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News :: Human Rights : International
Washington and Miami’s Preferred Terrorist
16 Jan 2007
What is the U.S. Government Hiding?
COHA: Posada Carriles: Washington and Miami’s Preferred Terrorist

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Press Releases, Cuba, Front Page

“One who shelters a terrorist, is a terrorist” – President George W. Bush

The Bush Administration is harboring perhaps the Western Hemisphere’s most insidious terrorist, whose application for U.S. citizenship is presently on the docket and if granted, would represent an effrontery to this nation’s bona fides, as well as the legitimacy of its worldwide anti-terrorist crusade and what remains of its good name abroad

The White House feverishly searches for a country willing to receive Posada in order to spare it from having to cross swords with the Miami leadership by either extraditing him to Cuba or Venezuela, or trying him here

The Posada case as well as the Cuban Five represents perhaps a defining moment in which the Bush administration’s ideological passions have snuffed out a proper application of justice – an unacceptable sense of ethical values and public rectitude

Meanwhile, the fate of the Cuban Five, whose crimes were negligible compared to Posada’s homicides, does not seem to either confuse or disturb Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Thus, the White House will likely have a problem regarding who it denominates as a “terrorist” and who it fetes as a patriot

The upcoming immigration hearing for Luis Posada Carriles, the 78 year-old felon who is a self-confessed co-conspirator responsible for the detonation of a bomb which killed 73 passengers and crew members aboard a Cuban passenger airliner as it flew over Barbadian waters on October 6, 1976, represents a huge political burden for the White House and its deteriorating relations with Latin America. The disposition of the case will now also test the authenticity of the U.S.’s War on Terror, since Posada is responsible for some of the worst pre-9/11 crimes perpetrated in the Western Hemisphere. However, he has never been conclusively tried for being one of the region’s most notorious psychopaths, as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lawyers as well as his detractors continue to cavil over whether he should be accorded the gallows or be granted U.S. citizenship.

Posada originally had admitted to a New York Times reporter of masterminding the 1976 bombing of Cuban Flight 455, in which 73 passengers lost their lives, including a nine-year-old girl, Cuba’s award-winning national fencing team, a young mother-to-be, as well as Guyanese and North Korean travelers. However, in deference to the ultra rightist faction of Miami’s Cuban exile community, Washington has repeatedly offered its protection to this world class criminal from prosecution by U.S. authorities or in any other germane jurisdiction. In doing so, the Bush administration almost has gone out of its way to debase the process of shaping a corpus of applicable international standards against terrorism by protecting those whom others might describe as “terrorists,” who are considered to be in good standing by some U.S. authorities. But, as the Washington-based lawyer, Jose Pertierra – who has been retained by Venezuelan authorities to represent their country’s interests in this case – explains “the fight against terrorism cannot be fought à la carte.”

A Case Wrought with Painful Irony

Washington has heard continuous international appeals, mainly as a result of Havana and Caracas initiatives, that Posada (who is both a Cuban national and Venezuelan citizen) be brought to justice. Venezuela and the U.S. have an extradition treaty in place dating back to 1922, which obligates the U.S. to immediately extradite any Venezuelan national in this country who has been indicted on murder charges in their home jurisdiction. Under the applicable terms of this bilateral treaty, Venezuela formally applied for Posada’s extradition in May of 2005. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration immediately rebuked this effort by maintaining that the leftist, pro-Castro nature of the Venezuelan government would preclude a fair trial to Posada in a Venezuelan courthouse, and that the defendant would be subject to torture: a self-serving assumption that U.S. prosecutors have never bothered to evidence.

On the domestic front, Washington’s unwillingness to prosecute Posada or facilitate terrorism charges against him brought in other venues, demonstrates that its War on Terror unmistakably involves double standards based on selective indignation. On September 11, 2006 (the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks), the lack of forward motion by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami regarding the resolution of Posada’s status, led to a judge ruling that the mastermind terrorist be released due to a lack of evidence that would establish that he was a world-class terrorist and thus shouldn’t be released into the general public until his status would be resolved.

Since the federal prosecutor failed to mount a well-coordinated case, but mainly relied upon screening films and citing general grounds for detention, Magistrate Norbert Garney was forced to be exceedingly lenient in his ruling, by lodging only a relatively minor charge of illegal entry into the U.S. against Posada. Garney forcefully scolded the prosecution for its failure to produce critical, factual evidence regarding his professed terrorist status in proving that the only prudent path to take was to continue Posada’s detention. To the families of Posada’s scores of victims, the Bush administration’s DOJ’s legal team handling of the case was a caricature of what should have been an orderly and professional disposition.

