“For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible” (George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2004)
The Bush administration’s handling of the Luis Posada Carriles case and some of the related media coverage should be a matter of grave concern to the people of the United States. This situation has a lot to do with US credibility. A recent manifestation of this occurred just last week here in Havana, at the International Conference Against Terrorism For Truth and Justice which was attended by hundreds of scholars, writers and political and social leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean, along with representatives from other Continents, as well.
The International and US media have almost unanimously chosen to ignore this Conference. In the very few and exceptional cases where mention has been made, the intention seems clearly to be to reduce its significance to yet another “gathering of Leftists.” As an unrepentant leftist myself I gladly accept the compliment. The progressive movement is certainly alive and well, and growing in this Hemisphere. Perhaps that explains why it was possible for this meeting to take place in Havana with such a broad representation of peoples -â€“ including government leaders, senators and parliamentarians, church dignitaries, and some of the international community’s most important intellectuals. In addition, it should have been of interest to note that the meeting was organized in a matter of days. People were invited with very short notice â€“ less than five days â€“ yet hundreds attended. Many others who were unable to come sent messages of solidarity and support.
What prompted all those individuals to come here precisely now? There are probably two main reasons: the outrage that millions in Latin America feel at the Bush Administration’s refusal to extradite Posada to Venezuela, and the decision to deal with him as if he were simply an undocumented alien.
On the latter, Latin-Americans know quite well how US authorities and the so-called “minutemen” and other vigilantes generally treat “illegals.” Just last year, according to recently released official data, more than 14,000 Mexicans were expeditiously returned to Mexico. How many of them spent two months living in comfortable conditions with easily identifiable friends and protectors issuing public statements through their pals and lawyers? How many were able to give interviews which were published in newspapers and broadcast on TV and radio? And how many of them were able to organize and hold a nationally and internationally publicized press conference on their own behalf?
When Mr. Posada was finally taken into custody -â€“ as reported / shown on US Television — he was rather gently “apprehended,” without the use of handcuffs. He was seen being kindly escorted to what appeared to be a golf cart for his transfer to “custody.” He looked more like a V.I.P. than an undocumented person who had entered the country illegally. He also was able to give an interview to the Miami Herald which sent a journalist specifically for that purpose to the El Paso, Texas detention center where he is being held. (Is this a right afforded to everyone imprisoned at INS facilities?)
The Herald published the interview, of course, and described how Mr. Posada enjoys many other special privileges, including: unrestricted visits from friends, family and legal counsel (and as we’ve seen, even from the press!); unlimited phone privileges; and special food and lodgings where he is living completely separate from the rest of the general inmate population, at his request. Understandably, he acknowledged in the Herald piece that he feels he is being treated very well and does not have any complaints.
What a contrast to the treatment being imposed on the five young Cubans currently serving multiple life sentences in separate, maximum security prisons spread out across the U.S., far from family and loved ones, with only severely restricted contact with their lawyers and “embassy” (The Cuban Interests Section) in Washington. And what was their crime? Fighting terrorism -â€“ literally! They were low-level “members” of Miami-based terrorist groups and thus able to obtain information and prevent the execution of plans for bombings and other violent attacks on Cuban civilian targets, designed to both scare off tourists and traumatize the Cuban population, without regard for the loss of innocent lives.
So their only crime was to fight Miami-based terrorism and their trials — in fact the entire judicial process to which they were subjected — are considered by virtually every legal expert who has reviewed the cases to be in gross and extraordinary violation of regular due process and U.S. legal and constitutional precedent. But, after all, they were tried in Miami just months after Elian Gonzalez came home to Cuba with his Dad.
These five young men â€“ two of them U.S. citizens â€“ have not only been denied of many of their most basic legal rights, but they and their families continue to be deprived of the minimum rights of prisoners in the United States – â€“ family visits, for example â€“ regardless of the fact that they have been condemned to a total of four life terms plus 75 years.
