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Anti-Castro Cuban Exile Tied to Deadly 1976 Airline Bombing Seeks Political Asylum in U.S.

StoryApril 13, 2005
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Luis Posada Carriles applied for political asylum Tuesday after spending the last 40 years trying to violently overthrow the Castro government. He has been tied to bombings that have killed at least 74 people and has been imprisoned in Venezuela and Panama. We talk to Cuban expert Peter Kornbluh about Posada’s request and what it means for President Bush’s "war on terrorism." [includes rush transcript]

One of the most notorious militant Cuban exiles applied Tuesday for political asylum in the United States. Luis Posada Carriles is a 77-year-old former CIA operative who was trained by the U.S. Army at Fort Benning in Georgia. He has been trying to violently overthrow Fidel Castro’s government for four decades. Three weeks ago he entered the United States after years of hiding in Central America and the Caribbean.

Posada has been connected to the 1976 downing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 passengers; a series of 1997 bombings of hotels, restaurants, and discotheques in Havana that killed an Italian tourist; and a plot to assassinate Castro five years ago.

In 1998 Posada told the New York Times "The C.I.A. taught us everything... They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb, trained us in acts of sabotage."

On Tuesday Democratic Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts called for a federal investigation into how Posada entered the country. He also called for Posada to be arrested and deported. Delahunt said that if the U.S. facilitated Posada’s entry into the country it would "obliterate America’s credibility in the war on terrorism." Delahunt said that if the U.S. grants Posada asylum it would suggest "that we share the views of those who support al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents that 'one man's terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’ "

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back in this last minute of the program to Peter Kornbluh, on a different issue, but one that’s in the headlines today. One of the most notorious militant Cuban exiles applied yesterday for political asylum in the United States, Luis Posada Carriles is the former CIA operative who was trained at U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, has been trying to violently overthrow Fidel Castro’s government for four decades. Three weeks ago he entered the U.S., after years of hiding in Central America and the Caribbean. Peter Kornbluh, it’s on another subject, but can you comment on this latest news?

PETER KORNBLUH: This is going to be the major test of George Bush’s war against terrorism. He has a renowned and legendary anti-Castro terrorist who served many years and was a fugitive from justice for having broken out of jail, bribed his way out of jail in Venezuela for blowing up a Cubana Airlines jet in 1976 and killing 73 people aboard that plane, including the entire Cuban Olympic fencing team. He has been involved in the hotel bombings in late 1990s in Havana, which killed an Italian tourist. He was arrested and imprisoned in four years in Panama for an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro five years ago, in which he was going to use 20 pounds of C-4 explosives that could have killed many, many people. He is a renowned terrorist, but he got most of his training for these activities from the CIA, and we have documents on that in the mid-1960s, and in fact, he now he is going to ask for asylum here in the United States claiming that he was — worked for the CIA and advanced U.S. interests in the 60s and 70s. So if George Bush is going to be true to his principles on fighting the war on terror, he will deport this renowned terrorist back to Venezuela, where he will be re-imprisoned. He broke out of prison in 1985, and ironically went to Central America to work for Oliver North secretly in the Contra War effort, but if, however, Bush does not deport him and gives him asylum, that will be an incredible indication of double standard, if you will, at minimum, on the issue of international terror.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Kornbluh, how do you think he got into the United States?

PETER KORNBLUH: I think there’s many ways for him to slip into the United States. It’s hard to know whether somebody looked the other way, whether he came across the border at some point or whether there was a quiet deal reached on this. I guarantee you that the National Security Archive will be seeking to get all of the documents about his arrival here and this whole process declassified so that we know, because this is truly a test of U.S. policy on the issue of international terrorism. You can’t say that one man is allowed to blow up an airplane and kill 73 innocent people because he ideologically is in keeping with the President’s position on undermining and overthrowing the Castro government in Cuba. A terrorist is a terrorist, and Luis Posada, frankly, has one of the longest careers in terrorism of any individual alive today.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Peter Kornbluh for joining us, editor of Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret Report on the Invasion of Cuba, also author of, The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, senior analyst at the National Security Archive public interest documentation center in Washington. We’ll link to it on our Web site at Also, Tom Barry, policy director of the International Relations Center and founder of Foreign Policy in Focus.

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