Cubans can be terrorists, too
Apr. 21, 2007
Editorial from The Globe
THE BUSH administration, which revels in its no-holds-barred approach to fighting terrorism, is treating one accused terrorist with extraordinary gentleness. Luis Posada Carriles worked for the CIA in the '60s and '70s, ran guns for the US-backed Contras in Central America in the '80s, and has many supporters among Cuban exiles. But he still is accused of masterminding the murder of 73 passengers and crew members on a Cuban airliner in 1976. He needs to be brought to account.
The Cuban government would like to get hold of Posada as well, but as a sign put up in Havana suggests ("Cuba Declares Him Guilty"), he couldn't expect a fair trial. The plane was flying from Caracas to Havana, so Venezuela is the logical venue. The two men who planted the bomb on board were tried there in the 1970s and have served their sentences. Venezuela has applied for extradition, and that request should be granted.
But instead Posada has just been released on bail for an immigration violation, and is now with friends and relatives in Miami. The administration is treating this case with delicacy, perhaps because of the CIA connection. Who knows what dirty dealings he might reveal? And the administration doesn't get along with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's increasingly authoritarian regime.
Yet justice for the deaths of 73 people should outweigh any concerns about ancient CIA revelations or about acceding to a request from Chávez. In any event, the administration has dealt with more repressive governments to combat terrorism.
Politics is also playing a role. Lenient treatment for Posada appeases the most extreme element of the exile community, a bulwark of Republican power in Florida. Seventeen years ago, the first President Bush approved the release of Orlando Bosch, an alleged conspirator with Posada who also had fled Venezuela for the United States. That administration was lobbied by Florida Republicans -- including Jeb Bush, son and brother of presidents, who became governor of the state with strong Cuban-American support.
Since his release Bosch has been living quietly in Florida. Posada is suspected of involvement in bombings at Cuban resorts in the 1990s and in an attempt to kill Castro in a room full of Panamanian students in 2000. Now age 79, he is slowing down, but with that past anyone without his Cuban exile connections would be a prime target for the US anti terrorism apparatus.
Venezuela is the most logical place for Posada to face trial. Failing that, the United States should comply with a 1971 international convention, under which any nation that refuses to extradite a suspect in an airliner attack is obligated to try that person itself. Either in the United States or Venezuela, Posada should be subject to a fair and comprehensive hearing on the murder charges, not the trivialities of an immigration offense.