An elusive Cuban militant sought by Cuba and Venezuela for alleged terrorism will emerge from hiding in Miami soon, his attorney says.
BY ALFONSO CHARDY AND NANCY SAN MARTIN
Luis Posada Carriles, a controversial Cuban militant accused of blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, will emerge from hiding within a few days to meet with Miami immigration officials about his bid for asylum in the United States, his lawyer said Wednesday.
If Posada, 77, comes forward, a high-level U.S. official in Washington, D.C., said he would be immediately detained and put in deportation proceedings—though it’s unlikely he would be sent back to the island. Cuba has said Posada would face a firing squad.
Coral Gables immigration attorney Eduardo Soto said Posada is seeking asylum because he has a ‘‘well-founded fear of persecution’’ for his militant political opinion against Cuban leader Fidel Castro and for ``membership in a particular social group.’‘
Soto said Posada should qualify for protection as a former CIA operative, beginning with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Soto said the social group—people who worked for the CIA against Castro—are targets for persecution.
‘‘It is my utmost and absolute belief that should Mr. Posada Carriles be extradited from the United States, that he would be found dead sooner or later,’’ Soto said. ``He would be shot by firing squad.’‘
Soto’s comments about plans for Posada to go public—perhaps later this week or early next—were the strongest indication to date that Posada is ready to step out of hiding, even though immigration officials would not offer guarantees against detaining him.
Soto said Posada has been in the United States for about a month after sneaking in across the Mexican border.
The U.S. official in Washington, who is in a position to know and spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Herald on Wednesday that ``if Posada Carriles is in the United States, we would consider him to be an excludable alien.’‘
The official added: ``If he presents himself, he will be immediately detained until we obtain a final order of deportation.’‘
Thousands of Cuban exiles have been ordered deported over the years, but only about 1,700 have been ‘‘removed’’ under a specific agreement with Havana on deportation of some refugees from the 1980 Mariel boatlift who became convicted felons later.
Cuba has refused to take all other exiles who have been ordered deported.
The U.S. official said it would be unlikely that Posada would be deported to Cuba ‘‘because of torture concerns,’’ but did not rule out the possibility of considering extradition to Venezuela, where he escaped from prison while his alleged role in the 1976 airplane bombing was pending.
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel this week demanded that should Posada come forward, he be denied asylum by the United States. Rangel said an extradition request from his government is ``pending.’‘
At his news conference, Soto raised concerns that Venezuela could hand over Posada to Cuba if he were extradited to Caracas. Cuba and Venezuela have an extradition treaty.
The official said Posada is by statute ‘‘ineligible for asylum or any parole’’ because he previously admitted, and later denied, being involved in acts of violence.
But even if denied asylum or parole, Posada could be eligible for deferral of deportation because of fears of persecution in Venezuela.
Two former national guard lieutenants, whose extradition was requested by Caracas for allegedly bombing diplomatic missions in 2003, were granted deferrals of removal in February because an immigration judge agreed with their contention they would be tortured in their homeland.
Posada’s case would be referred to an immigration judge if asylum officers deny him protection.
Foreign nationals who request asylum after entering the United States are normally allowed to remain free. However, U.S. immigration officials have said that detention is always possible if information emerges in the foreigner’s record that he is suspected of terrorism or other factors emerge that render him inadmissible or deportable.
U.S. officials have said Posada’s name has been on an immigration watch list for years and that the language indicates he should not be given a visa or admitted because of suspicions of terrorism.
The main allegation against Posada is that he was involved in plotting the 1976 midair bombing of a Cuban airliner, killing 73 people aboard.
Though Posada was acquitted twice in Venezuelan courts, he escaped from prison in 1985 before the final appeals were heard.
Posada, in a 1994 book titled The Roads of the Warrior, denied he was involved in the bombing. He blamed it on the Cuban government.
Posada specifically accused a Miami Cuban exile Ricardo ‘‘Monkey’’ Morales for the bombing, saying Cuban government agents paid him $18,000 at a secret meeting in Mexico City.
In 1982, The Herald reported that Morales testified in an unrelated drug-smuggling case that he had been the ‘‘conduit’’ for the explosives used in the Cuban airliner bombing.
Later that year, he was shot to death during a bar argument in Key Biscayne.