Posada, who is 77 and has dual Venezuelan and Cuban citizenship, was arrested in Miami on May 17 for illegal entry into the US. He is claiming asylum and, so far, the Bush administration has refused to extradite him to Venezuela, where he is wanted for the terrorist bombing.
Until 1974, the ex-CIA agent, who specialised in explosives at the infamous School of the Americas in Georgia, was head of the Venezuelan political police — DISIP — from where he, reportedly, oversaw the assassination of prominent leftists.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to sever diplomatic links if Posada is not turned over, which the US is obliged to do under bilateral treaties. He has accused the US of harbouring a known international terrorist, making a mockery of its “war on terror.”
“We demand that the US government stop its hypocrisy and its two-faced attitude and send this terrorist, this bandit, to Venezuela,” Chavez insisted last month. “The world is watching.”
This case has become a major headache for George Bush, who is loth to give up such a loyal veteran of the right-wing cause.
Posada is hailed as a hero among Miami’s rich, Castro-hating Cuban exiles, who form a key component of his base of support, as well as that of Bush’s brother Jeb, the governor of Florida.
A policeman in the Batista dictatorship, Posada also participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion as part of “Operation 40.” Their mission was simply to assassinate Castro.
He also freelanced for the Las Vegas mafia, at one point, supplying mob boss Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal with detonators and fuses for car-bombs, according to the FBI.
Two Argentinian founders of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a movement which supports parents of missing or tortured people in south America, are also demanding Posada’s extradition. They accuse him of involvement in Operation Condor, the US military plan which co-ordinated the bloodthirsty dictatorships of the 1970s in the region.
After bribing his way out of Venezuelan jail in 1985, he worked for Oliver North, directing terror against the people of Nicaragua, supplying the US-backed Contras with weapons in an illegal war against the Sandinista government.
The main focus throughout his life, however, seems to be an obsession with overthrowing Fidel Castro.
Posada masterminded a string of bombings in Havana during an international youth and student festival in 1997, resulting in the death of an Italian tourist at the Copacabana hotel.
“We didn’t want to hurt anybody,” he claimed in an interview with the New York Times the following year. “We just wanted to make a big scandal so that the tourists don’t come any more.”
“I sleep like a baby,” he famously boasted, showing little remorse for the misery he caused. “That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
In 2000, he was caught red-handed in Panama, preparing to assassinate Castro by blowing up a packed auditorium of over 3,000 students with 33 pounds of C-4 explosives. Although found guilty, he was pardoned in 2004 by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso, who promptly moved to Miami.
Reports that he was back in the US began surfacing earlier this year, but the government denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. However, after Posada held a press conference in Miami, this illusion was impossible to sustain and it was forced to act.
Appearing in an El Paso, Texas, courtroom last Monday, dressed in a red prison suit and bullet-proof vest, Posada renewed his request for asylum. His lawyer argued that his green card is still valid and requested that the case be moved to Miami.
The judge set an August 29 trial date and will decide next Friday whether to grant the self-confessed terrorist bail. The immigration trial is seen by Venezuela as a stalling tactic to obstruct the far more serious issue of extradition.
“The US government should not believe that, because it is delaying the process, the people are going to give in,” said Nicolas Maduro, president of the Venezuelan parliament. This week, Maduro announced that a parliamentary delegation had been sent to Washington to demand Posada’s extradition.
That message was echoed by protesters around the world, with millions taking to the streets in Cuba and Venezuela. Outside the El Paso courtroom on Monday and in 13 other cities across the US, demonstrations were held by anti-war coalition ANSWER.
On the same day, solidarity activists from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia campaigns picketed the US embassy in London. Protests have also been held in Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the Philippines.
The problem for Bush is that, if he backs down, it will be seen as a major propaganda victory for Chavez and Castro, whom he views as deadly enemies. Both are left-wing charismatic leaders who give their people hope instead of fear and invest their nations’ resources in health care and education rather than weapons and the stock-market.
The US backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and it has consistently labeled him a “negative force.” As well as providing an energy lifeline to Cuba by bartering oil for doctors, he has successfully torpedoed the neoliberal FTAA agreement, promoting his own “Bolivarian” alternative based on co-operation not competition between countries. The US imports 15 per cent of its oil from Venezuela.
Luis Posada is an old man who has dedicated his life to terrorising progressive movements in Latin America on behalf of the US. But one of the most dramatic allegations against him centres around some terrorism a little closer to home. Compelling evidence exists suggesting that Posada was part of the team that assassinated John F Kennedy, on whom he blamed the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
“Who, in 1963, had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the US president?” asks Fabian Escalante, former head of Cuban counter-intelligence. “CIA agents from Operation 40 who were rabidly anti-Kennedy.”
Maria Lorenz was briefly Castro’s lover before being recruited by the CIA. In 1985, she testified under oath that, the week before the JFK assassination, she travelled from Miami to Dallas with members of Operation 40 in two cars carrying weapons in the boots.
In a videotaped interview made shortly before he died, Chauncy Holt, a self-confessed CIA asset and mobster, identified Posada as one of the Cuban exiles who were in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination.
Whether he was involved or not, it is clear that Luis Posada is a dangerous, vicious psychopath who should not be able to freely wander the streets no matter who he works for. As Chavez puts it, “The US has no choice, either send him to Venezuela or be seen by the world as protecting terrorism.”
The US corporate elite, who are no fans of Chavez themselves, seem to agree that Posada must be sent to Venezuela or US credibility in the “war on terror” will be completely lost. All major newspapers support the extradition, even the right-wing Miami Herald — aka the “Coup-plotters’ Journal.”
Bush himself put it best when he said bluntly, shortly after September 11, “If you harbour terrorists, you are terrorists.” But will the CIA ever let someone as knowledgeable as Posada spill the beans on all their dirty tricks over these last four decades in Latin America?