Cubans mark anniversary of 1976 airliner bombing

Campaign News | Friday, 7 October 2005

Sadness and frustration over Posada case

HAVANA Oct 7 - Cubans marking the 29th anniversary of an airliner bombing that killed 73 people expressed frustration and sadness yesterday at the fact that terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, currently in the United States, has yet to be punished for his alleged involvement in the crime.

Posada, a Cuban native who became a naturalised Venezuelan, is accused of masterminding the attack in which a Cubana Airlines plane travelling from Barbados to Havana exploded in the air on October 6, 1976. Posada, who was arrested in Miami in May, has denied the bombing charges.

He is currently in a US detention centre in El Paso, Texas after allegedly crossing into the United States illegally from Mexico in March. Cuba and others have been clamouring for him to be sent to Venezuela to stand trial in the bombing, but an immigration judge declared last week he could not be deported there, citing the possibility he would face torture - a claim vehemently denied by Venezuela.

"What we are seeing is that justice doesn't exist, because he is a murderer," said Jorge Ramos, who was just 12 when his father Armando, a Cubana pilot flying on the plane as a passenger, died in the explosion.

Relatives of the victims, wiping away tears and embracing, laid flowers at a memorial in Havana's historic Colon Cemetery. They carried enlarged black-and-white photographs of their loved ones on wooden posts.

Hundreds, including crew members of Cubana Airlines gathered for the ceremony, which included remarks by Margarita Morales, daughter of another victim, Luis Morales Viego.

"We demand that (the US government) stop looking for excuses to protect Posada," said Morales, 43, whose father coached the young Cuban fencing team that had just won a regional competition before boarding the plane. "We demand ... (his) immediate extradition to Venezuela."

Relatives say the 77-year-old Posada could also be sent to a country other than Venezuela or an international tribunal to face trial.

"What we are looking for is justice," said Ramos, who restores furniture.

Cuban President Fidel Castro has repeatedly accused the US government of hypocrisy in its "war on terrorism" for not immediately turning over Posada, a one-time CIA operative.

Castro has also publicly accused Posada of leading a plot to kill him at a summit in Panama in 2000. The Cuban government also accuses Posada of overseeing a series of hotel and nightclub bombings on the island in 1997 that killed one Italian tourist.

Venezuelans tortured by Posada Carriles prepare to testify

Caracas, Oct 3 (Prensa Latina) A group of Venezuelans who were tortured by Luis Posada Carriles prepared their accusations Monday to support an extradition demand for the criminal of Cuban origin.

The victims, tortured by Posada when he held a high-ranking post with the Venezuelan Political Police (DISIP), have formed a group to see that justice is done.

Jesus Marrero, group coordinator, told Prensa Latina that he was tortured on Posada?s orders, and he considers the US judge?s ruling, not to hand the criminal over to Venezuelan authorities, as an insult especially with the pretext that he might be tortured in this South American country.

The terrorist of Cuban origin escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 to avoid trial for his responsibility in masterminding the explosion in 1976 of a Cuban civilian plane that killed all 73 people onboard.

Regarding the extradition requested by Venezuela from the US, he recalled that the judge only heard the testimony of Joaquin Charfardet, the criminal?s current lawyer, who was also one of Posada?s associates at DISIP.

The judge, he said, should summon Brenda Esquivel to declare. On Posada?s orders, she was beaten to the point of losing the baby she was carrying in her womb, because Posada considered such "bad seeds" should be wiped out.

Marrero mentioned other documented cases, including the murder of Pancho Alegria and the disappearance of Noel Rodriguez, who was arrested by DISIP, and whose remains the families are still trying to locate.

The human rights activist said he hoped these case histories will contribute to the Venezuelan government?s effort to obtain extradition of Posada.

He noted, moreover, that these were only a small part of a great number of murders and disappearances committed under the orders of that criminal.