Magistrate Garney then gave the prosecutors an extension of time to strengthen their case against Posada, whose U.S. citizenship application was simultaneously being heard by the USCIS. The judge’s reasoning for the extension stemmed from an unequivocal belief that Posada was “an admitted terrorist with a history of involvement in terrorist activities,” and that releasing him could have “significant national and foreign relations consequences.” However, on October 5, the day before the 30th anniversary of the destruction of Cuban Flight 455, the DOJ’s deadline to present adequate evidence to move the trial ahead, came to an end. At this point, the presiding U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez extended a new deadline, February 1, 2007, for the federal prosecution to present its case. In Martinez’s view, Posada has been detained “well beyond” what the U.S. Supreme Court permits. Thus, as of today, at most 30 days remain for the Bush-Gonzales justice to be dispensed.

Amongst the legal community, the DOJ’s lassitude has raised suspicion over whether the U.S. attorneys’ lack of aggressiveness could be attributed to the private biases of Attorney General Gonzales’ in this high profile case, or were they simply trying to gain time by arranging an indefinite trial extension for a self-admitted mass murderer.

What is the U.S. Government Hiding?

There is no reason to scoff at the notion that the U.S. Attorney’s office may be calculatedly sabotaging the Posada case in order to spare the administration an embarrassing outcome brought about by its not applying the full weight of the law against him. Certainly, the executive branch has an interest in shielding the case from widespread publicity. Over the years, Republican administrations on several cases acted to protect Posada, a political icon in Miami. Understandably, the government might not want the U.S. public to know about Posada’s long-standing cooperative relationship with U.S. authorities on various conservative causes, including his role as a CIA agent.

For starters, during the vice-presidency of George Bush Sr., Posada was granted sanctuary in El Salvador where he worked for the U.S. Embassy assisting Contra efforts operating out of neighboring Honduras shortly after escaping for a second time from a Caracas jail on August 18, 1985 where he awaited trial for the destruction of the Cuban airliner. Perhaps only coincidentally, when Posada arrived to San Salvador, Col. Emilio T. Gonzalez, the current Director of the USCIS, was the Assistant Military Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador. Conceivably the U.S. Congress would find it appropriate to conduct a hearing investigating any possible conflicts of interests considering that the Director of the USCIS, now Dr. Gonzalez, has substantial leverage over Posada’s hopes of being granted asylum in the U.S. Furthermore, the fact that Dr. Gonzalez is an exiled Cuban national, whose family left Cuba in 1961 shortly after the failed attack on Playa Giron, might also be of interest to Congressional investigators. Dr. Gonzalez’s known intense personal anti-Castro elements and personal friendship with the now detained Posada should be addressed after the Democrats take over Congress.
Moreover, documents in the possession of National Security Archives reveal that Bush Sr., as the CIA director at the time of the downing of Flight 455, was likely to have picked up rumors of Posada’s plan at a time when the explosives were being wired to detonate on board Flight 455. Much of the evidence against Posada has come from declassified FBI and CIA documents, including evidence of Posada’s meeting with another notorious terrorist, such as his accomplice and co-conspirator in Caracas, Orlando Bosch. One report states that “We [Posada and Bosch] are going to hit a Cuban airplane. Orlando has the details.” The DOJ even lists Bosch as a “terrorist, unfettered by laws, or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.” Revealingly, Bosch today dwells as a free man in Miami after former President Bush Sr. granted him a full pardon from all U.S. charges on July 18, 1990, a decision made at the behest of the arch Castro-basher, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Otto Reich.

But Posada, whose fate has not yet been determined, is guilty of more than just the destruction of the Cuban flight. The demolition training he received while enrolled in the notorious School of the Americas and thereafter as a CIA proxy, enabled him to mastermind several Cuban hotel bombings while operating under cover in Havana. These attacks were decried around the world as blatant acts of violence against tourists and other civilians, yet the U.S. authorities downplayed their significance at the time.

Posada was also implicated in the highly controversial Operation 40, which, throughout the 1960s, involved conducting sabotage operations and assassination plots in hopes of inciting a civil war in Cuba between pro and con Castro forces. Posada is also suspected of helping Bosch orchestrate the 1976 car bombing of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his U.S. assistant, Ronni Moffitt, on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C., in which both lost their lives. Most recently in Panama, Posada was preparing himself to go on trial for attempting to assassinate Castro, while the Cuban president was attending a gathering with more than 2,000 students at the University of Panama in 2000. Extraordinarily enough, former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, now residing in Miami, found no problem in pardoning him on August 25, 2004, on the eve of her leaving office, after Posada had been detained with 200 pounds of explosives in his possession. Perhaps Moscoso was so preoccupied with the good life awaiting her in Miami, that the matter did not adequately catch her attention. What we do know is that she was able to block from her conscience the impact of the death of 73 innocent victims – who died in the fatal airplane bombing three decades ago – out of which she was able to find the grounds to free him.

