Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez last month asked the Obama administration to extradite Luis Posada to Venezuela, in accordance with treaty obligations. Venezuela wants him to finish judicial proceedings there, cut short in 1985 when he escaped from jail. Posada, a citizen of Cuba and Venezuela, had been jailed because of his central role in organizing the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed all 73 people aboard. The Bush administration refused to extradite Posada after his illegal arrival in Florida in 2005.

Last October, Panama filed its own extradition request after its Supreme Court ruled that Posada’s release from jail there in 2004 was illegal. He and three other Miami-based Cuban-American desperados had been freed prematurely by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso. They had been in jail since 2000 when their assassination attempt against Fidel Castro, who was visiting, went awry. Washington had prompted Moscoso’s action, and sponsors in Miami reportedly bribed her.

Three days after the Panamanian Court decision, an appeals court judge in New Orleans instructed U.S. prosecutors to resume proceedings against Posada for immigration fraud. These had languished in May 2007 when a judge called the trial off due to prosecutors’ shoddy preparations — purposefully flawed, say observers, to cause delay. The elderly Posada has lived in Miami since then.

There is the matter, however, of a costly grand jury investigation in New Jersey that for three years has been looking into alleged stateside financing of Posada’s El Salvador operations in the 1990s. In a 1998 New York Times interview with Ann Louise Bardach, Posada boasted of monetary support from New Jersey and Miami friends and a blind eye from the CIA, a former employer. Posada’s Central American operatives bombed hotels in Havana in 1997, killing an Italian tourist. According to Bardach, Posada’s dossier in the Miami FBI office was destroyed in 2003.

In 2006, Venezuela’s U.S. lawyer Jose Pertierra accused the Bush administration of using immigration charges “to delay the [extradition] process as much as possible to try to hide the protection Washington is giving the terrorist.” A prolonged grand jury investigation serves the same purpose. Pending court proceedings are regularly used to rationalize extradition delays. Bardach claims the Justice Department also delayed the grand jury investigation to spare Republicans from adverse publicity during an election year. Further delay would result if Posada’s lawyer Arturo Hernández makes good on his threat last week eventually to seek Supreme Court judgment on Posada.

Jean-Guy Allard pointed out in Cuba’s Granma newspaper last week that the Posada case is now up to new Attorney General Eric Holder. For Posada again to receive favorable treatment at the immigration court level or from the federal judiciary would invite unflattering comparisons with convictions and sentencing handed out to the Cuban Five. Contradictions, already stark, would mount if the Justice Department gave in to pressures to let Posada off the hook while leaving in jail men who tried to block terrorists’ crimes.

Bardach, no friend of the Cuban revolution, suggests Washington need no longer bow to a Cuban-American conglomerate fast losing its appeal, due in part to recent revelations. She reports that only 17 percent of U.S. funding for regime change in Cuba — $45 million last year alone — actually arrived on the island (

Florida groups serving as conduits kept the rest. Former Bush aide Felipe Sixto admitted last year to stealing over $600,000 in U.S. grants while heading the Center for a Free Cuba, recipient of $7.2 million since 2005. Opinion polling in December 2008 showed 55 percent of Cuban Americans as calling for an end to the U. S. blockade.

Meanwhile on Jan. 30, lawyers for the Cuban Five submitted a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that tribunal to reject rulings by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A change of venue for the original trial was indeed warranted, they argued, because of bias in Miami. They claimed also that Gerardo Hernandez’ conviction on conspiracy to commit murder is invalid because of lack of evidence. Whether or not the court will consider the case will be known in several months.