The Posada Case
Here is yesterday's development, from Associated Press:
Cuban Charged With Entering U.S. Illegally. By Curt Andersen. May 19, 2005.
U.S. immigration officials charged Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles on Thursday with entering the United States illegally, which could lead to his deportation to another country. Venezuela wants Posada in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.
Why is this case such a big deal? At stake is the credibility of the United States' War Against Terror. No less than Andres Oppenheimer has proclaimed in his Miami Herald column: "Let me start by stating it in unambiguous terms: If the Bush administration fails to deport suspected Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, it will make a mockery of its war on terror." Either they are against Terrorism everywhere, or else they are only interested in waging war against terrorist groups in selective situations that suit their strategic objectives. This case is so clear-cut that can be no doubt about the implications of the decision. "Moral clarity is a strategic asset" in the war on terrorism, said Pentagon policy chief, Douglas Feith, in a 2002 speech. Yes, we await the decision of the United States government in the case of Luis Posada Carriles.
What did Luis Posada Cariles do?
(Baltimore Sun) Will U.S. harbor terrorist? By Peter Kornbluh and Julia E. Sweig. May 15, 2005.
Oct. 6, 1976: Mr. Posada masterminded the destruction of Cubana Airline Flight 455. The plane blew up just after taking off from Barbados, killing all 73 men, women and children aboard, including the entire teenage Cuban Olympic fencing team. Within 24 hours, according to a declassified FBI cable dated the next day, an intelligence source "all but admitted that Posada [and others] had engineered the bombing of the airplane." He was arrested and jailed for nine years in Venezuela until 1985, when he bribed his way out of prison and fled to El Salvador.
1997: Mr. Posada orchestrated a series of hotel bombings in Havana intended to deter the growing tourism trade in Cuba. An Italian businessman was killed and 11 people wounded. In a taped interview with New York Times reporter Ann Louise Bardach, Mr. Posada proudly assumed responsibility and suggested such acts of terror would continue. "It is sad that someone is dead," he said, "but we can't stop."
November 2000: Mr. Posada was arrested in Panama, charged and convicted as the ringleader of a conspiracy to assassinate Mr. Castro during a state visit - a plot that involved detonating a carload of plastic C-4 explosives that could have killed dozens of innocent bystanders.
But in 2004, he and three other Cuban-Americans were suddenly pardoned by Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso. Mr. Posada went into hiding in Honduras. Six weeks ago, using a false passport, he apparently sneaked into the United States and decided to seek political asylum on the basis of his past relations with the CIA.
(Washington Post) Our Man's in Miami. Patriot or Terrorist? By Ann Louise Bardach. April 17, 2005.
In 1976, Bosch, Posada and two Venezuelans, were charged and imprisoned for the bombing of the Cuban civilian airliner -- the first act of airline terrorism in the hemisphere -- killing all aboard, including the members of Cuba's national fencing team, many of them teenagers.
The powerful exile leadership in Miami financed a legal crusade to free the two, challenging the trial process in Caracas, where bribery is widespread. Bosch would serve 11 years and Posada nine before their lawyers won acquittals. But both remained jailed pending prosecutors' appeals and new trials, in accordance with Venezuela's labyrinthine judicial system.
Their indictment was the result of the collective data and wisdom of three intelligence organizations: American, Venezuelan and Cuban. "Bosch and Posada were the primary suspects," a retired high-level CIA official familiar with the case confirmed in an interview, adding "there were no other suspects." A close confidante of the two militants told me, "It was a screw-up. It was supposed to be an empty plane." Others contend that the men believed the airliner to be a military craft, though neither man has ever expressed remorse for the civilian death toll. An unrepentant Bosch still calls the plane "a legitimate target," recently telling a Miami reporter, "there were no innocents on that plane."
Posada "escaped" from prison in 1985 after his Miami cohorts paid a $28,000 bribe to the warden. Three weeks later, he was in El Salvador, where Felix Rodriguez, a comrade from his early CIA days, was waiting for him with a very special job offer: to be his deputy in the covert Contra resupply operation directed by Lt. Col. Oliver L. North. In our conversations, Posada blamed a fellow commando (conveniently dead) for the airline bombing and cited political influence-peddling in the Venezuelan justice system for his and Bosch's long prison stints. Their critics argue the opposite: that Venezuela's endemic corruption enabled Posada and Bosch's supporters to buy them superb accommodations in prison and, ultimately, Posada's escape.