The compiled evidence will be given to Venezuela?s Ministry of Foreign Relations to support the extradition demand made in accordance with an agreement signed between both nations.

We are gathering testimony from people affected and from witnesses, and we want the same judge who asked for Chafardet?s testimony to support Posada, to listen to us as people who were affected by his torture, abuse and disappearances, stressed Marrero.

The anti-terrorist activist explained that this is one of several initiatives by Venezuelan society in support of the extradition demand. Venezuelans will take to the streets on October 6 to commemorate the Crime of Barbados.

This is the name by which people identify the terrorist action masterminded by Posada and his accomplice Orlando Bosch (also of Cuban origin), and two other Venezuelans who blew up the Cuban plane on its Caracas-Trinidad and Tobago-Barbados-Havana route.

Chavez: 'US is sheltering terrorists'

BRASILIA, September 29 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated today that the decision by the United States not to extradite Luis Posada Carriles to Caracas "shows that Washington is determined to give refuge to terrorists."

Chávez, who arrived Thursday in this city to attend the 1st Summit of the South American Community of Nations, said that the decision by a U.S. judge postponing Posada’s deportation based on the idea that he could be tortured in Venezuela "does nothing more that reinforce an evident fact: the United States protects terrorism."

The Venezuelan president affirmed that it is a "cynical" and "fraudulent" decision that "demonstrates to the world the Dracula fangs embodied by the U.S. government."

Regarding this same issue, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez said today during an interview with EFE that the refusal to extradite Posada is an "emblematic case of double talk and double standards."

According to Rodríguez, U.S. President George W. Bush "calls himself an ardent fighter against terrorism, but permits an individual on a level with Osama bin Laden to receive his country’s protection."

The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs also demanded that the U.S. State Department deliver the extradition application made by Caracas in June to a federal judge.

Venezuela’s Attorney General’s Office made similar statements.

For his part, William Brownfield, the U.S. ambassador in Venezuela, apparently overwhelmed by the criticism, admitted today that terrorist Luis Posada Carriles’ extradition to Venezuela should be considered by the U.S. justice system.

Questioned by reporters, the diplomat limited himself to saying that the U.S. legal system would make a decision on the Caracas application at the "appropriate time."

DISGRACE IN EL PASO Revenge in Miami

From Granma Newspaper, Havana 29 September:

Two days ago, in El Paso, Texas, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the expeditious decision by Judge William L. Abbott not to deport terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba, arguing that he was at risk of being tortured in either nation, and resorting in a manipulative way to the exemptions provided for by the International Convention Against Torture.

Yesterday in Florida, in an attempt to prolong a kidnapping, federal prosecutors announced their petition to the Court of Appeals in Atlanta for a full review of the August ruling by a panel of three experienced judges to overturn the trial in Miami of five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters for failing to be a "fair and impartial" proceedings, and to organize another trial in a new venue.

Both of these news items reflect in all of their magnitude the cynicism and shamelessness that accompany the conduct of the U.S. administration and the falsity and hypocrisy of its supposed anti-terrorist crusade.

For two months, the White House concealed the presence on U.S. soil of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, and up until today, it is still remaining mute as to how he arrived in that country.

His arrest, unavoidable in face of the forcefulness of Cuba’s denunciations, was carried out as delicately and benevolently as possible. His stay in an immigration detention center has not lacked preferential treatment. Government spokespeople have repeatedly resorted to verbal outrage in order to avoid describing the terrorist as such.

The arrest in Miami seven years ago of the five young Cuban anti-terrorist fighters was not lacking in violence and violation of their rights. Their destination was 17 long months in punishment cells and a judicial process plagued with manipulation, partiality and the revengeful hatred of the anti-Cuban mafia and its slanders. Their long and absurd sentences were the fruit of revenge and lies.

While in the case of the Five, federal prosecutors presented false charges, terrified witnesses and manipulated evidence, prosecutors’ conduct during the El Paso proceedings have been no less shameful: without a single argument or a single witness presented to refute the maneuvering by the defense, like a premeditated agreement to protect the terrorist.

