Cuba, Venezuela React Angrily to Posada Ruling

A U.S. federal judge has dismissed all charges against Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban exile and former CIA operative accused of masterminding a 1976 Cuban airliner bombing that killed 73 people as well as a series of other bombings that took place in Havana in 1993.

Posada, who was born in Cuba and later became a citizen of Venezuela, is reported to have sneaked into the United States sometime in late-2004. The May 9 ruling, which nullifies immigration fraud charges that had been brought against him by the U.S. government in El Paso, Texas, attracted “sharp criticism from the Venezuelan and Cuban governments,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle, which reported that “Bernardo Herrera, Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, called the ruling ‘an outrageous double standard.'”

“[Herrera] likened Posada to Osama bin Laden, noting that the bombing of the Cubana flight remains the world’s ninth-deadliest act of airplane terrorism.”

The New York Times reported that the Cuban government was equally infuriated. “Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington, said in a statement that the White House had ‘done all it can to protect the bin Laden of this hemisphere,'” The Times reported. “Mr. Castro has frequently condemned Mr. Posada — he called him a ‘terrorist monster’ on the eve of the May Day celebration in Cuba last week — and questioned why the Bush administration has never charged him with anything more than immigration fraud.”

The Times story indicated that the United States apparently did seek to portray Posada as a terrorist, noting that “in court papers filed in Texas last year, the government described himas ‘an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plotsand attacks on tourist sites.'”

The story asserted that the dismissal of charges caught “both sides bysurprise.”

The ruling puts Posada in a Kafkaesque legal limbo, according to The Chronicle, which explained “he is under a deportation order, but courts have ruled that he cannot be deported to Cuba or its close ally Venezuela because of fears he would be subject to torture in those countries.”

The Chronicle offered this synopsis of Posada’s “exotic” life:

Born in Cuba in 1928, he was a student colleague of Fidel Castro before he fled the country after Castro’s 1959 revolutionary takeover. He quickly began a long association with the CIA, receiving training in sabotage and explosives at the U.S. School of the Americas for the 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Over the next few years, he played a key role in anti-Castro paramilitary groups based in Miami, and he also was involved in a 1965 attempt to overthrow the Guatemalan government. He then relocated to Venezuela, becoming a naturalized citizen of that country and eventually being named chief of Venezuela’s secret police, which worked closely with the CIA. On Oct. 6, 1976, a Cubana jet was blown up in midair after leaving Barbados for Havana. CIA documents released in 2005 indicate that the agency had prior knowledge of the plot, and a recently declassified FBI document placed Posada at two meetings where the bombing was planned.

Posada was arrested in Panama City in 2000 after authorities reportedly found him in possession of 200 pounds of explosives and accused him of plotting to assassinate Castro, who was visiting Panama at the time. The Panamanian’s pardoned him, however, and he later sneaked into the United States. Sometime in 2005 he began holding news conferences in Miami, and, according to The Chronicle, “bragging about his involvement in attacks against Cuba.”

He was later arrested by U.S. authorities and charged with immigration fraud. The Guardian reported that Posada’s “emergence in Miami two years ago embarrassed the U.S. government which charged him with illegal entry but declined to send him to Venezuela or Cuba, saying he would not get a fair trial.”