by Marc Rome / July 2005
The U.S. government has become increasingly isolated internationally for the way that it has handled the Luis Posada Carriles case, applying a double standard in its so-called war on terrorism. Left with little room for political maneuver, it got a momentary reprieve on June 24 in an El Paso, Texas, federal court, where U.S. Immigration Judge William Lee Abbott agreed to attorney Eduardo Soto’s request to postpone Posada’s bail hearing for 30 days.
Posada, who admitted in a 1998 New York Times interview having received CIA training in explosives, sabotage, killing, and bomb making, has dedicated over 40 years planning and executing hundreds of terrorist acts throughout Cuba, Latin America, and the U.S. In the same Times interview he boasted about his role in a series of 1997 hotel bombings in Cuba, one of which killed an Italian tourist and injured eleven others.
Posada is most notorious for the planning and funding of the Oct. 6, 1976, bombing of a Cubana Airlines plane, which killed 73 people when it exploded in mid-air over the island of Barbados.
Posada took refuge in Florida for at least one month before the U.S. took action, buckling under pressure generated, in part, by exposes in important mainstream press throughout the world. The Department of Homeland Security arrested Posada on May 17, following a press conference that day when he announced that he would seek asylum in the U.S. He was charged with illegally entering the country, a minor felony.
A June 13 hearing in El Paso set June 24 and Aug. 29 as the dates for hearings regarding bail and immigration violations, respectively. June 13 also marked a day of nationwide protests in over 20 cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The central demand was to extradite Posada to Venezuela, where he is a citizen.
Soto made the postponement request claiming that he needs time to review newly submitted documents from Venezuela and previous documents from Cuba, both highlighting Posada’s involvement in terrorist acts.
The June 24 Agencia Cubana de Noticias reported that “according to Miami-based media outlets Soto seeks to exclude from the case the documents proving that Posada Carriles is guilty of terrorist acts, delivered by the Cuban government to the FBI during a meeting in Havana on June 16-17, 1998.”
Admissibility of these documents, many of which are recently declassified FBI and CIA records, is key to the case, especially in relation to the Aug. 29 immigration hearing. Jose Petierra, lead prosecuting attorney working on Venezuela’s behalf, said in a June 22 Radio Progreso interview that based on a 1922 extradition treaty between the U.S. and Venezuela, “immigration hearings should be suspended for extradition hearings.”
Petierra has also explained that Venezuela met the three standards for their extradition request (officially submitted to the U.S. on June 15) to take effect, as outlined in the 1922 treaty: 1) There is a warrant for Posada’s arrest in Venezuela; 2) The crime for which he is accused is contained in the Venezuela penal code; 3) United States law contains a mirror image of the statute that Venezuela accuses Posada of violating, in this case, the law against homicide. Homicide is the number-one extraditable offense listed in the 1922 treaty.
Thus, to deliberate anything other than Posada’s extradition during the Aug. 29 hearings would be a blatant abrogation of the 1922 treaty, and the U.S. would face legal repercussions, not to mention serious political repercussions.
In relation to Cuba and Venezuela, the U.S. government seems to be measuring what political blows they can give and take around the Posada case. It’s clear that their creditability in the war on terror has suffered. Consequently, they had to pull a punch in regard to a change of venue to Miami.
Marking a significant victory for Cuba and Venezuela, on June 16, Judge Abbott denied Posada’s request to move the trial to Miami, where he would have received even more favorable treatment than he has enjoyed thus far.
Miami is the historic base for right-wing Cuban-exile groups who have dedicated the past 30 years to launching attacks against Cuba and are sympathetic to Posada, among other notable terrorists. Orlando Bosch, arrested by the U.S. in 1968 for terrorism (he was pardoned in 1990 by then president Bush Sr.), has a street named after him in Miami.
Drawing on the outcry generated by Washington’s soft handling of Posada’s case, Cuba convened “International Encounter against Terrorism, for Truth and Justice,” a conference in Havana, June 2-4. Organized in less than a week’s time, the conference drew 1500 participants from over 60 countries to build support from around the world to fight against U.S. sponsored terror.
Cuba and Venezuela will continue focusing international scrutiny on the United States government, which has been backed into a corner alongside its long-time ally, Posada. The example of both countries continues to garner support among a growing layer of society that is standing up against U.S. efforts to police the world using terror and violence.