Luis Posada Carriles: A Godsend for Hugo Chavez
25.05.05 | The resurrection of the Luis Posada Carriles affair has been a Godsend for the Hugo Chávez administration. Last Sunday, the Head of State laid in verbally to the United States, ordering it to extradite the person who allegedly perpetrated the blowing up of the Cuban aircraft in 1976 or run the risk of Venezuela breaking off relations. This attack was proffered precisely when irregularities in the handling of PDVSA’s funds are being aired in Venezuela and people are becoming aware of how opaque and lacking in transparency is the accountability of the country’s main industry. This verbal onslaught comes just as disinvestment, lack of skill, and laxity in the state-owned oil company are causing havoc in Venezuela’s production of crude.
This new verbal assault on the United States has all the appearance of a fireworks display to distract everyone’s attention from the innumerable problems facing Venezuela, besides satisfying Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s thirst for vengeance.
However, technically speaking, Venezuela does have grounds for requesting the extradition of Posada Carriles. This Cuban-Venezuelan apparently boasted to the international press about his leading role in the blowing up of the Cuban airplane in Barbados, as a result of which 73 people died. In 1985, 8 years after being tried for this crime, he escaped from prison and since then has been a fugitive of Venezuelan justice. There is no legal reason for this extradition, so heartily desired by the Hugo Chávez administration, not to go ahead.
Things are not so clear-cut from the United State’s point of view, however.
First, Washington (like the majority of Venezuelans) has plenty of reasons to doubt the independence of Venezuela’s Judiciary. If justice was not done 20 years ago, when the branches of government enjoyed a higher degree of independence, why should anyone think that now the law will be applied impartially, when that autonomy is practically extinct?
Second, the United States harbors the fear –apparently justified- that, if Posada Carriles is extradited to Venezuela, he could be sent to Cuba, on the basis of the agreement between Cuba and Venezuela on criminal matters published in Gaceta Oficial on December 22, 2004.
Third, on a purely pragmatic level, the United States could be afraid that Posada Carriles, as a former member of the CIA, might reveal “under pressure” state secrets going back thirty years.
And lastly, there is the political cost to the Republicans of extraditing someone who is a “hero” of the Cuban resistance in the United States. On the other side of the scales, Washington will have to put the implications that refusing to extradite a terrorist would have for its image as a world-class antiterrorist champion.
Analysts and observers of diplomatic events are inclined to put their money on a Solomonic solution, that of sending Posada to a third country, Italy or Chile for example, since citizens of both those countries died in the bombing. This alternative would be feasible if action is taken promptly, as, according to statements by the Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, the documents that will be attached to the formal request for extradition are still being translated
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