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CIA-trained Cuban ex-pilot is released after record US marijuana sentence of 39 YEARS for smuggling 600,000lbs of marijuana into the US

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 5/9/2019 Dailymail.com Reporter

A former Cuban pilot, who has served the longest-known US jail sentence for a marijuana conviction, has finally been released and reunited with his family after nearly four decades behind bars. 

Antonio Bascaro, 84, was released on May 1 after serving 39 years in prison for participating in a criminal organization that smuggled more than 600,000 pounds of Colombian marijuana into the United States. 

After his release on last week, Bascaro enjoyed his first meal outside of jail with a side of Cuban coffee and most importantly, his family. 

Before he was sentenced Bascaro refused to help US authorities with other investigations in exchange for a sentence reduction. 

'I refused to co-operate because my moral values and ethics, as well as my military training, kept me from using someone else or from testifying against another person to solve my problems,' he told the BBC

'No one forced me to join the conspiracy. That is why I did not co-operate or try to use anyone else to save my neck.'

a group of people posing for the camera: Former Cuban pilot, Antonio Bascaro (sitting center), 84, who has served the longest-known US jail sentence for a marijuana conviction, has finally been released and reunited with his family (pictured) after nearly four decades behind bars

Former Cuban pilot, Antonio Bascaro (sitting center), 84, who has served the longest-known US jail sentence for a marijuana conviction, has finally been released and reunited with his family (pictured) after nearly four decades behind bars
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

Bascaro was recruited by the CIA in 1961 to train in Guatemala to overthrow Fidel Castro. 

The former naval pilot participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion and relocated to Nicaragua for the attack, but the invasion failed before Bascaro's plane could leave the ground. 

More than 100 soldiers were killed and another 1,200 were sent to prison. 

'At that moment, I was ready to fly anything that had a motor or wings to help out my comrades abandoned in that secluded beach without escape routes,' he told the BBC.  

Bascaro became involved in the smuggling operation in 1977.  At that time, Florida was a hot spot for drugs into the US. 

'That's where I met the boss and singular owner of the conspiracy,' told the news site.

'After a tasty meal and some drinks, he challenged me to join him.

'I accepted the challenge and I enjoyed the feeling of excitement. I had not felt it in years, so I ended up getting involved,' he added. 

But he was convicted of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana in 1980 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

At the time of his conviction, Bascaro had no prior criminal record. 

The veteran says he now feels 'many regrets about what I did'. 

According to his daughter, Aicha Bascaro, she was just 12 years old when she 'lost him to the legal system'.  

'I hardly remember him outside of that environment. My children barely know him,' she wrote on a Change.org petition, asking President Donald Trump to grant him clemency in 2017. 

On May 1, Aicha shared an update on the petition announcing that her father is home. 

'At 8:30am on May 1st my brother, sister, nephew and I arrived to FCI Miami to pick up our father.

'Since we picked him up we have focused on spending time with him, preparing his space in his new temporary home with family and eating delicious Cuban food and sharing all of the changes in society and technology that happened in the last 40 years, she wrote. 

Bascaro was supposed to stay at a halfway house until June 8, but he was allowed to go home with his family and remain on house arrest until that date. 

He said his plans right now 'are to spend time with my family and solidify our union which was broken so many tears ago'.

But there is still some uncertainty about his future. 

While he will be truly free on June 8, because he's not a US citizen and served time for a major felony, he may face the possibility of deportation. 

His family said he will find out his fate on June 11 when they attend a hearing at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Miami.    

Bascaro's daughter Myra told the BBC that while she's grateful for him to be free, she has no idea where he would go if he's sent back to Cuba. 

'To Cuba where he could get arrested again for having fought against Fidel Castro? To Guatemala where he met my mother but where he has nothing and nobody... the country that deported him to the United States almost 40 years ago?' she questioned in the interview. 

According to the BBC, Bascaro joined the Cuban Naval Academy in 1952, and studied aviation in Pensacola, Florida, in 1954.

By 1956 he returned to Cuba and joined the country's air force.

'I was the youngest naval lieutenant that ever served in Cuba's navy. I was promoted to that post before turning 24-years-old, in 1958,' he told the news site. 

During that same year, Bascaro was forced to make an emergency landing with his Marine 50 plane that now rests in the Museum of the Cuban Revolution in Havana. 

At the time he suffered injuries that kept in the hospital where he was paid a visit by Fidel Castro's brother, Raul. 

Bascaro told BBC that Raul tried to 'convince me to join his group and I rejected the offer because I would never betray my principles or my military honor'.

He was then jailed for three months for refusing Raul's offer. 

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