The government that has unleashed wars and sent its soldiers to die in the name of its battle against terrorism is the same one that is currently protecting one of the most notorious terrorists of our times, the mastermind of the horrendous sabotage of a Cuban airliner with 73 passengers on board, and the person responsible for many other deaths of Cuban citizens and those of other nations.

Washington is defending one of its peons in the criminal war against our people, in the support to Latin American dictatorships in earlier decades, in the sinister operations of the dirty war in Central America and in the assassinations of political figures and heads of state opposed to imperialism’s hegemonic interests.

How cynical to resort to the argument of torture in the case of Posada Carriles, when he himself is accused in Venezuela of having savagely tortured many citizens of that country during his years as a DISIP officer.

Cynical, as well, because the country that is being internationally accused of practicing torture is not Venezuela or Cuba, but precisely the United States, which has made that degrading treatment a common practice in Afghanistan, Iraq and the illegally occupied Guantánamo Naval Base.

In addition, Cuba has not applied for the extradition of the terrorist, in spite of the fact that it has every right to do so. It is Venezuela that has made a petition to extradite a criminal that has pending debts with that country’s justice system, and has offered all of the necessary guarantees to put Posada Carriles on trial.

The U.S. government has kept a shameful silence on this petition, in a clear demonstration of its complicity with the terrorist.

It remains to be seen what third nation offers to take in a criminal of that sort and does Washington the favor of getting rid of that hot potato, as can be perceived by Judge Abbott’s decision.

Cuba will not stop fighting until Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch and other terrorists like them are convicted of their crimes.

Cuba will continue to support the legitimate extradition application presented by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Cuba will not stop denouncing the cruel kidnapping that is maintaining our Five anti-terrorist heroes in isolated U.S. prisons. Our people will not cease in its battle for them to return, dignified and free, to our homeland.

Cuban terror case erodes US credibility, critics say

By Jim Lobe for the InterPress News service and posted on the website

THE decision Tuesday by a U.S. immigration judge in Texas to deny Venezuela's request to extradite Luis Posada Carriles, whom Caracas has dubbed "the Osama bin Laden of Latin America," was greeted with surprise and disappointment by Latin America activists and even some former U.S. officials.

Venezuela wants Carriles to stand trial for the October 1976 bombing of a civilian Cubana Airlines flight that killed all 73 people aboard shortly after it took off from Barbados.

Venezuela's ambassador here, Bernardo Alvarez, accused the George W. Bush administration of using a "double standard" on terrorism. He said the White House and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which represented the administration before the court, "virtually" collaborated with Posada by failing to contest statements by one defense witness that Posada would be tortured if he were returned to Caracas.

"There isn't a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela," said Alvarez, adding that "if we examine our respective records on torture, a prisoner is more likely to be tortured in the custody of the U.S. government than in the custody of Venezuelan officials."

Some U.S. officials, who declined to speak on the record, also deplored the decision by immigration judge William Abbott not to extradite Posada on the grounds that he could face torture in Venezuela.

"It's bad enough when the world knows that we're rendering suspected Islamic terrorists to countries that routinely use terror," said one State Department official. "But here we have someone who we know is a terrorist, and it's clear that we're actively protecting him from facing justice. We have zero credibility."

"The long and short of it is that we are harboring a terrorist," agreed Wayne Smith, who headed the U.S. Interest Section in Havana in the late 1970s and early 1980s. "This is really a total farce."

Posada, now 77 years old, entered the U.S. illegally last spring after he was unexpectedly freed by outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso from an eight-year prison term that followed his 2004 conviction for conspiring to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro during the latter's visit to Panama in 2000. Among those who successfully lobbied Moscoso to release Posada were several Cuban-American lawmakers from south Florida.

