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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Luis Posada may be charged for financing a terrorist operation

Posted May 10, 2007 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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By ANITA SNOW | Associated Press Writer

The plastic explosives were smuggled in bottles of White Rain and Prell shampoo, and in the soles of a pair of black leather boots. Fixed to Casio digital clocks and 9-volt batteries with black adhesive tape, they became powerful bombs.

Some of them never detonated, and are now on public display in Havana as part of what Cuba calls a wealth of evidence against
Fidel Castro’s archenemy, Luis Posada Carriles, in a string of 1997 bombings targeting Havana hotels.

While Cuba can’t try Posada, who walks free in the United States after being cleared of immigration fraud charges this week by a Texas judge, a federal court in New Jersey just might.

A grand jury is meeting in Newark to decide whether to indict Posada on charges of financing a terrorist operation.

FBI agents visited Havana last year in connection with the probe, following up on a 1998 trip to the island, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

“We’ve provided American authorities with a lot of information,” said Cuban Lt. Col. Roberto Hernandez Cabellero. Visiting FBI agents deposed him during the 1998 trip, and while he said he had no information on more recent visits, he said U.S. prosecutors should have what they need.

Posada, 79, has never been tried for the 1997 hotel bombings, which killed an Italian tourist. In the 1980s, he was acquitted in Venezuela of the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, then escaped from prison while awaiting a retrial.

Although Venezuela still seeks his extradition in the plane bombing, a U.S. judge ruled he could not be sent there or to Cuba for fear he could be tortured.

He was detained in March 2005 on charges of lying to U.S. immigration officials, and was awaiting trial in Texas until a U.S. district judge dropped the charges Tuesday, accusing the U.S. government of “fraud, deceit and trickery” while trying to buy time for its investigation.

The ruling thrilled anti-Castro Cubans in Florida, and turned frustration among Cubans on the island into rage over the Americans’ failure to indict Posada for terrorism. Cuba has called the U.S. government hypocritical for arresting alleged terrorists around the world while letting Posada go free.

“The prosecution never charged him for being what he is — a terrorist,” the Communist Party newspaper Granma declared.

But lawyers say there’s a good chance that Posada will be tried in New Jersey.

“The (U.S.) government is working very hard on this,” said Gilberto M. Garcia, the attorney for five New Jersey Cuban-Americans he described as potential witnesses. U.S. prosecutors, he said, are under tremendous pressure “to get him on something.”

By his own admission, Posada has dedicated his life to Castro’s downfall. He fled his native land after the 1959 revolution and trained alongside other exiles for the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. He went to Venezuela in 1967, became a citizen and worked in the country’s intelligence services.

After escaping a Venezuelan prison, he wound up in El Salvador where he took part in the Iran-Contra arms operation run by Lt. Col Oliver North.

Posada once acknowledged involvement in the Havana hotel bombings — telling The New York Times that “we didn’t want to hurt anybody” — but now denies any link to those attacks or the jetliner explosion.

The federal probe in New Jersey has the most potential to put Posada behind bars in the United States.

“Follow the Newark grand jury,” advised Phil Peters of the Lexington Institute, a pro-democracy think tank near Washington. “The immigration charges were always a sideshow,” Peters wrote in his blog.

Justice Department officials won’t discuss the secret proceedings. But in a 2005 affidavit, a Miami-based FBI agent said the Havana bombings probe turned up records detailing $19,000 in wire transfers from New Jersey to a “Ramon Medina” in Guatemala and El Salvador between 1996 and 1998. Posada has said he had a Salvadoran passport in that name.

During the 1999 Cuban trial of two Salvadorans in the bombings, prosecutors said Posada organized and financed the attacks, recruiting the bombers in Central America and paying about $4,500 for each mission. Both were given the death penalty, but were later spared and remain in prison.

Cuban-American members of Congress were furious when they learned the latest FBI visit to Cuba, complaining to the Justice Department that any evidence gathered by communist authorities would be suspect.

