Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said May 22 that his country would consider breaking diplomatic ties with the U.S. government if Washington refuses to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.

Since Posada’s arrest May 17 for illegal entry into the United States, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has held the terrorist without bail in El Paso, Texas. A hearing is scheduled for June 13 to decide whether he will be extradited to Venezuela, sent for trial in another country or remain in a U.S. jail. His lawyer maintains that as a longtime CIA agent, Posada deserves U.S. asylum.

Posada is a citizen of both Cuba and Venezuela. In 1985, he escaped from jail in Venezuela, where he had served nine years on charges relating to a bomb attack that brought down a Cuban airliner in 1976 and killed 73 people. Twenty members of Congress sent President Bush a letter May 18 demanding Posada’s extradition to Venezuela. The LA Times has called for a quick extradition. “If Washington disregards its extradition treaty with Venezuela,” the paper said, “other countries will feel free to disregard their extradition treaty obligations with the U.S.”

On May 18 National Security Archives of George Washington University posted declassified FBI files on its web site that clearly demonstrate Posada’s guilt and U.S. complicity in the airliner attack. Before the attack, U.S. Embassy personnel in Caracas knew that one of the men who planted the bomb was Posada’s employee, that he may have bombed the Guyanan Consulate in Trinidad, and that he was headed for Barbados, the site of the bombing. U.S. officials suspected he “may have been trained in the use of explosives” by Posada and they knew that his team had previously tried to bomb two other Cuban planes. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was informed that Posada had boasted at a party: “We are going to hit a Cuban airliner.”

President Fidel Castro, speaking before 200,000 Cubans elaborated on the connection between the U.S. tolerance of Posada’s crimes and its cruelty to five Cuban anti-terrorists jailed in the United States. He detailed how hotel bombings in Havana staged by Posada in 1997 set off a sequence of events that led to the “Five’s” victimization. It’s a story marked by deceit and arrogance.

Castro reported that while the hotel bombings were going on, U.S. officials provided the Cubans with useful intelligence information about other possible attacks originating in Florida. Cuban leaders began talking with U.S. officials to develop a united front against terrorist attacks. They met several times in early 1998.

Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, serving as Cuba’s unofficial emissary to the Clinton administration, met with high officials in Washington on May 7, 1998. “We have common enemies,” one of them affirmed.

The two countries developed plans for sharing intelligence and Cuba was to provide the FBI with information gathered by its anti-terrorist agents working in Florida. Cuba handed over reams of material on June 17, 1998. Then there was silence. The FBI arrested the five Cubans Sept. 12.

Castro charged that Miami FBI chief Hector Pesquera single-handedly broke up the joint anti-terrorist venture. Four months ago Pesquera, now retired, admitted in an interview that the Cuban Five had done the U.S. government no harm. In addition, Castro noted that at the same time the five were being investigated and prosecuted, 14 of the 19 men responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were living and training in South Florida.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel last week condemned the U.S. double standard. “What is the final position of the American government, and particularly President Bush, with respect to terrorism?” he asked. “It seems that for some there is a good terrorism and a bad terrorism.”

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