Moment of Truth for US Over Cuban Plane Bomber
Thirty years ago tomorrow, the worst act of terrorism in modern Western Hemisphere history occurred off the coast of Barbados. Today, a judge will decide whether to go along with the recommendation from a magistrate to release the terrorist from detention in immigration prison. The media seems set to report on the decision, as some good pieces appeared in the Washington Post and ABC News today.
Oct 5, 2006 — By Anthony Boadle
"We have an explosion. We are descending immediately. We have fire on board!" the co-pilot of the Cuban airliner radioed the Barbados control tower before his crippled DC-8 plunged into the Caribbean sea on October 6, 1976.
The recording of Tomas Rodriguez's last words is repeatedly played on Cuban TV 30 years later as a reminder of what Cuba says was an act of terrorism that the United States, applying double standards, prefers to sweep under the carpet.
Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and one of the two anti-Castro Cuban exiles accused of plotting the bomb attack from Caracas, has been held in Texas since May, 2005 for illegally sneaking into the United States.
But Havana expects the man it labels "Latin America's bin Laden" to soon walk free because he has become a political hot potato for the Bush administration.
A Texas magistrate has recommended that he be released because he had not been designated a terrorist and cannot be held indefinitely on immigration charges. The U.S. Justice Department has yet to respond.
Meanwhile, the United States denied his extradition to Venezuela, Cuba's ideological ally, because it said he might face torture. He escaped from a jail there in 1985 while on trial for his role in the plane bombing that killed all 73 people aboard, including the junior Cuban fencing team.
Cuba's communist government is angry that U.S. authorities have held Posada merely on immigration charges and not linked him to a trail of violence that includes deadly bomb blasts in Havana hotels and assassination plots against Fidel Castro.
"The Bush administration wants to avoid a trial at all costs because someone will ask about the role of the CIA, and its director in 1976 was George Bush Sr," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly.
Alarcon said in an interview this week that declassified U.S. documents show the Central Intelligence Agency had prior knowledge of a plan by Posada and fellow anti-Castro militant Orlando Bosch to "hit" a Cuban civilian airliner.
"The CIA recruited, trained, financed and eventually unleashed him (Posada) on the world," said Peter Kornbluh, senior researcher at the National Security Archives, a public interest group located at George Washington University that obtained the declassified CIA documents on the plane bombing plot.
"Posada is a litmus test for President Bush's declaration that no nation can be allowed to harbor terrorists," Kornbluh said.
"I can't believe this self-confessed terrorist will walk the streets of Miami a free man," Eliana Alfonso, whose father died on the airplane, said in Havana.
"We suffered like the families of those who died in the Twin Tower attacks," she said.