“By asking a state sponsor of terrorism for `evidence’ regarding terrorism, the Bush administration Justice Department demonstrates a shockingly profound ignorance of the nature of terrorism, of its origins, and its state sponsors,” Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

Member Comments

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On May 10, 2007, publisher wrote:

I like the sound of this

“The (U.S.) government is working very hard on this,” said Gilberto M. Garcia, the attorney for five New Jersey Cuban-Americans he described as potential witnesses. U.S. prosecutors, he said, are under tremendous pressure “to get him on something.”

and I hate the sound of this

“By asking a state sponsor of terrorism for ‘evidence’ regarding terrorism, the Bush administration Justice Department demonstrates a shockingly profound ignorance of the nature of terrorism, of its origins, and its state sponsors,” Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

These three idiots are smarter than the FBI? They should just shut up because they ALWAYS make statements that are idiotic!

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On May 10, 2007, J. Perez wrote:

It’s not that they are idiots, it’s that Mr. Posada is one of their idols, probably a close second to Batista.

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On May 10, 2007, Cuban American wrote:

OK im gonna have to step in here.  I don’t want to speak for anyone that I don’t know, however, being a Cuban exile myself I am confident that I speak for the majority when I say that Batista is no idol of mine, he was a dictator as well and I didn’t want him in power.  HOWEVER, life under his regime was MUCH better than life under Castro’s so that being said I don’t know where you get the idea that Batista is one of the exile communities idols.  There is a reason A LOT of the Cubans who are in exile today actually backed Castro back in those days when he was going against Batista.  Of course hopefully you all know the history of him promising democracy and having elections and we all know where that went. 

I don’t love the south florida politicians but they have a point, Castro and his regime have never been trustworthy.  If they want to bring somebody down they would be more than willing to give false evidence to see it happen.  Now I am NOT saying that Posada didn’t do it.

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On May 11, 2007, MiamiCuban wrote:

With all this talk about New Jersey gathering evidence against him, I wonder if Posada is thinking about skipping town?  Of course, Ileana, Mario, Lincoln and all the others who idolize him would have no problem in keeping his whereabouts a secret.  And with what Bush said about how any person or country who aids a terrorist in any way is just as guilty of terrorism, this case could get very messy indeed.  However, what makes me sometimes think this whole thing about trying to “get him” might just all be a sideshow to placate the wrath of those who want to see justice is this:  how are they going to try Posada in court when everything that comes out of his mouth will implicate God knows how many others within our own government?  He was on the CIA payroll, after all, and trained at the School of the Americas to become the monster he is.  Talk about a conflict of interests.

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On May 11, 2007, Pete Chavez wrote:

“If they want to bring somebody down they would be more than willing to give false evidence to see it happen.  Now I am NOT saying that Posada didn’t do it.”

Does anyone remember Ochoa?  What was that all about?  Was it about convicting a known drug smuggler or getting rid of a military rival that started to see the outside world (Angola, North Africa) and realized the system needed to change.  Everyone inside Cuba knows Ochoa was subordinated into admitting to drug smuggling just to keep his family safe from being murdered. 
As far as I am concerned Posada is guilty and it’s as plane to me as the nose on my face.  If the U.S. does not convict him for fear of being exposed or embarassed, well that’s the dirty business of doing dirty business.
They’ll eventually have to face the music one way or the other.  But that doesn’t mean that we have to hand him over to the Cuban three ring circus of justice.  Why on Earth would we as Americans be so appalled at the current corruption and politization scandal of the U.S. Juctice Departent and then turn around and blindly hand over an accused terrorist to the most politicized and corrupted justice system in the hemisphere.  That’s at least on a moral level.
Now on a level more mindfull of our interests, aside from all the things Posada could reveal to not risk getting tortured imagine all the other things the Cubans are capable of getting Posada to admit to that may not even be true in order just to keep the embargo going, the U.N.‘s sympathy going and the U.S. at bay.