Even as reports of his presence in Miami mushroomed, and his lawyer announced that he intended to request political asylum, during April and early May, neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) nor DHS, which controls the U.S. immigration service, made any effort to apprehend him.

Posada was finally arrested - on immigration-related charges only - after appearing at a well-attended press conference in Miami, and was quickly transferred to a jail in El Paso, Texas. Even before extradition papers had been received, however, DHS announced that it would not deport him to Cuba or to "a country acting on behalf of Cuba" - an apparent reference to Chavez's close relationship to Castro.

Nonetheless, Caracas formally requested his extradition in mid-June and has since submitted reams of documents in support of its request, including assurances that he would not be mistreated if he were returned.

According to the independent National Security Archive (NSA) here, the Cuban-born Posada joined the U.S. military in 1963 and was recruited by the CIA, which trained him in demolitions. CIA documents posted on the NSA's website show that he was terminated as an asset in July 1967 only to be reinstated four months later.

A 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 Foundation.

Plots 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.

His relationship with the CIA lasted until 1974, although he retained contact with the agency at least until June 1976, three months before the plane bombing, according to CIA documents. During that period, he worked in Caracas as a senior official in the Venezuelan intelligence agency, DISIP.

A 1972 CIA document described Posada as a high-level official in charge of demolitions 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.

In 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 Orlando 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.

Bosch, another anti-Castro radical, was pardoned by former President George H. W. Bush in 1990 despite a recommendation by the U.S. Justice Department that he be deported. He currently lives in Miami and has repeatedly called for Posada to be granted asylum

Another CIA document released last June cited a report several days after the plane was blown up by a former Venezuelan government official characterized as "usually a reliable reporter" that Posada had bragged a few days before the bombing that he and Orlando Bosch were planning to "hit" a Cuban airplane.

A Nov. 2, 1976, CIA 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 the bombing.

Posada was arrested by Venezuelan authorities shortly after the bombing in what one former FBI counterintelligence official described to the New York Times last spring as a "preventative measure - to prevent him from talking or being killed."

Posada then spent the next eight years in jail, punctuated by two inconclusive trials, before escaping Venezuela in 1985 and making his way to Central America, where he quickly found employment with the "Contra" resupply operation run out of the National Security Council under former President Ronald Reagan until it was exposed in late 1986, when he went underground again.

In a 1998 Times interview in Central America, Posada admitted to organizing a wave of bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 others.

None of this was deemed relevant to the immigration judge, however, who wrote that "the most heinous terrorist or mass murderer would qualify for deferral of [extradition] if he or she could establish ? the probability of torture in the future."

In fact, the only testimony before the judge that Posada could face torture if returned to Venezuela came from a single witness, Joaquin Chaffardet, a close friend of Posada's, and his attorney, Matthew Archambeault.

To the amazement of Venezuela's attorney, Jose Pertierra, U.S. government lawyers offered no rebuttal to Chaffardet's testimony and went on to voice reservations about Venezuela's judicial system and its "increasingly tight" relations with Cuba.

"DHS gave this decision to the judge on a silver platter," Pertierra told reporters. "We feel very deceived with the conduct of the prosecutors and DHS, which didn't litigate this case in good faith."

"All the government lawyers had to do was to point to the State Department's annual human rights report on Venezuela that says there is no recent history of people being tortured in Venezuela," said Smith, who added that the result "may work very well for the Bush administration which can now hide behind the judge's dubious finding. This is really shameful."

Peter Kornbluh, a Cuba expert at the NSA who has played a key role in getting secrets documents on Posada's activities declassified, said the government's handling of the case was a "travesty that compromises its fight against terrorism."

"How the Bush administration expects to be taken seriously on the war on terrorism given the way it has handled every stage of Luis Posada's return to the United States that will haunt U.S. security interests for a very long time," he said.

For its part, the administration stressed that Posada may still be subject to deportation to another country, although their efforts thus far to persuade several Latin American countries have proved fruitless.

