Thursday, April 9, 2009

Luis Posada Carriles: Liar, liar?

Photo credit: Getty Images, April 2007
Cuban athletes hold portraits of the victims of the 1976 Cubana airline bombing linked to Luis Posada Carriles
Federal prosecutors are taking another run at Luis Posada Carriles, the elusive former CIA-trained operative who has dedicated his life to trying to kill Fidel Castro and undermine the socialist regime.
In an 11-count indictment filed April 8, American authorities accuse 81-year-old Posada Carriles of perjury, obstruction and other crimes. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
His trial has been tentatively set for Aug. 10 in El Paso.
For decades, Posada Carriles has been one of the most notorious and controversial anti-Castro militants.
U.S. intelligence documents tie him to the Oct. 6, 1976, bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed all 73 people aboard, including two dozen members of Cuba's National Fencing Team.
Plastic explosives hidden in a Colgate toothpaste tube in a rear lavatory sent the plane plunging into the Caribbean Sea. A CIA source overheard Posada Carriles say before the attack, "We are going to hit a Cuban airliner."
A participant later phoned in the results: "A bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed."
The anti-Castro attacks continued over the years.
In 1998, Larry Rohter and Ann Louise Bardach wrote a series of stories on militant exile groups for the New York Times. In one story, Posada Carriles told Bardach that he was involved in a string of hotel bombings that shook in Havana in 1987 1997. Posada Carriles later denied the statement. 

In 1999, Tim Golden of the New York Times wrote:
Luis Posada Carriles, an aging Cuban veteran of the CIA's crusades against Cuban President Fidel Castro, acknowledged organizing the attacks, suggesting that he did so with money provided by Cuban exiles in the United States. But he declined to identify them.
An Italian visitor to Cuba was killed in one of the 1997 bombings when fragments of a hotel ashtray severed a vein in his neck.

Posada Carriles on the defensive. Photo credit:

Posada Carriles told the New York Times that Cuban-American activists in Miami paid him some $200,000 over the years to carry out anti-Castro attacks in Cuba.

In 2000, Posada Carriles and three other activists were arrested in Panama and accused of conspiring to plant explosives in a car to kill Fidel Castro, who had arrived for a summit meeting. Castro himself tipped off Panamanian authorities and they arrested the suspects, the Miami Herald reported.

Posada Carriles - also known as Lobo, Solo and Bambi - had reportedly been napping at his hotel before his arrest. He and his conspirators were promptly jailed.

In 2004, the Panamanian president pardoned the four men and Posada Carriles sought refuge in Honduras.

Posada Carriles soon wound up in Miami. How he got there and what he told authorities along the way is key to the new indictment.

A timeline, based on court records:

* March 18, 2005 - Posada Carriles, a Venezuelan citizen, entered the United States.
* April 19, 2005 - He filed for asylum, saying his life would be in danger if he were extradited to Cuba or Venezuela.
* May 17, 2005 - He failed to appear at his asylum hearing, saying he was sick. But he was well enough to hold a press conference in Miami. Federal authorities weren't amused and rushed in to detain him.
* Aug. 30, 2005 - Posada Carriles testified under oath during an immigration hearing.
* Sept. 26, 2005 - U.S. authorities ruled that he was "removable," that he could be deported. But evidently no country would take him. Four days earlier, on Sept. 22, Posada Carriles had filed for naturalization. His hope was to become a U.S. citizen so he wouldn't be "removable" under immigration law.
* April 26-27, 2006 - Authorities interviewed Posada Carriles so they could act on his naturalization application. Among those asking questions was U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ajudications officer Susana Bolanos.
* Aug. 24, 2006 - Posada Carriles' naturalization application was rejected. His status remained "removable."
* Jan. 11, 2007 - Posada Carriles was indicted on immigration fraud charges. A judge dismissed the case, accusing U.S. authorities of using "deceptive conduct and outrageous tactics" during the naturalization proceedings. The defense accuses authorities of hiding that they were conducting a separate criminal investigation and trying to trick Posada Carriles into incriminating himself. This 37-page U.S. District Court appeal responds to such accusations and gives the government's side of the story.

