Searching for justice, not theater

[Oct. 6] marks the 32nd anniversary of the cold-blooded assassination of 73 innocent people aboard a Cubana de Aviacion passenger flight over the waters of Barbados. Thirty-two years of impunity for Luis Posada Carriles, the mastermind behind this sinister act of terrorism who enjoys White House protection and is free in the streets of Miami despite the overwhelming evidence and Venezuela's extradition requests.

Another anniversary can be added to this one. Last month five Cubans who, while in the United States, uncovered the details of the terrorist campaign spearheaded by Posada Carriles against Cuba, marked 10 years of unjust detention in a high security prison. The Cuban Five had infiltrated a Miami network and accumulated the necessary evidence for the FBI to arrest those responsible for bombs which exploded in Havana in 1997. The Cuban government provided the evidence to the FBI, but instead of arresting the terrorists, on Sept. 12, 1998, they arrested the Cuban Five.

In this twisted fable written in Washington, the Cuban Five are spies, Luis Posada Carriles is a patriot, and Venezuela and Cuba belong to the axis of evil. It is an incoherent reversal of reality. The White House wrote this fable with a prosecutor's pen.

Manipulated and inappropriately politicized, prosecutors have forgotten that their principal duty is to justice. Even the Department of Justice concluded just one week ago that the attorney general illegally fired various prosecutors during a 2006 purge because they had refused to follow the party line of their superiors.

The Cuban Five and Posada cases are the other side of the coin: here loyal prosecutors, under orders from the White House, betray justice, manipulate legal proceedings and arrest the innocent while they protect the guilty.

The reality is that there is no evidence the Cuban Five spied, and there is a lot of evidence that Posada is a terrorist. Messages declassified by the CIA say that, one month before the plane was blown up, Posada Carriles informed CIA agents in Caracas that 'we are going to hit a Cuban airliner.' Of course, Washington did not warn Cuba or Venezuela of the upcoming terrorist act. Two of the main perpetrators, Hernán Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, confessed. Ricardo admitted that his boss was Luis Posada Carriles, and that he received $25 thousand to blow the plane up. He calculated that he was paid $342.47 for each life he took.

The Cuban Five were prosecuted in Miami. With no evidence that they had tried to obtain secret government information, a court in Miami convicted three of them for conspiracy to commit espionage. Gerardo Hernández received a double life sentence; he was also charged with conspiracy to commit homicide, although prosecutors withdrew this charge based on a lack of evidence. Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino were each sentenced to life in prison. Fernando González and René González received sentences of 19 years and 15 years, respectively. Miami is so biased against the Cuban Revolution that only there can a court convict five innocent people without evidence.

The prosecutor and the judge knew this, which is why they vigorously opposed a change of venue. That is the main point defense attorneys will raise in an upcoming Supreme Court appeal. Meanwhile, the Cuban Five remain unjustly imprisoned and Posada is free.

The terrorist has not remained silent in Miami. He incites his followers, in public, to use 'the machete's blade' against Cuba. Authorities, of course, do nothing to impede these calls to violence.

To block extradition to Venezuela, U.S. government attorneys say he is a fraud. Not an assassin or a terrorist. The legal strategy is to put on a stage show to avoid the 73 pending charges of homicide in Caracas. Prosecutors know that if a court convicts him of immigration fraud, the maximum sentence would be 12 months in prison. Given that Posada was previously jailed for 18 months, the government could not put him in prison again.

He is the White House's favorite terrorist. The CIA trained him, gave him orders, paid him and now they protect him.

In his speech two weeks ago to the United Nations General Assembly, President George W. Bush said that nothing can justify taking the lives of innocent people, and that civilized nations should not protect terrorists.

However, Washington's actions are incompatible with the words of the president. A war on terrorism cannot be fought a la carte. It is not a question of good terrorists and bad terrorists.

In neglecting extradition requests for Luis Posada Carriles, Washington violates international law: its extradition treaty with Venezuela, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation, and UN resolution 1373 which prohibits countries from harboring terrorists.

In condemning the Cuban Five in Miami without any evidence, the United States violates its own Constitution and the civil rights of these men. For their brave fight against terrorism, the Cuban Five deserve to be honored, not jailed. For his cowardly history of terrorism, Posada deserves to be extradited and prosecuted, not protected.

Venezuela will not rest in this fight until the United States frees the Cuban Five. Until they extradite Posada to Caracas. Until they respect international law. Until they respect the national sovereignty of other countries. Until they end their philosophy of exploitation, of war and of terror. Until they end this perverse stage show.

----- José Pertierra is a lawyer who represents the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. His office is in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared in the Mexican daily La Jornada. This translation is reprinted from Cuba’s Juventud Rebelde.