Luis Posada Carriles
On October 6, 1976, Cubana de Aviación flight 455 was blown up by plastic explosives, killing all 73 people aboard. The victims included Cuba's entire Olympic fencing team. The man implicated in the bombing, Luis Posada Carriles, is emblematic of the confusing and contradictory nature of U.S.-Cuba relations, and relevant in terms of the current War on Terror.
A former CIA operative and U.S. Army officer, the 82-year-old Posada Carriles took part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and later worked with the Nicaraguan contras to destabilize the Sandinista government. He has bragged, and later denied, being responsible for the Cubana airplane bombing, as well as a string of bombings at hotels and tourism facilities in Cuba in which several civilians and tourists were killed. Along with Orlando Bosch, he is implicated in the 1976 car bombing in Washington, D.C., that killed Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier.
Posada Carriles has been jailed in both Venezuela and Panama. He broke out of jail in Venezuela in the mid-1980s, but was later arrested on charges of attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro at a 2000 regional summit in Panama. In July 2005, Posada Carriles was pardoned by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso. Between 2005 and May 2007, he was held in an immigration detention center as the result of his illegally entering the United States, after his requests for political asylum were denied. Charges were then dropped and he remains a free man. However, in June 2008, the Panamanian Supreme Court overturned the presidential pardon. This has opened up the possibility of extradition to Panama.
Posada Carilles represents an embarrassment to the United States. A self-proclaimed and proud "terrorist," he was seen as being coddled by the Bush administration, which refused to prosecute him under any terrorist statutes or grant extradition officially requested by both Cuba and Venezuela. However, during 2010, he was due to stand trial in Texas not for any alleged acts of terrorism but for lying to immigration authorities. In Havana, you can see him vilified along with George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler on propaganda billboards.
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