Has President Castro struck a nerve?

Campaign News | Tuesday, 7 June 2005

By J. Soffiyah Elijah, Deputy Director Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School

In April 2005 the international community began to take a closer look at the United States justice system as its government attempted to explain and or deny the presence of admitted terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles. As news stories sprouted from even the more main stream media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times calling for the extradition of Posada to Venezuela, a country with which the U.S. has had a long standing extradition treaty, Washington went into a frenzy. After some false starts concerning what it was going to do about Posada, Washington "defended" its position by hurling barbs at Cuban President Fidel Castro about the political asylum granted to Assata Shakur by the Cuban government. Rightly so, President Castro retorted that Ms. Shakur had not received justice in the United States and that she, like many other political prisoners, had been persecuted and denied a fair trial.

By aiming the spotlight on the criminal justice system in the United States, President Castro exposed a tender nerve for Washington. My more than 20 years as a criminal defense lawyer and professor of criminal defense advocacy confirm the widely known assessment that every aspect of the criminal justice system is ripe for criticism and laden with hypocrisy.

The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other developed nation on earth. The population of the United States comprises 5% of the world's population but its incarcerated population is equal to more than 25% of the world's prisoners.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32% of Black males will enter State or Federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17% of Hispanic males and 5.9% of white males. In other words, one third of Black men can expect to be incarcerated during their life times if they live in the United States.

Incarceration in the United States is a growing industry. In 2001, an estimated 2.7% of adults in the U.S. had served time in prison, up from 1.8% in 1991 and 1.3% in 1974. The BJS reports that as of December 31, 2001, there were an estimated 5.6 million adults who had ever served time in State or Federal prison, including 4.3 million former prisoners and 1.3 million adults in prison.

At every stage of the criminal justice system in the United States, Blacks, Latinos, Chicanos and other people of color and the poor are disproportionately impacted. Decisions by law enforcement personnel concerning who to stop, who to arrest and how to charge, are all infused with racial bias. Decisions regarding indictments, plea offers and requests for enhanced sentences and the death penalty, are similarly guided by considerations of race and class. Sentencing decisions regarding probation and incarceration reflect the same racial overtones as the earlier stages of the system. The racist practices of prosecutors was so prevalent that in 1986 the United States Supreme Court finally outlawed the practice of routinely removing Blacks from the jury in Batson v. Kentucky (476 U.S. 79). Prior to 1986, the courts routinely ignored the practice. Following Batson, prosecutors simply offered pre-textual reasons for their racist challenges to potential jurors and the courts turned a blind eye.

Prisoners in the U.S. are systematically incarcerated hundreds, and in many instances thousands, of miles away from their families and loved ones. Family contact is discouraged and thwarted. Frequently family members travel hundreds of miles to visit their loved one and they are denied entry on minor technicalities.

U.S. prison officials regularly create obstacles when attorneys seek to visit their clients. Memos authorizing the visit mysteriously disappear on the day the attorney arrives for the visit. Use of private attorney-client conference rooms is denied. Visits are inexplicably cut short and routinely monitored by video camera and roaming guards.

Similar tactics are often employed against political defendants during pretrial proceedings. The cases of both Assata Shakur and the Cuban 5 are reflective of the unconstitutional obstacles created to interfere in trial preparation. Ms. Shakur's lawyer, Evelyn Williams, Esq. had to obtain a court order to get access to her client. Lawyers for the Cuban 5 were limited to brief designated time periods when they were allowed to meet with their clients prior to trial.

Such interferences compromise the ability of the defendants and their counsel to develop trial strategy, prepare testimony and make crucial decisions about witnesses and evidence. In the case of the Cuban 5, independent polls showed that it would be impossible for them to get a fair trial in Miami. Despite this objective evidence, the judge denied the defendants' motion for a change of venue, even to Fort Lauderdale, just 30 miles away. Assata Shakur's requests for a change of venue were initially denied and then finally granted with a move to Morris County, one of the richest and most conservative overwhelmingly white counties in the state of New Jersey. Further, the hysterical pretrial publicity assisted in creating an atmosphere that guaranteed the defendants would not get a fair trial.

During the last month President Fidel Castro has delivered a calculated series of public addresses that have been heard around the world, including the United States. The arduous campaign to obtain justice for the Cuban 5 and to expose the hypocrisy of the criminal justice system has been the backdrop to these presentations.

President Castro's expose' of the system rings so very true to the millions of Americans who have been incarcerated in the United States and the more than 100 political prisoners who are currently held in its prisons. And the millions that have had their lives interrupted by the criminal "justice" system, they know that fairness is usually an illusion discussed widely in classrooms but not mentioned in courtrooms. They know it's unjust. Castro's pronouncements bear witness to the fact that "justice" in the United States, isn't justice at all.


