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Posted July 13, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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JIM DeFEDE | Miami Herald
Bodies were still being pulled from the wreckage Thursday when U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement condemning what she called the ‘‘barbaric’’ terrorist attack in London. But where was the congresswoman’s outrage when she came to the defense of Luis Posada Carriles, a man who bragged about masterminding a series of hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist? A man suspected of blowing up a Cuban airliner? Where was her desire to ‘‘neutralize terrorism’’ when she pleaded two years ago with the president of Panama to release Pedro Remon, Guillermo Novo and Gaspar Jimenez?

Those men, along with Posada, were convicted in Panama of endangering public safety, a charge stemming from an alleged plot to blow up a university center where Fidel Castro was scheduled to visit.

Ros-Lehtinen, along with fellow Reps. Lincoln and Mario Daz-Balart, quietly wrote to Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso asking that she pardon the four men. And in one of her last acts before leaving office, Moscoso did just that.

Ros-Lehtinen and the Daz-Balarts defended the letter, which The Herald
recently uncovered in Panama, saying the four men were being held “under questionable legal and procedural circumstances.’’

Ros-Lehtinen is currently vying to become the next chair of the House International Relations Committee, which would make her one of the leading voices in Congress on matters of foreign policy and the worldwide fight against terrorism.

But what moral authority can she bring to such a post when she helps individuals who many consider to be terrorists themselves? Remon, for example, pleaded guilty in 1986 of trying to blow up the Cuban Mission in
New York.

Novo, a member of the violent anti-Castro group Omega 7, was convicted in the 1976 bombing murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier. The verdict was overturned on appeal.

Jimenez and another man served six years in prison after they tried to kidnap a Cuban diplomat in Mexico and killed his bodyguard instead. Federal prosecutors also indicted him for placing a bomb in the car of radio commentator Emilio Milin, who lost both his legs in the blast. A new U.S. attorney quashed the indictment, citing problems with a witness.

And finally, there is Posada.

How is placing bombs in hotels and restaurants in Havana any different from placing bombs on trains and buses in London?

Posada—who denies blowing up the Cubana jetliner—bragged to the press about the Havana hotel bombings.

When his bragging caused problems for his supporters in Miami, he recanted.

Today he won’t discuss the bombings.

I wanted to talk with Ros-Lehtinen. Friday morning I called her press secretary and explained precisely what I was working on. He said he would get back to me, but I never heard from him or the congresswoman, despite subsequent calls.

Ros-Lehtinen’s efforts on behalf of these four men shouldn’t have surprised anyone. When she first ran for Congress, she came to the aid of another Cuban militant, Orlando Bosch, and it helped her get elected.

But what wins elections in some parts of Miami will likely smack of hypocrisy elsewhere.

Either you believe that terrorism is barbaric or you don’t. Either you believe those who commit such acts disrespect humanity or you don’t.

The nobility of your cause cannot be a justification for terror, because every terrorist believes that what he is doing is right.

Which is why the only way to fight terrorism is to condemn it in all its forms and not just when it is politically convenient.

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