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Friendly terrorists pardoned; US silent

Marc Becker
The Monitor
September 21, 2004

In 1976, terrorists planted a bomb on a commercial airplane before it left Caracas, Venezuela. In mid-air the bomb exploded, killing all 73 people on board. This has been recorded as one of the worst cases of international terrorism.

On August 26 of this year, outgoing Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso pardoned four men who have been implicated in this and other terrorist attacks. Three of the men flew to Miami on a private jet, and the fourth reportedly traveled to Honduras on a false U.S. passport. The Bush administration, in an attempt to shore up electoral support in Florida, silently condoned the release of the terrorists.

The four men (Luis Posada Carriles, Guillermo Novo, Gaspar Jiménez and Pedro Remón) were right-wing Cuban exiles who had been sentenced to prison in Panama for their role in a 2000 assassination attempt on the life of Cuban President Fidel Castro. Moscoso released the four so that a subsequent government would not permit their extradition to Cuba or Venezuela where they face pending criminal charges for their terrorist actions.

Moscoso’s justification for the release that the terrorists would “surely be killed” if extradited set off a storm of protest in Caracas. Venezuela does not have the death penalty. Vice President José Vicente Rangel stated that he did not “see any difference between Posada Carriles and al-Qaida.” Posada, the chief terrorist leader, escaped a Venezuelan prison in 1985 while facing charges in the airline bombing. Many in Venezuela suspected that the U.S. State Department urged the pardon so that he would not face a new trial.

In response to the release, the Cuban Foreign Ministry declared that “those governments allowing passage or offering refuge to these terrorists will become accomplices in the actions.” The pardon led to an immediate break in diplomatic relations between Cuba and Panama. The incoming president Martín Torrijos immediately normalized relations between the two countries. “For me, there are not two classes of terrorism,” Torrijos stated, “one that is condemned and another that is pardoned.”

Posada was the most notorious of the four terrorists. He left Cuba in 1961, joined the U.S. army, and subsequently received training in terrorist tactics from the CIA. In addition to masterminding the bombing of the 1976 Cubana Airlines flight, he organized bombings against tourism facilities in Cuba that killed an Italian and injured various others. He has also engaged in numerous other assassination attempts on the life of the Cuban president. Had the 2000 attempt succeeded, hundreds of Panamanian students would have died in the university building where Castro was speaking.

In an unrelated development, The Monitor reported on August 30 that the FBI was investigating three Kirksville residents on charges of domestic terrorism. The three non-violent activists had not received CIA training, nor had they planned or carried out any assassination attempts of political leaders or bombings of civilian targets. They do not face criminal charges in other countries, nor is the U.S. government providing them with protection.

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