By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press
Facing growing international pressure, federal immigration authorities Tuesday detained a Cuban militant linked to a deadly 1976 airliner bombing and other acts of anti-Fidel Castro violence who has been seeking asylum in the United States.
Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and Venezuelan security official, was detained by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday afternoon, said Dean Boyd, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Cuban President Fidel Castro’s calls for Posada’s arrest by U.S. authorities was echoed by thousands in protests in Havana on Tuesday. Castro claims Posada was brought to Miami from Mexico on a shrimp boat, but Posada says he entered the United States through Mexico and came to Miami on a bus.
Earlier Tuesday, Posada told reporters he was willing to leave the United States and his asylum request and go to another country, but he was detained before he could leave, said Santiago Alvarez, his friend and benefactor. Posada had planned to go to a Central American country, Alvarez said. He would not say which country.
“There’s no reason for them to detain him, but that’s the part of the process in this country,” Alvarez said.
Posada, 77, is wanted by Venezuela for escaping from prison in 1985 while awaiting a prosecutor’s appeal of his second acquittal in the Cubana Airlines bombing, which killed 73 people when it crashed near Barbados. Recently declassified CIA and FBI documents quoted informants as linking Posada with planning meetings for those bombings.
Venezuela recently approved a formal extradition request and Castro has made numerous televised speeches calling Posada a terrorist and accusing the United States of a double standard in the war on terror. The United States and Venezuela have an extradition treaty.
“The majority of Americans would never be in favor of harboring a terrorist,” said Wayne Smith, a former U.S. envoy to Cuba who now heads the Cuba program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.
If the United States were to grant asylum, Smith added, “we will be seen as hypocrites and as being against terrorism only when is suits our purposes.”
Posada and three others were pardoned last August by Panama’s then-president for their role in an alleged assassination plot in 2000 against Castro during a conference in Panama. Posada’s whereabouts had been unknown until he surfaced in Miami in March after entering the United States through Mexico.
Posada was also connected to a series of 1997 bombings of tourists sites in Cuba, one of which killed an Italian tourist. Posada refused to confirm or deny involvement in those attacks, telling The Miami Herald in an interview published Tuesday, “Let’s leave it to history.”
“I feel that I’ve committed many errors, more than most people,” he said. “But I’ve always believed in rebellion, in the armed struggle. I believe more and more every day that we will triumph against Castro. Victory will be ours.”