Posada Carriles as a young man. Photo credit: NNDB

The indictment filed Wednesday accuses Posada Carriles of:

* Lying about his involvement in the 1987 1997 bombings
* Lying to the New York Times about his role
* Lying about allegedly arranging for a Salvadoran mercenary, Raul Cruz Leon, to smuggle plastic explosives to Havana for use in the '87 '97 bombings
* Lying about how he traveled from Honduras to Florida. He claimed he went overland to Mexico, crossed the border at Matamoros, traveled to Houston and then to Miami. In reality, authorities say, he traveled to Mexico, then reached Florida aboard a boat called Santrina.
* Lying about seeing the four men accused of smuggling him to Florida.
* Lying about carrying a Guatemalan passport to conceal his identity

The most serious charge against Posada Carriles is naturalization fraud, which could get him up to 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
This case has dragged on for more than four years as the U.S. government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to convict Posada Carriles.
In Miami, meantime, many anti-Castro activists see the ex-CIA operative as a hero. I would imagine that some of them donate considerable sums of money toward Posada Carriles' legal defense.
Arraignment in the case is set for April 17. Posada Carriles has waived his right to appear and has entered a not guilty plea. He lives in the Miami area and can leave home only for such things as medical and legal appointments, court records show.
Co-defendants Santiago Alvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, Ruben Lopez-Castro, Jose Pujol and Ernesto Abreu have refused to testify against Posada Carriles and have pled guilty to obstruction charges, court documents say. Posada Carriles isn't supposed to have any contact with them.
The U.S. prosecutors handling the case are John W. Van Lonkhuyzen and Rebekah L. Sittner of the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division at the Justice Department.

Links to miscellaneous court documents:

The six-page 2007 indictment against Posada Carriles
The 2007 witness list, which contained just two people at that point - an immigration officer and the man who represented Posada Carriles during his questioning
Posada Carriles' personal data sheet, which shows the maximum penalties he could receive
A five-page defense document outlining problems with the transcript of a Posada interview. The government translator did a lousy job, the defense says. It doesn't look to me like this changes any of the important facts of the case.

Mea culpa: My original post credited Tim Golden with the scoop on Posada Carriles when he admitted his involvement in attacks on Cuba. A reader said that's wrong. Geez, that's what I get for relying on my memory. The reader said:

"The New York Times interview with Luis Posada Carilles was with Ann Louise Bardach not Tim Golden and was not in 1999. It was part of series on exile militant groups published in the Times between May and July 1998 and written and reported by Bardach and Larry Rohter."

Update and more mea culpa: Ann Louise Bardach saw the post and also noticed the mistake. She wrote:

"I did the The New York Times interview with Posada, not Tim G., and it took place on June 17-18 1998 in Aruba - not 1999. It was part of a five part series on militant groups published in the Times between May and July 1998 reported by Larry Rohter and myself. The parts on Posada ran on July 12 and 13, 1998 - all of it available by links to Times or my website. Indeed, the DOJ's handing of the case was the reason I wrote several pieces in the Washington Post."


Sorry I flubbed up the facts on who did what, Ann Louise. Thanks for setting the record straight. Tracey


YouTube video - May 11, 2007, rally calling for Posada Carriles' extradition
April 15, 2009, story about the extradition request in El Universal newspaper in Caracas
Luis Posada Carriles: Liar, liar? - April 2009 indictment and background
Poof! Instant Propaganda - Aug. 16, 2008


thisisnowhere said...

I'm not saying Posada's innocent of much of what he's accused, but specifically regarding the bombing of the Cuban airliner, I find it funny that no one mentioned the fact that he used to be chief of operations of the DISIP (the Venezuelan intelligence service), before he was thrown into jail for the bombing. Rumors were that he had some blackmail sex tapes of the current Venezuelan President at the time, Andres Perez, and that Perez threw him in jail and tied him to the bombing in a possibly politically related move.

The fact is Posada was never convicted of any crime associated with the bombing by the Venezuelan courts. In fact, he was found not guilty by a military court, but this ruling was overturned and he was held for trial in a civilian court).

Despite this, he served 9 years in prison for these while awaiting a decision on his guilt or innocence, until he escaped on August 18, 1985.

I certainly believe that Posada was involved in a lot of militant anti-Cuban activities and is not a particularly nice individual, but his actual involvement in the bombing seems to be more based on the GOC need to create some kind of a political boogeyman out of him than the actual cold hard facts that tie him to the case.

Read Felix Rodriguez's "Shadow Warrior" for further background.

Tracey Eaton said...

That's interesting. Thanks for the background. I ought to dig into Posada Carriles' past. There's a lot about it I don't know.
I'd really like to interview Posada Carriles. I e-mailed one of his lawyers and was told that his defense does not want to talk to the press right now.
Carlos Andres Perez is another character. I interviewed him when he was under house arrest in Caracas. We spoke at his residence, which had a sweeping view of the city. It was an interesting interview.
Thanks again for your comment.

