Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile and accused terrorist who re-entered the U.S. to file an asylum claim, has been arrested by immigration authorities and is being held at a Florida facility run by the Homeland Security Department’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was arrested a private home in the Miami area hours after he held what the NY Times called a “furtive press conference” in which he denied involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which left 73 dead. Venezuela is seeking his extradition to face charges in the 1976 case. The Times declined to attend the press conference because reporters would have to be driven to an undisclosed location by Posada’s associates, and restrictions on what questions could be asked were imposed. (NYT, May 18)
Also May 17, over 1 million rallied in Havana for Posada’s extradition, in what authorities billed as a “march against terrorism.” Invited foreign guests also took part, including Daniel Ortega, general secretary of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Liberation Front, and Giustino Di Celmo, father of Fabio Di Celmo, the Italian businessman who was murdered in 1997 when a bomb attributed to Posada’s terror network exploded in a Havana hotel. (Granma, May 18)
But hardcore elements of the Cuban exile establishment remain intransigent. Pepe Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, said Posada deserves asylum and is a hero to many in the Cuban-American community. “He’s been fighting one of the worst tyrannies this continent has experienced,” Hernandez said. (AP, May 18)
The possibility that Venezuela will turn Posada over to Cuba is expected to be used as an argument against extradition, as the U.S. traditionally refuses to extradite to Cuba. Venezuela denies this. “There is no possibility that Venezuela would turn him over to another country if Posada Carriles’ extradition to Venezuela is approved,” Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said. “I think it’s an excuse, a subterfuge, that they are using precisely in order to not approve the extradition.” (AP, May 18)
The obvious solution to this dilemma for the retro-Cold Warriors is to start treating Venezuela as harshly as Cuba. Dennis Hays, former coordinator for Cuban affairs at the U.S. State Department and former executive vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, told the Miami Herald May 18: “Castro knows it is unlikely that any democracy would send any politically charged detainee to the kangaroo court system of a Venezuela under Chávez or Cuba under Castro. He has thus turned Posada Carriles’ entry into the United States into a propaganda bonanza, seriously undermining our attempts to secure a hemispheric consensus against all forms of terrorism, including those practiced by Cuba and Venezuela in Colombia and elsewhere.”
A neat little conflation of the Castro and Chavez regimes–desite the fact that Venezuela has a long, long way to go before it reaches Cuba’s level of executive control over the judiciary. He also failed to elucidate what kind of “terrorism” Venezuela is accused of “practicing.”
Meanwhile, the ultra-right Cuban American National Foundation has responded to the Posada controversy by launching a campaign to have former Black Panther Assata Shakur (formerly Joanne Chesimard) extradited from Cuba to the U.S. Shakur fled to Cuba after escaping from prison in 1979, where she was serving time for the 1973 slaying of a New Jersey state trooper. The first-person account on the Assata Shakur website maintains that the police first opened fire on Shakur and her companions in a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. The pro-cop account on NJLawman.com predictably maintains the opposite. In any case, the implicit equation of Shakur (accused of killing one in a still-murky shoot-out) and Posada (acccused of killing at least 73 and possibly hundreds in acts of pre-meditated terrorism across a career spanning a generation) is pretty preposterous.
See our last blog post on the Posada case.