Posada tries to evade extradition

EL PASO, Texas — Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Cuba terrorist who is facing deportation from the United States, has withdrawn his petition for political asylum but reportedly still hopes to either remain in the U.S. or be deported to El Salvador, his last known place of residence.

Posada’s attorney, Matthew Archambeault, presented witnesses here this week in an effort to establish that the Cuban-born Posada is in danger of being tortured if he is returned to Venezuela, where he holds citizenship. However, U.S. attorneys vigorously denied any such risk if Posada is returned to Venezuela to face justice on terrorism and escape charges.

Posada is wanted in Venezuela for the murder of the 73 persons aboard Cubana Airlines Flight 455 on Oct. 6, 1976.

On the first day of the hearing, U.S. government attorneys presented evidence of Posada’s long criminal record, including his involvement in an assassination plot against Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000 in Panama and the 1997 terrorist bombings of hotels in Cuba, one of which killed an Italian tourist. They described his three-decade-long involvement with terrorist networks and his frequent travel using false identities and fake passports.

U.S. attorney Gina Garrett-Jackson described Posada as a “danger” to the United States, and asked for his immediate deportation.

However, immigration Judge William L. Abbott found that Posada’s claim to residency in the United States was without merit, since it had been some 28 years since he last resided legally in the USA. He found Posada deportable to Venezuela, but has yet to issue actual deportation orders, although Venezuela has twice formally requested Posada’s extradition.

Posada’s application for political asylum was withdrawn after Abbott hinted it could well be found “frivolous,” a ruling which would result in his being banned for life from the United States. Posada denied that this was the reason for dropping his request, but instead told the judge that pursuing his claim would involve divulging sensitive information connecting the U.S. government with violent, clandestine anti-Cuba activities. He indicated that he was withdrawing his asylum claim solely in order to save the U.S. government from any undue “embarrassment.”

Some observers say Posada is angling for U.S. citizenship.

Posada’s hearing is being held barely a dozen miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, at the barbed-wire-ringed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in east El Paso. The facility, which occupies an entire city block, presents a fortress-like image. It faces a major city traffic artery and is surrounded by a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood.

During the opening of the hearing on Aug. 29, an immigration agency helicopter hovered overhead, while local television crews were restrained behind police barriers across the street from the barricaded gate to the facility.

Outside the main entrance, demonstrators from as far as New York and California demanded Posada’s expulsion from the country. The group included relatives of the victims of the 1976 Cubana airliner bombing, some of whom displayed photos of their loved ones. Others carried a large “Free the Cuban Five” banner, referring to the five men arrested by the U.S. government for trying to foil terrorist attacks against Cuba emanating from Miami, while still others displayed homemade signs demanding Posada’s immediate deportation to Venezuela.