Moral Low Ground


Western Hemisphere’s Most Notorious Terrorist on Trial in Texas– for Immigration Violation

Unrepentant terrorist.

The most notorious terrorist in the Western Hemisphere, a man responsible for the bombing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 innocent people as well a a string of hotel bombings and the attempted bombing of a college auditorium packed with students, is finally facing justice in the United States, a country in which he has lived as a free man for more than two decades. Sort of.

Luis Posada Carriles, age 82, appeared in a federal court in El Paso, Texas last week. But Posada is not being charged as a terrorist or a mass murderer, but rather as a liar. He faces accusations of only perjury and immigration fraud for lying to a federal officer about his role in a series of terror attacks. The prosecution even lauded the terrorist as a “remarkable man” who “can do anything he wants to the Cuban regime.”

Let’s go back now and take a closer look at this “remarkable man’s” long and bloody career.

When President John F. Kennedy initiated a campaign of destabilization targeting Castro’s nascent regime, Posada was one of the young CIA-trained exiles who planned the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. Following that colossal embarrassment, Posada received explosives and sabotage training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He would put his American education to good use. Posada was at the forefront of the anti-Castro terrorist movement based in Miami as the CIA set up a station at the University of Miami with an annual budget of $100 million and over 3,000 agents hell-bent on overthrowing Fidel Castro.

Thousands of sabotage and terror missions were launched and militant anti-Castro exile groups operated openly in south Florida, setting up training camps in the Everglades where they planned terrorist attacks against Cuba with the full knowledge, blessing and instruction of the United States government, military and intelligence services. Posada boasted that  “the CIA taught us everything– everything. They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in sabotage.”

Posada honed those skills and in 1976 he and Orlando Bosch, another vicious anti-Castro terrorist, hand-picked operatives to assassinate former Chilean minister Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., in broad daylight. Letelier’s American aide, newlywed Ronni Moffitt, was also killed in this gruesome car bombing.

Then, a few months later, Posada and Bosch masterminded the bombing of Cubana Airlines flight 455, an attack which killed 73 innocent people including the teenage members of Cuba’s junior Olympic fencing team. Posada was tried for this heinous act of terrorism in Venezuela but managed to bribe his way out of prison. Following his escape, he spent a good part of the 1980s working for the CIA in an illegal gun-running operation to supply the Nicaraguan Contra terrorists, for which he was paid a $3,000 monthly salary by an aide to disgraced  Iran-Contra figure Oliver North.

In 1997 Posada was behind a string of hotel bombings in Cuba that injured many tourists and killed one Italian man. Posada’s goal was to cripple the socialist country’s burgeoning tourism industry and thus deprive the Castro regime of sorely needed hard currency. Posada bragged that he “slept like a baby” despite the deadly results of the bombing campaign. “That Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. Posada was also responsible for over 40 bombings in Honduras in the 1990s.

In 2000, Cuban intelligence agents foiled a plot by Posada and others to set off a bomb in a Panama City university auditorium where Fidel Castro would be addressing a large crowd of mostly students. Posada was convicted and jailed for the failed attack, but Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso, a close ally of the George W. Bush administration, pardoned him before leaving office to move to Miami.

With so much loyal service to the United States under his belt, Luis Posada Carriles must have felt entitled to live freely in America. He secretly re-entered the country in 2005, returning to a hero’s welcome in Miami. But when Posada sought asylum but was instead arrested for illegally entering the United States.

Despite the fact that the US Justice Department called him “an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks on tourist sites,” a U.S. federal judge recommended that Posada be set free on September 11, 2006. And incredibly, he was. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 clearly states that anyone who plans or carries out “an act that would constitute the offense of murder, kidnapping, or maiming” in any country could face lifetime imprisonment. An earlier anti-terror law passed in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that banned “material assistance for terrorist activity” also applies many times over to Luis Posada Carriles.

Posada settled in Miami, where he is regarded by many Cuban-Americans as a hero. The city even honored his co-conspirator with an “Orlando Bosch Day” in 1983. Posada found work as an artist, exhibiting and selling his work at galleries across south Florida. He makes frequent radio and television appearances and even sat in the front row with Orlando Bosch at a speech by President George W. Bush. This, after Bosch declared that “there were no innocents on that plane [Cubana flight 455], they were all henchmen.” Roseanne Nenninger Persaud of Guyana, whose 19 year-old brother Raymond was one of the “henchmen” killed aboard flight 455, said Posada and Bosch ought to be “treated like bin Laden.”

“If this were a plane full of Americans, it would have been a different story,” Persaud told the New York Times.

Now Posada is finally on trial, albeit for far lesser offenses than terrorism and mass murder. Can you imagine Washington’s reaction if Osama bin Laden was arrested in Pakistan and tried only for being in the country illegally?

Still, there is a glimmer of hope: faced with 11 counts of lying to US immigration officials about his role in the Havana bombings (attacks that he bragged about in the international media), Posada could face 60 years in prison if convicted on all counts. At age 82, he would certainly never see freedom again for as long as he lives. The governments of Cuba and Venezuela may be furious about the nature of the charges Posada is facing, but if he receives a stiff enough sentence, they may be assuaged.

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