Justified Incredulity from Abroad

The Bush administration may be attempting to placate Miami and ease itself out of the Posada affair by attempting to find him a safe haven outside the U.S. However, to their dismay, upon contacting authorities in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Panama, El Salvador and Honduras, Bush officials were repeatedly told that they would only facilitate Posada’s extradition to Venezuela or Cuba, if such papers were ever filed against him.
Posada’s Miami-based lawyer, Eduardo R. Soto, has consistently fought such third-country deportation efforts on the grounds that he would be treated in a prejudicial manner wherever he would end up, something of a tacit admission of his guilt in itself. Other nations understandably want nothing to do with the man, who is viewed by many as a “monster,” and “Latin America’s bin Laden.” Meanwhile, the two countries which overwhelmingly have the greatest justification in seeing Posada brought to justice – Cuba and Venezuela – where Posada remains a fugitive from justice, in what has turned out to be an ongoing trial in absentia. However, the Bush administration has systematically ruled out the two as it considers them “rogue” nations where Posada would face “the threat of torture…and therefore could not be returned under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.” This is a conclusion that most legal experts would turn their back on.

Cuba has long been awaiting the administration of justice for the mass murder of its nationals on board the Cuban airliner. Havana has found widespread sympathy for the enormous loss and pain suffered by its population over this horrific misdeed. In 1998, Fidel Castro unveiled a monument in Barbados commemorating the passengers aboard the ill-fated flight. Venezuela also continues to vehemently assert its right to try Posada, whose successful escape from a Caracas jail is universally believed to be the result of well-heeled Miami confederates pulling strings and bribing prison guards. The Miami capos are also believed to be responsible for bringing Posada into contact with CIA operatives who signed him up as a useful “can-do” asset, and then again, were said by some to be involved in bringing President Moscoso into the scenario that ended up with her inexplicable pardon of him.

The Cuban Five

The fundamentally biased nature of the current Posada proceedings are highlighted by comparing them to the zealous dynamism displayed by U.S. prosecutors from the same office who were involved in the trial of five Cuban nationals: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González. Now all serving lengthy prison terms, these Havana militants were arrested by the FBI in Miami on September 12, 1998 and were accused of espionage and murder. Andrés Gómez, the Director of the pro-Castro Areítodigital magazine, insists: “The federal government lied and is still lying. The Five, as everyone knows, were not in Miami to spy against the government of the United States, but to infiltrate the terrorist organizations of the Cuban-American extreme right-wing, which with the full knowledge and protection of the federal government, plans and directs from that city terrorist actions…”

Indeed, the only real “threat” that these men seemed to pose from their monitoring of several extremist Cuban exile groups in Miami like CORU, Alpha 66, Omega 7 and Brothers to the Rescue, all of which were documented for their involvement in attacking Cuban personnel and property, bombing island tourist facilities, and illegally dropping pamphlets over Havana and other of the island’s major urban centers.

Double Standards at Work

The Cuban Five were arrested shortly after alerting Havana officials of flights that were being planned by the Miami-based anti-Castro extremist organization, Brothers to the Rescue. When two planes flown by exile pilots professedly penetrated Cuban airspace, they were shot down by Cuban pilots after warnings by Cuban air patrol officials to reverse their course. The blatant bias of trial judge Joan Lenard against the Cuban Five throughout their Miami proceedings, led to their conviction on all 26 counts, in which the jury deliberated for only four days.

The deportment throughout the proceedings of Judge Lenard, who acted more as a government prosecutor than a crusader for justice, only underscores Washington’s obsessive tactics when it comes to the interpretation of international terrorism in its favor. The fact that both the judge and jury foreman were outspokenly anti-Castro should have led to a dismissal of the indictments or certainly a change of venue. It is true that some Florida wags have been know to mutter, yet with her handling of this case, Judge Lenard proved that she is as fair to justice as Katherine Harris is to a fair vote. Notably, a UN Working Group reviewing the case was able to determine that the trial did not take place in a climate of objectivity and impartiality, which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial. The UN report also charges that the Cuban Five were wrongfully held for seventeen months in solitary confinement after their arrest, and that their lawyers were deprived of the opportunity to examine all of the available evidence before the government invoked the Classified Information Protection Act.

As a result, Hernández was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus fifteen years, Labañino to one life term plus 18 years, Guerrero to one life term plus 10 years, and Fernando González and René González to nineteen and fifteen years respectively. The defense’s argument that Miami-Dade County was “a basic nucleus of anti-Castro Cuban exiles, where the conditions for a fair trial do not exist,” was summarily rejected in the pre-trial phase of the adjudication. On August 9, 2005, after Leonard Weinglass, the U.S. attorney for the Cuban Five, had appealed this ruling, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued a 93-page reversal of the initial conviction as well as nullified the sentences. In response to the reversal, the Bush administration and Attorney General Gonzales vehemently pushed for the Solicitor General to appeal the verdict of the three-judge panel’s decision before all twelve judges of the 11th circuit in Atlanta. Its finding, to the surprise of many, in a 10-2 vote, reversed the previous pro-Cuban Five ruling, affirming the initial trial’s convictions and providing at least a temporary victory for the Bush administration and its Miami political backers.
Nevertheless, the defense counsel for the Cuban Five was quick to act and called for the conviction to be remanded back to the three judge panel (now only a two-judge panel because one had since retired) for the adjudication of the nine remaining issues under appeal. As Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild, Heidi Boghosian explains, “The case of the Five is now in the hands of the very two judges who earlier reviewed this country’s history of crimes against Cuba, and concluded that […] it was impossible for these five Cubans to receive a fair trial in Miami.” Considering the defense’s previous success with this panel of judges, Boghosian expects that they “will again rectify this travesty of justice.”

