Posada Carriles charged with fraud —not terrorism

On Jan. 11 a federal grand jury in El Paso, Texas, indicted Cuban-born Venezuelan national Luis Posada Carriles, a longtime “asset” of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), on one count of fraud and six counts of lying to government agents. Posada has been in the custody of US immigration authorities since May 17, 2005; he entered the US illegally in March 2005. The charges, which together carry a maximum sentence of 40 years, enable the US to continue to hold Posada; federal district judge Philip Martinez had given the government until Feb. 1 to justify holding Posada for deportation when it has apparently made no progress in arranging his removal from the US.

The US charges that Posada defrauded the government by stating on a September 2005 citizenship application and during an April 2006 naturalization interview that he had entered the US by crossing the border near Brownsville, Texas, with the assistance of a smuggler. The US now says that his Florida-based supporter Santiago Alvarez and others picked him up in the shrimping boat Santrina at the island of Isla Mujeres, in the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, and brought him to the US. Alvarez and another supporter, Osvaldo Mita, are also charged in the fraud indictment; they are currently serving sentences of more than three years for illegal weapon possession. The Cuban government had long insisted that Alvarez smuggled Posada into the US in a private boat.

In 2005 Venezuela requested Posada’s extradition to face charges of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cubana de Aviacion airliner, in which 73 people died. Posada is also wanted in Cuba for a 1997 hotel bombing which killed an Italian citizen who had been living in Canada. In April 2004 Posada was sentenced to an eight-year prison term in Panama in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro Ruiz, but outgoing Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso pardoned him in August 2004.

The US has refused to declare Posada a terrorist or a danger to the community, and it has failed to act on Venezuela’s extradition request. However, a grand jury in New Jersey is reportedly looking at evidence from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that Posada got money from New Jersey supporters, along with explosive materials and recruits, to conduct the 1997 bombing campaign. The grand jury is said to have issued a subpoena for a tape that journalist Ann Louise Bardach, then under contract with the New York Times, made of an interview in which Posada admitted his responsibility for the bombings. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, Jan. 11 from AFP; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Jan. 11; Miami Herald, Jan. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 14

See our last posts on Cuba and the Posada Carriles case.