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Posted September 15, 2004 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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By Julia E. Sweig and Peter Kornbluh, Julia E. Sweig is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Inside the Cuban Revolution.” Peter Kornbluh is the author of “Bay of Pigs Declassified.”

To curry favor with Cuban Americans, Bush turns a blind eye.

A little-noticed but chilling scene at Opa-locka Airport outside Miami last month demonstrates that the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting international terrorism can be overtaken by presidential politics — even if that means admitting known terrorists onto U.S. soil.

That’s what happened when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso inexplicably pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of “endangering public safety” for their role in an assassination plot against Fidel Castro during a 2000 international summit in Panama.

After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized by the hard-line anti-Castro community. Federal officials briefly interviewed the pardoned men ó all holders of U.S. passports ó and then let them go their way.

The fourth man, Luis Posada Carriles, was the most notorious member of this anti-Castro cell. He is an escapee from a prison in Venezuela, where he was incarcerated for blowing up an Air Cubana passenger plane in 1976, killing 73. He also admitted plotting six hotel bombings in Havana that killed one tourist and injured 11 others in 1997. Posada has gone into hiding in Honduras while seeking a Central American country that will harbor him, prompting Honduran President Ricardo Maduro to demand an explanation from the Bush administration on how a renowned terrorist could enter his country using a false U.S. passport.

The terrorist backgrounds of Posada’s three comrades-in-arms are as well documented as their leader’s. Guillermo Novo once fired a bazooka at the U.N. building; in February 1979, he was convicted and sentenced to 40 years for conspiracy in the 1976 assassination of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in Washington. (His conviction was subsequently vacated on a legal technicality.) Gaspar Jimenez was convicted and imprisoned in Mexico in 1977 for murdering a Cuban consulate official; he was released by authorities in 1983. Pedro Remon received a 10-year sentence in 1986 for conspiring to kill Cuba’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1980. These are violent men. Panamanian prosecutors said they had planned to detonate 33 pounds of explosives while Castro was speaking at a university in Panama. Had they not been intercepted by the authorities, the blast not only would have killed the Cuban president but quite possibly hundreds of others gathered to hear him speak during the inter-American summit.

For a small but powerful minority in the Cuban American community, the Posada gang are freedom fighters. But Sept. 11 taught the rest of us about the danger of political fanatics who seek to rationalize their violence. To uphold his oft-stated principle that no nation can be neutral in the war on terrorism, shouldn’t President Bush have condemned Moscoso’s decision to release these terrorists? To protect the sanctity of U.S. borders and the security of Americans, shouldn’t the administration have taken all available steps to keep known terrorists out of the United States?

But Florida is crucial to Bush’s reelection strategy. Currying favor with anti-Castro constituents in Miami appears to trump the president’s anti-terrorism principles. So far, not a single White House, State Department or Homeland Security official has expressed outrage at Panama’s decision to put terrorists back on the world’s streets. The FBI appears to have no plans to lead a search for Posada so he can be returned to Venezuela, where he is a wanted fugitive. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has rounded up and expelled hundreds of foreigners on the mere suspicion of a terrorist link, has indicated no intention to detain and deport Novo, Jimenez and Remon.

In June, the White House seemed to have maxed out on pandering to hard-line Cuban exiles when it virtually eliminated family visits and remittances to Cuba as part of a new initiative to undermine Castro’s rule. But that policy has upset anti-Castro moderates in both parties because it criminalizes efforts to build family ties across the Straits of Florida, something a family-values president should support. In response, Bush’s decision to accept the repatriation of the Cuban exile terrorists seems calculated to shore up support in the Cuban American community.

“I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world,” Bush recently said in an interview.

But the decision to allow members of the Posada gang into this country, and the televised spectacle of Miamians applauding their return, sends a different and dangerous message: In a swing state, some terrorists are not only acceptable but welcome.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on September 15, 2004 by curt9954

    Wasn’t it
    george W. Bush who said that “he who harbors a terrorist is as guilty as the terrorist himself”?. What do you have to say about that Mr. President?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on September 16, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    Those Cubans who welcomed these four in Miami should take a lesson from Fidel, if you don’t like the regime, take to the mountains and fight it, but no, instead they have been talking about it for the last 40 years with absolutely no positive results. As far as the other four, it doesn’t take any cojones to set up bombs and kill inocent people or to fire rockets to the U.N. building.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 19, 2004 by Ralph

      It seems to be an oxymoron in some aspect of the war on terror
      because those people who were freed by the former Panama Pre-
      sident,mrs Moscoso,they are just terrorist and one of the—-
      Gold key in the frame of the war on terror is precisely about
      not to harbour any terrorist,despite the fact they are——-
      american citizens,but not Posadas Carriles,who is at large,
      wheresoever,and that hurt me in my Cuban Prowess,because -
      everybody knows that person is the one responsible for killing
      in a notorious terrorist act,many of my fellow cubans,so now
      escape from my mind What the War on Terror is?

  4. Follow up post #4 added on September 21, 2004 by Chulo

    I agree that this flies in the face of the statement “you can’t harbor terrorists.”  However, I think its ironic that most on the left would consider these Cubans “terrorists” and the Palestinian bombers “freedom-fighters.”  Yes, one’ freedom-fighter is another’ terrorist.  But with some objectivity you can tell which is which.  American revolutionaries were terrorists to the British, Palestinians are terrorists to the Israelies, former dissidents in the Soviet Union were terrorists to the Communist Party.  But were they really?  It’ obviously a matter to debate and of point-of-view.

    What I do know, however, is that true terrorist in this whole, sad story for Cuba is Castro himself.  Get rid of him, you get rid of all this nonsense talk about right-wing exiles influencing US politics, terrorists landing in US, etc, etc.