The case of the Cuban Five is going to haunt the Bush presidency because even those opposed to the Castro regime have raised concern over the harsh treatment and violation of rights exercised upon the Five. The DOJ’s handling of these men has raised a ubiquitous fervor of nationalism profoundly affecting the younger Cuban generation who feel the U.S. has acted on immoral grounds. Considering Castro’s terminal illness, this will be a unifying factor for the Cuban system considering that the Miami-orchestrated case against the Cuban Five will be viewed as a trivial offense on all Cubans. Truly, the concepts of liberty and justice – which attracted thousands of Cubans to the U.S. shores – are not being preached by U.S. and its authorities.

U.S. War on Terror Lacks Consistency and Integrity

While a final decision on the fate of the Cuban Five is expected to be reached in the first half of 2007, the U.S. government’s single-minded hectoring of the Cuban Five – which is propelled by ideology as much as by law – vividly contrasts with the privileged treatment of Posada, whom after being accused of orchestrating the death of 73 innocent individuals, is now leading a protected life while his immigration status is being argued over in an El Paso, Texas, courthouse. Don’t be too startled if Posada is released at any time, by a lightning move on the part of the government since the DOJ has been guided by more of an ideological mission rather than by a faithful administering of the law.

If the U.S. government insists on its sovereign right to preemptively invade other nations to prevent terrorist attacks on its homeland, it might want to consider the illogicality of not attributing the same rights to its neighbor, particularly when that neighbor has repeatedly warned U.S. authorities that the Brothers to the Rescue were routinely violating international law by their repeated over-flights of Cuba.

On September 11, 2001, President Bush announced to the world that “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” Nevertheless, the U.S. continues to harbor Posada. If he is not brought to justice on this round, the U.S., by its own definition, can be identified as safe-haven for “evil-doers,” invalidating its own justifications for conducting its War on Terror. Posada’s El Paso-based lawyer, Felipe D.J. Millan disagrees, and asks “How can you call someone a terrorist who allegedly committed acts on your behalf?” Interestingly, Millan’s own query proves the need to judge Posada in another country such as Venezuela or some neutral third country, where he would have to respond to international charges, that, in effect, if found guilty on them, would make him complicit in criminal acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity. If the U.S. does not facilitate this process, as Michael Avery, the former President of the National Lawyers Guild concluded, “Allowing Posada into the United States and entertaining an asylum request from a confessed terrorist is an open acknowledgement of accomplice liability…” Perhaps a viable neutral candidate for a suitable venue to conduct Posada’s trial would be Spain, as the Los Angeles Times editorial board has argued: “Madrid is a credible interlocutor between Washington and Latin America, and Spanish courts have a recent tradition […] of aggressively taking on cases of universal jurisdiction.”

If the spotlight doesn’t stop focusing on Posada, in all likelihood, the administration could calculatedly announce to the general public – on a slow news day or on the eve of a three-day holiday – that Posada should be allowed to proceed with his citizenship application hoping that the case would disappear from the screen. This holiday season, with all the distractions that it entails, could be a period of suspense for scores of grieving family members seeking justice from Miami-spawned violence. The Bush administration has repeatedly displayed its political savvy in the timing of its archly political releases of controversial documents, other information, or individuals. This can be seen in the announcement of Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as Secretary of Defense, which was made public on the morning after the Democrats’ triumph in the congressional elections, conveniently distracting the population by masking the Republicans’ near political implosion.

Meanwhile, the lives of the five incarcerated Cubans will continue to be squandered because of the intense ideological and political prejudices that define President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales’ way of formulating U.S. policy when it comes to the Cuban issue, or how it uses its criminal justice system for revenge rather than vindication. By setting an arch terrorist free while simultaneously continuing the draconic sentences against the five Cubans on the most meager of charges – who many would argue should never have been behind bars in the first place – Bush continues to build on the Bush family-Posada relationship, while at the same time scrapping all hopes of rendering U.S. relations towards Venezuela and Cuba more rational and responsive to the best of the U.S. tradition of the pursuit of justice and preserving, in good health, its humanitarian legacy.

