Uncle Sam's terrorist walks free

On October 6, 1976, two bombs ripped through Cubana Flight 455 mid-flight from Barbados to Cuba. All of the 73 civilians onboard, including Cuba's national youth fencing team and 11 Guyanese medical students, were killed. Until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, this was the worst terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere. On April 19, the mastermind behind this mass murder, Luis Posada Carriles, was released on bail from prison in the US, where he was being held since 2005 for violating immigration law, and allowed to return to his luxury penthouse in Miami.

On May 8, the immigration charges against Posada were completely dropped after a ruling by Texas District Judge Kathleen Cardone liberated the man once described by the US Department of Justice as "a dangerous criminal and an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots", according to a May 15 report by the Washington DC-based Venezuela Information Office.

Despite its extradition treaties, the US government has ignored the request of three countries — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — for Posada to be extradited to face trial for crimes committed in each nation. One of the most notorious terrorists in the world, responsible for countless acts of violence against civilians in numerous nations, Posada is a former CIA agent and loyal servant of the US empire.

In violation of US and international law — to say nothing of its own rhetoric about waging a relentless "war on terror" — Washington is allowing Posada to live freely within US borders. There is little doubt that this preferential treatment to a confessed terrorist is both a reward for his past services, and a result of fears about what secrets he may reveal about US-sponsored terrorist atrocities aimed at governments and popular movements that threatened the interests of US corporations in Latin America, should he face trial for his crimes.

Declassified documents reveal that the Cuban-born Posada was first recruited as a CIA agent in 1961, according to a May 6 article published at GlobalResearch.cu. He was originally recruited to participate in the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion that year, aimed at overthrowing the revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro. Posada received training from the US military in "demolition and terrorist tactics and remained directly on the CIA payroll at least until 1967".

From 1969 until 1974, Posada worked for Venezuela's security forces, the DISIP. He is alleged to have overseen serious human rights abuses targeting left-wing activists. During this time, the article explained, he continued his cooperation with the CIA. A May 11 Bolivarian News Agency quoted the testimony of Venezuelan victims of torture allegedly ordered by Posada during his reign as DISIP's director. One victim was Brenda Esquivel, who said that in 1972, her partner and children were killed by DISIP. She was eight months' pregnant at the time and on Posada's orders, one of her captors kicked her in the stomach, causing a misscarriage.

According to GlobalResearch.cu, just two weeks before the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455, Posada was involved in a Washington DC car-bombing that killed former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his US aide. Letelier had been in exile after the left-wing government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by a US-backed military coup in 1973.

In the aftermath of the plane bombing, two Venezuelan citizens employed by Posada's private detective agency confessed to the crime. Declassified CIA documents, available at the National Security Archive (), reveal that the agency had both evidence linking Posada to the bombing and advance warning of the attack. Posada was arrested by Venezuelan authorities for his involvement, however he escaped from prison in 1985 while awaiting trial.

Posada has been implicated in terrorist attacks against Nicaragua during the 1980s as part of the US-backed counter-revolutionary war against the left-wing Sandinista government. He was also involved in "Operation Condor", through which South American military dictatorships conspired to physically exterminate left-wing opponents.

In 1997, Posada was implicated in a fresh wave of bombings in Cuba, killing an Italian businessperson. In an interview with the New York Times, published on July 12, 1998, Posada admitted his involvement, stating: "It is sad that someone is dead, but we can't stop." Posada said the US-government-funded Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), was involved in the terror campaign.

During a November 2000 visit to Panama City, Castro claimed during a press conference that Cuban security services had evidence that Posada and the CANF were planning his assassination. Subsequently, Panamanian authorities caught Posada in a hotel in the country's capital in possession of 90 kilograms of C4 explosive. An anti-Castro activist involved with the CANF was also arrested. In 2004, Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned Posada for his role in the assassination attempt, a move widely believed to be at the behest of Washington. In response, Cuba and Venezuela temporarily broke diplomatic ties with Panama.

In 2005, a concerted international campaign highlighting the presence of Posada within US territory, eventually forced US authorities to have him arrested — not for his many terrorist acts, but for entering US territory without a visa. This would not be unlike having Osama Bin Laden arrested for jaywalking.

Venezuela, backed by Cuba, immediately demanded Posada's extradition in order to face trial for his role in the Cubana bombing — the trial he has so far avoided as a result his 1985 prison breakout. The US government has yet to even respond to the request. Nicaragua is also calling for his extradition to face trial for crimes committed on their territory.

The May 8 decision to throw out the charges against Posada has caused international outrage. In a May 9 statement, the Cuban government called the ruling "an insult to the Cuban people and to the peoples who lost 73 of their sons and daughters" in the 1976 plane bombing. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed the US "war on terror" was a lie, according to a May 10 Venezuelanalysis.com report. Chavez insisted that Posada "is a murderer, a terrorist, and a torturer, and now he enjoys total freedom in the United States".

The Prensa Latina news service reported on May 12 that Venezuela has expressed its determination to take its case for the extradition of Posada to all relevant international forums. Addressing a May 11 protest outside the US State Department in Washington DC, Jose Pertierra, a lawyer representing the Venezuelan government in its attempts to extradite Posada, said that Venezuela would seek to have Posada taken to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

The hypocrisy of the Bush administration's tolerance of Posada is so blatant that even sections of the usually tame US corporate media have begun to speak out. Calling the decision "perverse", an April 20 Los Angeles Times editorial argued: "With a misguided decision upholding bail for Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has done more than free a frail old man facing unremarkable immigration charges. It has exposed Washington to legitimate charges of hypocrisy in the war on terror."

Clearly terrified about what Posada might reveal in court, in the lead-up to the May 8 ruling the US government filed a motion seeking to gag Posada from testifying on his role as a CIA agent, according to GlobalResearch.cu.

The "war on terror" is nothing but a cover to wage wars on behalf US corporate interests. The mass murderer Posada has been a loyal servant to those same interests, which is why in the face of widespread condemnation about the blatant hypocrisy involved, he is today a free man, enjoying the protection of the US government.

However, a strong international campaign led by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela is putting enormous pressure on the Bush administration to obey international law and either charge Posada for his crimes or have him extradited. With enough pressure, the campaign has a real chance of success. This would be a serious blow to the US empire and its ability to use violence all over the world to protect its interests. To be part of this campaign, you can sign an online international petition at .

Posada must be made to face trial for his crimes. Anything less sends the message that acts of mass murder are acceptable — as long as they are committed in the interests of the powerful.