In November 2000, Posada was arrested again, along with three other anti-Castro militants for plotting to assassinate Castro during the Ibero-American summit in Panama. All of the arrested men had impressive rap sheets and had been charter members of the terrorist groups CORU or Omega 7. In April 2004, Panama's Supreme Court sentenced Posada and his associates to up to eight years in prison, but in August the quartet was sprung by a surprise pardon from departing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, who maintains good relations with Miami's political leadership. Her pardon outraged U.S and Latin American law enforcement officials.
Three of the men were flown to Miami and met by their jubilant supporters just days before the 2004 presidential election. But Posada disappeared -- until his emergence here last month.
You can read about how Posada got out of jail free in Panama in this previous post US Let Terrorists Go Free.
It is often too easy to reduce a terrorist act into an abstraction: a bomb went off and some people died. So what? This is exactly what his attorney Eduardo Soto has been arguing to the media:
(Miami Herald) Exiles reluctant to publicly back accused terrorist. By Oscar Corral, Alfonso Chardy and Luisa Yanez. March 19, 2005.
Soto said he anticipates that Miami-area witnesses will be called to testify in any asylum case, either by himself or the government. He said U.S. officials will doubtless be gathering evidence on the 1976 jetliner bombing, which killed 73 people, as well as a 1997 series of bombings at tourist sites in Cuba, which killed an Italian national.
Even if the government tries to link Posada to the Cuba bombings, Soto said he could argue that the 1997 bombings were political acts -- and that the man who was killed was not meant to be harmed. The aim, Soto said, would be to prevent an immigration judge from finding that Posada had committed ''a serious nonpolitical crime,'' which would be a bar to asylum.
On the jetliner case -- for which Posada was twice acquitted in Venezuela -- Soto said: "I think there are things simply impossible to prove.''
However, it would seem that there is plenty of proof in the files of the U.S. goverment:
(The Nation) The Posada File. By Peter Kornbluh. May 19, 2005.
The CIA document, stamped Secret, is dated June 22, 1976, and titled "Possible Plans of Cuban Exile Extremists to blow up a Cubana airliner." A "usually reliable" source, described as a "businessman with close ties to the Cuban exile community," reports that an extremist group led by an anti-Castro terrorist named Orlando Bosch "plans to place a bomb on a Cubana airline flight traveling between Panama and Havana." The source says that the original plan for the attack called for two bombs to be placed on Cubana flight 467 on June 21. (This did not take place.) This intelligence report is disseminated to multiple US agencies, including the FAA, but there is no indication any action is taken, or that a warning is provided to Cuban authorities.
Less than four months later, on October 6, two bombs explode on Cubana Flight 455, which has just taken off from Barbados. The plane is carrying seventy-three people, including Cuba's teenage fencing team and eleven Guyanese citizens, most of them students on their way to Havana to attend medical school. All aboard perish when the plane crashes into the sea. A CIA source subsequently reports that sometime around the last week of September, another renowned anti-Castro exile in Caracas, Luis Posada Carriles, was overheard stating: "We are going to hit a Cuban airliner."
But 9/11 was made more touching by the daily stories in the New York Times about those who died and those whom they left behind. In the case of the 1976 Cubana Airline bombing, the following story appeared in the Miami Herald:
(Miami Herald) Family haunted by fugitive's bid for U.S. asylum. By Jim Defede. April 24, 2005.
The party lasted well into the night. Raymond Persaud's friends and relatives had gathered at the family home in Georgetown, Guyana, to wish him well on his new adventure. The 19-year-old was one of six students in the country awarded a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. In the morning, he and the other students would fly to Havana.
''I remember that we had borrowed all these chairs for the party,'' recalled Roseanne Nenninger, Raymond's sister, who was just 11 when her brother left. "In the morning, we got up and the whole family drove to the airport. All my brothers and sisters, we all took off from school to see my brother off. It was Oct. 6, 1976, a Wednesday, and I'll never forget how very hot it was outside.''
A picture taken that morning at the airport shows Raymond, dressed in his best suit, standing alongside two of his five siblings, his brother Trevor and sister Roseanne.
''He was so happy,'' Roseanne said. "And my father was so proud.''
