Venezuela-U.S. Relations Strained Further over Non-Extradition of Admitted Bomber

Article excerpt

The Venezuelan government is demanding that the US government hand over accused bomber Luis Posada Carriles, apprehended May 17 by federal authorities in Southwest Miami-Dade, Florida. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to cut ties with the US government if it does not extradite the accused bomber, though US authorities say they have not yet received an extradition request on which they can act. Posada, the anti-Castro militant and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative from Cuba, who has alternately admitted and denied involvement in a bombing in Havana that killed three, said he sought to file an asylum request in the US.

Homeland Security captures Posada Carriles after two months

The US took Posada into "preventive detention" after he gave a clandestine press conference in a Miami warehouse on May 17. He was transported out of Florida and ultimately ended up in an immigration facility in El Paso, Texas. Posada, 77, was preparing to leave the country when he was arrested at the house where he had been staying, said Posada's lawyer, Eduardo Soto. Posada had apparently been moving around the area with the help of a network of anti-Castro Miami residents.

Posada told reporters that he entered the country through Mexico, although Cuban President Fidel Castro repeatedly claimed that Miami developer Santiago Alvarez, a friend and benefactor of Posada, brought him to Miami aboard his remodeled shrimp boat, Santrina, picking him up near Cancun in mid-March.

Posada and three associates received a pardon from outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso (see NotiCen, 2004-09-23, 2004-09-16).

Mass marches in Cuba led by President Fidel Castro called for the accused bomber to be extradited from the US to face jail for his alleged crimes. Press reports said hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Havana to call for Posada's arrest and extradition shortly before Homeland Security agents caught up with him.

Once a supervisor for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company's business operations in Cuba, Posada went on to take training from the CIA for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, though the boat he was on did not arrive before the operation had already failed. He worked for the US on various destabilization and anti-communist campaigns in countries including Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The CIA claims to have had its final contact with Posada in the summer of 1976.

In October of that year, a civilian Cuban airliner flying out of Caracas was dynamited above the Bahamas. In the explosion, 73 people died, including Cuba's teenaged fencing team and eleven Guyanese citizens, most of them students on their way to Havana to attend medical school.

Cuban and Venezuelan reports, along with declassified reports by US agencies, all said that Posada was involved in planning the attack, although Posada denies it.

A Venezuelan court jailed Posada for his role in the 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner. He escaped from jail disguised as a priest in 1985 while waiting for new charges to be filed against him following a prosecution appeal of two acquittals.

In 1998 interviews with New York Times reporter Ann Louise Bardach, Posada said he directed various bombing attacks against Cuba, including the 1997 bombings of Havana tourist hotels and restaurants (see EcoCentral, 1998-08-13). The death of an Italian tourist in one of those bombings has led the Italian government to look into whether it can extradite and prosecute Posada.

In an interview in The Miami Herald before he was arrested, Posada denied any involvement in the airliner bombing but refused to confirm or deny involvement in other attacks, telling the newspaper, "Let's leave it to history."

Cubans, Venezuelans, surviving family members angered

The father and brother of the Italian tourist killed by the bomb in a Havana hotel in 1997 say they are outraged that Posada is seeking asylum in the US. …