“We are coming to the end of a terrible stage. The end of our struggle is near.” This last was a reference to former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s health problems. The speaker moved on to work at hand: “We ask God to sharpen our machetes.”

Talk of lethal weapons would hardly have surprised 500 admirers on hand May 2 at a famous Miami restaurant to celebrate their hero. After all, ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles had organized illegal arms shipments to Contra rebels in Nicaragua, arranged for the bombing of Havana hotels, and joined in on a failed assassination attempt in Panama against Fidel Castro. And with Orlando Bosch he’d engineered the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 passengers.
But for protection, someone with such a record needs major friends. At an appeals court hearing in New Orleans on June 4, U.S. prosecutors sought to revive their case against Posada for lying before immigration officials. After federal judge Kathleen Cardone dismissed their case a year ago because of shoddy, even “deceitful” preparations, Posada had gone free.
There are loose ends. Repeatedly since Posada’s arrival in Florida three years ago Venezuela has sought his extradition based on international treaties signed by the United States. He had escaped from a jail in Venezuela in 1985,with CIA help, in the midst of court proceedings related to the airliner bombing.
Jose Pertierra, Venezuela’s lawyer in the United States, told reporters in New Orleans that the Bush administration was reviving the case on the theory that ongoing prosecution, even on trivial charges, would immunize Posada against extradition to Venezuela.

Why do friends of Posada in Washington pitch in to shield him from high stakes legal proceedings in Venezuela? The answer, says Pertierra, lies in what Posada knows about CIA crimes and whom he could embarrass should he spill the beans. “Posada has been the CIA man in Caracas. He’s worked with them for more than 30 years,” according to the lawyer. “There are reasons why the United States wants to protect him.”

And Pertierra came down heavily on what he characterized as a “farce.” “What they have done is to set off a circus, [with charges ranging] from undocumented entry to lying, but never as a murderer or terrorist.”

If these maneuvers don’t work out. Posada’s ally in the White House apparently has an old standby on tap. In 1990, the first President Bush relieved Orlando Bosch of penalties relating to parole violation – in effect, pardoned him. Since then, Posada’s old partner has lived freely in Miami. Bosch’s parole followed jail time for firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter in 1968.

Now the Spain-based International Committee for Freedom of the Five cites “trustworthy information” indicating that “the Bush administration…has confirmed to U.S. congresspersons a disposition to arbitrate an arrangement for annulling the judicial process against Posada Carriles… the equivalent of a pardon.” Pertierra also alluded to that possibility, according to TeleSur news.

Observers suggest that a possible Bush pardon for Posada is behind Venezuela’s renewal of its demand for Posada’s extradition. On June 3, Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro used the forum of a plenary session of the Organization of American meeting in Medellin, Colombia to call out vigorously for Posada being brought to justice. He asked too that the OAS monitor U.S. efforts to evade its responsibilities regarding the terrorist.

Maduro’s plea came after a presentation from Héctor Morales, Bush’s envoy at the meeting, on the U.S. rationale for a “multilateral and international” fight against terrorists. Maduro took offense at U.S. criticism of supposed Venezuelan ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as representing support for terrorism.