The family hugged and kissed at the airport, as Raymond told his mother he would send her a letter as soon as he arrived in Havana so that she would know he had arrived safely. After Raymond boarded the Cubana DC-8, the family returned to their home.
''We were tired from the night before, and we all fell asleep,'' Roseanne recalled. "And [by midafternoon] I remember that my cousin came over and woke us all up. It was very bizarre. She gathered us all together and told us the plane had crashed. And my mother just started to scream.''
Flight 455 flew from Guyana to Trinidad and from Trinidad to Barbados. The plane was then scheduled to fly to Kingston, Jamaica, before making its final stop in Havana.
Eight minutes after the plane took off from Barbados, a bomb exploded. ''We have an explosion on board,'' the pilot radioed to the control tower. "We're descending fast. We have fire on board.''
The pilot struggled to keep the plane airborne for several minutes, but it ultimately crashed into the Caribbean, five miles short of Barbados' Seawell Airport. All 73 people aboard the plane died, including 58 Cubans and 11 Guyanese.
That night, and for the next seven days, the extra chairs the family had borrowed for Raymond's celebratory goodbye party would be used for his wake and memorial service.
''We've lived with grief ever since that day,'' said Zena, Raymond's mother. "Especially my husband.''
''My father was not the same after the death of my brother,'' Roseanne said. ''It was such a shock, the way it happened,'' added another of Raymond's sisters, Sharon Persaud, who was 12 when her brother died. "My father had so many hopes for his child. And for it to all end that way. He became obsessed by it.''
Charles Persaud moved his family to the United States in 1979 and for years gathered boxes of information on the bombing. ''My father died two years ago from a massive heart attack,'' said Roseanne. "He died of a broken heart because he could not get over losing my brother.''
No one else in the family had become nearly as obsessed with the Cubana flight as Raymond's father. And in the two years since his passing, it was rarely mentioned. Until two weeks ago when Zena Persaud noticed a story in a Caribbean newspaper in Queens, N.Y., under the headline: Asylum to be sought in U.S. for 1976 Cubana Airline bombing suspect.
The story explained that Luis Posada, long suspected of the bombing, had illegally entered the United States and was going to seek political asylum.
''He's hiding in South Florida,'' she said incredulously, adding that she immediately called her daughter Roseanne with the news. ''Here it is, 29 years later, and I just started crying,'' Roseanne said.
At almost the same moment Zena was reading that story in the Caribbean Daylight, Sharon Persaud was at her desk at the Department of Homeland Security's office in Garden City, N.J.
For five years, she was an asylum officer hearing claims like Posada's; now she was a supervisor in the naturalization section: "News stories of interest are often e-mailed around the department, and I just happened to see this one that mentioned Posada. I couldn't believe it.''
Two men were convicted for planting the bombs aboard the Cubana flight. Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo boarded the flight in Trinidad and planted the bombs before deplaning in Barbados. Ricardo and Lugo had both worked for Venezuela's secret police, DISIP, which was closely aligned with anti-Castro Cubans who were using Caracas as a base of operations against the Castro government.
The two men also were linked to a private security agency started by Luis Posada, a CIA-trained Cuban exile who once oversaw DISIP's explosives section. Orlando Bosch, another Cuban exile who had embraced violence as a way of removing Fidel Castro, was in Caracas at the time, and Posada assigned Ricardo to drive Bosch around Venezuela before the bombing.
All four men -- Ricardo, Lugo, Posada and Bosch -- were arrested and tried in Venezuela for the Cubana bombing. Ricardo and Lugo were convicted.
The trials of Bosch and Posada -- who were accused of masterminding the attack -- ended in acquittals. There were allegations that the verdicts had been rigged and that officials had been bribed. Bosch was released and came to the United States. In 1989, President George Bush -- over the strong objections of his own Justice Department -- granted Bosch political asylum.
Posada, however, continued to be held in Venezuela while prosecutors appealed his acquittal. In 1985, Posada escaped from prison, after prison bosses were bribed to let him go. He then went to work with Oliver North, providing weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras. He also continued to fight against Castro by allegedly organizing a series of hotel bombings in Havana in the mid-1990s. An Italian tourist, Fabio di Celmo, died in one of those bombings in 1997.
While both Posada and Bosch have repeatedly denied being involved in the Cubana airline bombing, neither expressed remorse over it. ''At times, you cannot avoid hurting innocent people,'' Bosch once told investigators.
