Acquitted in a federal court in El Paso, Texas, on April 14, Luis Posada Carriles now walks free in Miami. Yet the U.S. government is aware of Posada's record of terrorism. Evidence to that effect was presented in the trial, even though that trial was only about immigration fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice. In conformity with international law, the United States should either try Posada here for the terrorist crimes of which he is accused, or to extradite him to Venezuela. He awaits trail there for masterminding the blowing up of a Cuban civilian airliner in 1976, which caused the deaths of 73 people.
After a long career of mayhem, as an agent first of the CIA, then of Venezuelan national security (DISIP) and then as the leader of anti-communist terrorist networks, Cuban-born Luis Posada, a naturalized citizen of Venezuela, arrived illegally in Florida in March, 2005. Immigration authorities tried for two years to deport him. No country would take him, save one: Venezuela, had submitted its extradition request within weeks of Posada's arrival. The administrative judge handling his case, however, forbade deportation on the grounds that Posada might be tortured in Venezuela, the only evidence of this being the testimony of a witness who had been Posada's Venezuelan colleague in torture.
The scenario changed a little when Posada, applying for U.S. citizenship, was accused of lying about, among other things, how he entered the United States. He ended up in a federal court this time, in El Paso, where his case meandered for four years. Posada meanwhile lived in Miami as the toast of the town.
After a 13-week trial, on April 14 a jury took two hours to acquit Posada, after having been denied access to key evidence by a Republican-appointed judge.
At issue now is the Venezuelan extradition request. Posada escaped from jail in Venezuela in 1985. But there's more to the story. Posada escaped to evade prosecution for the 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner by his Venezuelan employees Freddy Lugo and Hernán Ricardo Lozano. Testimony landing them in jail implicates Posada as one of the masterminds of the bombing plot. Declassified U. S. documents do likewise. Venezuela's extradition treaty with the United States dates from 1922. Extradition or full prosecution of Posada is required under two treaties the U.S. signed, one on international terrorism, the other on civil aviation safety.
On April 19, U.S. authorities announced proceedings aimed at returning Gen. Eugenio Vides Casanova, resident in Florida since 1989, to El Salvador. The military he headed there in the 1980s massacred civilians. That's a precedent that applies to Posada. On April 11, a court in Costa Rica ordered Henry López Sisco's deportation to Venezuela. He will be answering for murders he, like Posada, carried out for Venezuela's DISIP intelligence agency. That's another precedent.
The time is overdue for justice-minded people to organize to secure Luis Posada's extradition to Venezuela.
In extraditing Posada, the U.S. government will be making amends for complicity in keeping the terrorist going. With money from U.S. supporters, Posada arranged for hotel bombings in Havana in 1997. One of them killed Italian visitor Fabio di Celmo. Cuba provided information to U.S. authorities as to who in the United States helped Posada. Nothing happened, except that the FBI arrested five Cuban men, the "Cuban Five," for having monitored Posada's Florida associates.
In 2004, U.S. diplomatic pressure was instrumental in securing Posada's release from jail in Panama. He'd been part of a plot to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro, visiting Panama in 2000. A Panamanian court had convicted Posada and some associates, but right-wing President Mireya Moscoso, who is close to Republican Party politicians in South Florida, pardoned them.
If the U.S. government extradites Posada, it will be showing some backbone. Standing up to politically and financially powerful forces in South Florida operating as proxy deciders of U.S. Cuba policies would be all to the good. So too would be confronting U.S. intelligence services solicitous of ex-CIA asset Posada. They are afraid he will make good his threat to "tell all" about past CIA activities. Concealing this information does not serve the interests of the American people.
The occasion calls for forthright action. All progressive people should unite around the demand for Posada's immediate extradition to Venezuela.
Right and wrong in the matter are clear. More accommodation of terrorist gangs is not an option.
Photo: This sign in Havana, Cuba, reads, "What barbarians! They have liberated a terrorist." Photo taken in 2007. Peter Vanderheyden CC 2.0