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'War on terror' at odds with 'war on Castro'?

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'War on terror' at odds with 'war on Castro'?

Cuban and Venezuelan demands for extradition of ex-CIA 'terrorist' suspect pose challenge for US.

By Matthew Clark | csmonitor.com

US immigration officers' arrest Tuesday of Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who is accused of masterminding a deadly bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, "puts the US in a bind," reports The Washington Post.

The longtime opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro had been in hiding in Miami for two months and had petitioned for asylum in the US, which has caused an uproar in Castro's Cuba.

Just hours before Posada was taken into custody, one million people marched through Havana demanding his arrest.

The Post report provides a brief history of the anti-Castro exile.

Posada was trained by the CIA, served several years in the US Army and took part in countless anti-Castro demonstrations throughout Latin America in the 1960s and rose to a high-ranking post in the Venezuelan security agency. He has been a suspect in several terrorist bombings, the most serious being the 1976 airliner attack.

He was twice acquitted in Venezuela in the airliner bombing. In 1985, still jailed while prosecutors appealed, he escaped a Venezuelan prison and began a two-decade odyssey through Central America.

According to the Post, "The arrest creates a dilemma for the Bush administration, which has taken a strong stand against terrorism in all forms but has also been reluctant to cross the politically potent Cuban exile community in South Florida, many of whom support Posada."

Cuba's parliament speaker, Ricardo Alarcon, pressed the US on the issue when he asked the following question in an Associated Press interview Tuesday: "Do you want us to applaud the fact that he has been arrested after his presence in the US was burning for two months?"

Now Mr. Bush has to prove he is sincere about terrorism. ... What the United States has to do now is clear: If there is a request for his extradition, it has to attend to it according to its own laws.

Venezuelan Interior Minister, Jesse Chacon, also added some pressure. "This person is a terrorist, there is no other name for him ... the ball is in Mr. Bush's court." Posada is still wanted in Venezuela, where he would face a possible retrial for the Cuban airline bombing.

Most news organizations covering Posada's arrest lead by pointing out the dilemma it poses for the Bush administration.

A Sydney Morning Herald piece on the story begins this way: "Like many former Latin American allies of the US, [Posada] has become an international embarrassment."

A headline on the Miami Herald website reads: "Posada extradition issue poses major credibility challenge for US."

In the piece, the Herald poses a couple of questions to three experts on US-Cuban affairs: "How will the US respond [to the Venezuelan government's request to extradite Posada]? How will the US reconcile its hostility to the Cuban and Venezuelan governments with the war on terrorism?"

In answer to the question, Philip Peters, vice president of the Lexington Institute, points out that "[Posada] is forcing the Bush administration to face the strict, no exceptions standard for antiterrorist action that it rightly demands of the rest of the world."

Dennis Hays, managing director of Tew Cardenas LLP, former coordinator for Cuban affairs at the US State Department and former executive vice president of the Cuban American National Foundation, answered the questions this way:

Castro knows it is unlikely that any democracy would send any politically charged detainee to the kangaroo court system of a Venezuela under Chavez or Cuba under Castro. He has thus turned Posada Carriles' entry into the United States into a propaganda bonanza, seriously undermining our attempts to secure a hemispheric consensus against all forms of terrorism, including those practiced by Cuba and Venezuela in Colombia and elsewhere.

William Rogers, a senior partner at the Washington-based Arnold & Porter law firm and a former US assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs, had this to say to the Herald:

A refusal to extradite will be interpreted throughout the Hemisphere as US acceptance of terrorism as long as the terrorist act was directed against a regime we don't like. But reciprocity is the essence of international affairs. What is in one case sauce for the goose will soon be sauce for the gander.

Mr. Peters, as quoted in the Herald piece mentioned above, writes that "failure to treat Posada Carriles as a suspected terrorist would tell the Cuban people that while Washington stands for democracy, at times it also accommodates a tiny expatriate minority that would kill Cuban civilians to achieve it."

A report from Knight-Ridder Newspapers likens Castro's "strategy in the Posada case to the 'Battle of Ideas' launched during the seven-month international custody battle over Elian Gonzalez, who was returned to Cuba in 2000."

A glaring difference, however, is that Miami's Cuban-American community has not rallied in support of Posada, an issue that could weaken Castro's campaign, said Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

'This is a variation of a very old theme to try to rally the politics of passion, but Posada Carriles doesn't have the same resonance that Elian did,' Fernandez said. 'Politics of passion requires an enemy, a vociferous opponent. That's not happening.'

Castro's alliance with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has helped to bolster the impact of his moves vis-a-vis the US, as some sources point out. An editorial in the South Florida-based Sun-Sentinel, for instance, argues that "a discount oil deal with Venezuela allows Castro to mitigate the impact of US travel and remittance restrictions."

So, what should the US do with Posada?

Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Program of the International Relations Center, writes that "the Bush administration should set ideologies aside and view the Posada case as a golden opportunity."

It is an opportunity for the US government to dispel widely expressed suspicions around the world that its war on terrorism has ulterior motives, and to stand on the principle that terrorism is a threat to humanity from across the political spectrum. It is also an opportunity to apply international law above geopolitical interests.

The Miami Herald writes in an editorial that "he shouldn't be sent to Venezuela or Cuba, where fair trials aren't the norm."

Unfortunately, the United States didn't sign on to the International Criminal Court, which would be a viable venue for trying him. Finding a third country to take him could be difficult. Meantime, Mr. Posada should remain detained.

It appears that US authorities would have to decide by Thursday afternoon "to either allow him to continue staying here under a political asylum application – which could be seen as harboring a terrorist – or figure out what else to do with him," reports The Los Angeles Times. Federal officials said immigration rules gave them 48 hours to decide on Posada's status.

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It's a double standard. Personally I'd like to see him go to trial in Italy for killing that Italian tourist in Cuba.

Of course! jtk said it right.

Terrorism is only terrorism if the act of terror is against US interests.

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