Q: José, what is your role in the case of Luis Posada Carriles?
A: I am the attorney for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with respect to its petition for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles from the United States to Caracas.
Q: There is a hearing in El Paso tomorrow about Posada. Can you tell us what it is regarding?
A: Posada Carriles is charged by the federal government for lying, not for terrorism. The U.S. government is accusing Posada of immigration fraud.
On Tuesday, there is a bond hearing to determine if Posada Carriles will await his trial-to take place in May-in the streets of Miami or in a New Mexico jail where he is currently. There is a woman who has put up a commercial property which she has in Miami, with a value of two million dollars. The judge will determine whether Posada, 1.) is a person who would try to flee, and 2.) whether Posada is a danger to the community.
That is the only thing that will be decided Tuesday, Apr. 3. The trial on whether he lied or not in his naturalization petition, will take place in May.
But it is obvious throughout all of Posada Carriles' history, that he is a person who has a propensity to escape or flee. He is already a fugitive from justice. He escaped from a prison in Venezuela while facing 73 homicide charges against him. There is now an order for his arrest in Venezuela, for those 73 murder charges and he is a fugitive from justice.
In spite of the extradition petition that the Venezuelan government presented in June 2005, almost two years ago, in spite of the fact that he is a fugitive in Venezuela after escaping from a Venezuelan prison in 1985-with the help of his accomplices in Miami, in spite of the 73 counts of first-degree murder for the 73 people who were on board the Cubana Airlines passenger plane, despite all this, the United States:
First, refused to charge Luis Posada Carriles with being a terrorist.
Second, it has not attended to the extradition petition that Venezuela has presented.
Third, the government issued a simple immigration violation charge against him, accusing him of having entered the country illegally through the border with Mexico.
And upon the conclusion of that immigration violation procedure, they have charged him with lying. It is a felony to lie to a U.S. official, and Posada Carriles did it when he alleged that he was a U.S. citizen and lied about how he entered. He said that he had entered without documentation through the border when in reality he entered Miami in 2005 on a boat named Santrina.
This is an individual who has a history of violence against defenseless civilians. He is accused of bombing a plane with 73 passengers. He is accused of murdering dozens of political prisoners in cold blood in Venezuela in the 1970s, when he was head of special operations in the intelligence services of Venezuela, called the DISIP. He is a person who collaborated with the bloodiest forces in Central America, specifically the paramilitaries in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
This man was key in the operation, the scandal later called Iran-Contra, which gave arms and technical assistance to the Nicaraguan contras, who committed so many human rights violations.
Posada was convicted in a trial in Panama for conspiring to bomb an auditorium with C-4 explosives in the University of Panama, which would have been full of Panamanian students listening to a speech that the Cuban President Fidel Castro was going to give.
This is an individual with a long history of terrorism. He is known as the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America. I cannot imagine that a U.S. judge would determine that he is not a danger to the community and release him.
But everything is possible in the United States. There is that danger.
Q: Why do you think the government is not extraditing or trying Posada Carriles for the plane bombing? The Homeland Security prosecutors did not even mention that crime of Posada when the immigration hearings for Posada were held in June and August 2005 in El Paso, Texas.
A: During the whole immigration proceedings against Posada, it was obvious that the United States had an interest in appearing to do something with respect to Posada while in reality doing the minimum possible.
I believe there is an understanding, not written, but an understanding between the government and Posada, that he will be treated well by the United States while he is in U.S. territory, in exchange for Posada not saying all that he could about the U.S. intelligence services. Keep in mind that Posada, by his own admission, is an individual who worked with the CIA since at least 1962.
He was sent by the CIA to Venezuela in the 1970s to lead an anti-subversive operation there, and to capture and torture individuals who were seeking social change in Venezuela in the 1970s. He is a man who has worked closely with the U.S. intelligence services since he began his career.
Therefore, it does not surprise me that the United States is doing the minimum to maintain Posada in prison, because it is not politically wise for them to free him, but they will not extradite nor try him for murder.
That is why, you see, they first initiate immigration charges, and later they begin a criminal process, but they limit the accusation as to whether Posada lied, not whether he is a terrorist.
He has a great deal of information that would be a very delicate matter for the United States if he were to talk.
Q: Can you tell us something about Posada's attacks against Cuba, carried out by mercenaries in the 1990s, and the current investigation being carried out in New Jersey over those crimes?
