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Posada Carriles in the USA

Big victory or the booby prize?

Luis Posada Carriles is in the United States seeking political asylum. This escaped convict was sentenced to a 30-year prison term by the Venezuelan courts years before the election of Hugo Chávez for his part in placing a bomb on a civilian airliner, which detonated over the Caribbean Sea and killed all 73 persons aboard. After that vicious crime and his escape from prison the man found employment in Central America, working with Ollie North et al to bring death squad terror to much of that region. Then, he liked to boast, he directed a bombing campaign against Cuban hotels which killed a young Italian tourist.

Panama best knows Posada Carriles as the head of a gang that was convicted of endangering public safety after a highly flawed prosecution, and was then pardoned by Mireya Moscoso on her way out of office. These men had intended to set off a bomb at the University of Panama's main auditorium, using enough explosives to level two city blocks even though the scene of their intended crime was half a block from one of the country's largest hospitals.

Mireya Moscoso, every bit as much of a kleptocrat as one Manuel Antonio Noriega, was rewarded for that pardon by being allowed to keep her US visa. She also got to be a guest of honor at a ceremony in the US Senate chambers. According to allegations in the leftist online newspaper Rebelión, she also received a $4 million bribe for letting Posada Carriles and his accomplices walk. Although she has taken the job and its accompanying impunity as a member of the Central American Parliament, Mireya now spends many of her days in Miami, no doubt flaunting the more than $1000 per day worth of clothing and jewelry that she bought with money stolen from the Panamanian people during the five years of her presidency.

The accomplices in the would-be bombing returned to Florida to a gala reception, but in the weeks before a close election it was not politically advisable for Posada Carriles himself to come to the United States. Rebelión alleges that instead the American Embassy here helped the fugitive with documents that made it possible for him to go underground after his release from Panamanian custody.

Now Posada Carriles's lawyer says that his client is in the United States, having surreptitiously crossed into the country from Mexico.

The Cuban exiles in the United States are not a monolithic bloc, but the reactionaries among them are dominant and those who disagree have been bullied and shouted down so that only the voice of the hard liners is easily heard. Sadly, this voice has come to direct US policy toward all of the Americas.

The entry of Posada Carriles into the United States can be seen as a triumph for the Miami Cuban exile leadership. However, it also may bear the seeds of defeats for not only Little Havana's in crowd, but also for the Bush administration and its foreign policies. For examples:

Some people may continue to believe in the Homeland Security Department and the other post-9/11 intelligence reforms after a convicted airliner bomber boasts that he snuck into the United States over the Mexican border, but most of the world has to view it as proof of compromised US security, a faulty cover story for the connivance of the Bush administration in Posada Carriles's arrival or both. In any case it's evidence of clumsy governance.

• With the exception of Colombia, South American voters have moved to the left in recent years and this incident highlights how far to the right US policy toward the region has moved at the same time. Along with stalled talks for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, the failed US effort to get its favored candidate elected to head the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community's continued rejection of US intervention in Haiti, the Posada Carriles affair is one more sign that the United States has alienated most of its hemispheric neighbors.

• Although actuarial tables would suggest a strong possibility that Fidel Castro will die or become incapacitated during the second Bush term, Posada Carriles has become the poster child for a brutal regime that the Miami exile leadership would like to install in his place. That lessens the possibility of the exiles being welcomed back as liberators. It leaves Cuba's post-Castro democratization, if it is to occur, in the hands of domestic Cuban reformers who won't look to Miami for guidance.

• The invasion of Iraq and accompanying estrangement of most European democracies from the US "War on Terror" policies have already left George W. Bush's ambition to be the leader of a global effort against terrorism in shreds. Posada Carriles's presence in the United States and Bush's ties to the most violent Cuban-American factions make White House rhetoric about terrorism sound quite hypocritical and will surely lead many countries facing terrorist threats of their own to look elsewhere for allies and mentors.

• The 2006 midterm congressional elections are still a long way off and the Democrats still lack a unified and coherent vision of the direction in which they'd like to lead the United States. Still, President Bush's public approval ratings are down, the far right's emphasis on the Terri Schiavo affair offended many independent voters and the administration's identification with Cuban-American terrorism won't win the Republicans any support that they don't already have. American congressional races are individual and local, and rarely turn on foreign policy issues. Even when they do it's hardly ever about Latin America. However, to the extent that Posada Carriles becomes an emblem of the prevailing right-wing extremism, it will marginally increase the chances that the GOP will lose control of one or both houses of Congress for the last two years of the Bush administration. In a closely and bitterly divided country whose electorate has a history of turning against the party holding the White House in midterm elections, a little shift at the margins can be decisive.

The booby prize is a time-honored feature in public affairs. King Pyrrhus stomped the Romans at Asculum in 279 BC, but came out of that victory so weakened that he lost the war, was deposed from his throne and met his violent end a few years later. Napoleon took Moscow but lost his army in the process. Richard Nixon won an unprecedented electoral victory in 1972 but because of the tactics he used was forced to resign in disgrace less than two years later.

It just may turn out that the far right's successful campaign to free Mr. Posada Carriles and his accomplices from the Panamanian prison where they belonged and to get them into the United States will only win them another version of history's booby prize.


Bear in mind...


Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

Chief Joseph


It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees! They shall not pass!

Dolores Ibarruri


Man lives freely only by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him.

Mohandas K. Gandhi


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