A Terrorist Comes Home to Roost
sudden and untimely arrival on U.S. territory of a former Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset and admitted terrorist, Luis Posada
Carriles, poses an embarrassing challenge to the credibility of
the Bush administration's war on terrorism.
who in an interview with the New York Times seven years ago
admitted to organizing a wave of bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed
an Italian tourist and injured 11 others, is best known as the prime
suspect in the bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight shortly after
it took off from Barbados in October 1976.
incident, in which all 73 crew members and passengers, including
teenage members of Cuba's national fencing team were killed, was
the first confirmed midair terrorist bombing of a commercial airliner.
George Bush in 1990 pardoned Orlando Bosch, another Cuban exile
opposed to President Fidel Castro and implicated in the plot, overruling
a strong U.S. Justice Department opinion that called for Bosch's
who also worked for the operation supplying Contra rebels in Central
America in the mid-1980s until the Iran-Contra scandal broke open
with the downing of one of its planes, was also convicted of conspiring
to assassinate Castro during a 2000 visit to Panama. A Panamanian
court sentenced him to eight years in prison in 2004, but he was
unexpectedly pardoned by outgoing President Mireya Moscosa last
September and flew to Honduras.
is a real test of George W. Bush's commitment to fighting terrorism,"
said Peter Kornbluh, a Latin American specialist at the nongovernmental
National Security Archive (NSA). This week, the organization released
a series of declassified U.S. documents that detailed Posada's terrorist
history and his previous association with the CIA.
U.S. credibility has been eroded in the six weeks since Posada apparently
arrived in the United States without the government doing anything
about it," Kornbluh told IPS Thursday. He said Posada had apparently
arrived in south Florida, almost certainly by boat, in late March.
spokesperson at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Miami,
where Posada's attorney, Eduardo Soto, announced April 12 that his
client had filed an asylum claim, told IPS that its agents were
not looking for Posada because "no warrant for his arrest has
do have an interest in talking with him, but we don't have a way
to exercise jurisdiction without a warrant," she said.
where Posada was originally arrested shortly after the 1976 Air
Cubana bombing, is expected to transmit a provisional arrest warrant
to the State Department either Friday or Monday, according to Arelis
Baiba, a spokesperson for its embassy here. The issuance of the
warrant will be followed by a formal extradition request.
deliberating on the case earlier this week, the Venezuelan Supreme
Court referred to Posada as "the author or accomplice of homicide,"
adding, "he must be extradited and judged."
is unclear how the Bush administration, whose ties to Venezuela
are increasingly fraught, will react, although many analysts said
they believe that Washington will not deport him to Caracas.
said that administration intermediaries are trying to persuade Posada
to leave the U.S. precisely in order to avoid further embarrassment
think they're trying to persuade him to quietly leave the country,"
said Wayne Smith, a Cuba specialist at the Washington-based Center
for International Policy (CIP) who served as chief of the U.S. Interest
Section in Havana in the late 1970s and early 1980s. "But will
he go along with that? I don't know."
now, the administration insists it has no idea where Posada is or
even whether he is actually on U.S. soil. At a public appearance
earlier this week, the hardline Assistant Secretary of State for
Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, ignoring the fact that
Posada's lawyer was the first to declare that he was in the United
States, charged that more recent charges by Castro himself that
Posada was here could be "inventions."
a call-in to a Miami radio station, Bosch, who said he believes
Posada should indeed receive asylum, said he had talked with Posada,
who confirmed that he was in the United States.
terms of where he presently is, I think it's fair to say we don't
know," said State Department spokesman Tom Casey Monday. Asked
whether the State Department considered Posada to be a terrorist,
Casey said the foreign ministry had no "particular assessment."
to the NSA, Posada, who is now 77 years old, joined the U.S. military
in 1963 and was recruited by the CIA, which trained him in demolition.
CIA documents posted at the NSA's Web site show that he was terminated
as an asset in July 1967 only to be reinstated four months later.
relationship lasted until 1974, although he retained contact with
the agency at least until June 1976, three months before the plane
bombing, according to the documents. During that period, he worked
as a senior official in the Venezuelan intelligence agency, DISIP.
1972 CIA document describes Posada as a high-level official in charge
of demolition at DISIP. The report noted that Posada had apparently
taken CIA explosives supplies to Venezuela and was associated with
a Miami Mafia figure named Lefty Rosenthal.
series of 1965 FBI memos obtained by NSA describe Posada's participation
in a number of plots involving sabotage and explosives, as well
as his financial ties to Jorge Mas Canosa, another anti-Castro activist
who would later go on to found and lead the Cuban American National
included efforts to blow up Cuban or Soviet ships in Veracruz, Mexico,
and the bombing of the Soviet library in Mexico City. One memo links
him to a major plot to overthrow the Guatemalan government, an effort
halted by the discovery by U.S. Customs agents of a cache of weapons
that included napalm and explosives. During this period, Posada
was working with the CIA.
one of the very first reports on the Oct. 6, 1976, bombing of the
Cubana Air flight, a cable from the FBI Venezuelan bureau cites
an informant who identified Posada and Bosch as responsible and
notes that the two Venezuelan suspects who both worked for
a Caracas private security firm set up by Posada in 1974
had been arrested by police in Barbados.
follow-up Nov. 2 cable cites information from another Cuban-exile
informant for DISIP, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, also known as "Monkey"
Morales, about Posada's participation in planning meetings before
was arrested by Venezuelan authorities shortly after the bombing
in what one former FBI counterintelligence official described to
the Times earlier this week as a "preventative measure
to prevent him from talking or being killed."
knew he had been involved," said Carter Cornick. "There
was no doubt in anyone's mind, including mine, that he was up to
this eyeballs," in the Air Cubana bombing. Posada then spent
the next eight years in jail, punctuated by two inconclusive trials,
before escaping a minimum-security facility in 1985 and making his
way to Central America.
who is rumored to be suffering from cancer, now hopes to gain asylum
in the United States, posing a particularly delicate problem for
a president whose family has long courted anti-Castro militants
in the Cuban-American community but who himself has sworn that neither
terrorists nor the governments that harbor them should escape punishment.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service