Cuba: US loses Posada Carriles case —again

A federal jury in El Paso, Texas, acquitted Cuban-born former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “asset” Luis Posada Carriles of 11 counts of fraud and obstruction of justice on April 8, handing US prosecutors their latest defeat in a case that dates back to Posada’s illegal entry into the US in 2005. The judge in the case, US district judge Kathleen Cardone, threw out one set of immigration fraud charges in 2007; two years later, US prosecutors filed the new set of charges based on Posada’s allegedly lying to immigration officers about his terrorist activities in the past.

Venezuela charged Posada in the 1970s with masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which 73 people died; he escaped from prison and fled the country. In 1998 he told the New York Times that he had been involved in the bombing of two Havana hotels in 1997; Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo died in one of the bombings. Venezuela requested Posada’s extradition in 2005, but US has refused to act on the extradition request, instead trying unsuccessfully either to deport the 83-year-old former agent or jail him on charges related to his immigration status.

The jury took just three hours to clear Posada of the charges, after a 13-week trial. The Venezuelan government quickly dismissed the trial as “theater,” while Granma, the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), denounced the US court system as “Mafia justice.” But DC-based attorney José Pertierra, Venezuela’s representative in the extradition request, noted that US juries sometimes behave erratically. He called the US prosecutors’ evidence “overwhelming,” but he said Judge Cardone had allowed Posada’s defense to use delaying tactics and attacks against Cuba’s government to confuse the jurors, leaving them “deaf and blind.”

Pertierrra insists that the correct way to handle the case remains a trial for Posada’s terrorist acts, not for immigration fraud. A US Justice Department spokesperson had said the department was “disappointed by the verdict.” “I suggest that the US government not be so disappointed, and that they extradite him,” Pertierra told the Mexican daily La Jornada. (LJ, April 9 from correspondent, April 10 from Notimex, AFP, DPA)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 10.

See our last post on Cuba.