Posada Carriles Bust Blows Bush’s Anti-Terror Cover

By Saul Landau

June 05: President George W. Bush has made it clear that the punishment for even being suspected of planning, abetting, or carrying out a terrorist act is, at a minimum, getting tossed into a dark hole. Bush has thrown out even the Magna Carta when it comes to Muslims suspected of pernicious thoughts toward the United States.

But if suspected terrorists turn their ire toward Fidel Castro, these rules don’t apply.

Indeed, those who try to bomb and assassinate Cuban targets, or those related to Cuba, receive special treatment. This double-standard casts a shadow over the president’s commitment to fight terrorism.

In mid-May, Homeland Security cops arrested Luis Posada Carriles. As TV footage showed, these officers didn’t even handcuff him. Justice Department spokespeople said they plan to charge the foremost terrorist in the western hemisphere with “illegal entry into the United States.”

The FBI has reams of files on Posada, affectionately called “Bambi” by his terrorist friends. Former FBI Special Agent Carter Cornick told New York Times reporter Tim Weiner that Posada was “up to his eyeballs” in the October 1976 destruction of a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados. All 73 passengers and crew members died. Recently published documents from the FBI and CIA confirm Cornick’s statement. Published cables also reveal that U.S. agencies had knowledge of the plot and did not inform Cuban authorities or try to stop the bombing.

Posada denied involvement at the time, but police nabbed two of the plotters who had disembarked in Barbados. They fingered Posada as the man who hired them to place the bomb on the plane. His name became ubiquitous in the files of U.S. agencies that monitored terrorists. Nevertheless, several weeks after Posada announced his presence on U.S. soil, Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs, still claimed he had no information that Posada had even entered the country.

Posada’s International Profile

Posada himself promoted his international profile. To make sure that the world knew of his exploits, he boasted to New York Times reporters Anne Bardach and Larry Rohter in 1998 that he had organized a sabotage campaign of Cuban tourist spots. In 1997, a bomb placed by a Posada agent at a Cuban hotel killed an Italian tourist. Did this bother his conscience? Posada replied that “it was a freak accident, but I sleep like a baby.”

In 1999, Panamanian police discovered that the 71-year-old Posada, between visits to his proctologist and gerontologist, conspired with three other anti-Castro geezers to assassinate Cuba’s leader in Panama. Castro was to give a public speech there.

This quartet of seniors, Guillermo Novo, Pedro Remon, Gaspar Jimenez, and Posada, planned to blow up the platform from which Castro would speak. After Panamanian police arrested them, they denied any involvement. They sneered at the Panamanian prosecutors, claiming that no proof existed--just a set of their fingerprints on the explosives found in their rented car.

This March, Posada entered the U.S. surreptitiously. He left Panama less than a year after out-going Panamanian President Mireyea Moscoso pardoned him and his accomplices.

Moscoso also apparently contravened Panamanian law by issuing the pardons before the appeals process had ended. The Panamanian press openly “suspected” that more than a coincidence existed between the almost simultaneous issuing of pardons and the mysterious $4 million deposited in her Swiss bank account.

After she had pardoned the four, Moscoso phoned U.S. Ambassador Simon Ferro, saying she had complied with Washington’s request to release the men.

On May 20, 2004, the four caught a waiting airplane that took them to Honduras. There, Posada, the padrino of Latin American terrorism, disembarked while the other three continued to Miami so their arrival could coincide with President Bush’s campaign stop.

On November 26, 2001, Bush had declared that “if anybody harbors a terrorist, they’re a terrorist.” He apparently forgot to mention that he had made exceptions for "zealous patriots" who wanted to assassinate Castro and anyone else who happened to be near him when the bomb went off.

Long History of Terrorist Actions

Indeed, all four pardoned Castro-haters had long histories of involvement in assassination plots and sabotage conspiracies against Cuban officials and properties in New York, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

A Washington, DC jury had convicted Guillermo Novo of perjury in 1982 for lying about his knowledge of the assassination plot against former Chilean Chancellor Orlando Letelier. In September 1976, five Cubans working with Chilean secret police agents had car-bombed Letelier on Washington’s Embassy Row.

Ronni Moffitt, Letelier’s young colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, also died in the bombing. The FBI also knew that Posada had knowledge to the plot to kill Letelier.

Born Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles in Cienfuegos, Cuba in 1928, the infamous Cuban expatriate served on dictator Fulgencio Batista’s repressive forces until the January 1959 revolutionary takeover. Posada then swore vengeance.

The CIA recruited him to invade Cuba in the 1961 Bay of Pigs plot. The agency placed Posada in a Cuban version of the Waffen SS, a squad designed to “mop up” after the invaders had prevailed. Following the April fiasco, the CIA sent Posada for “training” at Fort Benning, Georgia to learn about spying, using explosives, and other lethal devices. In 1971, he partnered with Antonio Veciana, founder of Alpha 66, another anti-Castro terrorist group, to plan an elaborate plot to assassinate Castro.

