.

He was in the car when police closed in.

Havana-born Corbo has lived in Dade County for 10 years. Persons at the 660 Collins Ave. address he gave say they never heard of him.

Copyright (c) 1976 The Miami Herald