This analysis was prepared by Research Associate Brittany Bond and co-edited by Research Associates Magali Devic, Danielle Ryan, and Eytan Starkman

December 27th, 2006


Is Posada Carriles a terrorist or a freedom fighter?

Ex-CIA agent some call anti-Castro hero is about to go free, but kin of man killed in bombing demands he be retried

January 3, 2007

When science whiz Raymond Persaud won a coveted scholarship to study medicine in Cuba, the excitement in his native Guyana was so great that his family had to borrow 80 extra chairs for well-wishers packing his farewell party.
The next day, the family was using the same chairs for Persaud's wake. A bomb ripped through the Cubana airliner that the 19-year-old student had boarded that morning for Havana, killing all 73 passengers and crew.
"My mother's screams were so intense I swear the neighbors must have heard. My father locked himself in his room for five days," recalled Raymond's sister, Roseanne Nenninger, of Port Jefferson, of the 1976 attack. "Raymond was so young and filled with such promise. We never got over it."
Three decades later, the bombing of Flight 455 has returned to Persaud's family with a new twist: The accused mastermind, a Cuban-born foe of Fidel Castro, is behind bars in the United States for an immigration infraction after sneaking into Miami in March 2005. But he may be freed in weeks because the U.S. government will not classify him a terrorist.
The suspect, Luis Posada Carriles, 79, is a notorious ex-CIA operative and Venezuelan national who was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, served four years for plotting to blow up Castro in Panama and boasted of bloody hotel bombings in Cuba. His case has placed the Bush administration in a political tug-of-war, worsened already tense relations with leftist Cuba and Venezuela, and complicated its war on terror.
Preventing Pandora's box
On one side are hard-line Cuban-Americans who consider Posada a hero and want the U.S. government to grant his request for asylum. On the other are criminal justice groups and victims' relatives, who say the government must extradite Posada to Venezuela, which wants to re-try him for the Cubana bombing, or investigate him for the crime here.
"We have a president who says he won't tolerate terrorism abroad, but our own government is sheltering a terrorist in our midst," said Nenninger, 41, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has launched a campaign to bring Posada to justice. "If this had been a plane full of Americans, it would be a different story."
Some critics suspect that the United States is reluctant to charge Posada because he may know too much. "A trial could open a Pandora's box of CIA actions that we used to call sabotage and now call terrorism," said Peter Kornbluh, who heads the National Security Archive, an independent research institute in Washington.
Kornbluh's group has published several declassified CIA and FBI documents implicating Posada in the Cubana attack.
"We are going to hit a Cuban airliner," one document quotes Posada as boasting within earshot of an informant in September 1976, one month before the blast. Another document from June 1976 says Posada himself informed a CIA contact of the plot but blamed it on associates. There is no evidence the CIA warned Cuba.
Jailed in a detention center in El Paso, Texas, the ailing Posada, a U.S. Army veteran, has renounced violence and denied links to the Cubana bombing or other attacks. His Miami lawyer, Eduardo Soto, notes he was twice acquitted in the airline attack in Venezuela - where the flight originated - before escaping from a Venezuelan prison, dressed as a priest, while awaiting re-trial in 1985.
Soto says the least the United States could do for Posada is give him asylum in Miami. "Luis perceives himself to be a freedom fighter, not a terrorist," Soto said. "He is a former CIA agent at the vanguard of our supposed foreign policy. Now, he is a frail old man."
'Bin Laden of Latin America''
Yet as recently as October, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement called Posada "an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks" and "a danger to the community." But it stopped short of classifying him as a terrorist, a move that would allow it to hold him indefinitely as a national security threat under laws passed after Sept. 11.
Instead, U.S. officials are trying to find a safe haven for Posada abroad. So far, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama have refused him.
In October, a federal judge in El Paso said Posada has been detained "well beyond" the six-month limit for holding a foreigner and said he will free him if the government doesn't persuade him otherwise by Feb. 1. Because illegal entry is punishable only by deportation, he could be set free in the United States unless a foreign county is found to take him.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in Newark and El Paso are investigating Posada for possible crimes that could extend his jail time. U.S. officials would not confirm the probes, but lawyers familiar with them said that, in El Paso, federal investigators are looking into allegations Posada lied about how he entered the United States.
In Newark, they said, the focus is on Cuban-Americans in Union City allegedly wiring $30,000 to Posada that may have been used in bombings of Havana hotels and clubs in 1997-98. In 1998, Posada admitted to planning those bombings, which killed an Italian tourist and wounded several others, but then recanted.
