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The terrorist George Bush wants to protect

By Alan Maass | May 20, 2005 | Pages 1 and 2

"ANY NATION that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime," George Bush told Congress after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Unless, that is, the "regime" in question is the U.S. government itself.

The U.S. is currently harboring one of the world's most deadly terrorists--anti-Castro Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles. And the Bush administration shows no signs of bringing him to justice.

Posada is the chief suspect in the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner that killed 73 people. But that is only one in a long list of Posada's terrorist atrocities--many of them carried out in operations supported by the U.S. government.

After being pardoned last year in Panama for his part in a plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Posada snuck into the U.S. in March, and his lawyer has since been appealing for political asylum.

Last week, Venezuela's Supreme Court demanded that U.S. authorities arrest Posada and extradite him to stand trial for the Air Cubana bombing. The Bush administration is faced with three choices, according to a New York Times report: "granting him asylum; jailing him for illegal entry; or granting Venezuela's request for extradition."

Administration officials are trying to avoid the controversy, but Posada poses, as journalist Jim Lobe wrote, "a particularly delicate problem for a president whose family has long courted anti-Castro militants in the Cuban-American community, but who himself has sworn that neither terrorists nor the governments that harbor them should escape punishment."

Posada's involvement in violence and murder stretches back four decades--and across a dozen countries throughout Latin America.

Declassified documents confirm that Posada was on the CIA payroll for much of the 1960s and early 1970s, following the failure of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Castro. In the late 1960s, Posada relocated to Venezuela, where he was a senior officer for the country's fanatically anti-communist spy agency, known by the initials DISIP.

Through his ongoing connections to DISIP, Posada was involved in the shadowy network of terrorists and thugs that carried out the notorious Operation Condor--a CIA-approved assassination spree against left-wing figures throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Posada was present at the June 1976 meeting in the Dominican Republic where two of Condor's most notorious killings were planned--the Air Cubana bombing and the murder of Chile's former foreign minister Orlando Letelier. Letelier was a leading figure in the left-wing government overthrown in a 1973 military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, with the cooperation of the Nixon White House. Letelier was blown up along with his American aide, Ronnie Moffit, in a car bombing in Washington, D.C. in September 1976.

DISIP's involvement in the bombing of the Cuban airliner two weeks later became an embarrassment for the Venezuelan government, which locked up Posada for nearly a decade as a "preventative measure--to prevent him from talking or being killed," says retired FBI counterterrorism specialist Carter Cornick. "They knew that he had been involved."

Posada eventually escaped prison in Venezuela, and turned up in El Salvador, running part of the secret supply network used by the Reagan administration to funnel arms and money to the right-wing contra army fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

When that operation was exposed, he moved on to Guatemala, where he worked for a time as an intelligence officer for the death-squad government. During the 1990s, he organized a series of bombings of Havana tourist spots, including one that killed an Italian visitor.

In 2000, Posada traveled to Panama with three other men--one of whom was convicted in the 1976 Letelier bombing--to assassinate Castro at an international conference. The four were arrested, convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail, but former President Mireya Moscoso pardoned them, on "humanitarian grounds."

If Posada is granted asylum and allowed to stay in the U.S., it won't be the first time that a Bush administration has shown its high regard for terrorists--as long as their violence is aimed at Castro.

In 1990, George Bush Sr. pardoned Orlando Bosch--a long-time conspirator with Posada in anti-Castro terrorism, including the Air Cubana bombing. Bosch was held in a Florida prison after illegally entering the U.S. in 1988, but Bush Sr. signed his walking papers.

Many people believe Bosch has his well-connected lobbyist to thank for the pardon--an ambitious Florida politician named Jeb Bush. Today, Bosch lives well in a fancy mansion in Miami--and is busy organizing support for his friend, Posada.

These killers are the men the U.S. government relies on to fight its dirty wars in Latin America.

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