Now 77, Posada wants to retire in Miami.
''The part that is disturbing to me is that someone like this could come into this country and there isn't more outrage,'' said Roseanne. "He probably will get political asylum because he apparently does know a lot of important people in a lot of high places.''
''Why should the United States be a safe haven for him?'' asks Sharon Persaud. "This guy should go to Venezuela, where he is still wanted. He's a terrorist. He killed innocent people. If he is granted asylum, what does that say about this country?''
Initially, Sharon said she was nervous to speak out, fearing it could jeopardize her career with Homeland Security. In recent days, though, she went through her father's old files on the bombing and realized she couldn't stay silent. ''This would have been his time to speak out, this would have been his time to say all the things he wanted to say,'' she said. "He would probably be there in Miami right now. And I think that's why the rest of us are speaking out now, because we know he would have wanted his voice to be heard.''
Then there is the case of the Italian tourist in Miami Herald:
The father and brother of an Italian tourist killed by a bomb in a Havana hotel in 1997 say they are outraged that Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles, implicated in the attack, is seeking asylum in the United States. Livio Di Celmo, whose brother Fabio died in the hotel blast, says he's willing to travel to Miami to testify against Posada in any asylum or extradition proceeding.
Livio Di Celmo and his father, Giustino Di Celmo, told The Herald they feel Posada should be detained and brought to justice. ''It's like a New York or New Jersey resident who lost a relative in the Sept. 11 attacks, and the mastermind of this terrorist act is living in Canada. Wouldn't they be upset at the Canadian government?'' said Livio Di Celmo, in a phone interview from his Montreal home.
Eight years ago, a bomb planted inside Havana's famed Copacabana Hotel exploded and shrapnel pierced 32-year-old Fabio Di Celmo's throat, killing him. In 1997, Posada told The New York Times that he had masterminded the bombing campaign that targeted about a dozen sites in Havana that year.According to The Times, Posada said he was saddened by Di Celmo's death, ``but we can't stop . . . That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.''
Previously, the United States government acted as if they had no information about the presence of Luis Posada Carriles in the country. This does not say much about Homeland Security, does it?
(Washington Post) Our Man's in Miami. Patriot or Terrorist? By Ann Louise Bardach. April 17, 2005.
How was it possible that a self-described "warrior" and "militante" -- long a fixture on the U.S. immigration authorities' watch list -- had crossed into the United States with a bogus passport and visa? And is it remotely conceivable that the Bush administration, notwithstanding its purported commitment to the war on terrorism (Rule 1 of U.S. counterterrorism policy: "make no concessions to terrorists and strike no deals"), would consider residency for a notorious paramilitary commando? He has even boasted of orchestrating numerous attacks on both civilian and military targets (including the 1997 bombings of Cuban tourist facilities that killed an Italian vacationer and wounded 11 others) during his 50-year war to topple Castro.
I remember Posada's sly smile when he told me that he had at least four different passports from different countries in bogus names, including an American one. When I asked when he last visited the United States, he chortled with amusement. "Officially or unofficially? I have a lot of passports," Posada said. "If I want to go to Miami, I have different ways to go. No problem." Evidently not.
(Miami Herald) Our Opinion: U.S. Should Keep Accused Bomber Detained. May 18, 2005.
After accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles made a mockery of the federal agency charged with homeland security, it finally did its job: The Department of Homeland Security arrested him yesterday. The move came weeks after he was alleged to be in Miami, after he applied for asylum and only after he held a press conference.
Until then, DHS appeared indifferent to Mr. Posada and the danger he presented. How could the United States credibly wage a global war against terror while allowing a suspected terrorist to freely roam on its soil?
HS officials still voiced doubt last week that Mr. Posada was here, even after Herald reporters talked with him in a Brickell condo. DHS was created to improve information sharing and keep suspected criminals from crossing the U.S. border. In this case, it seems that little has changed since 9/11.
U.S. authorities apparently hadn't bothered to confirm his presence until yesterday. In fact, DHS said that it wasn't actively looking for him because there were no warrants out on Mr. Posada.
The terrorist suspect is on a watch list and admitted to entering the country illegally. Wasn't that enough for DHS to lock him up? DHS should also investigate whether Santiago Alvarez, his benefactor, or anyone else may have helped smuggle Mr. Posada into this country. Anyone who did should be prosecuted.
