The State Department’s summary and insulting rejection of the extradition request issued by the government of Venezuela for Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles was as shocking as it was predictable. The decision not to hand over Posada to be tried for his alleged role in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner in which 73 innocent people were killed does violence to this administration’s respect for the rule of law. Yet this is nothing new for a White House which has a long history of selective indignation towards villainous acts committed abroad. Such a categorical rejection of the administration’s own antiterrorist rhetoric bears strong resemblance to its similarly hypocritical praise for the 2002 coup attempt against the democratically-elected Hugo Chávez, thus belying President Bush’s supposed commitment to the spread of democracy throughout the hemisphere. Worst of all, the Department of State has dishonored this country’s dead as a result of a terrorist act on September 11 by not honoring those murdered in 1976 when a bomb blew up on a Cuban Airlines flight over the Bahamas. A preponderance of evidence – some of it from the FBI and the CIA – and his subsequent acts of terror dispel any doubt that Posada is a world-class terrorist.
Just as it was entirely predictable that the Bush administration would reject the extradition request as a cheap slap in the face to its adversaries in Caracas, is the certain fate of Washington’s already precipitous decline in its standing throughout Latin America. The moral cynicism behind the State Department’s reluctance to extradite a major international terrorist suspect will certainly be pointed to by leaders of Latin America’s “Pink Wave” as evidence of continued Yankee duplicity, and still another reason to disengage from the American hegemon.
While much of Latin America may be put off by Chávez’s style, they are not inclined to give any credence to the State Department’s claim that it does not extradite suspects for trial in a “kangaroo court.” Foggy Bottom has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to extradite terrorist suspects to countries with a reputation for judicial integrity far below Venezuela’s, such as Syria and Uzbekistan – presumably because such lax judicial regulation will lead to the desired swift punishment for suspects.
Embarrassingly to the average American, the joke has been circulating for weeks that the State Department would choose to turn down Venezuela’s extradition request for Posada on the eve of a Friday afternoon of a three-day national holiday, thus providing the slow news day environment in which indignation over his release would have time to cool down. This banal script was the exact one that the uncool Bush administration chose to follow.
But the administration’s decision was a fait accompli long before it was actually hatched. It has repeatedly revealed its inability to learn from its ethical pratfalls and to live by its own pretentious but non-observed standards, as evidenced by Bush’s nomination of the notorious intelligence manipulator, John Bolton, to be ambassador to the UN, and by the promotion of John Negroponte, who had a history of support for local death squads while he was Ambassador to Honduras. Additionally, the number two man in Bush’s National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, was an irresistible candidate for his post because he had to be pardoned by the first President Bush for lying to Congress during Iran-Contra. This White House has done itself and the nation a disservice by choosing to pander to the powerful Cuban-American interest groups in Miami rather than demonstrate its genuine dedication to the war on terrorism.
With Posada, Washington had a choice of maintaining the integrity of its already deeply troubled antiterrorism crusade or to cater to its hard right Miami campaign donors and political backers. Lamentably, there was never any mystery as to which road Washington would choose to take.
The above statement was drafted by COHA Director Larry Birns and COHA Research Associate Joseph Taves.
May 27, 2005
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