Judge Kathleen Cardone’s postponement, Feb. 18, of Luis Posada’s trial in El Paso, Texas, set for March 1 signified for José Pertierra a U.S. ploy to “put off, defer and delay the case of Luis Posada Carriles until he dies of old age in Miami.”
Pertierra, who is Venezuela’s U.S. lawyer, has drawn a blank in trying to get Washington to honor an almost five-year-old request for Posada’s extradition. The 82-year-old Cuban escapee from a Venezuelan jail is needed there so court proceedings against him can be finalized. Venezuelan prosecutors accuse him of engineering the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people. Declassified U.S. intelligence documents confirm his role.
For a while after Posada’s arrival in the United States in 2005, the case of the would-be assassin of a head of state, the confessed bomber of tourist hotels in Havana and the murderer of an Italian tourist showed up in alternative press reports but almost never in mainstream media. He spent a few months in immigration detention and then joined fellow plotter and assassin Orlando Bosch in living the easy life in Miami. His name shows up in news reports now with less and less frequency.
Trials for Posada were postponed three times before. One set for May 2007 was cancelled because of prosecutorial errors, viewed as deliberate by some. Posada earlier faced charges of lying to immigration officials as to how he arrived in Florida. Charges against him in the recently aborted trial centered on his lying in response to investigators’ questions about funding and organizing hotel bombings in 1997.
But over the years, murder, the airliner bombing, and a near assassination of Cuban President Fidel Castro all went by the boards. Posada gained protection from extradition on the pretext that prosecution on the minor charges took priority.
At the prosecutors’ behest, access to 90 percent of the evidence against Posada has been sealed, viewable only to the prosecution, defense attorneys and the judge. Most of the secret material supposedly has to do with Posada’s CIA career lasting at least 25 years. Back in 2003, FBI functionaries in Miami destroyed boxes of evidence against Posada. Judge Cardone’s action in calling off the trial came at the prosecution’s request and was unexplained.
Posada would seem to have the upper hand. Observers say that his defense will ultimately rely on allegations that the CIA mentored his criminal behavior and even ordered some of his nefarious deeds. Posada and his lawyers had hinted at piling on embarrassment by divulging CIA crimes he had a hand in or observed. Old CIA documents released last October by the National Security Archives identified Posada’s CIA handlers, demonstrated his spying on fellow right-wing Cuban Americans, and recorded a CIA recommendation for a “responsible civil position” in post-revolutionary Cuba.
Further contradictions surfaced in plans for Posada’s flight to El Paso for the trial. His terrorist past, officially unmentionable, barred him from boarding a commercial flight. But Judge Kathleen Cardone authorized the bypassing of anti-terrorism rules so Posada could fly in a private jet. Albert Pardo Herreros, an alleged arms and drug trafficker implicated in the Iran Contra scandal, was to have provided the flight.
The Miami mindset setting Posada up as a hero was on display in a Radio Mambi interview with Posada and his lawyer Arturo Hernandez on Feb. 11. They were raising money for Posada’s legal expenses. Hernandez proclaimed, “One great lesson for the community from this trial is the support my client has received. The trial will be a confrontation of two systems: that of liberty in the United States and Cuban Communism,” adding that “the honor of the anti-Castro resistance is what is on trial.”
At this point, the case against Posada, surrounded by secrecy, is in limbo, which lawyer Pertierra describes as “the true objective of the prosecution.” Judge Cardone announced a hearing for May 20 so that she can “know the ‘state’ of the case, to determine if a date will finally be set for the trial.”
Washington seems to be playing out a scenario that says, “Yes, he’s a terrorist, but he’s our terrorist.”