A: In the 1990s, Cuba experienced a very difficult economic situation, that was the special period when the socialist camp collapsed and the countries that traded with Cuba underwent drastic political changes. They stopped trade relations, and the Cuban people endured hardship because they had no resources. There was no oil, no fuel, and many times no food.
Cuba opened up to tourism as never before since the triumph of the Cuban revolution on Jan. 1, 1959. They opened up hotels and tourists began to come to Havana and other cities in Cuba.
At the same time this was happening, various groups of Cuban origin in the United States decided to unleash a wave of violence against the tourist sector in Cuba. Terrorism is always against defenseless civilians but it has a political goal. The political goal in this case was to terrorize the tourists who wanted to travel to Cuba.
At that time, in 1997, Posada was in Central America, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. He moved from one country to another with false passports. Posada was the mastermind behind that wave of terror.
Interestingly, it has been discovered that the organizations of Cuban origin in the United States, specifically in New Jersey and Miami, sent money to Posada by cable while he was in Guatemala.
With that money, Posada hired Guatemalan and Salvadoran mercenaries to take explosives to Cuba, where they were detonated in the best and most luxurious hotels and Cuban cabarets.
If you follow the money, you see that those New Jersey and Miami organizations send money to Posada, Posada hires those people from Central America, they go to Cuba and explode bombs.
After all those bombings, it seems that Posada wanted them to send him more money for the successful campaign he was carrying out. He was very upset about this and gave an interview in 1998 to two New York Times journalists, Larry Rohter and Ann Louise Bardach. He told him he was the mastermind of that wave of terror. He also told them he was receiving money from certain organizations in the United States.
The New York Times published the story. Now the FBI along with a New Jersey prosecutor, have opened a grand jury investigation to examine the evidence that exists, which could possibly result in prosecutions of Posada and others, for that wave of terrorist attacks that killed an Italian in Cuba, named Fabio Di Celmo. The grand jury still has not concluded. We don't know if they will indict or not.
The United States is full of contradictions. Although I believe the White House is trying to help its favorite terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, at the same time I am convinced that there are honest prosecutors who work in the Department of Justice and who take seriously the fact that that department is named Justice. I believe there are those who want to carry out an investigation of this type.
However, the final decision as to what will happen will be made in the White House, as well as in the immigration case. The Homeland Security prosecutors were not able to act on their own, they had to follow specific instructions from the White House.
The murder of Fabio Di Celmo was a horrifying crime. He was a man who was having a drink in a hotel bar. He was on vacation when the bomb exploded that killed him. That crime cannot go unpunished. Posada Carriles must be tried not only for the plane bombing but also for the murder of Fabio Di Celmo. I would be very pleased if he were tried for that crime as well.
Q: The terrorist Santiago Alvarez brought Posada into Miami secretly on his boat Santrina in March 2005. Afterwards, Alvarez was arrested for an arms cache that he had in Miami. What is your opinion of the government's treatment of Santiago Alvarez? In spite of being an accomplice of Posada, now the government is reducing his already light sentence for illegal possession of weapons.
It is strange. Santiago Alvarez was the financial backer of Posada Carriles, the man who paid for his trips and sent him money. This is an individual who has been indicted and convicted for having an illegal weapons cache in a house in southern Florida.
He is in prison now but he has not been charged for bringing Posada illegally into the United States. What you say is true. They are charging Posada for immigration fraud, alleging that he came on the Santrina, with Santiago Alvarez and Mitat.
So then, why are they not charging Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat for bringing Posada to the United States? The law prohibits anyone from helping another person enter the country illegally. It is a serious crime, a felony. But if the person you are helping is not simply an undocumented person who comes to the United States to be with his family or to harvest artichokes in California, but instead is a terrorist, the sanctions are more severe and Alvarez could be imprisoned for decades.
But for that kind of a trial to happen Posada would have to be declared a terrorist. I am sure that if Luis Posada Carriles' name were Mohammed, Alvarez would be facing much more serious charges than he is now.
Another thing that occurs to me is the huge armament that Santiago Alvarez had in southern Florida, machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades. Why is no one asking what they were going to do with all those weapons? Was there a terrorist operation being planned in the United States? Against the United States, Cuba or Venezuela? It seems to me that it is something that should be investigated and the press should ask the U.S. authorities if they have investigated this.
It is too much of a coincidence that Posada arrived in the United States at a time when the person who brought him has an enormous arsenal hidden in a Miami warehouse. Miami is a city where they just accused a group of individuals of being terrorists, because they supposedly planned to blow up a building in Chicago. These individuals didn't even have a fake pistol. They had not one weapon or bullet and they are accused of terrorism.
