Judge denies bail for Posada
Campaign News | Tuesday, 26 July 2005
Judge asks for legal briefs on his role at Bay of Pigs
EL PASO, Texas, July 25 - A U.S. immigration judge denied bail on Monday for an asylum-seeking former CIA operative from Cuba and asked for legal briefs on whether his role in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion was a terrorist act.
Lawyers for Luis Posada Carriles called the request "surprising" because they said if Posada is found to have engaged in terrorism, it would imply the CIA did also.
The CIA backed the ill-fated attempt by 1,300 Cuban exiles, armed with U.S. weapons, to topple Cuban leader Fidel Castro after landing at the bay on Cuba's southern coast.
Posada, 77, has admitted working against Castro and earlier told reporters he was involved in the Bay of Pigs operation, but his lawyers said he was not in the actual invasion.
Posada is wanted in Venezuela, where he was a security official and naturalized citizen, for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
But he has denied involvement and is seeking asylum in the United States. The Venezuelan government has asked the United States for his extradition.
Posada, was arrested in May in Miami and moved to El Paso for detention after he illegally entered the United States on the Texas-Mexico border.
His attorney, Matthew Archambeault, asked U.S. Immigration Judge William Abbott to set bail so Posada might be freed while his asylum case is pending, but Abbott refused, citing the pending accusations against Posada.
He set an Aug. 29 hearing to consider his request for asylum, which the judge said may be influenced by whether Posada was involved in terrorism.
Posada will "work with the government in good faith" to answer the terrorism question, said Archambeault. "Mr. Posada doesn't want the U.S. government to jump through hoops."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Castro have accused the U.S. government of protecting Posada because of his CIA past.
Posada used false passport to enter US
MIAMI - July 24: Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles used a false Salvadoran passport to slip into South Florida in the spring of 2000 - about six months before using the same passport to travel to Panama, where he was arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Posada's April 26, 2000, visit to the Miami area, revealed in documents from the US Department of Homeland Security, may become a point of contention during deportation proceedings that resume today for Posada, who has been accused of acts of terrorism.
Use of a false passport to enter the country is a deportable offense in its own right.
Posada, who escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 and was freed from Panama after receiving a pardon, was taken into US custody on May 17 after sneaking into South Florida this year.
But the records filed in his deportation case in El Paso, Texas, raise questions about just how often the former CIA operative has visited the US.
A travel record included as federal evidence against Posada shows he arrived at Miami International Airport on a flight from Central America on April 26, 2000, carrying a Salvadoran passport in the name of Franco Rodriguez Mena.
Records submitted for the current immigration case show "Rodriguez Mena" traveled to Miami ostensibly to catch a connecting flight to another country. But the record does not show him leaving.
Moreover, a separate record, obtained by The Miami Herald, shows Rodriguez Mena classified as a "violator," suggesting that he might have slipped illegally out of a transit lounge at Miami International Airport without authorization from the immigration service.
So far, Posada has been accused only of being in the country illegally. But use of false documents to enter the country is a federal offense that could result in a sentence of up to 25 years in prison if the false document was used for terrorism purposes. Attempting to enter the United States on a false passport also renders a traveler inadmissible and deportable.
US government officials declined comment.
Matthew Archambeault, a lawyer for Posada, also declined to comment.
In addition to the plot in Panama, Posada has been accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people and has been linked to a series of 1997 bombings at Cuban hotels.
The revelation that he slipped into South Florida once before without being discovered adds new details about his movements just prior to the alleged Panama conspiracy.
It came just months before Posada's trip to Panama, where he was arrested with three other Cuban emigres - all of whom live in South Florida.
The four - Posada, Guillermo Novo, Gaspar Jimenez and Pedro Remon - were released in August after then Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned them. It has since been alleged that Mosocso did so after being bribed by wealthy Cuba-Americans domiciled in Miami.
Posada traveled to Honduras where he went underground and then arrived in Miami in late March, still in hiding.
Novo, Jimenez and Remon were flown to Opa-locka, Fla., in a leased private jet soon after being released in Panama.
One of the three, Remon, told the Miami Herald on Friday that he did not know Posada had been in the United States before March of this year. Novo and Jimenez could not be reached for comment.
Posada's lawyers, in a motion filed last week, objected to the inclusion of the Rodriguez Mena travel record in the government's evidence package. They said it was irrelevant to the case. But the motion did not question the accuracy of the travel record.
Posada's lawyers also objected to the inclusion of other Rodriguez Mena travel records that suggest that he might have flown to the United States on at least three other occasions - in 1998, 1999 and once more in October 2000. There are no corroborating immigration documents to support those trips, however.
The US filing also includes investigative documents from El Salvador, where authorities issued an arrest warrant for Posada on grounds that he procured false documents in their country.
Posada once lived in Miami with a green card in the 1960s, but moved abroad. His lawyer plans to argue in the El Paso proceedings that he is still a resident, despite having been out of the country for decades.
After Panama's Moscoso pardoned and freed Posada and the three others, Posada traveled to Honduras. Once there, he went into hiding and eventually made his way to South Florida.