This is the perfect illustration of the ineffectiveness of the Homeland Security procedures, which are procedures devised and built by government bureaucracies and commercial contractors worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and those terrorist watchlists, databases and data mining algorithms are hapless against real-life terrorists who know exactly what they are doing.
Then Posada showed up in Miami to give press conferences and interviews, included this one:
(Miami Herald) Posada speaks out in Miami. By Oscar Corral and Alfonso Chardy. May 17, 2005.
Luis Posada Carriles may be the most wanted man in Cuba and Venezuela, but on this recent afternoon, the man accused of deadly terrorism peacefully sips a peach drink, reads about Confucius and marvels at the Miami skyline from the balcony of a Brickell Key high-rise.
''At first I hid a lot,'' Posada said of his arrival in Miami, noting that he spends much of his time reading or painting oil-on-canvas landscapes of Cuba. "I thought the [U.S.] government was looking for me.''
Brought to this luxury condo -- just a few blocks from offices of the Department of Homeland Security -- for his first interview since sneaking into the United States in March, the anti-Castro militant said he has come to realize that the U.S. government is not looking for him. "Now I hide a lot less. People have recognized me in the market, at the doctor's office, mostly older people.''
Still, he declines to reveal where he's staying. His arrival in Miami has created an international uproar: Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela are demanding that U.S. authorities arrest Posada on terrorism charges. Castro and Chávez are branding U.S. leaders hypocrites for going after terrorists overseas but not aggressively pursuing Posada, who has applied for asylum.
During the two-hour sit-down on Wednesday, Posada:
• Maintained that he played no role in the bombing of a Cubana de Aviación passenger jet in 1976 -- despite recently declassified federal documents linking him to meetings where such an attack was discussed. "Sincerely, I didn't know anything about it.''
• Refused to confirm or deny his involvement in a string of 1997 tourist-site bombings in Cuba -- despite having admitted it previously. "Let's leave it to history.''
• Spun an extraordinary tale of how he made it to Miami on a Greyhound bus from Houston -- saying he narrowly avoided detention when immigration officers boarded and started demanding papers from foreign nationals. 'I said, `Sir, I'm 80 years old. I forget things. Right now I don't even remember where I'm going.' ''
The Herald's interview with Posada came after several days of negotiations with his South Florida contacts. They issued cloak-and-dagger-style instructions on rendezvous points and strict interview rules -- no cellphones, tape recorders or cameras.
Posada's contacts told the reporters to drive to a Brickell Avenue parking garage and wait next to a pair of fourth-floor elevators for a short ride to a gated Brickell Key condominium. The reporters then rode an elevator to one of the upper floors, knocked on a wood-paneled door and were led to the small balcony, where Posada extended his hand.
"Luis Posada," he said, smiling. "Pleasure to meet you.''
Posada, 77, resembled a wealthy retiree, clad in leather topsiders, khaki linen pants and a linen cream-colored shirt -- a dapper style that has been his throughout his 40 years as a self-styled warrior determined to topple Castro.
Posada said he sneaked into Miami in March because he feared Castro agents were close to killing him. He survived an assassination attempt in 1990 in Guatemala, which he blamed on Castro gunmen. Bullets tore into his face, and he still bears scars on his nose, jaw and cheek, which left him with a permanent mumble and the need to slurp sometimes when speaking. He constantly dabs at the corner of his mouth with a napkin. Other than his scars, he's healthy, Posada says.
Asked whether he participated in the bombing of the Cuban jetliner, which killed 73 people, including a fencing team from Cuba, Posada said: "They accused me of being the intellectual author of fabricating a weapon of war and of treason to the homeland. No one saw me make a bomb.''
Venezuelan courts acquitted him twice in the explosion. Posada escaped from prison in 1985 while awaiting an appeal by government prosecutors. ''The only way for me to gain freedom was to escape,'' he said. "I'm the only prisoner in the world who has had to escape after being acquitted.''
In recently declassified documents from the CIA and FBI, informants alleged that he attended at least two planning meetings for the airliner attack -- but Posada said those accusations were false and made by unreliable sources. He sought to discredit one of those informants, Ricardo ''Monkey'' Morales Navarrete.
