Editor’s Note: This piece appeared first in La Jornada, the national Mexican daily. It was translated by Machetera/Tlaxcala.
Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA employee, veteran of the failed invasion of Cuba, support operative for the Nicaraguan Contras and the accused mastermind behind the worst terrorist attacks in Latin America and the Caribbean, was acquitted last Friday in a federal court in El Paso, Texas—but only on charges related with lying to immigration authorities, and not for his long history of violence, for which justice authorities in Venezuela and other countries are still seeking his extradition.
After a trial that dragged on for thirteen weeks, and only three hours after beginning deliberations, the jury reached a unanimous “not guilty” verdict on each one of the eleven counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and immigration fraud.
The verdict marks the end of the US government’s prosecution of Posada Carriles, begun four years ago when he was accused of entering the United States illegally, and now all indications are that he will continue living happily in Miami, where he is considered a hero. At the end of the trial, he left the courthouse a free man.
Now the only pending legal action remaining against him is Venezuela’s extradition request to try him on seventy-three counts of murder, as he is accused of organizing the most serious terrorist attack in Latin America: the 1976 bombing of the Cubana de Aviación passenger airliner.
The US Justice Department expressed that it was “disappointed by the decision” of the jury in El Paso. But José Pertierra, the attorney who is representing the Venezuelan government in its efforts to extradite Posada Carriles, told La Jornada: “I suggest that the United States government not feel so disappointed and extradite him instead.”
The case in El Paso arose from his illegal entry into the United States in 2005, where he first applied for political asylum and later for citizenship.
Federal prosecutors accused Posada Carriles of lying about the way he entered the country, as well as making statements denying his participation in terrorist activities, especially the bomb attacks on hotels and tourist sites in Cuba in 1997, which took the life of the Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo and left twelve others wounded.
Pertierra who attended the trial every day in El Paso, told La Jornada that the evidence presented during the trial was “overwhelming” in proving that Posada lied to immigration authorities about his entry into the United States as well as his role in the terrorist attacks against Cuba. He added that the recorded statements from Posada Carriles himself, as well as the testimony from multiple witnesses, “couldn’t have been clearer.”
These witnesses included expert forensic pathologists and Cuban investigators, associates of the accused, and even the reporter Ann Louise Bardach, who interviewed the previously convicted terrorist for the New York Times. In that interview, Posada Carriles admitted being the mastermind behind the attacks against the hotels in Cuba.