There is much that is remarkable about Luis Posada Carriles — accused airplane bomber, wrecker of hotels, murderer, and would-be assassin of Fidel Castro. Even after 11 months in U.S custody, however, the only charge against him is entry into the United States without the proper documents.

On March 22, the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement Agency (ICE) announced that Posada would remain in detention “for the foreseeable future.” It left open the possibility of his deportation to another country at a later date.

Venezuela requested Posada’s extradition on June 15, 2005, and again on March 13. Jose Pertierra, Venezuela’s lawyer in Washington, has declared that under the Convention on
Civil Aviation, Posada’s extradition to Venezuela should be automatic for the U.S. He cites three extradition treaties between the two countries.

Presumably, once in Venezuela, Posada would be retried on charges of blowing up the Cuban airliner in 1976, proceedings that had been interrupted in 1985 by his escape from jail with CIA help.

Pertierra expresses outrage at the Bush administration’s maneuvers, which essentially leave extradition up to an administrative court rather than to the State Department or a federal court.

Six months ago, a Texas immigration judge, citing the UN Compact on Torture, ruled against extradition, alleging there was a high risk that Posada would be tortured if he were returned to Venezuela. The judge relied upon testimony from a Posada colleague from the early 1970s when they operated the Venezuelan Intelligence Services — and, say accusers, practiced torture.

But there’s no such risk today, says the Bolivarian government of Hugo Chávez, which has radically overhauled the social and political order there. Government officials have offered assurances that Posada will be treated fairly if he is returned for trial.

On March 23, it came out that Posada would be moved from El Paso to South Florida in order to be on hand for another trial, this time the trial of millionaire developer Santiago Alvarez. Posada will serve as a defense witness assigned to the job of discrediting an informant, Gilberto Abascal, who steered the FBI to Alvarez’s illegal stash of weapons in Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 18.

A watching world will be treated to the spectacle of testimony from a terrorist and criminal offered up as counterweight to machine guns, grenade launchers, ammunition, C-4 plastic explosives and silencers found in buildings owned by Alvarez.

The object may be to spotlight Alvarez and Posada as the vanguard of anti-Cuban excess and symbol of shared struggle among exiles. Alvarez has served as financial backer for Posada, provided money to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama, delivered Posada from Mexico to Miami in his yacht, and not least, taken part in an attempt to blow up Havana’s Tropicana nightclub.

The stage is apparently being set for mobilizing anti-Cuban prejudice in a campaign to influence judge and jury. In the Florida media, Posada is typically referred to as a “militant” or, for the benefit of the Cuban American community, as a “freedom fighter.” Observers point out that in Florida, right-wing Cubans set the terms of struggle such that lies and criminal behavior are flaunted, while the debunking of hypocrisy and falsehood falls on deaf ears.

Blunderbuss tactics in Florida may serve, however, to cover up manifestations of doubt elsewhere. For example, in an ICE letter to Posada made public on March 31, Washington officials show signs of uncertainty over the dilemma posed by the hot potato in their hands.

Written in support of his continued detention, the letter refers to “ your long history of criminal activity and violence in which innocent civilians were killed. … Further, you have shown a cavalier attitude toward … the safety and well-being of persons and property.” Surprisingly enough, these are words out of Washington that echo the judgment of world opinion.

Indeed, the struggle to bring Posada to justice does extend worldwide. A Committee of Family members of victims of the airliner crash of 1976 has announced the creation of a web site, In a statement, the committee declares, “As the victims of Sept. 11 continue to await the capture and trial of Osama bin Laden, who is supposedly hiding in a dark cave, we the victims of the terrorist actions of the Osama bin Laden of Latin America, Luis Posada Carriles, know exactly where he is.”

The prospect of Posada in Florida has fueled concerns that eventually he may be released on parole, especially if illness and disability become factors. He is 78 years old, and Jose Pertierra sees the possibility of Posada being freed, “little by little.”