Posada Release Sparks Protests in Cuba
by Will Weissert
Apr. 20, 2007
Reprinted from The Washington Post
HAVANA -- Hundreds of Cubans chanted "Justice! Justice!" outside the American mission in Havana as protests erupted across the island after an anti-Castro exile wanted in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner was released from federal prison in New Mexico.
Luis Posada Carriles' release on bail also angered Venezuela, which accused the Bush administration of hypocrisy in its policy on terrorism and vowed a diplomatic offensive to put him on trial for the bombing that killed 73 people.
"George Bush's government is an accomplice of this terrorist," Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said. "It has protected him and today it has guaranteed his freedom, striking a blow against and mocking international law."
Earlier Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez demanded that the U.S. extradite the Cuban-born Posada, an ex-CIA agent who is a longtime opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Posada, 79, is accused of plotting the Cubana Airlines bombing while living in Caracas. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 and was detained in Florida in May 2005 for entering the United States illegally.
Posada posted bail totaling $350,000 Thursday to get out of a federal prison in New Mexico. He flew to Miami, where he was placed under house arrest at his wife's home pending his May 11 trial on immigration fraud charges.
In Washington, Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, said his country "energetically condemns this decision and holds the United States government responsible. "Yellow school buses brought about 600 youngsters to a plaza outside the U.S. mission in Havana, where they waved plastic Cuban flags and demanded justice.
"It's an insult for all Cubans and a tragedy for the families of his victims," said Ereslandi Rodriguez, a 22-year-old university student. He held a sign showing a cartoon of Posada's head, with bloodstained fangs, on a canine body. "The Dog is Loose," it read.
Communist youth leader Silviano Merced recalled that President Bush has said anyone who harbors or supports terrorists is as guilty as the terrorists themselves.
"For that reason, Mr. Bush," Merced cried, "You are as much of a terrorist as Posada Carriles and his accomplices. "
The U.S. and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations, and maintain interest sections in each other's territory rather than embassies.
Across the capital, Cubans were visibly angry.
"This is one of the most barbarous things the United States has done," said Havana resident Rolando Hernandez. "It has betrayed its people and has betrayed the people of other countries." Rallies were hastily organized across Cuba, including two large demonstrations in the eastern cities of Bayamo and Granma.
"They let the executioner out!" was the lead headline on the island's nightly newscast. Castro had predicted Posada would be freed from jail, issuing a statement last week that accused the U.S. government of deciding "the liberation of the monster beforehand."
In a speech Thursday, his ally Chavez demanded the U.S. hand over Posada to stand trial in Venezuela for the bombing.
"All of Venezuela lifts its indignant voice over the protection that the imperialist government of the United States continues to give to the father of all terrorists of all time in the American continent _ the murderer Luis Posada Carriles," Chavez said.