President Bush addressed delegates to the Organization of American States (OAS) gathering in Fort Lauderdale this past Monday, June 6. Speaking to representatives from the nations of a seething, rebellious continent in the United Statesâ€™ backyard, the presidentâ€™s speechwriters hit all the usual notes, even invoking Latin Americaâ€™s independence heroes Jose Marti and San Martin.
He gushed about Floridaâ€™s â€œvivid tiesâ€ to its southern neighbours in the Americas:
â€œIf you spend any time in this state, you’ll find people from all over our hemisphere who live here.â€ (See full speech, June 6 2005)
We can imagine that the ties that Bush meant to invoke were his big campaign donors and organizers amongst the reactionary elites of Little Havana (a.k.a. the Miami Mafia), and not the criminalized and harassed Haitian refugees, fleeing either the economic violence of colonialism or the brutal physical repression that has accompanied the coup regime of Gerard Latortue. The human rights disaster in occupied Haiti is one of the unmentionables for the U.S. and its allies at the OAS.
Another unmentionable subject for Bush is the case of perhaps the hemisphereâ€™s most notorious terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, who was recently detained in Florida for illegally entering the country from Mexico. The septuagenarian anti-Castro zealot has spent decades organizing terrorist violence against Cuba, and his history of collaboration with U.S. officials â€“ he is a former CIA â€˜assetâ€™ — illustrates the extreme hypocrisy of the â€œWar on Terrorâ€.
He is wanted for trial in Venezuela for his role in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airlines flight which killed all 73 people on board, having escaped a Venezuelan prison in 1985. In the late 1990s, Posada was involved in organizing a series of hotel bombings in Havana in which an Italian tourist was killed; he even boasted of his involvement in these terror attacks meant to scuttle Cubaâ€™s emerging tourist industry, telling the New York Times that he â€œslept like a babyâ€ despite his role in the attacks. In 2000 Posada was arrested in Panama for a plot to blow up the stage at an auditorium full of students attending a speech by the Cuban President. Later pardoned for this crime, he recently turned up in his familiar haunt of Miami.
Carriles is now at the center of a diplomatic struggle between the Bush administration and the oil rich part of the anti-imperialist Cuba-Venezuela alliance that veteran empire-builders like Otto Reich have labeled the â€œreal axis of evil.â€ Hugo Chavez — who at least one hysterical right-winger blogger has taken to calling â€œMini-Meâ€ because of his close friendship with the veteran Cuban leader â€“ has stridently called for Carrilesâ€™ extradition, organizing demonstrations of thousands in Caracas and even threatening to suspend diplomatic relations with the United States after they turned down Venezuelaâ€™s initial request.
Canadaâ€™s Department of Foreign Affairs, not surprisingly, has yet to make any comment on the Posada extradition. Activists, though, are working to hold all of the governments represented at the OAS to account, hoping to bring more pressure to bear for Carrilesâ€™ extradition. The Mexican government has, for instance, supported Venezuelaâ€™s claim, noting that the two countries have an extradition treaty and indicating that they would honour the agreement in the event that Posada were deported to Mexico.
One doesnâ€™t have to look into Latin American affairs to see the utter hypocrisy and racism of the â€œWar on Terror,â€ but it sure helps. While the United States tortures â€˜suspected terroristâ€™ detainees at its illegally occupied base at Cubaâ€™s Guantanamo Bay, admitted terrorists walk the streets of Miami, enjoying total impunity.
Posada Carriles, for his part, has requested asylum in the United States, hoping to be rewarded for his terrorist services rendered. But a number of voices, even within the United States, are lining up against him. Even the U.S. â€˜newspaper of recordâ€™ has gone on record in favour of the extradition:
â€œWashington would offend American principles and set an extremely damaging precedent by making a special exception for an admitted terrorist.â€ (New York Times, May 9, 2005)
The particular alignment of circumstances today might just force the U.S. to send Posada to Venezuela and bring a semblance of justice to his victims. If it doesnâ€™t, though, it will be one more episode in sheer hypocrisy that will fuel the anti-imperialist resolve of the people of both Venezuela and Cuba, and their many allies in mass social movements across Latin America. Either way, in this case that defines their blatant double-standards, the U.S. government loses.
*Derrick O’Keefe is co-chair of the StopWar coalition in Vancouver and a founding editor of Seven Oaks Magazine (www.SevenOaksMag.com), an on-line journal of politics, culture and resistance.