Before he was fatally shot in a Key Biscayne bar in 1982, Morales admitted a role in the bombing. In conversations with at least two Miami detectives, he also implicated Posada, according to the papers and an interview with The Herald. But in an interview with an exile journalist in 1982, Morales said Posada played no role. ''I never would have participated in any conspiracy with Monkey Morales,'' Posada said. "I'd have to be crazy, my God! Everything Monkey said had a double intention. He was not credible.''
Former Miami police Detective Diosdado Diaz told The Herald recently that in a private conversation Morales told him that Posada prepared the explosives to blow up the plane. In the interview, Posada decried Diaz's recollection, calling him ''un farsante y un sin verguenza'' (a phony and shameless one). Diaz later shot back: "He's a pimp and a liar.''
For years, Posada has maintained that Morales told him he had masterminded the bombing. He told The Herald that a spy inside the Cuban Embassy in Caracas told him that Morales had been working for the Cuban government after its agents paid him $18,000 at a Mexico City hotel in early 1976. He refused to identify that source, saying that the person was still working for the Cuban government.
Posada's asylum bid will largely depend on whether an immigration judge believes he was involved in any terrorist attack. Immigration law bars asylum for any foreign national believed to have committed a serious crime. Posada's connection to a string of about a dozen explosions at Cuban tourist spots in 1997 is also an issue. In the interview, Posada did not confirm or deny a role in the bombings, which killed an Italian national and injured about six.
In an interview in July 1998, The New York Times reported that Posada had said he ''organized a wave of bombings in Cuba last year at hotels, restaurants and discotheques'' and also that his chief supporters were leaders of the Cuban American National Foundation, including its founder, Jorge Mas Canosa, who died in 1997. After the story appeared, The Times clarified that CANF did not fund the bombings.
Posada told The Herald last week that in his Times interview he had implicated dead exile leaders in funding the attacks as a way to deflect attention from the real conspirators. ''I wanted to play a trick on The New York Times, but it backfired,'' he said.
Asked whether he denied organizing the bombings, Posada shook his head and said, "Let's leave it to history.''
''I'll tell you one thing, the bombs in hotels were very small, just intended to break windows and cause minor damage,'' Posada said. The Italian man who was killed ''was standing 40 meters away and he was hit by a little splinter in the neck,'' he said. "It was bad luck that it happened. But it was just a little wound. I suspect that Cuba killed the Italian because he wasn't going to die from that little wound.''
Homeland security officials have said they are not actively looking for Posada because there are no warrants for his arrest in the United States. They have even expressed doubts, as recently as Friday, that Posada is in the country.
Because of his past, Posada and his supporters took extraordinary measures to sneak him into the country. Since his arrival, his attorney, Eduardo Soto, has said that his client crossed the Mexican border but has refused to provide details. Castro has repeatedly claimed that Miami developer Santiago Alvarez, a friend and benefactor to Posada, brought him to Miami aboard his remodeled shrimp boat, Santrina, which is now anchored in the Miami River. Castro has cited Santrina's voyage to the Mexican resort of Isla Mujeres, near Cancún in mid-March, when the boat ran aground outside the harbor. Alvarez acknowledged that he was in Isla Mujeres in mid-March but said the trip was a maiden voyage for the overhauled boat and denied smuggling Posada to Miami on it. Two other men who accompanied Alvarez on the trip, José Pujol and Osvaldo Mitat, also told The Herald that they did not bring Posada to Miami on the Santrina.
Posada was released in August from a Panama prison after then-President Mireya Moscoso pardoned him in connection with an alleged plot to kill Castro in 2000. Posada said he flew on a private jet to Honduras, where a fellow exile sheltered him amid a national police search. He eventually made it to Guatemala -- where he had a brush with death in 1990, when hit men fired more than 40 bullets into his car.
Posada said that sometime earlier this year, a friend drove him across the border into Belize and then into the Cancún area of Mexico. That was around the same time that the Santrina was docked at Isla Mujeres. Posada declined to say whether he met Alvarez there.
Posada said he crossed the Texas border in a vehicle with a migrant smuggler at Brownsville. He and the smuggler made their way to Houston, he said. Posada said his contacts had arranged to withhold half the smuggler's fee until they received a photograph of Posada standing at a Houston Greyhound station.
The 25 hours he spent on the bus, were terrible, he said, because he found himself surrounded by men in ''camisetas'' (undershirts), hauling boxes and speaking rough English that he didn't understand. Seeking better cover, he said he befriended and sat with a group of Mexicans, at one point buying them plates of chicken and rice.