But Archambeault said he planned to make a new effort at securing Posada's release in the United States. "We are pleased. This is what we envisioned was going to happen from the beginning."

(Inter Press Service) Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Disgraceful decision: immigration judge refuses to extradite Posada

From Granma newspaper, Cuba

WASHINGTON-Immigration Judge William Abbot decided on Tuesday, September 27 that terrorist Luis Posada Carriles should not be deported to Venezuela or Cuba.

According to media reports from Miami, Abbott issued a written decision saying that Posada, accused of planning the sabotage of a airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people, could be tortured in those two countries, and that under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, he should not be extradited.

With that disgraceful decision not to extradite the terrorist to Venezuela, the U.S. justice system has demonstrated the double standard of its policies.

Abbott determined that the criminal should remain in the United States in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The decision does not rule out the possibility that the prisoner could be sent to another country, which would enable Washington to rid itself of an undesirable guest at a time when the White House is claiming to be combating terrorism.

"This is a chronicle of an agreement foretold, from the day that Luis Posada decided to travel to the United States," stated José Pertierra, a jurist specializing in immigration affairs. "It began when FBI agents escorted him from Panama to Honduras, and continued when he was in Miami for several weeks without being arrested. It continued with the preferential treatment he received from the Homeland Security Department, which took him away in a golf cart, and so on until today."

The legal expert noted that Abbott’s decision does not invalidate the Venezuelan government’s extradition petition, because the immigration process is parallel to and independent of the extradition process. "Moreover, the extradition process has precedence over the immigration process," he affirmed.

The judge has given the U.S. government 90 days to locate a third country that would receive the terrorist, while prosecutors have one month to appeal this decision. "Until the 30 days are over, Abbott’s decision is not a final one, unless the prosecution decides not to appeal and announces that, something I doubt very much," Pertierra commented.

"There are two dangers at this moment," he added. "One is that the U.S. government could send him to a third country during the next 90 days in order to prevent his extradition to Venezuela; the other is that the U.S. could declare that it will not attempt to deport him, and could set him free on bail, as it did with Posada’s buddy, Orlando Bosch."


In Caracas, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the U.S. justice system’s conduct in the case of Luis Posada Carriles "not very serious," and urged the U.S. State Department to accelerate the initiation of an extradition trial against the man wanted by Venezuela for "terrorism," EFE reported.

Mari Pili Hernández, deputy minister for North American relations, also described as "unwonted" that a U.S. immigration judge should refuse to deport Posada Carriles to Venezuela because he could be supposedly tortured in this South American country.

Hernández said that Posada Carriles "is facing two trials" in the United States; one for having illegally entered the country, and the other, "which has not begun," for his extradition to Caracacas, which has charged him with the sabotage of a Cubana Airlines plane in 1976, killing 73 people.

"The serious thing to do would have been to halt the immigration trial to carry out the extradition trial," Hernández stated, arguing that an "immigration trial" could not take precedence over another for "the first-degree murder of 73 people."

Hernández maintained that the trial on the extradition case has not begun because the U.S. State Department has not provided a federal judge with the "bulging file" it was given by Caracas as part of the legal procedure.

"Now, Venezuela and the victims’ families are demanding that the file be presented immediately to a federal court...the extradition trial is there, let’s see if they’re going to hold it off forever," the Venezuelan official commented.

She linked the supposed delay in providing the Venezuelan documents to a federal judge with the fact that "some U.S. authorities" with links to "powerful political sectors" in that northern nation are trying to protect Posada Carriles.

In reference to the immigration judge, Hernández described as "unwonted" the defense argument against deportation of the terrorist to Venezuela based on the International Convention Against Torture.

"Where do these gentlemen get the idea that torture is practiced in Venezuela? Let them prove that," she said.

She also described as "not very serious" the fact that the "expert" who testified at the immigration trial on the risk of torture was "Joaquin Chafardette, a buddy of Posada Carriles and his defense lawyer in Venezuela."

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