The Newark probe got a slow start because the FBI's Miami supervisor intentionally destroyed the Posada case file in 2003 - a process the bureau described as "routine" because investigations against him were at that time closed.
David Abraham, who teaches immigration law at the University of Miami, said it is not yet clear whether investigators are "just futzing around" with those two probes to deflect criticism they are soft on Posada.
One country that wants to try Posada for the bombing is Venezuela, which has an extradition treaty with the United States. But an immigration judge ruled that Posada could be tortured if he were sent to that country or to Cuba. The Bush administration, which has frosty relations with both countries, did not appeal.
Even if it won't extradite Posada, the United States could prosecute him itself under a 1973 international aviation convention to which it is party, according to independent legal experts and Jose Pertierra, a Washington attorney who represents Venezuela.
"This guy is the Osama bin Laden of Latin America," Pertierra said. "But the United States is trying to fight its war on terrorism a la carte, picking and choosing which terrorists to prosecute."
Officials with the Justice and State departments declined to comment on Posada, citing pending litigation. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the bureau is still trying to find him a home abroad.
Seeking asylum
An explosives expert and former exterminator whose nicknames include Bambi, Posada has been trying to topple Castro since he trained for the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. He took a detour in the mid-1980s to oversee supply flights for Nicaraguan Contra rebels from El Salvador in the illegal Iran-Contra affair. But he was back at anti-Castro work in 2000, when he was convicted in Panama in connection with a plot to blow up Castro in a packed auditorium in Panama City. Outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoco pardoned Posada in 2004 in what critics view as an attempt to help President George W. Bush retain the support of Castro foes in the battleground state of Florida.
When he was arrested in Miami in May 2005, Posada hoped to be treated like his fellow Cuban exile Orlando Bosch. After being arrested for a parole violation in Miami, President George H.W. Bush gave Bosch asylum in 1990.
Bosch once headed a known terrorist group. He was acquitted in 1987 in Venezuela of the Cubana blast, but a declassified FBI document quotes an informant as saying that after the jet went down, one of two men who admitted to planting the bomb called Bosch to report: "A bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed."
Fighting for his memory
The Oct. 6, 1976, bombing of the Cubana DC-8 was the first airline terrorist attack in the Western hemisphere. Explosives packed into a toothpaste tube downed the plane over the Caribbean, five miles short of a Barbados runway. Victims included six Guyanese medical students and the entire Cuban youth fencing team.
Most bodies were too disfigured to be identified. The only possible remains found of Persaud was an arm.
An avid scholar and student leader, Persaud had boarded the plane with a smile, dressed in a suit custom-made for the journey. His dream was to return to Guyana as a doctor.
"He always talked about giving back to his community," said Nenninger, a Stony Brook University graduate who practices naturopathic medicine.
Three years after the blast, Persaud's father, school principal Charles Persaud, moved with his wife and five remaining children to the Bronx to gain some distance from his son's death. But the elder Persaud never stopped trying to bring the bombers to justice.
"He was obsessed by the case," Nenninger said. "He wrote to the president, to members of Congress, he was writing a book about it." Her father died of a heart attack in 2003, Nenninger said, "but I think he really died of a broken heart."
When Nenninger learned Posada was in the United States, she reactivated her father's campaign, sending new letters to government officials and flying to Posada's immigration hearing in El Paso. Denied entry, she stood outside, holding a snapshot of Persaud as he boarded the doomed flight.
Nenninger also recently flew to San Francisco to start preparing a civil suit against Posada with the nonprofit Center for Justice and Accountability.
The lawsuit would not put Posada in jail. Nor would it be likely to result in significant awards. Nenninger doesn't care. What's important, she says, is that a jury find Posada responsible for the bombing.
"What I want is for the world to know that this man is a terrorist," she said. "Some people just want this piece of history to go away. I am not going to let that happen."
Terror in the skies
Until Sept. 11, 2001 Cubana Airlines Flight 455 was the worst act of terrorism aboard a commercial airliner in the Americas.
What happened
Flight 455 was on an island-hopping run around the Caribbean with stops scheduled in Trinidad, Barbados, Kingston, Jamaica, and Havana, Cuba. Tragedy struck halfway through the run.
10 a.m.: Takes off from Georgetown, Guyana, en rout to Trinidad
12:15 p.m.: Two colleagues of pilot mastermind Luis Posada, Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo board Flight 455. While in flight they place C-4 explosives in a rear bathroom and underneath the seat belonging to Lugo
12:25 p.m.: Flight 455 departs Port of Spain, Trinidad, en route to Barbados.
1:15 p.m.: It departs Seawell Airport in Barbados for Kingston, Jamaica Lugo and Ricardo leave the plane.
1:24 p.m.: Bomb located in the aircraft bathroom explodes.
1:30 p.m.: Second explosion rocks the cabin and sends plane plummeting into Caribbean Sea.
Advance knowledge?