The trip was uneventful until the bus pulled into Fort Lauderdale early one morning in late March, he said. ''Now comes the funny part,'' Posada recalled. It was 1:30 a.m. and only about a dozen people remained on the bus. Suddenly, immigration officers boarded the Greyhound for a routine spot check for undocumented foreign nationals, recalled Posada -- who had no papers.
The first ones busted were his Mexican friends, he said. Then, according to Posada, one of the officers approached him. He said he kept his cool. 'An agent said to me, `Sir, your documents,' '' he said. 'I said, `I left them at my house.' He said, 'How can they be at your house? Don't you know that by law you have to have them on you at all times?' I said 'Sir, I'm 80 years old, I forget things. Right now, I don't even remember where I'm going.' ''
There's no evidence to support Posada's account, but had an agent detained Posada, it would have been a coup for the Department of Homeland Security. Posada has for several years been on an immigration watch list designed to prevent his entry. ''It was late,'' Posada said, cherishing the memory. "I was old, older than I am today. . . . He pointed his finger at me, jabbing it, and kept walking.''
U.S. Border Patrol officers periodically board interstate buses and trains to check the immigration papers of foreign nationals. Victor Colon, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman in South Florida, said he found it ''difficult to comment'' on Posada's claim because he did not have a specific date and was not sure the Border Patrol was involved. Posada said he had escaped once again. The bus drove on and by 2:30 a.m. pulled into the Greyhound station near Miami International Airport, where a ''contact'' picked him up. It remains a mystery where he was taken after his arrival.
The past few weeks, Posada said, he has kept himself busy reading books about Cuban exile leaders and Confucius, among others, and painting Cuban landscapes, a craft he learned while in prison in Venezuela.
Now, in the city that he disparages for becoming comfortable in exile, but where he says he draws his energy to continue his struggle, Posada said he has no regrets. But he did acknowledge mistakes and said that ''men of action'' such as he were no longer held in the same high regard they once were. He said he is prepared to be detained if and when he has to appear for his asylum interview, and he has no plans to keep running.
"I feel that I've committed many errors, more than most people. But I've always believed in rebellion, in the armed struggle. I believe more and more every day that we will triumph against Castro. Victory will be ours.''
As evasive as Posada was on his most recent interview, he was already on the record before:
(Washington Post) Our Man's in Miami. Patriot or Terrorist? By Ann Louise Bardach. April 17, 2005.
It is a story of keen interest to me as Posada had granted me an exclusive interview in June 1998. At a safe house and other locations in Aruba, I spent three days tape-recording him for a series of articles that ran in the New York Times. The urbane and chatty Posada said that he had decided to speak with me in order to generate publicity for his bombing campaign of Cuba's tourist industry -- and frighten away tourists. "Castro will never change, never," Posada said. "Our job is to provide inspiration and explosives to the Cuban people."
Instead of undermining Castro, such comments have enabled the Cuban leader to argue that his foes are lawless at best and killers at worst. And so Castro remains in power, and Posada is looking for a new home.
In his Miami Herald column, Andres Oppenheimer felt queasy about media coverage of the reaction of the Cuban exile community in Florida. So he added the following postcript: "Some U.S. news networks and The New York Times have suggested in their reports that Posada Carriles is seen as a ''hero'' and a ''freedom fighter'' by Cuban exiles in Miami. That's sloppy reporting. No doubt that Castro would like that to be the case and embarrass Cuban exiles in the eyes of the world. But from what we've seen here so far, there's no evidence of a groundswell of support for Posada Carilles."
There is a historical dynamic that led to this situation.
The story began with Orlando Bosch (see Baltimore Sun):
The first Bush administration decided to give an administrative pardon to Mr. Posada's long-time partner in crime, Orlando Bosch.
Mr. Bosch, who headed a group that the FBI described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella group," was also arrested and imprisoned in Venezuela as a co-conspirator in the Cubana airline bombing. He was released in 1987 and returned, illegally, to the United States.
Despite a 1989 ruling by the Justice Department that Mr. Bosch "has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence" and should be deported because he threatened "to engage in activities which would be prejudicial to the public interest, or endanger the welfare, safety or security of the United States," the White House yielded to the political lobbying of the right-wing anti-Castro forces in Florida and released him to live, unmolested, in the Miami community.
