Cuban Militant Faces Immigration Hearing By ALICIA A. CALDWELL
Associated Press Writer
Luis Posada Carriles’ Cold War past has made for an uncomfortable present. The Cuban exile accused of planning the deadly bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 was set to make an appearance before an immigration judge Monday on charges that he entered the United States illegally earlier this year.
His case has sparked an international battle, with several Latin American and Caribbean governments demanding his deportation and retrial as a terrorist in Venezuela.
A staunch foe of Fidel Castro, Posada is not charged with a crime in the United States, but could be deported — especially with the Bush administration holding other governments to strict account for harboring terrorists.
Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, was arrested in Miami last month. Posada has claimed that he sneaked into the country from Mexico in mid-March and has been held in a federal detention center in El Paso since shortly after his arrest.
A one-time CIA operative and former Venezuelan security official, Posada has been accused of planning the 1976 attack on a Cuban jetliner in Caracas. He has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombing.
He was twice acquitted in Venezuela of charges related to the bombing that killed 73 people when the plane crashed off the coast of Barbados. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 as a prosecutor’s appeal was pending.
Posada later surfaced in El Salvador, where he worked as part of a U.S. effort to give weapons from Iran to Contras trying to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.
The Venezuelan government last month requested Posada’s provisional arrest, which was denied by U.S. officials because of lack of information. Venezuela sent additional information to the U.S. State Department on Friday, including details of an alleged congratulatory meeting between Posada and the bombers.
According to the recently released documents, Posada was overheard saying he and others would “hit a Cuban airplane,” shortly before the plane was blown up. An unnamed former Venezuelan official described as a “usually reliable reporter” was listed in the CIA document as the source for Posada’s comment. Posada, 77, is reported to have made the comment a few days after a fund-raising dinner in Caracas for the leader of Cuban exiles who opposed Castro’s communist government.
On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez repeated demands that the United States extradite Posada, saying his government would rethink diplomatic ties with Washington if the fugitive isn’t handed over.
“He is the father of all terrorists in the Americas,” said Chavez. “If the United States disrespects… international law, we will have to seriously revise relations,” said Chavez.
Posada says he fears persecution if he is not given U.S. protection. His lawyer has left open the possibility that he would agree to depart for a third country if a friendly nation could be found.
Associated Press Writer Christopher Toothaker in Venezuela contributed to this report.