The Story of How the Coast Guard Toppled the Cuban Mafia

When you hear the term mafia, most minds wander towards the Italian mafia that had a stronghold over various parts of the United States for years until several families were indicted and arrested. There’s one mafia, though, that doesn’t get the notoriety it deserves — the Cuban mafia.

The Cuban mafia, who was in cahoots with the Italian in various illegal activities such as racketeering, planned murders and silencing witnesses, was led by José Miguel Battle Sr.

His organized crime family was referred to as La Corporación. Battle Sr. was a CIA-trained soldier who participated in the failed Bay of Pigs, according to Discrepando.

After he was exiled from Cuba by Fidel Castro, Battle Sr. began to create one of most profitable crime syndicates of the 20th century. La Corporación was just as violent as other mafioso, but Battle Sr. was considered one of the most violent after he allegedly started a building fire that killed a 4-year-old child and the 19-year-old babysitter.

Eventually, his health began to take a turn for the worse, and he left his criminal enterprise to his son José Miguel Battle Jr. The $1 billion enterprises hit a few roadblocks after Battle Jr. was arrested for racketeering.

His prison stints were never long, and they never affected business. According to Task and Purpose, the author of the article explained his first-hand experience of an orchestrated capture of Battle Jr. after he was transitioning through international waters on a cruise ship.

David Minsky, who wrote the aforementioned article, explained that he and a team were pulled into the commander’s office after dinner. They were told they had 30 minutes to get Battle Jr. off the cruise ship and into U.S. custody. The cruise line’s owner worked in cooperation with the U.S. government to ensure Battle Jr. had his day in court, and this time they wanted his sentence to be more than a slap on the wrist.

The problem was if they missed their window, Battle Jr. would make it to international waters and be untouchable. Minsky detailed how they were kept in the dark about who their target was. He and the team he was working with were told to cover their names on their dog tags with duck tape to mitigate any retaliation to their families back home.

Most of the team gathered from this that it was a drug lord but still didn’t have a name. Right before 2 am, a team of 16 soldiers armed with M4 carbines began to climb the ladder dropped by cruise line employees up onto the ship.

Jeffrey Fischer, who was a part of the team, said it was a quiet situation and not one bullet was fired. “There were no guns a-blazing,” he recalled. “It was late because we wanted to do it under cover so the family wasn’t traumatized.” The crime boss was pulled out of his suite, where he was sleeping with his wife and two children and then taxied back to the waiting cruiser.

After boarding the U.S. Coast Guard ship, Battle Jr, who was only wearing pajamas, was only given enough rope to go to the bathroom. He was then transported back to the US. His arrest officially dismantled one of the most secretive and violent criminal organizations at that time.

There is still little knowledge on La Corporación.  Government officials still don’t know the inter-workings of the family, nor do they know how many members were active despite the organization’s 30-year history. Ultimately, though, the life of crime didn’t pay off for Battle in the end.