In a 1996 interview, Veciana told me how he and Posada had recruited a couple of Venezuelan hit men, disguised them as a TV news crew and sent them to Santiago, Chile before Castro arrived on a visit. Meanwhile, the assassins "blended in" with the press corps. CIA technicians had outfitted a news camera with a gun. Fortunately for Fidel, the assassins chickened out. Posada became enraged over their cowardice. He and Veciana recruited other assassins to use the same camera on Castro when he stopped in Caracas for a press conference on his return to Cuba. Those whackers also had second thoughts and the plot failed again.

Perhaps Posada’s frustration over the failed 1971 hits abated after the "success" of his 1976 Barbados air sabotage. Venezuelan authorities charged him with responsibility for the airline bombing and threw him in prison until August 1985. Leaders of the Cuban American Nation Foundation in Miami apparently--according to Lt. Col. Oliver North’s notebooks, published by the Iran-Contra congressional subcommittees--bribed prison authorities to help Posada "escape."

North then engaged him in the late 1980s to resupply the CIA-backed Contras from El Salvador. From there Posada went into the business of bombing hotels in Cuba, as he told Times reporters Bardach and Rohter, with money that came from wealthy Cubans in Miami.

What the U.S. Must Do

Given Posada’s record, both from his own boasting and from the published documents, the Justice Department must either try him for terrorist acts or deport him to Venezuela, which has requested his extradition since he plotted the bombing from there and escaped from prison--and apparently committed other serious crimes as well. Despite the overwhelming published evidence, however, the Justice Department rejected Venezuela’s extradition request to try Posada for this crime on the grounds that the request lacked sufficient detail.

Did Posada announce his illegal presence in the United States with the idea that his knowledge of U.S. complicity in aiding and abetting past acts of terrorism would protect him? After all, documents show that U.S. authorities didn’t inform Cuba or try to stop the 1976 air-bombing plot. In 1971, as Veciana stated, the CIA made the gun that Posada’s agents put inside the camera to assassinate Castro. And what does Ollie North know about Posada’s activities for U.S. intelligence?

Given the history of U.S. terrorism aimed at Cuba and other targets around the world, Bush should rethink his own dogmatic statements. Terrorism is indeed a scourge on all of us. From the aftermath of the foul 9/11 deeds on, Bush should have left the struggle against the terrorists to police and judicial agencies. But he insisted on his wars. As we have seen, by employing the military for such tasks, and in the process justifying the erosion of human rights as necessary to fighting terrorism, the world has come to think of our government as hypocritical--at best.

As the Posada case illustrates, one old U.S. terrorist chicken has come home to roost in Bush’s nest. And that has exposed the president’s anti-terrorist policies as a hoax.

Saul Landau is a Foreign Policy In Focus scholar (online at www.fpif.org). He also teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He wrote Assassination on Embassy Row (McGraw-Hill, 1980), an account of the 1976 Letelier-Moffitt murders, with John Dinges).


by : Saul Landau/fpif.org

Sunday 5th June 2005

Posada has to go, says US legal expert

President of Lawyers Guild says Bush is morally bound to extradite terrorist

Havana May 2: The president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Michael Avery, said the US government has a moral and legal obligation to extradite Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela.

Avery, who is also law professor at the University of Suffolk, Boston, Massachusetts, is taking part in the International Meeting against Terrorism underway in Havana through Saturday June 4.

In statements to Havana's Juventud Rebelde newspaper, Avery said his organization urges the US president to observe the law, which leaves him no choice but to send the international terrorist to the South American nation where he escaped from prison in 1985.

In a statement released in April the National Lawyers Guild recognized that "Posada was a CIA agent in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and possibly to the present." It further notes, "He was trained in explosives and sabotage at the notorious School of the Americas and was part of the CIA's "Operation 40" for the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was also an accomplice with Orlando Bosch in the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455 on October 6, 1976 that killed 73 people.

The NLG also recalls, "Posada, told the New York Times in July 1998 that he directed the 1997 bombings of Havana hotels. A 32-year-old Italian tourist, Fabio Di Celmo, was killed at the Copacabana hotel. While in Venezuela in the 1970s, Posada oversaw the killing of Venezuelan leftists as head of the Intelligence and Prevention Services Division (DISIP) of the national police. In the 1980s Posada commanded the supply of munitions to the Nicaraguan contras from the CIA's Ilopango airbase in El Salvador."

The NLG president pointed out that the Bush administration wants Posada to only face charges of illegal entry as a way of avoiding more serious terrorism accusations. Such an argument would be an inadmissible subterfuge of the law, said Avery.

The information collected by Cuba and Venezuela regarding the terrorist actions perpetrated by Posada, along with recently declassified CIA and FBI's documents, constitute ample evidence of his criminal record, said Avery. He should not be allowed to remain in the US and much less be granted political asylum, he stressed.

The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and its web site informs that it has "over 6,000 members and activists in the service of the people." The NLG national office is in New York and it has chapters in nearly every US state, as well as at over 100 law schools.


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