But here we have a man with a long history of terrorism, who is aided by other individuals, friends and accomplices who are also involved in terrorism, and nobody asks what actions these terrorists were going to carry out.
Q: It is evident, with all that is happening in Miami, how the Miami terrorists operate with total impunity, while the Cuban Five anti-terrorists have been unjustly imprisoned for over eight years in United States prisons. They are effectively kidnapped by Washington for having struggled against Miami terrorism.
A: The case of the Five is one of the most unjust cases in the history of United States jurisprudence. The Five did not come to the United States, as the prosecutor on three different occasions stated in the trial, "to destroy the United States." There is not any evidence showing that.
Quite the contrary. The evidence shows that those individuals came to this country to penetrate organizations of Cuban origin that carry out terrorist actions against the island of Cuba, from U.S. territory.
The Five had to come to the United States, because the U.S. government, instead of investigating, arresting and prosecuting the terrorists who were carrying out hostile actions against Cuban civilians for decades, instead of doing that, the U.S. organized the terrorists, trained them, encouraged and supported them during all these decades.
Therefore, facing this situation, in order to defend their civilian population-a civilian population that has suffered more than 3,000 murders since the Cuban revolution began in 1959-Cuba sent these individuals to obtain information, not information of the United States, not classified U.S. government information, but information on the Miami terrorist organizations who were carrying out this wave of terrorist acts.
After obtaining much of this necessary information, Cuba sent a messenger to President Clinton about the information obtained by these five anti-terrorists and delivered to him a hand-written letter by President Fidel Castro. The letter was given to President Clinton by a unusual messenger, Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Laureate in Literature.
García Márquez has related how he felt carrying this letter, because he didn't want to leave the Hotel Washington for fear that someone might rob the letter. García Márquez gave the letter to Clinton's assistant, Max McCarty, who commented to the Colombian writer the following: "The United States and Cuba have a common enemy and that enemy is terrorism. We can fight together against terrorism."
Cuba handed over documentation and waited and waited and waited for the FBI to act and capture those terrorists. But instead of capturing the terrorists, the FBI, through its Miami director, Héctor Pesquera, arrested the men who had infiltrated those organizations. In other words, the FBI instead of using the information that Cuba gave it to arrest the terrorists, it used that information to investigate and find out who those individuals were that Cuba had penetrated into the organizations.
After the FBI found out, it arrested the Five individuals, who were convicted and received prison sentences of four life terms and many years.
They were convicted without one single classified document in their possession, with no evidence whatsoever that they had participated in violence, much less homicide. And they were tried in Miami, in an atmosphere highly contaminated by the hatred in Miami against Cuba. Miami is a city where the very U.S. government has not wanted to see its Cuba-related cases to be tried in Miami, knowing that such a trial could not be fair in Miami.
But that is precisely where these courageous five men were tried. They were tried in Miami and, of course, convicted, as would be expected. This injustice cannot be tolerated. The Cuban Five must be freed and it is Posada and the other terrorists living freely in the United States who should be prosecuted.
Q: You were in Venezuela recently. Can you tell us if the government is doing anything to back up its extradition petition?
A: Venezuela presented to the United States in June 2005, two volumes totaling almost 2,000 pages of documents in support of its extradition petition. There are more than enough documents for the United States to extradite Posada or to try him in the United States. The United States government has plenty of documentation, including the documents declassified by the U.S. government itself and cited by the CIA. These are not only in U.S. possession, they are easily available on the Internet. The National Security Archives, a non-governmental organization run by the George Washington University, has published dozens of documents declassified by the U.S. government, very telling about the terrorist activities of Luis Posada Carriles and his participation in the plane bombing.
There are other documents in Venezuela about Posada's terrorist history. Posada did not become a terrorist with the plane bombing of Oct. 6, 1976. He has been a terrorist since he left Cuba. He has a long history in the Venezuelan archives. There is documentation about Posada Carriles when he was head of special operations in DISIP. He was in charge of anti-subversive operations in Venezuela. Just in Caracas alone, he captured several prominent individuals who were part of the Venezuelan social movement, whom he interrogated, tortured and murdered. They were very meticulous about documenting their crimes. Whoever reads "The Path of the Warrior," Posada's autobiography, will be able to verify some of those crimes.