In this 1976 memo obtained by The National Security Archive, FBI Directory Clarence Kelly tells Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Posada attended meetings in Caracas, Venezuela, where the plane bombing was planned.

Honorable Henry A. Kissinger
The Secretary of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:

In connection with the loss of Cuban Airlines Flight Number 455 in the Caribbean Sea on October 6, 1976, a confidential source of our Miami Office who has provided reliable information in the past, reported on November 1, 1976. The following significant information which is summarized below:
On October 23 and 24, 1976, our confidential source ascertained from Ricardo Morales Navarrete, an official of the Venezuelan Intelligence Service (DISIP), that the bombing of the Cubana Airlines DC-8 was planned, in part, in Caracas, Venezuela, at two meetings attended by Morales Navarrete, Luis Posado Carriles and Frank Castro, On one occasion, Gustavo Castillo was present.



CUBA: Statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The international media has reported that on January 11, 2007, the United States government, which for more than 18 months has been protecting international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, has been obliged to indict him on charges of fraud and lying when applying for U.S. citizenship.
The U.S. government has been forced to acknowledge that our Comandante en Jefe was right when he commented in April 2005 on the information published by the Mexican newspaper Por Esto, repeatedly charging that Posada Carriles had been in U.S. territory with total impunity for almost a month, having arrived aboard the Santrina boat from Islas Mujeres, where he had been picked up by Santiago Alvarez Fernández-Magriñá and other terrorists to be taken to the United States.
When the U.S. government was obliged to arrest him on May 17, 2005, after being in U.S. territory illegally for two months but left in peace, the terrorist wove a web of lies by saying he had entered U.S. territory via land, coming from the Mexican city of Matamoros; that he had not been in Cancún or on Islas Mujeres; and that during his transit through Mexico, he had never seen either the Santrina boat or the other terrorists, who — as our president exposed — accompanied him on his trip through Mexico to the United States.
In announcing the indictment on January 11, the U.S. government alleges that Posada engaged in fraudulent behavior and lied, because “in fact, he entered the United States by sea aboard the motor vessel “Santrina”; that he traveled to Cancún and Islas Mujeres; that he boarded the Santrina in Mexico “and traveled thereon to the United States”; and that Santiago Alvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, Rubén López Castro and José Pujol were with him aboard the Santrina during “his passage aboard that motor vessel from Mexico to the United States.”
The U.S. government often forgets that the truth has always been an essential weapon of the Cuban Revolution. Now, almost two years later, it has had no choice but to acknowledge it.
For its part and in response to Cuba’s request for an in-depth investigation of Posada Carriles’ movement through that country, the Vicente Fox government in Mexico officially informed our government on May 25, 2005 that its records did not show the terrorist’s entry into Mexican territory. It also said that the Santrina boat had arrived at Islas Mujeres on March 14, 2005 and affirmed that, after refueling, the boat had left that location with the same crew as when it arrived, without Luis Posada Carriles being among them.
In its January 11 indictment, the U.S. government makes no reference to terrorism. The U.S. government knows very well about and has all the evidence of the countless act of terrorism committed by Posada Carriles, including the mid-flight sabotage of a Cubana Aviation airliner in 1976 and the terrorist attacks on Cuban hotels in 1997, one of which killed Fabio Di Celmo, a young Italian tourist.
For the U.S. government, the only procedure in line with international treaties on terrorism to which it is party and what is established by its own legislation, would have been to describe Luis Posada Carriles from the start as a terrorist and to indict him on charges of terrorism, which would have avoided the long immigration process in El Paso, whose only objective was to protect him in order to prevent him from speaking publicly about the many secrets he knows regarding the empire’s covert and illegal actions and its links with the anti-Cuban mafia, particularly during the period in which the father of the current U.S. president was director of the CIA.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs trusts that this indictment of the terrorist Posada Carriles for minor immigration-related crimes does not become a smokescreen for giving him impunity for the serious crime of terrorism, or a pretext to continue ignoring the application for Posada Carriles’ extradition, presented on June 15, 2005 by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for his responsibility in the destruction of a Cubana Aviation airliner, and which has yet to receive a response.
The next test for the government of President Bush will be on February 1. That day, it will have to respond to an order by Judge Philip Martínez to justify why Posada Carriles should remain in prison, in line with Section 412 of the U.S. Patriot Act, and to do so it will be obliged to admit that his release is a threat to U.S. security and to the security of the community and any other person.” The moment of truth has arrived. The victims’ families are demanding justice. The Cuban people accompany them in their pain and fully support them. We will now see what action will be taken by the president who named himself the “international leader of the war on terror.”

Havana, January 15, 2007

Translated by Granma International

- "Misión contra el terror", acerca de los Cinco héroes cubanos prisioneros en cárceles del imperio:

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Free the Cuban Five!
16 Jan 2007
Who are the Cuban Five?

The Cuban Five are five Cuban men who are in U.S. prison, serving four life sentences and 75 years collectively, after being wrongly convicted in U.S. federal court in Miami, on June 8, 2001.

They are Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.

The Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.

But the Five pointed out vigorously in their defense that they were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent terrorist attacks on their country of Cuba.

The Five’s actions were never directed at the U.S. government. They never harmed anyone nor ever possessed nor used any weapons while in the United States.