Tracey Eaton said...

Thank you, Keith, for your comment below that reached me via e-mail:

re posada and the cubana airllines bombing -- there is substantial evidence to tie posada to the cubana airlines bombing; its disturbing that anyone would justify his actions in any form( this is re the first comment on tht bloog).
check out peter kornblun and the national security archives for all the documentation the US govt has on posada's involvement. its beyond question.
and there is the direct testimony of Lugo and Hernan tying posada and bosch. the failure of conviction doesn't mitigate guilt (see OJ et al for that) he escaped prison just as his decision was coming down, which from all indications would have been guilty. there are many books on this, but anyone can read the actual documents the US govt had on him to see it's pretty clear he was involved. the cubana airlines was Cuba's 9/11 and it'd be like saying Osama wasn't involved. posada is a terrorist, has always been, and its extremely hypocritical of the US to be fighting its war of terror meanwhile letting posada and other terrorists live freely in florida.
more than 5,000 terrorist acts have been reported in cuba since the early 60s, more than 3,000 have died. hopefully this new indictment of posada on the hotel bombing, which again has overwhelming evidence of his involvement, will bring some justice.

i'm publishing a book on the oral history of terrorism against cuba and have interviewed dozens of cubans who have suffered directly or lost family or friends to terrorism, including so many of the cubana airlines victims.


Bob said...

The New York Times interview with Luis Posada Carilles was with Ann Louise Bardach not Tim Golden and was not in 1999. It was part of series on exile militant groups published in the Times between May and July 1998 and written and reported by Bardach and Larry Rohter.

The parts on Posada ran on July 12 and 13, 1998.

Tracey Eaton said...

Thanks, Bob I'll correct that

thisisnowhere said...

"Keith" sounds like a mouthpiece for the Cuban government. Those are the almost verbatim words you read on government sponsored "exposes" of the holocaust of the Cuban people as perpetrated by the U.S.

As I stated, I didn't say Posada wasn't a bad guy. In my opinion, he sounds like a piece of shit for some of the other things he was tied to after the airline bombing.

But just because you find a redacted government document in which a CIA source claims that someone was involved in something, doesn't make it necessarily true. It remains an allegation until proven.

I have no love for the man. Bring him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and see what evidence either the Cubans or the Venezuelans can produce. (He sure as Hell can't get a fair trial in either one of those countries.) If they prove him guilty, fry him. (Or put him in prison for life as the electric chair is so very un-European.)

But in my opinion, Posada is a convenient boogeyman the GOC rolls out when it wants to skewer the "empire" and accuse them of hypocrisy re: the global war on terror, much the same way they use "The Five Hero Prisoners" to bludgeon us about the head and neck area time and time again.

(But then again, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that "Keith" could find a way to justify the actions of those young Boy Scouts, too.)

Tracey Eaton said...

Well, I got my copy of Shadow Warrior from Amazon the other day. I haven't cracked it yet, but I'm going to read it. I'm also looking at some court files, including the deposition of Ricardo Morales Navarette.
I think it's worth making a distinction between:
- the material/operational authors of a terrorist action
- the intellectual authors
- those who aren't intellectual authors but know about and approve of such plans
- those who inspire terrorist actions
- those who brag about and take credit for terrorist actions, but are only loosely connected to the actions, if at all.
My posts on Posada Carriles haven't made any of those distinctions. With a little more reading and background, maybe I can get a step closer to that. That's only fair in any reporting on people accused of crimes.

thisisnowhere said...

Also, don't forget "Cuba Confidential: : Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana", which I consider to be the Bible when it comes to U.S. / Cuban relations. It's very well written, fair, and...yes, balanced.

After thinking about the subject for a while and what I'd written, I went back and consulted this book to see what the author had to say about Posada.

In it, she makes it clear that while there was never any direct evidence tying him and Orlando Bosch to the plot, there was more than enough circumstantial evidence to point the finger clearly at those two as being primarily responsible.

As such, I stand corrected.

I still believe that Castro and the GOC try to make the bombing out to be the responsibility of the USG as both men at one time worked for them, but I will no longer claim that the fact that Posada was never convicted of the crime is prima facie evidence of his non-involvement.

My apologies.


Tracey Eaton said...

Thanks for your comment. I think I have Cuba Confidential around here somewhere. I'm going to look for it. I have boxes of Cuba books and files in my garage. There's not enough room in the house.

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