Of course, there are many more differences between Posada and the tens of thousands of Latinos who try to enter the US without a visa. First of all, Posada has been accused and prosecuted and was awaiting the decision of a Court of Law for master-minding the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner, killing all 73 people on board. Posada is a fugitive from justice. He “escaped” from a Venezuela prison in 1985 (with the help of powerful “friends”) and immediately joined the illegal and clandestine activities of what later would become known as the Iran-Contra scam.
Posada has admitted twice that he was responsible for a series of bombings in 1997 in Havana, in which an Italian tourist was killed and dozens of others were wounded. (These confessions were published in the New York Times on July 12 and 13, 1998 and broadcast a few days later by the Spanish language channel affiliated with CBS TV.) In 2000, Posada was convicted by a Panamanian Court for “endangering public safety” by having several dozens pounds of C-4 explosives in his possession, which he intended to use at a public gathering at the University in order to kill President Fidel Castro (along with what would have been hundreds of others, mostly students, who attended that meeting).
Posada is known to have been involved in the torture and killings of many Venezuelans and Central Americans. He has a long career of violence and terror, as he himself attests to in his autobiography (Los Caminos del Guerrero, published in 1994) and in a number of press interviews given over the years. Lastly â€“ but no less important — Posada has had a long association with the CIA since he was first recruited in the early 60s. This association is well documented in a number or recently declassified US official documents that are now available to the public at the Web site of The National Security Archive.
The documents clearly show that both Posada and Orlando Bosch (currently a Miami resident who was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush in 1990) were the principal leaders and founding members of a terrorist group known as CORU, which was responsible for a long list of murders in many countries including the United States, according to U.S. government documentation. One document indicates that the US government was informed of the plan to destroy the Cuban civilian airplane three months in advance. Other documents reflect that in 1976 U.S. authorities — knowing who was involved in that heinous act — tried to protect them and give them sanctuary (as eventually has happened).
There are documents showing that CORU, and specifically Orlando Bosch, was connected with the assassination, on September 21, 1976, of former Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Orlando Letelier and his assistant Ronnie Moffitt, a young woman and US citizen. (Mr. Bosch has not been indicted, nor ever even questioned about this.)
At last week’s Conference in Havana we listened to many witnesses, journalists and academics who have been doing research for years on the crimes committed in Central and South America by dictatorial regimes, always with the full knowledge and support of Washington. In the 70s these regimes established what amounted to a sort of international state-sponsored terrorist campaign or program, known in those days as Operation Condor. As a direct result, tens of thousand of human beings -â€“ maybe more â€“ were kidnapped, tortured, raped, “disappeared” and/or killed, with the full knowledge of US authorities.
Besides the hours of moving and deeply disturbing testimony,one of the things that came out during the Conference was the fact that the links between Operation Condor and the CORU have long been well established and are clearly documented. The international reach of this terrorist activity extended throughout many countries of South America as well as into the rest of the hemisphere. Many innocent people have been killed in Washington DC (the still unsolved Letelier-Moffitt case), as well as in New York City, Miami and Puerto Rico.
We, the people of Latin America, are creating a movement that shall fight until justice is done, the full truth prevails and all terrorists are deprived of the impunity so many of them have so far enjoyed.
Bosch and other CORU members, living freely on US soil, must be brought to justice to answer for the Letelier-Moffitt assassination and the other crimes they have committed. Posada must be extradited to Venezuela: his trial should be resumed and completed. It was still in process when he “escaped” â€“ interrupted by Ollie North and his cohorts. It should be remembered that Posada was in jail in Venezuela while awaiting completion of a trial for the murder of 73 innocent people in the terrorist bombing of a civilian airplane.
The ball is in Bush’s court. If he does not comply with established international law, both his Administration and he personally will be in clear violation of all of the international treaties, conventions and resolutions — some of them drafted and promoted by the US itself â€“ which constitute the legal framework of the war against terrorism.
As he indicates in the statement I quoted to introduce this article, Mr. Bush seems to believe in the importance of credibility in language and the honour of one’s words. So what about his most famous phrase: “Those who harbour a terrorist, those who protect a terrorist are as guilty as the terrorist himself”?