In El Paso, Texas, Federal Judge Kathleen Cardone played by the rules on April 6 as she authorized the return of Luis Posada Carriles, 79, to his family’s home in Miami. His release is to be secured by $250,000 in bail and $100,000 in family guarantees. He will be electronically monitored.

Cardone rationalized that the elderly man was infirm and charged only with lying and fraud in connection with his unlawful entry into the U.S. He would stay in Miami until his trial opens in El Paso on May 11.

Last year it made sense for an immigration judge also to think of setting Posada free. The remedy for illegal entry is deportation. No country, however, would take Posada in. The rules say that if deportation is out, jail time must end. The judge took steps toward releasing him on Feb. 1, 2006.

Posada is still in jail because federal prosecutors produced charges of fraud and lying relating to his entry into the country. Judge Cardone has now undone that scheme.

On April 9 Cardone turned down prosecutor requests for further review, clearing the way for his leaving jail. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say, however, that when Posada is released they may take him into custody again.

Confused official behavior may have to do with contradictions between ordinary rules and the rules for handling a terrorist.

Luis Posada spent eight years in jail after he arranged for the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 people. Ten years ago, one of several explosions he allegedly engineered in Havana killed Fabio Di Celmo, an Italian tourist. The discovery of preparations by Posada and others to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro landed him in a Panama jail in 2000.

Posada arrived in Florida illegally in March 2005. ICE detained him in May after a Posada press conference forced their hand. Immigration rules allow for irregular immigrants with a terrorist past to be held indefinitely. The Bush administration refuses to identify him as such, making him eligible for release.

In May 2005, Venezuela, in accordance with international treaties, asked for Posada’s extradition so that court proceedings relating to the bombed airliner could resume. They broke off in 1985 when Posada escaped from jail with CIA help. The Bush administration has refused Venzuela’s request.

Analysts say that Posada’s role as a U.S. dirty deeds specialist makes potential government accusers think twice about bringing serious charges against him. As a CIA operative from 1961-1976, and as an anti-Sandinista combatant later on, he could retaliate, they suggest, by revealing secrets.

Posada may also fall into the category of hit men charged with undermining popular struggle in Latin America and, as such, may expect loyalty from right-wing U.S. governments.

A recent French new agency news story offers examples. A Florida court found Chilean Armando Fernández Larios, member of a “death caravan” during the Pinochet dictatorship, guilty of killing economist Winston Cabello. After paying the victim’s family $4 million he has lived undisturbed in Florida.

Another U.S. court convicted Salvadorian Alvaro Saravia in 2004 for assassinating Archbishop Oscar Romero. He paid $10 million to Romero’s family, and he too was allowed to stay.

Emmanuel Constant, former leader of the Haitian paramilitary group FRAPH, was convicted of murders and ordered to pay $19 million. After living in Queens, N.Y., for 12 years, he faces deportation proceedings in June only because of lesser crimes for which he was jailed.

ICE congratulates itself on the deportation or extradition of other human rights abusers. On March 30 Peruvians Telmo Hurtado and Juan Rivera Rondón were detained in Miami and Baltimore, respectively, and Argentinean Ernesto Barreiro, in Virginia — all charged with illegal entry. The first two participated in a 1985 massacre in Accomarca, Peru. Hurtado’s extradition is sought.

Barreiro, accused of torture during the 1976-1983 dictatorship in Argentina, is wanted there for killing a student in 1977. All three will be deported, according to ICE Director Julie Myers. Her agency “will not allow the United Stated to be a secure haven for those arriving in our country trying to keep from being tried and punished for crimes they committed against others.”

Investigations of 800 other immigrants suspected of being possible human rights violators are in progress, according to ICE sources. Luis Posada apparently is not one of them.

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