    Why don’t we stop all this crap about Miami and focus on the real problem for Cuba and Latin America…Castro! 

    Or is 45 years not enough for you to wake up?!?!

  5. Follow up post #5 added on September 23, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    Perhaps Mr. Chulo can give us the formula to “get rid of him”
    Does he mean for the U.S. to get rid of him or is he prepared to do something about it?

  6. Follow up post #6 added on September 23, 2004 by Ralph

    Machievelo wrote in his book “The Prince”,that the good purpose
    always justify the worse means,that is for me a bull.Anyone
    who kills inocents people to get on with political,religious
    or whatsoever agendas is just a Terrorist.Even though,in my
    very personal view,some causes are genuine and fair,the pales-
    tinian cause has been spoiled for corrupts and factions and
    groups linked to the terrorism arab,but the feeling of being
    free and have a soil is to me sacred and my GOD bless that,the
    principle of the vasco People to be and live separated of Iberia,is,again,in My stand Point Real and just,but the way
    the army branch of the nacionalist vascos,the etarra group,
    woo the world is a terrorist one.So no left,centre or right
    judgment,terrorism is terrorism,despite that the cause behind.
    Behead human is a barbarian behaviour,especially when the
    victims are soft target and very inocent themselves.You know
    in this issue of Terrorism,it seems to me,as a Cristhian man,
    we should not just reduce the terrorist and bring them to justice,but also reduce the causes of Terrorism,which are many,
    poverty is one,lack of access to medical treatment,for instance,lesser 25% of Hiv patients has access to antiretrovi-
      ral drugs,etc,etc,etcYou know in any place in where the Justice fails,there is a fuel for Terrorism,in MY OWN VIEW
    that"s what terrorism is all about.-

  7. Follow up post #7 added on September 24, 2004 by Chulo

    Easy Mr. Perez.  Just like the world got rid of apartheid in South Africa by boycotting it as a whole, they can rid of Castro.  People bitch and complain why the US has an embargo, etc, etc.  But what has Latin America done about it?!?!  Latin America should have told the Americans 40 years ago to go %&#! themselves and taken care of Castro themselves.  The fact that the Americas is fully Democratic, besides Castro and now Chavez, is wonderful.  Now the rest of Latin America should stop being scared of Castro and take care of Cuba, their own problem.  And told the Americans to get out of the way.  But instead, you have these Latin American leaders who only care about themselves and actually invite Castro to their inauguration balls.  How in GOD’ name can a democatric leader invite someone like Castro to these events?!?!  That’ where the problem is my friend!

    And as far as doing something myself, I’m the son of Cuban exiles who have fought, gotten jail time, and have actually died at the hands of Castro.  Unless u know a little about Cuban history, you have no idea that at the beginning of the revolution there were thousands of Cubans who fought against Castro and died.  Today, however, the Cubans can’t do shit ‘cause they have no weapons.  As for us who were born in the US, we’re not allowed to leave the US to fight Castro.  That was stopped after the Bay of Pigs.  So, again, stop w/ the bullshit antoganism against us (i.e., why don’t u do something about it…) and realize that dictatorships like Castro’ can’t get eliminated w/out outside help.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on September 26, 2004 by Ralph

    The semantic value of the term “terrorist” is “somebody I don’t like and with whom I refuse to speak”. The usage and the concept itself tend to create greater conflict and violence. Properly the subject individuals are “criminals” - and there are today many criminals. Ther are, for example, people who invade countries without US santion…

  9. Follow up post #9 added on September 26, 2004 by ralph

    ooopps. for: “ther are, for example, people who invade countries without US santion…” read: “There are for example people who invade countries without UN santion.”  must be a slip of the tounge…

  10. Follow up post #10 added on September 27, 2004 by Ralph

    Firstly I realize there are others Ralph en this Forum,that
    sounds great to me.Once more time i just wanna highlight that
    Terrorism is the same,despicable and barbarian behaviour come
    from the left,the center or the right or whatever be the cause
    or leit-motiv,and it is easy to see that the first cause of
    terrorist feelings and then terrorist acts is the shorcoming
    of Justice,then in this regard,all of us are guilty,because
    of our failed Justice. but for me is despicable to
    see a guy such Posada Carriles at large,when he attacked many
    years ago a very soft target,a civil plane,in which friends of
    mine,at that time very young and with outstandigs skills in
    Fence,were travelling.Posada,mr. here and there is just a—-
    murderer terrorist and no matter political affiliation,just
    as a cuban that hurt me and what I want is he could the
    sooner the better,take into custody and put him behind bvars
    for the rest of his %&#! life.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on September 28, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    No Mr. Chulo, the world is not going to get rid of Fidel Castro, and neither will Latin America or the US, this is a Cuban affair and only we should do it if we are to preserve our honor as a nation. Cuban history teaches us that.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on September 29, 2004 by ralph

    History suggests that “terrorism” - the genuine thing, is an invention of states, not of individuals. Think of revolutionary France. Genuine terrorism is what Stalin did, what Hitler did, what, many would argue, the bushist junta is doing in Iraq today.

    But, the present legalistic definition is, as I understand it, : “the threat of illegal force or violence, or the use of illegal force of violence, for a political purpose or goal”. Because states define what is “illegal” they can label any person or group “terrorist”. Similarly, they can make violent political acts “legal”, absolving select persons of the onus of “terrorism” and the risk of punishment. The term, as it is used today, then, is arbitrary - it has only a political meaning - and that meaning is: “people the state doesen’t like and with whom the state refuses to speak” In other words the state lables them “outlaws”. 

    Murder, as everybody knows, is murder. We know and recognise it when we see it. Never mind the “terrorist” label, murder for political purpose, whether by individuals or by states is murder, and must, for the good of all, be punished.

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