The Guardian 8 June, 2005

US denies Posada extradition request

W T Whitney Jr

The State Department on May 27 turned down a Venezuelan request for extradition of Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela. It claimed a lack of supporting evidence. Posada, a Venezuelan citizen accused of bombing a Cuban airliner and killing 73 people, faces court proceedings there interrupted by a jail escape in 1985.

Venezuela officials said the US was only responding to a request for a "provisional arrest" of Posada, and that a formal extradition request was on the way. Cuban officials suggest that Washington is preparing for Posada's extradition to El Salvador, for the lesser crime of having entered that country using false identities.

The Bush administration is facing mounting criticism that its delaying manoeuvres on Posada reflect hypocrisy on anti-terrorism. Twenty members of Congress sent President Bush a letter May 19 calling for Posada's extradition to Venezuela, "where he is a fugitive from justice".

The lawmakers cited evidence from recently released FBI documents suggesting Posada's involvement in the 1976 assassination in Washington of former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his assistant, US citizen Ronni Moffit. It was "one of the worst acts of foreign terrorism on American soil to that date", the letter said.

The letter recalls 1989 comments from an associate US attorney general decrying the imminent release from detention of Posada's co-conspirator Orlando Bosch. "We must look on terrorism as a universal evil, even if it is directed toward those with whom we have no political sympathy." The earlier President Bush went on to free Bosch. Cuba is now demanding that he too be brought to justice.

Thousands of Venezuelans marched May 28 in Caracas demanding Posada's extradition. The same day, several groups held a similar demonstration in Miami. Participants from 67 nations attended an emergency meeting on terrorism June 2-3 convened by Cuba. European Union nations so far have been silent on the case.

The US National Network on Cuba plans demonstrations June 13 throughout the US. That's the day Posada faces an immigration hearing on the charge of illegal entry. Posada could benefit from the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act under which Cubans arriving in the US are allowed to stay. Also of concern to the administration is the possibility that Posada, who worked for the CIA, could embarrass the US government by revealing past CIA illegal actions if he is brought before a Venezuelan court.

The administration has taken pains recently to humiliate Venezuela. The State Department refused to grant a visa to Omar Mora, president of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. It may have been retaliation for the court's authorisation of the Venezuelan request for Posada's extradition. US officials accused Venezuela of seeking to embarrass the Bush administration by creating "a public relations issue".

On May 20, Bush spent 45 minutes with a Miami group led by Luis Z˙˝iga. Z˙˝iga led armed assaults against the Cuban government inside Cuba and served as paramilitary organiser for the Cuban-American National Foundation. In that capacity, he arranged for Posada's financial and logistical support.

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