Posada Carriles, US-backed terrorist, aquitted in US court
Peter Kornbluh on Acquittal of Alleged Cubana Airline Bomber Luis Posada Carriles
From Democracy Now!
Democracy Now! interviews Peter Kornbluh, the director of the National Security Archive at the George Washington University and the Cuba Documentation Project, about the case of Luis Posada Carriles.
Catch him if you can
A Texas court acquits an alleged right-wing Cuban terrorist
The Economist, April 14, 2011
ONE of the Cuban government’s most legitimate criticisms of the United States involves its handling of Luis Posada Carriles. A Havana-born Venezuelan citizen, Mr Posada helped organise the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. He later worked for the CIA to undermine Fidel Castro and assist Nicaragua’s right-wing Contra guerrillas. In 1976 two of his employees blew up a Cuban aircraft, killing 73 people, including the country’s national fencing team. Over 20 years later he was implicated in bombings of Havana hotels.
Mr Posada has largely evaded punishment for these crimes. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison while awaiting a trial for the aircraft attack, was recaptured and held for eight years without being convicted, and then escaped again.
In 2000 Panama jailed him for plotting to kill Mr Castro during a summit. But Mireya Moscoso, Panama’s president, pardoned him shortly before leaving office in 2004.
A year later Mr Posada sneaked into the United States and asked for asylum. When Venezuela sought his extradition, he withdrew his asylum request and was arrested. However, a judge refused to deport him on the grounds that he might be tortured in Venezuela—a claim many Cubans might find ironic, given the presence of Guantánamo Bay on their island.
Since then, Mr Posada has been in legal limbo. He was transferred from jail to house arrest in 2007 and indicted only in 2009. However, rather than prosecuting him for the bombings, the government charged him with lying about his part in them and about how he entered the United States, and for obstructing its investigations. His trial began in January in Texas.
Cuba and Venezuela have accused the United States of protecting Mr Posada by failing either to try him for terrorism or to extradite him. Yet prosecutors had to prove his role in the hotel bombings to show that he had lied. The evidence seemed strong. The government subpoenaed Ann Louise Bardach, who interviewed Mr Posada in 1998 for the New York Times. In a conversation she taped, he said he was the “boss” of the plot and that an Italian tourist who was killed was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. (He later recanted this confession.) Asked if he was sorry, he said he “slept like a baby”. Prosecutors also unearthed a fax detailing payment for the attacks signed by “Solo”, one of his aliases.
However, the defence cast doubt on the government’s case by painting its witnesses as biased or unreliable. Moreover, the judge did not allow the fax as evidence. The jury debated for just three hours before acquitting Mr Posada on April 8th.
Even though Cuba and Venezuela had objected to the perjury charges at first, they were outraged by the verdict. Ricardo Alarcón, head of Cuba’s parliament, called the trial a “stupid and shameful farce” because of limits on the evidence presented to the jury. Venezuela’s foreign ministry said it was “an emblematic case of the United States’ double standard in the international fight against terrorism.”
The easiest way for America to respond to such attacks would be to extradite Mr Posada—perhaps in a swap for Alan Gross, an American government subcontractor recently convicted of bringing communications devices into Cuba illegally. The only apparent risk this presents is that the 83-year-old Mr Posada might reveal still-secret chapters from the Americans’ history of covert operations in Latin America.