Filed under: Latino/Caribe, Sept/Oct Volume - 2008, World | Tags: Cuba, Iran-Contra, Terrorism, Venezuela
A three-member panel of judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of the US District of Western Texas is hearing an appeal by the United States (as Plaintiff) related to the dismissal of an indictment lodged against Luis Posada Carriles on charges that false statements were used in the course of an interview conducted during his naturalization proceedings. Carriles, a notorious operative once on the CIA payroll, and who has allegedly been named as the mastermind behind the bombing of a Cuban airliner in which 73 people were killed, was described by Peter Kornbluh , then Senior Analyst of the National Security Archive, during a 2007 hearing before The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, as “one of the top ten most prolific purveyors of political violence in contemporary history.”
The District Court charged initially that the government had “engaged in deceptive conduct and outrageous tactics” during the naturalization proceedings; the court also had “the suppression of statements” made by Carriles that were subject to “incompetent translation” , apparently to expedite the acquisition of US citizenship for Carriles, who now resides in Florida.
The decision of the Court has effectively reversed the dismissal of the indictment, and demands that the suppressed statements from Posada’s naturalization interview be submitted before the Court, reopening the case for further litigation.
The protracted record of Posada’s covert political involvements precedes his culminating effort to become a U.S. citizen by two decades. Carriles was born in Cuba, and was opposed to the domination of his native country by Fidel and Raul Castro. The appellate court brief elaborates the scenario:
“In 1961, Posada became involved with the planning for the Bay of Pigs invasion and was brought into contact with the CIA. He later enlisted in the United States Army, was commissioned a second lieutenant, and received special training at Fort Benning with other former members of the 2506th Cuban Brigade who had been commissioned in the United States Armed Forces.
“Posada was honorably discharged from the Army in March 1964. Unclassified documents contained in the record indicate that from 1965 until 1974 he operated as a paid CIA asset, although Posada asserts that he maintained a relationship with the CIA well into the 1980’s. Posada went to work for the Venezuelan secret police in 1967 and eventually became the head of a security division in charge of surveillance, VIP protection, weapons, and explosives.
“In this capacity, he directed counterinsurgency operations against leftist guerillas supported by Castro. Posada was later arrested by Venezuelan authorities in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Aerolineas aircraft in which all 73 people aboard were killed. After several years, he escaped from prison while still awaiting trial. Venezuela still seeks extradition; Posada, for his part, denies any involvement and claims that the charges were orchestrated by Castro.
“After his escape from a Venezuelan prison, Posada made his way to El Salvador. There he became involved in supplying arms and materiel to aid the U.S.-backed Contras fighting against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, an operation that came to light as part of the Iran-Contra affair. Posada moved to Guatemala in 1989 and was employed in security by the state telephone company. In 1990, he was shot several times in the face and torso during an assassination attempt allegedly carried out by Cuban agents. Throughout the 1990’s he lived under assumed names in various Central American countries. When a series of hotel and tourist-site bombings occurred in Havana in 1997, Posada was suspected of involvement.
“The following year, he was the subject of two front-page articles in the New York Times in which he claimed a coordinating role in planning and executing the bombings. Posada later asserted, however, that his statements had been misunderstood and distorted by the reporter who interviewed him. In 2000, Posada was arrested in Panama in connection with an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro at a summit meeting in that country. He was detained for several years and ultimately convicted of crimes against national security (a Panamanian offense related to the manufacture or acquisition of bomb-making materials1) and counterfeiting public records.”
Having been pardoned by the president of Panama before he left office in 2004, Posada sought legal asylum in the United States. Despite his illegal entry, he arranged an interview for that purpose, but on the day of the interview withdrew his asylum petition and instead held a press conference in Miami announcing his “presence.” As the brief continues, “Immigration officials took Posada into custody later that afternoon, and a few days later, on May 21, 2005, he submitted to an interview. Posada was ultimately placed in removal proceedings and, on September 27, 2005, ordered removed “to any country, other than Cuba and Venezuela, willing to accept him.”
From this point, Posada remained detained in an immigration-law equivalent of limbo. On October 12, 2005, Posada filed an application for naturalization with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). This application and the related naturalization proceedings ultimately formed the basis for Posada’s indictment on false statement charges.
The Appellate Court finds serious issue with the fact that in the course of the overview of Posada’s past (normally, the previous five years of activity are investigated in evaluating a naturalization applicant’s character record), Posada’s violent political activities were conveniently overlooked. It asserts that, indeed, an applicant’s history must be viewed beyond the statutory period in order to make an accurate judgement, especially for a person known to have a less-than-pristine past, and that this extended overview is necessary and within the interpretation of the law.
The case has subsequently been sent back, or remanded, to a lower court for re-litigation of the initial indictment, and possible deportation of Carriles.
-Raheemah Atif contributed to this report