The former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, wanted in Venezuela for the bombing of a Cuban airliner, seeks political asylum
US authorities seized on Tuesday the anti-Castro Cuban terrorist and former CIA agent, Luis Posada Carriles, in Miami, after giving a news conference to local media outlets. The move could have major political implications for President Bush, who has promised to pursue terrorists but has been reluctant to offend his Cuban American constituency.
Posada Carriles is wanted by Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people in that country. The Cuban anti-communist was under arrest in a Caracas' prison waiting for his sentence until 1985, when he escaped to Central America. There, he worked for the US Contra rebels in Nicaragua and plotted the bombing of a hotel in Havanna in 1997, killing one tourist. Posada Carriles later admitted his participation in the terrorist act.
In an interview published Tuesday in the Miami Herald, Posada denied any role in the bombing. However, Peter Kornbluh, director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, an independent research institute in Washington, said recently declassified CIA and FBI documents quoted informants linking Posada to planning meetings for the 1976 bombing, the US media reported.
The anti-Castro agent also planned a frustrated attempt against the life of the Cuban leader, during a regional summit in Panama. He was tried and convicted by local authorities, but in 2004, incumbent local authorities pardoned him.
Posada, seeking asylum in the United States, was taken into custody by federal immigration officials, the Homeland Security Department said in a statement. Despite Cuba, Venezuela and many other nations regard him as a dangerous terrorist, the Cuban-American community in Miami, usually linked to drugs smuggling, prostitution and any sort of illegal activities, look at him as a hero.
"He is a fighter, a true believer who has fought for the freedom of his country," said Jose Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, responding to news of Posada's arrest.
According to the bilateral agreements signed by the Venezuelan and the US governments, Posada Carriles should be extradited to Caracas at first request. However, that would mean the lost of most of the popularity Bush obtained within the Cuban-American community, and the consequent lost of support for his brother and Republican Governor, Jeb. It will also mean a concession to Cuba and Venezuela, Washington's worst political foes in Latin America.
To be eligible for political asylum, which he has sought, Posada would have to prove a well-founded fear of persecution in a country to which he could be deported. The Homeland Security Department has 48 hours to determine his status.
On the picture: Posada Carriles during a “clandestine” news conference in Miami