by Marc Rome / June 2005
President Bush’s famous Aug. 26, 2003, statement, “if you harbor a terrorist … you’re just as guilty as the terrorists,” now has a hypocritical ring to it in light of Washington’s handling of the Luis Posada Carriles case.
Posada, a Cuban-born exile with a long track record of terrorism, took refuge in Miami at least as early as March 31, the date the press began reporting his whereabouts. Yet the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), well known in the recent period for issuing unsubstantiated daily color-coded terror alerts, mustered up only a vague statement saying that it was “working closely with our law enforcement partners, and we’re looking into the matter,” according to the March 31 Miami Herald.
As U.S. government credibility to the world eroded in regard to its position on terrorism, the DHS finally arrested Posada on May 17. The same day Reuters reported 1.2 million people marched in Havana with banners reading, “No to war, no to terrorism.” In Venezuela, on May 28, tens of thousands marched, demanding Posada’s extradition to that country.
Posada faces relatively minor charges of illegally entering the U.S. without a visa. This soft stance came at the heels of increased international scrutiny and underscores what Fidel Castro and the Cuban government called Washington’s application of a double standard in the war against terrorism.
The U.S. has made no mention about Posada’s sordid, bloody past in the lead-up to his June 13 hearing in El Paso, Texas, over illegal entry.
Three days after Posada’s detention, several known Cuban-American terrorists received a welcome mat at the White House’s doorstep. According to Cuba’s Granma International, on May 20 President Bush hosted a delegation headed by Luis Zuniga Rey, founder of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) paramilitary committee.
Established in 1981 and promoted by CIA director William Casey, CANF financed and organized many terrorist acts against Cuba. Posada was well connected to this group and admitted receiving material and financial aid from them.
But it was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that provided Posada with the know-how for terrorist activities, beginning in the early 1960s. “The CIA taught us everything—everything,” Posada said in a 1998 New York Times interview. “They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage.” In these Posada was expert.
Posada employed his CIA training to plan and carry out the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that took off from Barbados, which killed all 73 passengers on board. Based on “a secret State Department intelligence memo,” writes the May 22 Miami Herald,” published along with other documents by the private research group National Security Archive, an unnamed source quotes Posada as saying he had advance knowledge that an attack on a Cuban plane was imminent: Posada allegedly said, ‘We are going to hit a Cuban airliner.’”
Another Cuban-American terrorist pay rolled by the CIA, Orlando Bosch, had indicated that Posada was at a meeting in Bonao, a resort in the Dominican Republic, where they discussed creating the organization, Coordination of the United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU). The FBI described CORU in a 1977 document as a group “composed of five anti-Castro terrorist organizations.”
Posada’s close ties to CORU points to his culpability for the plans discussed at the Bonao meeting. Additionally, former assistant U.S. attorney E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. told the Miami Herald that Posada was an “active participant” in the meeting. Barcella, lead prosecuting attorney in the federal investigation of the assassination of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier, submits that the meeting’s agenda included plans to bomb a Cubana Airlines plane and target Chilean dissidents.
Herman Ricardo, a Venezuelan citizen who together with fellow Venezuelan, Freddy Lugo, were convicted of planting the bombs, identified Bosch and Posada as planners for the Cubana Airlines bombing. In addition to assassination attempts on Cuban officials, Bosch was behind scores of terrorist attacks against Cuba’s trading partners, including Spain, England, Japan, Mexico, and Poland. In 1968, the United States sentenced Bosch to 10 years in jail—he was released in 1972—for terrorist acts, among them, planting bombs in the United States.
Bosch is perhaps most notorious for his involvement in the car-bombing assassination in Washington, D.C., of Orlando Letelier and his secretary, Ronnie Moffit, a U.S. citizen. A report by the Washington-based Center for International Policy pointed to Posada’s collusion in the assassination based on a police search of Posada’s office in Venezuela, which turned up a map of Washington, D.C., detailing Letelier’s work route. In 1990 Bosch was pardoned by President George Bush Sr., who was CIA director at the time of the Cubana Airlines bombing and the Letelier assassination.
Posada’s major focus for over 40 years has been to plan and carry out attacks against the Cuban Revolution, including an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000 and the bombing of a Cuban hotel in 1997 that killed one Italian tourist. But Posada’s terrorist involvement was much more sweeping. He headed up Venezuela’s secret police (DISIP), known for torture. At the same time, he played a key role in Operation Condor, a brutal campaign that was backed by various military dictatorships throughout Latin America during the mid-1970s and aimed at intimidating and murdering political opponents.
After a 1985 jailbreak in Venezuela (he was doing time for the Cubana Airlines bombing), he fled to El Salvador, where he colluded with the Reagan administration, organizing illegal arms shipments to the Contra army in Nicaragua.
Now Cuba is putting pressure on the United States to act in accord with its pronouncements and U.S.-sponsored UN resolution 1372, both of which forbid countries to have anything to do with financing and supporting terrorism and harboring terrorists. In a test of its political credibility, the U.S. government is in a precarious position. The U.S. rebuffed Venezuela’s lawful request, based on a 1922 treaty signed between the countries, for Posada’s extradition to Venezuela. The U.S. stated that it would not comply with any country that supports Cuba. In a bold move, Venezuela’s President Chavez threatened to break diplomatic relations with the U.S. and said, “It is difficult, very difficult to maintain ties with a government that so shamelessly hides and protects international terrorism.”
No matter the final outcome, the fact that Washington has thus far protected Posada from charges of terrorism shows again its willingness to apply a double standard when a terrorist does the U.S. government’s bidding.
Recently, Cuba has warned that the U.S. may plan to extradite Posada to El Salvador. That country’s Washington-friendly president, Elias Antonio Saca, has told the press that the Salvadoran judicial system will decide whether to extradite Posada Carriles from the U.S., reported a May 25 Radio Havana, Cuba program.
Cuba and its ally in this struggle, Venezuela, have shown unmatched courage to stand up to the United States, the greatest purveyor of terror. And their struggle has won support from all who stand for peace and justice throughout the world.