The Cuban Five’s mission was to stop terrorism

For more than 40 years, anti-Cuba terrorist organizations based in Miami have engaged in countless terrorist activities against Cuba, and against anyone who advocates a normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. More than 3,000 Cubans have died as a result of these terrorists’ attacks.

Terrorist Miami groups like Comandos F4 and Brothers to the Rescue operate with complete impunity from within the United States to attack Cuba—with the knowledge and support of the FBI and CIA.

Therefore, Cuba made the careful and necessary decision to send the Five Cubans to Miami to monitor the terrorists. The Cuban Five infiltrated the terrorist organizations in Miami to inform Cuba of imminent attacks.

The aim of such a clandestine operation by the Cuban Five—at great personal risk—was to prevent criminal acts, and thus protect the lives of Cubans and other people.

But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI arrested the Cuban Five ANTI-terrorists on September 12, 1998. The Five were illegally held in solidarity confinement for 17 months in Miami jail.

The trial began in November 2000. With the seven-month trial based in Miami, a virtual witchhunt atmosphere existed. Defense attorneys’ motions for a change of venue were denied five times by the judge, although it was obvious that a fair trial was impossible in that city.

In a blow to justice, the Cuban Five were convicted June 8, 2001 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in December, 2001.

A victory in appeals, then a surprise reversal

On August 9, 2005, after seven years of unjust imprisonment, the Cuban Five won an unprecedented victory on appeal. A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial outside of Miami.

(The Aug. 9 court decision can be read here (PDF file)

However, in an unexpected reversal on Oct. 31, the 11th Circuit Court vacated the three-judge panel’s ruling and granted an “en banc” hearing before the full panel of 12 judges. Exactly one year after the victory that granted the Five a new trial, the panel voted 10 to 2 to deny the Five heroes a new trial, and instead affirmed the trial court.
Nine remaining issues of appeal are before the three-judge panel (it is actually two judges now, one has retired), and as of December 2006, final supplemental documents were submitted by defense and prosecution. For an explanation of the legal issues, read the Nov. 21 interview with Leonard Weinglass here.
Your support is more important than ever
This case is a political case and the Cuban Five are political prisoners.
Their freedom will depend not only on the arduous work of the defense team but just as importantly on the public support that can be organized. Over 250 committees have been established in the United States and around the world, demanding immediate freedom for Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René.
Important declarations have been made by hundreds of parliamentarians in Britain, Italy, and the European and Latin American Parliaments. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, with five judges, ruled that there were irregularities in the Five’s trial and arrest, effectively denying them a fair trial and calls on the U.S. government to remedy this injustice.
In the United States, the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is working very hard to build broad support for these anti-terrorist heroes, with forums and video showings, media and publicity work, and a march that was held on Sept. 23, 2006 in front of the White House.
The year 2007 will be critical for the struggle to win freedom for the Cuban Five. Call or write us! Find out how you can do your part to win justice for five men who dedicated their lives to save others.



10th January to 30th April 2007

Friends and comrades all over the world,
On behalf of the brave and noble people of which we are part, the Cuban youth is calling on youth and student movements, associations and the young population of the entire world to join the struggle for truth and justice, as they have so many times before in the long history of humanity. We call on you to participate in a new World Campaign, from 10th January to 30th April, to break the silence that surrounds the case of the five Cuban patriots unjustly imprisoned in the United States.
The campaign for the release of these five heroes represents a battle for truth and against terrorism. The aim is to break the wall of silence about the case imposed by the U.S. government on public opinion, to denounce the manipulation and lies, to call for justice to be served and demand the immediate release of the five Cubans.
Our comrades have now served eight years of unjust incarceration; they are victims of imperialism's total irrationality and utter contempt for human dignity. The imperialists arbitrarily ignore the pronouncements of international organizations and set up all kinds of legal obstacles to prevent a just solution to the case. Only the real mobilization of public opinion will bring to bear the pressure needed to obtain the justice our people are fighting for.
Humanity is at a crossroads in its history and it is we the younger generation who are responsible for this victory for a better future. This campaign will be for five men who epitomize the highest values of decency, altruism, bravery and solidarity. It will be a campaign for truth.
We invite everyone to round off the campaign by attending an International Youth Solidarity Meeting on 29th and 30th April, in Havana, Cuba. Our youth and our people will be immensely proud to welcome you, to reflect together on the successes already achieved in this campaign and to plan the steps we can take in the future.
Ever onward to Victory!

Young Communists' Union (Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas)
University Students' Federation (Federación Estudiantil Universitaria)
Secondary Students' Federation (Federación de Estudiantes de la Enseñanza Media)
José Martí Pioneers' Organization (Organización de Pioneros José Martí)
José Martí Corps of Art Instructors (Brigada de Instructores de Arte José Martí)

Web links related:

- Video "Misión contra el terror", acerca de los Cinco héroes cubanos prisioneros en cárceles del imperio:
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