Hitting Rock Bottom - The Bush administration's shameful rejection of Venezuela's extradition request

Campaign News | Saturday, 28 May 2005

They say the evidence against him is 'not sufficient'

From the Counicl on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington D.C.

The State Department’s summary and insulting rejection of the extradition request issued by the government of Venezuela for Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles was as shocking as it was predictable.

The decision not to hand over Posada to be tried for his alleged role in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner which 73 innocent people were killed does violence to this administration’s respect for the rule of law.

Yet this is nothing new for a White House which has a long history of selective indignation towards villainous acts committed abroad. Such a categorical rejection of the administration’s own antiterrorist rhetoric bears strong resemblance to its similarly hypocritical praise for the 2002 coup attempt against the democratically-elected Hugo Chávez, thus belying President Bush’s supposed commitment to the spread of democracy throughout the hemisphere. Worst of all, the Department of State has dishonored this country’s dead as a result of a terrorist act on September 11 by not honoring those murdered in 1976 when a bomb blew up on a Cuban Airlines flight over the Bahamas.

A preponderance of evidence - some of it from the FBI and the CIA - and his subsequent acts of terror dispel any doubt that Posada is a world-class terrorist.

Just as it was entirely predictable that the Bush administration would reject the extradition request as a cheap slap in the face to its adversaries in Caracas, is the certain fate of Washington’s already precipitous decline in its standing throughout Latin America. The moral cynicism behind the State Department’s reluctance to extradite a major international terrorist suspect will certainly be pointed to by leaders of Latin America’s “Pink Wave” as evidence of continued Yankee duplicity, and still another reason to disengage from the American hegemon.

While much of Latin America may be put off by Chávez’s style, they are not inclined to give any credence to the State Department’s claim that it does not extradite suspects for trial in a “kangaroo court.” Foggy Bottom has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to extradite terrorist suspects to countries with a reputation for judicial integrity far below Venezuela’s, such as Syria and Uzbekistan - presumably because such lax judicial regulation will lead to the desired swift punishment for suspects.

Embarrassingly to the average American, the joke has been circulating for weeks that the State Department would choose to turn down Venezuela’s extradition request for Posada on the eve of a Friday afternoon of a three-day national holiday, thus providing the slow news day environment in which indignation over his release would have time to cool down. This banal script was the exact one that the uncool Bush administration chose to follow.

But the administration’s decision was a fait accompli long before it was actually hatched. It has repeatedly revealed its inability to learn from its ethical pratfalls and to live by its own pretentious but non-observed standards, as evidenced by Bush’s nomination of the notorious intelligence manipulator, John Bolton, to be ambassador to the UN, and by the promotion of John Negroponte, who had a history of support for local death squads while he was Ambassador to Honduras. Additionally, the number two man in Bush’s National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, was an irresistable candidate for his post because he had to be pardoned by the first President Bush for lying to Congress during Iran-Contra. This White House has done itself and the nation a disservice by choosing to pander to the powerful Cuban-American interest groups in Miami rather than demonstrate its genuine dedication to the war on terrorism.

With Posada, Washington had a choice of maintaining the integrity of its already deeply troubled antiterrorism crusade or to cater to its hard right Miami campaign donors and political backers. Lamentably, there was never any mystery as to which road Washington would choose to take.

The above statement was drafted by COHA Director Larry Birns and COHA Research Associate Joseph Taves.

May 27, 2005

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being “one of the nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.” For more information, please see our web page at www.coha.org; or contact our Washington offices by phone (202) 223-4975, fax (202) 223-4979, or email coha@coha.org.

US rejects Venezuelan request on Posada Carriles

Washington, May 27: The Bush administration on Friday rejected Venezuela's request for the arrest of Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles so he can be returned to the South American country for trial.

Posada, a foe of Cuban President Fidel Castro, is wanted by Venezuelan authorities for his alleged role in the bombing of a Cuban passenger plane in 1976 that killed 73 people. The United States and Venezuela have had a strained relationship recently, with disagreements including the U.S. war in Iraq and Venezuela's decision to purchase Russian assault rifles.

Earlier this month, Venezuela asked the United States to arrest Posada as an initial step toward his eventual extradition there. Days after the request was received, U.S. authorities detained Posada on their own and charged him with illegal entry into the United States.

Posada, who entered the United States secretly in March, is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge on June 13.

The Department of Justice ruled that the Venezuelan arrest request "did not include any statement of the evidence against the accused required for the issuance of an arrest warrant in the United States," an administration official said.

The official, asking not to be identified, said the Venezuelan request made no mention of the widely reported acquittal of Posada by a military tribunal in Venezuela in a prior proceeding.

