The Narco News Bulletin
March 31, 2015 | Issue #56
narconews.com - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America
On March 14, 2005, on the Mexican isle of Isla Mujeres, a reporter and news photographer went out to cover what seemed to have been a routine story: a shrimp boat had become stranded on a sand bar off the island's coast. The reports and photos that appeared in the newspaper Por Esto!, Mexico's third largest daily, revealed that the boat was not just any boat and its crew not just any crew.
The S.S. Santrina, the vessel Posada Carriles used to enter the US in 2005
The sudden exposure sent Posada Carilles on a panicked northbound voyage, through the Gulf of Mexico, with international law enforcement agents on his trail. He entered the United States - a country for whom he had been, from the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion through the mid-1970s, a CIA "asset" - via Florida, illegally. President George W. Bush's "global war on terror" wasn't even four years old, but instead of delivering the hemisphere's most blood stained terrorist to justice, Washington played legal games to protect Posada Carriles from extradition to Venezuela, where he is charged with the 1976 airplane bombing. This newspaper covered those court proceedings extensively.
Today there is a new sheriff in town, and Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against the terrorist.
Count Four of the eleven-count indictment charges Posada Carriles with fraud in his applications and interviews in which he sought political asylum from the United States government:
...he knowingly made under oath during his naturalization interview with, among others, an adjudications officer of the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services certain false statements, to wit:
(a) During his naturalization interview, he stated that, in March 2005, he had traveled by motor vehicle from Honduras through Mexico, and entered the United States over land near Matamoros, Mexico, continuing to Houston, Texas, with the assistance of an unidentified alien smuggler when, in fact, he entered the United States at that time by sea at Florida aboard the motor vessel "Santrina";
(b) During his naturalization interview, he stated that, in March 2005, while traveling in or through Mexico en route to the United States, he was never in Cancun or Isla Mujeres when, in fact, he traveled to Cancun or Isla Mujeres at that time;
(c) During his naturalization interview, he stated that, in March 2005, while traveling in or through Mexico en route to the United States, he never saw the motor vessel "Santrina" in Mexico when, in fact, he boarded that vessel in Mexico at that time and traveled thereon to the United States...
The other ten counts in the indictment charge similar crimes of perjury, obstruction and making false statements under oath.
Significantly, this is the first US proceeding in the Posada Carriles case that recognizes his role as a violent terrorist. Count One of the indictment cites his false answers to questions under oath to a US Immigration Court regarding his past crimes:
Question in English: Well, were you involved in soliciting other individuals to carry out the bombing in, the bombings in Cuba?
English translation of POSADA's response in Cuban Spanish: No...
Question in English: Now, you... do you... are you stating that the comments made by (a named reporter whose identity is known to the Grand Jury) in the New York Times article, that you were involved in soliciting others, other individuals to engage in these bombings is not true?
English translation of POSADA's response in Cuban Spanish: I am saying that it is not true...
Question in English: Did you arrange for Raul Cruz Leon to transport or carry explosives into Cuba in 1977?
English translation of POSADA's response in Cuban Spanish: I have never seen nor met Raul Cruz and I have not done any arrangement to send him to another place...
The Department of Justice charges, as part of the indictment:
The declaration of defendant POSADA... was false, as POSADA then and there well knew and believed, in that defendant had arranged to send and sent an individual named Raul Cruz Leon to Cuba to transport and carry explosives into Cuba to carry out said bombings in 1977.
The case is currently in federal court in El Paso, Texas, where Posada Carriles' arraignment is scheduled for April 17 (although his attorney may simply represent him without the defendant - living in Florida - present). A trial date has been set for August 10.
The seismic shift in the Justice Department's stance toward this international terrorist - from the Bush era policy of coddling Posada, long a poster-boy for the most virulent anti-Castro factions of the Cuban-American community in southern Florida, to this new, and possibly only the first, indictment - is accompanied by a confluence of factors leading to an end to five decades of Washington's disastrous hard line against the Cuban government.
Richard Walden, who heads the humanitarian relief organization Operation USA, offers via the Huffington Post an excellent summary of the practical changes to come from the Obama administration's announcement that it will relax the embargo against the island:
"I must admit, after 15 years of providing humanitarian aid to Cuba and going hat in hand to Washington, D.C. to apply for annual Department of the Treasury and bi-annual Department of Commerce licenses to 'Trade With The Enemy' by sending free medical supplies to pediatric hospitals, I am feeling almost optimistic that things may be approaching denouement..."
He notes that the Cuban-American National Foundation, long a bastion of virulent support for the embargo, has now shifted gears and supports the steps to ease it, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit the island and send money to family members there. Such steps are likely to lead next to court motions to extend such rights to all Americans based on the US Constitution's equal protection provisions.
Walden calls changes in US-Cuba policy the "low hanging fruit" of the foreign policy shifts that President Obama pledged in his 2008 campaign. Indeed, public opinion has grown considerably to support abandoning the vestigial Cold War embargo policies. But the Posada Carriles indictment is significant to some of the higher hanging fruit in the hemisphere, too: specifically as it regards long troubled US-Venezuela policy.
Posada Carriles, 81, is Cuban-born but a Venezuelan citizen. And that country has pending charges upon him for the 1976 passenger jet massacre, carried out when the defendant was a mere lad of 48. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez - rarely effusive with praise for Washington - termed the indictment as bringing "good signals on the part of the United States."
These changes and events will soon converge on the Caribbean island of Trinidad where Chávez, Obama, and the presidents of every country in the hemisphere (except for Cuba, uninvited) will converge April 17-19 for the Fifth Summit of the Americas. It is there where the rubber will meet the road for the aspirations of most of América for a new hemispheric relationship based on mutual sovereignty and respect. How Obama deals with Chávez and vice versa may tell the entire story of the weekend's success or not in advancing closer to that new dawn.
But for Posada Carriles, it's clear, that a decades-long history of being protected rather than prosecuted by nations for his crimes has already passed him by. And it all began to unravel when the boat that smuggled him ran into a sand bar off the coast of Isla Mujeres, and authentic journalists did their jobs.