Man convicted in jetliner bombing wants extradition for Posada
CARACAS, Venezuela - Breaking 29 years of silence, one of two men convicted in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people said in an exclusive interview that exile militant Luis Posada Carriles should be extradited to Venezuela to stand trial in the case.
But Freddy Lugo - who claims he was an innocent dupe in the bomb plot - denied that he made incriminating statements Venezuelan officials attribute to him in their application to have Posada sent to Caracas.
Posada, a former CIA operative who has been linked to a series of 1997 bombings at Cuban hotels, is in U.S. custody after sneaking into the country this year. He is seeking asylum in a case that largely hinges on the shadowy events of 1976 - the year that Lugo says changed his life forever.
Lugo told The Miami Herald that Posada should be returned to Venezuela because he had escaped from a Venezuelan jail before a case against him in the airliner bombing was resolved.
Posada escaped in 1985 - after an initial acquittal but while a prosecutor's appeal was pending. Two years later, a Caracas court acquitted Posada's associate, Cuban exile militant Orlando Bosch. But the court convicted Lugo and his friend Hernan Ricardo.
"He escaped from a Venezuelan jail," Lugo said during the hourlong interview. "He must come to finish serving his time here, like I did, being innocent."
In a June 10 statement as part of its extradition request, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., cited Lugo as a key witness against Posada. The statement said the Venezuelan government had delivered to the United States evidence that includes "the testimony of Freddy Lugo confirming his participation in the blowing up of the plane and of urgent calls made by Lugo and Ricardo to Posada Carriles shortly after the disaster, seeking his help."
That testimony has not been released to the public. But Lugo said of it: "It's false."
Bernardo Alvarez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, said what matters legally in the case is Lugo's prior testimony.
"There are statements on the part of Freddy Lugo which are clear and consistent over the years," Alvarez said in an e-mail to The Herald Friday evening. "We do not know what Lugo said or why he said it to The Miami Herald, but we know what he told the authorities and this is consistent with the submitted evidence."
Posada told The Herald earlier this year that he didn't believe Lugo was involved in the bombing. "In my opinion, Hernan Ricardo may have been involved, although he always denied everything," he said. "Freddy Lugo was a fool."
Lugo still lives in Caracas, in a one-story whitewashed house in a working class neighborhood. It's surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall. He says he makes his money driving a cab.
He lives with his sister, his son and his daughter-in-law and keeps a low profile.
During the interview at his home, Lugo immediately proclaimed his innocence. He also said that he did not know if Posada or the other men implicated in the attacks - Ricardo and Bosch - were guilty or innocent.
"I only know that I know nothing," Lugo said, speaking calmly while his family ate lunch in the kitchen. "I participated indirectly without knowing anything."
Alternately serious and jovial, often exhibiting subtle dark humor, Lugo portrayed himself as a scapegoat, an innocent bystander drawn into a plot that the other three may or may not have hatched without his knowledge.
"Journalists perhaps don't want to interview me because I don't have anything explosive to tell them," Lugo said, smiling.
Lugo and Ricardo were news photographers for the Caracas newspaper El Mundo at the time of the 1976 bombing. They were also part-time covert agents for DISIP, the Venezuelan state security agency.
One of the agency's top officials - before he retired and started his own private security agency - was Posada. Posada also owned a private security firm in Caracas that employed Ricardo - though just before the bombing, Posada reassigned him to serve as Bosch's chauffeur.
Lugo said that when he took a trip overseas with Ricardo in October 1976, he had no idea the plane was doomed. He said he went along because he wanted to buy camera equipment - and Ricardo had offered to pay for the plane tickets.
"What an expensive trip, right? It destroyed my life," he said.
Lugo and Ricardo left Caracas for Trinidad and Tobago, where they boarded the Cubana de Aviacion DC-8. They got off during a stopover in Barbados. Shortly after takeoff from Barbados, the plane exploded.
Lugo and Ricardo left Barbados in a hurry, Venezuelan court records say. Shortly after they reached Trinidad, they were arrested.
Along with Bosch and Posada, Lugo and Ricardo were tried in Venezuela and acquitted by a military court in 1980, but the case was then continued in a civilian court.
By 1987, Posada had escaped. Bosch was acquitted that year. Lugo and Ricardo were convicted and sentenced to 20 years - though in 1993 they were placed on supervised release.
Lugo said he had not had any contact with Ricardo since. Ricardo could not be reached for comment despite several attempts.
Posada's attorney in Caracas, Joaquin Chaffardet, and Posada both told The Herald they believe Ricardo is now out of Venezuela and working as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said the agency does not confirm whether someone is an informant.
According to official Venezuelan documents, Lugo told authorities that immediately after he and Ricardo learned the plane had exploded, Ricardo was both distraught and incredulous.
The Venezuelan account says Ricardo called himself the world's deadliest terrorist - deadlier even than Venezuela's notorious Carlos "The Jackal."
