Posada Carriles walks free; Cuba protests impunity for “monster of terror”

In a surprise decision, US District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, TX, threw out all charges against right-wing Cuban militant and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles May 8, allowing him to go free days before he was set to be tried for immigration fraud. He is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela, where is accused in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

Cardone dismissed the immigration charges on grounds that the US case was based on statements it got from Posada Carriles under false pretenses. He thought he was in an immigration interview that was actually a criminal interrogation, his lawyers asserted, and the judge agreed. “The government’s tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice,” Cardone wrote. “This court will not set aside such rights nor overlook government misconduct because defendant is a political hot potato.”

Her decision provoked an angry response from Cuba. “If the well-known terrorist Posada Carriles is free without charges it is the full responsibility of the White House,” Dagoberto Rodriguez, Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington, said in a statement. The Bush administration, he said, “has done all it can to protect the bin Laden of this hemisphere, for fear that he can talk about the connection between the US government and his terrorist activities.”

“Trying him for minor immigration infractions was a travesty of justice and was designed to fool people into believing the government was serious about prosecuting this man,” said Jose Pertierra, a Washington-based lawyer representing the Venezuelan government in the extradition case.

Sought for the plane bombing by Venezuela, Posada Carriles is accused in Cuba of plotting a series of 1997 hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist. He was jailed in Panama for plotting to kill Castro during an Ibero-American summit in 2000, but was pardoned by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso in 2004.

His lawyers said he would return to Miami, where he has lived with his wife since he was released from jail April 19 on bail totaling $350,000. “He is elated,” said attorney Arturo Hernandez in Miami. “He is very gratified that the system has worked.” (Reuters, May 8)

Cuba’s Periodico 26 reports that the National Security Archives at George Washington University has released documents that “unequivocally prove” Posada Carriles’ culpability in the airplane bombing. Among the documents available on the Archives website are statements from Freddy Lugo and Hernan Ricardo, who placed the explosives on the plane. Lugo and Ricardo incriminate each other for having blown up the aircraft with C-4 explosives and identify Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch as the leaders of the plot.

The organizational chart of the Coordinator of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU), the group that claimed responsibility for the attack, is also available on the site. Ricardo’s statement confirms the ties between CORU and the CIA. A diagram of the plastic bomb used in the attack can also be seen on the site.

The Archives also offer an intelligence report found among the personal papers of Luis Posada Carriles showing not only that he organized the plane bombing, but also other attacks against Cuban installations in Panama, Trinidad and Colombia in the months preceding the attack on Flight CU-455. Peter Kornbluh, in charge of the documents related to Cuba at the Archives, said enough documentation exists to indict Posada. (Periodico26, May 8)

Fidel Castro linked the freeing of Posada Carriles to last week’s attempted hijacking in Havana, saying the two Cuban soldiers who killed an army officer in their failed attempt to escape from the island were encouraged by the prospect of impunity in the US. In an editorial e-mailed to journalists, Castro described the attempted hijacking as “a consequence of freeing the monster of terror.” (AP, May 8)

See our last posts on Cuba and Posada Carriles.

  1. Further details
    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 13:

    In a 38-page decision handed down on May 8, US district judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, dismissed seven charges of immigration fraud and lying to government agents that the US brought against the Cuban-born longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “asset” Luis Posada Carriles in January. “In addition to engaging in fraud, deceit and trickery,” Judge Cardone wrote, “this court finds the government’s tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice. As a result, this court is left with no choice but to dismiss the indictment.” The trial was to start May 11.

    According to Cardone, the government gave Posada an interview on April 26-27, 2006, which officials said would be about his immigration status; but in fact the government was already preparing a criminal case against him and used the interview improperly as a criminal investigation. Cardone also noted that the sentence Posada would receive if convicted would probably be less than the two years he had already spent in jail.

    US agents arrested Posada in May 2005 after he entered the US without authorization. The Venezuelan government quickly filed an extradition request for Posada to face trial in Venezuela in a longstanding case concerning a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner; Venezuela has held for 30 years that Posada planned the bombing while living in Caracas. All 73 people on the plane were killed when it exploded near Barbados. Instead of acting on the extradition request, the administration of US president George W. Bush sought Posada’s deportation. The government brought the fraud and lying charges in January 2007, after it failed to arrange Posada’s deportation within a reasonable period of time and a federal judge ordered his release. Posada was freed on bail on April 19.

    Cuban and Venezuelan representatives didn’t question Cardone’s decision. “The indignation Venezuela feels isn’t against the judge, but against the White House, which has manipulated this case to invite this sort of decision,” Jose Pertierra, Venezuela’s attorney in the extradition request, said on May 9. The immigration charges had been “phony,” Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon noted, speaking in English on the US national radio program “Democracy Now!” on May 10. Judge Cardone’s decision “put an end to a charade that was organized by the administration,” he said. “The government of the United States fully removed its mask,” the Cuban Communist Party paper Granma wrote on May 9. “The decision to release Posada was made by the White House long ago. The attorney general’s office never tried him for what he is: a terrorist. Legal sleight-of-hand was used to conceal the judicial farce.” (BBC News, May 9; La Nacion, Costa Rica, May 8 from AFP; La Jornada, Mexico, May 10; Miami Herald, May 9 from Granma; Democracy Now!, May 10)

    On May 9 the Nicaraguan Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying it had made a “formal request for the extradition of Mr. Luis Posada Carriles, so that he can be tried in Nicaragua for terrorist operations against our country in the 1980s.” (El Nuevo Diario, Managua, May 9) After escaping from a Venezuelan prison in 1985, Posada worked in El Salvador with an operation supplying the US-financed Nicaraguan contra rebels.

    [Some US media, both mainstream and alternative, have reported erroneously on the status of Venezuela’s extradition request. “The courts have blocked Mr. Posada’s extradition to Cuba or Venezuela, ruling that he could be tortured there,” the New York Times wrote on May 10. In fact, the courts have never had an opportunity to rule on the extradition case. Immigration judge William Abbott ruled on Sept. 26, 2005 that Posada could not be deported to Venezuela or Cuba, but this has no bearing on extradition. The immigration courts are part of an administrative system within the US Justice Department and have no jurisdiction in extradition proceedings. According to the Justice Department’s US Attorney’s Manual, a request for extradition is generally made to the State Department, which can decide to forward it to the Justice Department, although the Justice Department can process some requests on its own. If the Justice Department pursues the case, the suspect has a hearing before a federal district judge or judge magistrate, who can then rule on the extradition.]