Q: In June 2006 during the first hearing for Posada in El Paso, Posada's attorney Eduardo Soto told the press that Posada had been a CIA agent until the mid-1990s. Does this statement hold any significance?
A: I have never seen any proof that Posada has renounced his work with the CIA.
The people who collaborate with the CIA are not necessarily employees of the CIA. Working with the CIA is not like working in a factory, where you punch your timecard in at 8:00 am and when you leave at 5:00 pm you punch out to prove you worked the whole day.
There are undoubtedly workers who work in Langley on a daily basis, who receive their salary in checks that carry the CIA label. But the majority of individuals who work with the CIA on a clandestine basis are not conventional salaried employees. What they do is provide information or they carry out operations that are directed or inspired by the CIA. I do not think there is any evidence that Posada has renounced these activities.
What's more, if we talk about 1976 and the plane bombing, for example, Posada sent his right-hand man-a Venezuelan named Hernán Ricardo who was his subordinate in the DISIP-to plant the bomb. Ricardo recruited his associate, Freddy Lugo, also Venezuelan. These two men were the direct perpetrators of the bombing. When they were captured in Trinidad, they confessed to the police chief, Dennis Ramdwar, a police commissioner, that: 1.) They were from DISIP, and 2.) they were CIA, that their explosives-training was done by the CIA and that they received CIA training on how to plant the bombs.
Ricardo said, "my boss is Luis Posada Carriles." There is an expression in Spanish, to describe something very obvious: "It didn't fall far from the tree." I think that type of confession shows that Posada Carriles and Hernán Ricardo are individuals who in 1976 were trained in the use of explosives and were inspired by the CIA to carry out terrorist acts . There is absolutely no doubt of that.
Another curious thing. In Venezuela where I was recently, I saw the little phone and address directory that Ricardo had when he was captured in Trinidad after having placed the bomb.
In the first page of that book is the first and last name of the U.S. diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Joseph Leo. Now, I am not saying that Joseph Leo is a CIA, but nobody can deny that that man was a functionary of the U.S. embassy.
I ask myself, what is a terrorist-who just finished placing a bomb, killing 73 passengers-doing with a phone directory that has the name and telephone number of a U.S. diplomat based in the embassy in Venezuela?
Q: By international law, the U.S. authorities still have an obligation to try Posada. What can be done to win justice?
A: Venezuela's extradition request is based on three different legal instruments. The first, of course, is the extradition treaty between Venezuela and the United States, signed in 1922. We also rely on another legal instrument, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civilian Aviation, ratified in Montreal in 1971. And the third, the International Convention for the Repression of Terrorist Attacks Committed with Bombs, ratified in 2001, which is retroactive.
Article 7 of the Montreal Convention says, "The Contracting State in the territory of which the alleged offender is found" -in other words, the United States- "shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged, without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution."
Now, what does that mean? It means if Posada is in the United States and if he committed a crime in Venezuela or elsewhere, and if the United States does not want to extradite him to Venezuela, he has to be tried in the United States, no exceptions.
Article 8 of the International Convention for the Repression of Terrorist Acts Committed with Bombs says the same.
If he is not extradited to Venezuela, the United States has a legal obligation to try Luis Posada Carriles in the United States, for the plane bombing, for the 73 cases of homicide. This includes the little girl Harry Paul, one of the few bodies that were recuperated in the sea. Anyone who would see the photos of that child and what the bombing did to her, would not hesitate to demand justice from the White House. That poor child, seated in a seat next to her grandmother and mother, was very close to where the first bomb exploded. Her corpse had no brain, only pieces of her abdomen remained, with no intestines, no heart, nothing.
Q: Many activists were in front of the court during the immigration hearings for Posada last year. We mounted a wall in front of the court to show Posada's victims, which received a lot of press coverage. We reached the public through television to tell the truth about Posada's crimes, something that the prosecutor did not do inside the Court. What would you suggest we do to continue this struggle?
A: Continue with those types of actions. The people have to protest, their voices should be heard. It is important to write letters to the editors, to pressure the media. The news bewilders people with such unimportant stories-whether Britney Spears really shaved her head or if an astronaut put on diapers in order to kill a woman who allegedly took her boyfriend. They treat the people of the U.S. like idiots, in order to avoid covering the true scandals, the real scandal of the U.S. government keeping five anti-terrorist fighters in prison while sheltering the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America for decades.
Gloria La Riva is the coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.
For more information: www.freethefive.org