In addition, he said the request did not explain the legal effect such an acquittal may have under Venezuelan law.

The official added that despite the reported acquittal, Posada was incarcerated in Venezuela from 1976 until 1985 before escaping.


Chavez considers breaking US ties over Posada case

Caracas, May 21: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he will consider breaking diplomatic ties with the US if it fails to hand over a Cuban-born terror suspect.

Venezuela says Luis Posada Carriles must stand trial over the 1976 bombing of Cuba's plane that killed 73 people.

Mr Chavez says Washington would be guilty of protecting international terrorism if it refused extradition.

Mr Posada Carriles - the 77-year-old former CIA employee - was charged last week with illegal entry into the US.

US immigration officials said that he would be held in custody until an immigration court hearing on 13 June.

Washington has up to 60 days to consider Venezuela's extradition request under a 1922 treaty between the two countries.

"If they don't extradite him (Mr Posada Carriles) in the time allowed in our agreement, we will review our relations with the United States," Mr Chavez said in his regular Sunday TV programme.

Luis Posada Carriles denies involvement in the airliner bombing

He said Caracas would decide "if it worth having an embassy in the United States, wasting money, or for the United States to have an embassy here".

"It is difficult, very difficult, to maintain ties with a government that so shamelessly hides and protects international terrorism," Mr Chavez said.

The president last week described Mr Posada Carriles as "a self-confessed terrorist".

Mr Posada Carriles - who was born in Cuba but now holds Venezuelan nationality - has denied involvement in the attack on the Cuban airline passenger plane on a flight from Caracas to Havana.

But declasdified documents have shown that he was implicated in the plot and Carriles admitted to the New York Times that he was behind the terrorist bombings in Havana in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist.

Mr Posada Carriles escaped a Venezuelan prison in 1985 while awaiting a trial on appeal.

He was twice acquitted by Venezuelan courts of plotting to bomb the plane.

The US says it will not deport Mr Posada Carriles to any country that would hand him over to Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba.

Venezuela has said it will not hand Mr Posada Carriles over, and Mr Castro has insisted he will be happy to see him tried there.


Posada Carriles Led Torture Sessions in Venezuela

Washington, May 20 - The terrorist of Cuban origin, Luis Posada Carriles, ordered the torture of prisoners as a member of the Venezuelan secret police in the 70s.

Economist Jesus Moreno, then a member of the Revolutionary Party of Venezuela (PRV) and one of his victims, told the Miami Herald that Posada Carriles, for whom the CIA arranged Venezuelan citizenship, gave orders to torture him and to murder PRV member Angel Maria Castillo (Pancho Alegria).

In the article "Ex Rebelde: Posada Ordenó Torturas", The Miami Herald recalled that in the 70"s Posada Carriles led the Special Operations Unit of the Department of Intelligence Security and Prevention (DISIP).

Marrero, then 26, told the paper in a telephone interview about his 1973 arrest by Posada Carriles at his home in Valencia, an industrial area of Caracas, on July 23, 1973. When he refused to denounce his comrades, The DISIP officer threatened "you will talk; I know how to make you talk".

Then, he was taken to an abandoned house on the hills of Caracas and tortured by the DISIP agents. They put him on a metal table, gave him electric shocks to his testicles and left ear and introduced toothpicks into his ears.

Marrero"s denunciations open a new chapter in Posada Carriles" case, now in the hands of the US government. Declassified CIA and FBI documents confirmed that Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, another terrorist of Cuban origin, were the October 1976 bombers of the Cuban civilian plane that killed 73 people.

They also attest to their involvement in other terrorist actions like bombings and assassinations within and outside US territory.

Posada was detained in Miami and turned in to US Immigration authorities who have charged him with illegal entry. However, Bosch has long been living in Florida.

Posada Carriles told The Miami Herald himself that one of his men, Cristobal, shot down Castillo in the streets of Caracas, although he denied any involvement. He added that Cristobal is now serving a prison term in Miami for drug trafficking.

Posada Carriles, who was trained by the CIA as demolition expert, was recruited by officers from the Venezuelan Secret Police in 1969 to stop Cuba"s influence on the left-wing movement.

The daily said the government of President Rafael Caldera "gave him broad powers and autonomy" to operate, and he eventually became head of the DISIP for Special Operations.

His autobiographical book "Los Caminos del Guerrero" (Paths of the Warrior) says Marrero was a member of Bandera Roja group and was arrested, executed or disappeared while he led the special operation unit.

The police, Posada Carriles recalls, arrested, raided and conducted interrogation by means of the most severe methods of persuasion. "As they say, we played hard ball."


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