Venezuelan investigators said Lugo quoted Ricardo as saying: "Damn, Lugo, I am desperate and I feel like crying because I had never killed anyone. ... `The Jackal' may have his record as a great terrorist, but I surpassed him. What's more, I surpassed even the Palestinians in terrorism and now I am the one who has the record, because I am the one who blew up that thing."
Lugo told The Herald that he never heard Ricardo make any such statement.
"All those things are false," he said, adding that statements attributed to him during the investigation were fabrications by detectives "to advance their careers."
Lugo revealed a hint of bitterness toward Posada, Ricardo and Bosch, insinuating that he had been deliberately sucked into a sinister plot against Fidel Castro.
He said that during his time in Venezuelan prisons, he distanced himself from Posada, Ricardo and Bosch because he felt that associating with the three men would have made him appear guilty.
"I didn't want to have any relations with those people because that would compromise me more," he said. "I didn't have anything to do with pro-Castro groups or anti-Castro groups or any of those things." Likewise, he said, the strong moral support and legal assistance that Posada, Bosch and Ricardo received from Cuban exiles while in prison did not extend to him.
Now, Lugo said, he just wants to live the rest of his life quietly.
"I wander around the streets of Caracas relaxed," he said. "I don't have any problems or fear. I feel innocent down to the last bone in my body."
Where is Luis Posada?
Conflicting reports indicate the terrorist has been moved from El Paso
By Bill Weaver of Narco News
Jul 19th: Today we received mixed signals on the location of Luis Posada, the anti-Castro terrorist wanted in Venezuela for the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 in 1976. . .
Posada, last released from prison in Panama in 2004, is the Zelig of the Latin American world of spies and intrigue. He was involved with the Bay of Pigs attack, was a major player in Iran-Contra, an operative in the murderous Condor network that wiped out innumerable leftists in Latin America, worked with President Cerezo in Guatemala in attempting to keep the Guatemalan army at bay, and engaged in numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. Indeed, his last stint in prison before coming to the United States was for plotting Castro’s murder during a 2000 visit to Panama; Posada was arrested with 40 tons of explosives.
But for the last few decades, wherever Posada goes the specter of the Bush dynasty follows. At the time of the Cubana bombing, on October 6, 1976, George H.W. Bush was Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and newly released records show that agency involvement with the bombing was greater than even suspected by many of the more cynical observers. It does not get any clearer than the CIA report of June 22, 1976, that stated, "a Cuban Exile extremist group, of which Orlando Bosch [a long-time partner of Posada] is a leader, plans to place a bomb on a Cubana Airline flight traveling between Panama and Havana." Bush senior was also Vice President of the United States when Posada “escaped” from a Venezuelan prison while being tried for the Cubana bombing. Posada resurfaced soon after his 1985 escape from Venezuela, as Ramon Medina, a chief player in the Iran-Contra affair,a grotesquerie hatched by the CIA and the Reagan-Bush Administration that helped fund itself by facilitating drug sales in the United States. In 1986, Bush family friend and lapdog, Elliot Abrams, lied stone-faced to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about U.S. involvement in the "contra" affair, making sure to protect Bush senior:
"Mr. Stokes asked whether denial of U.S. involvement included the Vice President. Mr. Abram’s said Mr. Gregg of the Vice President’s staff had introduced Mr. [Felix] Rodriguez to Salvadoran Air Force officials in 1984 to serve as an adviser on air/ground operations. Mr. Rodriguez’ actions since that time were on his own."
Abrams has resurfaced as a chief adviser in the Bush junior administration. And Bush senior, as President, released Posada’s comrade-in-arms, Orlando Bosch, from federal detention in 1990. Now with the weight of all this history on him, and no doubt tremendous familial pressure, Bush junior must decide what to do with a 77-year-old terrorist who is really the living embodiment of a failed United States policy of decades past. The federal government transported Posada to El Paso, Texas, where he is to have a bond hearing on July 25.
We are unable to go into any further detail, but credible information has it that Posada is no longer in El Paso. Additionally, two separate calls to the detention facility supposedly holding Posada yielded differing information concerning his upcoming bond hearing. During a call this morning, employees said that the bond hearing set for the 25th will be accomplished electronically, with neither Posada nor his attorney to be present. Later in the day, however, a second call to the detention center yielded the information that Posada was “most definitely” at that facility and that he would be present for the bond hearing next Monday.
Bill Conroy, well known to regular readers of Narco News and the Narcosphere, said that he checked with sources on the inside and could not confirm that Posada had been moved. But one of his sources said that “it would not be a big surprise if Posada were moved. They could move him on a whim, claiming he was under threat or for some national security pretense. [The government] want[s] to control [Posada] as much as [it] can without killing him.”
If the U.S. is moving Posada around, it is in an effort to play a shell game with its own past. It must be difficult to know what to do with someone whose life and experience span U.S.-sponsored murder, deceit and lies perpetrated upon people and democracies, and who is a Bush family member by ideology, temperament, and disgust for law, if not by birth. Samuel Beckett once said that, “Habit is the ballast that chains a dog to his vomit.” We will soon find out what chains George W. Bush to Luis Posada.