Miami fetes terrorist

Alfonso Chardy writes for the Miami Herald, May 3 (links added):

Militant Cuban exile honored
A beaming Luis Posada Carriles hugged and shook hands with hundreds of supporters late Friday as he arrived at a club in west Miami-Dade fo a dinner in his honor.

“I want to give you a kiss,” said a woman who was among the first to greet Posada as he arrived at the Big Five Club, near the corner of Southwest Eighth Street and 92nd Avenue in West Miami-Dade.

Organizers expected more than 500 guests at the sprawling banquet hall where tables were decked in white linens and red and blue napkins. A band played old Cuban standards, as Posada — dressed in a dark blue suit — went from table to table shaking hands and embracing supporters.

Many were former political prisoners and former members of Brigade 2506.

Among the prominent Cuban exiles on hand: former guerrilla commander and political prisoner Huber Matos, who broke with Fidel Castro early in the revolution and Ernesto Diaz, leader of the anti-Castro militant group Alpha 66.

The dinner amounted to a “coming-out party” for Posada.

The tribute drew criticism from Venezuelan officials who want Posada in connection with a 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane.

The 80-year-old Cuban exile has largely kept a low profile since a federal judge in Texas tossed out a grand jury indictment against him a year ago. The prosecution had alleged that Posada lied to immigration officials about how he sneaked into the United States in March 2005.

Although Posada has been spotted at several public events in South Florida in the last few weeks, Friday night’s dinner marked the first time he appeared at a specific event as a guest of honor.

The dinner was organized by Posada supporters and the Cuban-American group Municipios de Cuba en el Exilio, or Municipalities of Cuba in Exile, an organization whose members are former residents of the various municipalities on the island.

Pedro Peñaranda, the group’s leader from Holguín municipality, told The Miami Herald that the dinner was to “recognize Posada as a great Cuban, a man of dignity and decency and as a great patriot who has suffered a lot.”

After arriving in the United States, Posada was discovered and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who put him in deportation proceedings at a detention facility in El Paso, Texas.

An immigration judge there prohibited Posada’s deportation to his native Cuba and also to Venezuela, where he became a naturalized citizen — but allowed removal to any other country willing to take him. So far no other country has offered to take him.

Posada was released after the judge threw out the indictment in May 2007.

Venezuela has demanded Posada’s extradition over allegations he was implicated in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger jet — an attack that killed 73 people. Posada has denied he was involved.

Bernardo Alvarez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, deplored Posada’s dinner event.

“We asked for this individual’s extradition to Venezuela awhile back, and the United States, instead of complying with its treaty obligations, has provided protection for him,” Alvarez told The Miami Herald.

Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in New Jersey continues to weigh an indictment against Posada in connection with the bombing of Cuba tourist sites in Cuba in 1997. [Sic]

Posada initially acknowledged to The New York Times that he was involved in the Cuba attacks. But during his deportation proceedings, he recanted that statement, saying his English was poor and he was misunderstood.

José Pertierra, an attorney who represents the Venezuelan government in the extradition case, called the tribute to Posada “outrageous,” adding: “It would be like Osama bin Laden being honored by the Arab-American community.”

See our last posts on Cuba and Posada Carriles.