Whose hemisphere is it anyway?
Do you know this man?
That's Luis Posada Carriles, described by Gary Webb in Dark Alliance as a "veteran CIA agent with a history of involvement with drug traffickers, mobsters, and terrorists." He was investigated by the Justice Department in 1967 for "moonlighting" - so says a memo in his CIA file - for Santos Trafficante. (Posada had been supplying the Miami mob with explosives, silencers and hand grenades.)
The next year the agency transferred him to South America, where he went to work for Venezuelan intelligence. In 1973 Posada was placed under surveillance by the DEA when it received reports that he was the "main contact" in a major cocaine smuggling enterprise that involved elements of the Venezuelan government. A year later the DEA learned Posada was dealings weapons for drugs with a man believed "involved in political assassinations."
Officially, the CIA terminated its association with Posada in February, 1976.
Do you know what he did next?
It was midday on that Wednesday, October 6, 1976. The aircraft commenced the maneuver of revving its four engines, and cutting off the auxiliary ignition motors. A few minutes later it cruised along the runway and took off in a smooth but rapid ascent.
At 12:23 p.m. the cry of "Look out!" could be heard over the radio and seconds later the co-pilot informed: "There’s been an explosion and we’re coming down right now, we have a fire on board." The passenger plane was 28 miles from Seawell aerodrome and the radar screen showed it making a wide turn to the right to return to the terminal area.
After flying back 10 miles the crew asked for an immediate landing and just before 12:27 the co-pilot was heard shouting: "Close the door! Close the door!" Smoke was emanating from a section of the wing adjacent to the third engine. Nevertheless, the crew decided to release the landing equipment and utilize the flaps to increase the sustaining force of the glide and avoid a crash.
In these circumstances they were able to maintain control of the plane until a second detonation in the area of the toilets in the back part of the fuselage affected the control system by destroying or changing the configuration of the helm.
This provoked a violent lift of the plane’s nose that prompted the co-pilot to shout: "That’s worse! Stick to the water, Fello, stick to the water!" in the belief that the flight captain had shifted the controls toward himself in order to gain height.
A total silence reigned in the Seawell flight control tower: the profile of the CUT-1201 was lost for ever from the air controller’s radar screen as the plane nose-dived into the sea with 73 people on board.
Posada was arrested by Venezuelan authorities for the bombing of the airliner. (In Cocaine Politics, Peter Dale Scott writes that "Posada also had materials in his possession linking him to the assassination of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC, a month before the Cubana Airlines bombing.") He spent ten years in custody, only to escape shortly before his long-delayed trial.
And do you know where he surfaced?
El Salvador, where he served as second-in-command to old friend and terrorist Felix Rodriguez at the critical Iran/Contra cocaine resupply hub of Ilopango Air Force Base. "With men like Luis Posada...running things at Ilopango," Webb writes, "it's little wonder DEA agent [Celerino] Castillo was hearing rumors about drug trafficking." At a Guatemala City embassy reception in 1986 Vice President Bush asked the agent what he was up to, and "Castillo replied that he was investigating cocaine trafficking in El Salvador. He advised the vice president that 'there's some funny things going on with the Contras at Ilopango.' Bush, Castillo says, smiled at him knowingly and walked away." (From Cockburn and St Clair's Whiteout.)
In 2000 Posada was arrested in Panama for his role in yet another attempted assassination of Fidel Castro, this time during the 10th Ibero-American Summit. The plan called for the detonation of eight kilograms of C-4 plastic explosive in a public auditorium. Posada was pardoned by former Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso and fled to Florida.
If this world were irretrievably unjust that would be the end of the story, maybe punctuated by a few more explosions and kilos of cocaine. But we still have the odd glimmer of hope for happy endings. Or better yet, happy beginnings. And what happened next could be either.
Venezuela high court moving to extradite Miami Cuban militant
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's Supreme Court has begun processing an extradition request for a Cuban militant believed to be seeking asylum in Miami, the court announced Thursday.
The Supreme Court began processing the request on Wednesday for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted in Venezuela for treason and for a 1976 Cuban airliner bombing that killed 73 people, according to a statement released by the tribunal's press office.
Posada, a Cuban native with Venezuelan citizenship, was tried and acquitted twice in Venezuela in the 1976 Cubana Airlines bombing. He is wanted for escaping from prison in Venezuela in 1985 while awaiting a prosecutor's appeal in that case.
The Attorney General's Office in Venezuela announced Tuesday that steps were being taken to request Posada Carriles' extradition.
I'm not kidding myself. I expect the likelihood of the US sending Posada to Venezuela to be on par with Michael Meiring's chances of being returned to the Philippines. But there's justice being done in the mere attempt. Because even if it fails, it's a further unveiling of the sham that serves as the bully's moral high ground. ("We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.")
Speaking of which - do you know this woman?
Secretary of State Rice has been criss-crossing Latin America this week in a bid to immunize against the spread of the Venezuelan infection. In an interview with Colombia's Casa Editorial El Tiempo she said "we have no problem with the Venezuelan people." But. And as usual, it's a big one:
...this is about the behavior of the regime, both in terms of its domestic -- where domestically, where it has had very bad relations with the press -- where the ability for people to oppose the regime, where there needs to be a sense that the democratic institutions are being protected, and the questions about the behavior and the activities of the Venezuelan regime in the region.
But this is not just an issue between the United States and Venezuela. This is an issue of what kind of hemisphere is this going to be. Is it going to be a hemisphere that is democratic and that is prosperous and where neighbors get along, where neighbors don't interfere in each other's affairs, where people fight drug trade and fight terrorism together actively? That's the kind of hemisphere that we're trying to build and I believe that we have the cooperation and the support of almost all of the states of this region who want to see the same kind of hemisphere.
Which hemisphere, again, is Luis Posada Carriles'?