(Washington Post) Our Man's in Miami. Patriot or Terrorist? By Ann Louise Bardach. April 17, 2005.
Bosch was allowed to leave Venezuela not long after then-U.S. ambassador Otto Reich voiced concerns about his safety in a series of cables to the State Department. He flew to Miami in December 1987 without a visa and was promptly arrested. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh described Bosch as an "unreformed terrorist," who should be deported. But Bosch had a powerful advocate in Jeb Bush, who at that time was managing the campaign of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban exile to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In an unusual presidential intercession on behalf of a convicted terrorist, President George H.W. Bush overruled the FBI and the Justice Department and in 1990 approved the release of Bosch, who won U.S. residency two years later.
Posada is gambling that he will have Bosch's luck and is banking on the same supporters. But Bosch's presence in Miami has often proved to be an embarrassment to the Bush family. When Bill Clinton was questioned by a Newsweek reporter about his pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, he snapped, "I swore I wouldn't answer questions about Marc Rich until Bush answered about Orlando Bosch." Few Republicans raised the issue again.
If Luis Posada Carriles had been brought back at around the same time, he would have received a hero's welcome too. But this is year 2005, and something happened in between. There was the Elián Gonzalez case and there was also 9/11. From the Miami Herald:
The last time federal agents seized a high-profile Cuban native in Miami-Dade County, there were demonstrations in the streets and angry speeches on Spanish-language radio, and anti-Castro exiles felt a lasting bitterness. But Luis Posada Carriles, who was taken into custody by U.S. agents on Tuesday, is no Elián González.
Eager to avoid the blistering that Miami's Cuban community took in 2000 as a result of the Elián case, exile leaders are preaching restraint when it comes to Posada, 77, a militant accused in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner and other acts of terrorism. Some said it's a lesson from the Elián protests, which fed a perception that the exile community was fighting the U.S. government.
In Miami's Little Havana Wednesday, exile leaders said they anticipated few protests of Posada's arrest -- though many exiles view him as a patriot for the cause of Cuban freedom and hope he is granted asylum. ''We don't want to play into Castro's hands and have him start criticizing us,'' said Enrique Carrazana, 72, a Bay of Pigs veteran sitting at a barber shop. Indeed, Castro has daily branded Posada a terrorist and ridiculed President Bush as a hypocrite for waging a war on terrorism while harboring Posada.
Ninoska Pérez Castellón, an influential radio personality and founding member of the hard-line Cuban Liberty Council, said the community was reassured by the Bush administration's statement Tuesday that Posada would not be deported to Cuba or Venezuela.
Some saw a partisan political factor in the exiles' restraint. Chin Martinez, a community activist and the father of Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, said exiles, who favor the Republican Party, should be defending Posada more vocally. ''If a Democratic president was in power, there would be demonstrations,'' said Martinez, 80, who is a registered Democrat. "This is about partisanship.''
In Washington, Miami's Cuban-American lawmakers offered statements Wednesday backing the ''rule of law'' for Posada. ''Leaders are reticent to embrace or condone anyone who has committed alleged terrorist acts,'' said Damián Fernández, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. And Fernández predicted more moderation from a community undergoing a generational shift in its politics. ''We also learned from Elián,'' Fernández said. "That left a bitter taste. We are more in tune to national and public opinion. We are more reserved in making a judgment on a case that's much more dicey [than Elián's].''
Miguel Saavedra, head of Vigilia Mambisa, a group known for its vigorous and impromptu anti-Castro demonstrations, staged a brief pro-Posada event in front of Versailles restaurant in Little Havana Tuesday night. But Saavedra said he fielded calls asking "that we stay calm and stop demonstrating.'' In response, he said, he agreed to wait 72 hours to see what happens to Posada. ''I'm confident the U.S. and the CIA, whom he worked for, will not turn their back on him,'' Saavedra said.
Santiago Alvarez, Posada's key benefactor in South Florida, told The Herald that Posada had asked groups such as Vigilia Mambisa to avoid large demonstrations. ''We have great respect for this country, and we do not want to look like we are being ungrateful,'' Alvarez said.
This section about the comments from the Cuban exile community is noteworthy in that there is zero mention of the victims of the terrorist acts. This is obviously not a good sign for an exile community which thinks that it has the right to resume the reins of the government upon Fidel Castro's imminent but belated demise.