It’s now clear why the United States refused to charge Posada Carriles with terrorism. Not until now do we see exactly why the government charged him only with the single and timid charge of entering the country without proper papers. Instead of pursuing justice, the United States government simply scolded the terrorist.
According to an article published this Wednesday in the Miami Herald’s Spanish language newspaper, the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently informed Posada´s lawyers that his “status as a detainee would be reviewed on the 24th of January.” This means that within a few weeks Posada Carriles, the man responsible for the blowing up of a passenger plane with 73 people on board in 1976, could soon be freed by the U.S. government under regulations that prohibit the indefinite detention of undocumented aliens whose deportation from the country cannot be carried out within a ninety-day period.
Everything has gone according to script so as to give the appearance of legality to actions whose intent is precisely to circumvent the law.
Immigration Judge William Abbott ordered Posada´s deportation to any country but Cuba or Venezuela on September 26, 2005. The law requires that once an order of deportation becomes final, it should be carried out within a ninety-day period or the person released, because the indefinite detention of undocumented aliens is illegal. In this case, the 90 days began running a month after the order became final when the government declined to appeal. That is to say, on the 26th of October.
In Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an undocumented alien has the right to conditional liberty if he cannot be removed from the country within a reasonable period. However, terrorists are exempt from this ruling. “Terrorist” is a word that the government has avoided associating with Luis Posada Carriles at all costs.
The Patriot Act authorizes the detention of someone who has not been deported, if he is a danger to the national security of the country or has been involved in terrorist acts. We don’t have to go far to find evidence that Luis Posada Carriles is a terrorist. It’s sufficient to read his own book, The Paths of the Warrior, in which he boasts about some of the terrorist acts he has organized, or we can go to the declassified intelligence cables from the CIA that report Posada´s boasting of his plans to down a Cuban passenger plane three months before he actually did it! We can also read the interview he gave the New York Times in 1998 in which he admits orchestrating the campaign of bombs that his paid Central American agents placed in various hotels and restaurants in Havana in 1997-bombs that killed an Italian tourist and wounded several others. We can also turn to the Panamanian Court decree that finds him guilty of trying to use the explosive C-4 to blow an auditorium full of students in 2000 during a speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama. In the interviews he gives and in his public statements, Posada Carriles advocates violence as the best way to defeat the government of Cuba: “It’s the only way to create an uprising there,” he told the New York Times.
There are enough laws in the United States to keep this terrorist in jail. What is lacking is the political will to do so. From the beginning of this drama, George W. Bush has wanted to shelter, rather than prosecute, the terrorist. Somewhere in a drawer in the Department of State are the pleadings filed by Venezuela, asking for his preventive detention as well as his extradition. The Bush Administration thus far ignores them and instead mocks U.S. law, as well as three separate extradition treaties signed, ratified and conveniently used by the government of the United States in other cases in its war on terror.
The family members of the victims of the passenger plane that Posada Carriles downed over the waters of Barbados on October 6, 1976, seek only minimal justice: that the man responsible for the cold blooded assassination of those 73 passengers be prosecuted for homicide and not treated as a humble undocumented worker in the United States.
With the possibility of Posada Carriles´ imminent release from detention in the next several days, it is more urgent than ever that the Department of Justice do what it should have done since May of last year: file the Venezuelan petition for an extradition detainer against Posada before a federal court. The Justice Department must file the request for a detainer right away. It need not wait until the immigration case is finished, because the extradition process has priority over immigration matters. The law here is quite clear and there is more than enough evidence to show that this man is a fugitive from justice in Venezuela with a resume filled to the brim with terrorist acts. As such, Posada has no right to conditional release and instead needs to be extradited for murder. As if this weren’t enough, two of his closest collaborators who presumably helped him enter the United States illegally, Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, are now in jail in South Florida charged with illegal possession of a war chest loaded with weapons and false documents.
The only problem facing the American justice system in the case of Luis Posada Carriles is the false premise that the United States government uses to spin this case. From the beginning the Bush Administration has tried to bury this man’s bloody past and instead presents him before the law and public opinion not as the terrorist that he is but as a simple undocumented alien that entered the United States without being inspected by an immigration officer. If the government is allowed to operate with this false major premise, he will be free within a few days. If Posada Carriles hits the streets, mendacity will have triumphed as it did when the world was told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
JOSÉ PERTIERRA is a lawyer representing the government of Venezuela in the extradition case of Luis Posada Carriles. His office is in Washington, D.C.