Cubans Protest Release in U.S. of Wanted Anti-Castro Exile
HAVANA – Cuba's communist government on Friday blamed the White House for the release of an anti-Castro exile wanted in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, as outraged Cubans pressed demands that the man they call a terrorist be brought to justice.
Cuba and Venezuela accuse Luis Posada Carriles of violent acts, including the 1976 bombing that killed 73 — something the former CIA operative denies. And the government here renewed accusations that Washington has a double standard on terrorism, as the 79-year-old was released on bond and allowed to await trial on immigration fraud charges under house arrest.
"Cuba condemns the shameless decision to free Luis Posada Carriles and signals the government of the United States as the only one responsible for this cruel and infamous act," the government said in a statement published on the front page of the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
Cuba said Posada's release was an attempt "to buy the terrorist's silence about his crimes for the CIA."
Venezuela plans to ask the United Nations to investigate why the U.S. has failed to prosecute or extradite Posada, said Jose Pertierra, a lawyer representing the Venezuelan government. He said Venezuela would make similar requests at the Organization of American States and international tribunals.
Yellow school buses on Thursday brought about 600 youths — some barely old enough for grade school, others pursuing doctorate degrees — to a plaza outside the U.S. mission in Havana, where they waved small Cuban flags and chanted "Justice! Justice!"
"It's an insult for all Cubans and a tragedy for the families of his victims," said Ereslandi Rodriguez, a 22-year-old student clutching a sign that read "The Dog is Loose" and featured a cartoon of Posada with bloodstained fangs and a canine body.
Posada was freed from a New Mexico jail after he posted $250,000 bond and his family put up another $100,000. He must wear an electronic monitoring device while under house arrest at his wife's home in Miami pending his May 11 trial on immigration fraud charges.
At Thursday's protest, university communist youth leader Silviano Merced cited a 2003 speech in which President Bush said anyone who harbors or supports terrorists is as guilty as the terrorists themselves.
"For that reason, Mr. Bush," Merced cried, "you are as much of a terrorist as Posada Carriles and his accomplices."
In Washington, Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, said his country "energetically condemns this decision and holds the United States government responsible."
The U.S. and Cuba do not have diplomatic relations, and maintain interest sections in each other's territory rather than embassies.
Pertierra said in a telephone interview with Cuban television that Posada's release "shows the double standard of (the U.S.) government when it protects the Osama bin Laden of the hemisphere."
Castro's ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is demanding that the U.S. extradite Posada to stand trial in Venezuela for the bombing, which he allegedly plotted while living in Caracas.
Posada, a Cuban naturalized in Venezuela, escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 and was detained in Florida in May 2005 for entering the United States illegally.