Where the World's Views of America Come into Focus
Special Correspondent Lamia Oualalou
May 30, 2005
Original Article (French)
Caracas: The United States refuses to extradite Castro opponent Luis Posada Carriles, sought by Venezuela on charges that he was instrumental in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. The State Department refused Venezuela’s extradition request on Friday by arguing that the charges against the anti-Castro militant, "were not sufficiently supported from a legal point of view."
In Caracas the U.S. Embassy maintained that the government of Hugo Chavez had not formally requested his extradition. To add to the confusion, the president of the Venezuela Supreme Court, Omar Mora, announced to the press that the United States had just withdrawn a visa issued to him.
"I don’t want to believe that this is about one response to a request for extradition issued by my Court," he said, nonetheless astonished by the coincidence, if that is what it was.
The United States is in a tight spot. They procrastinated for weeks before acknowledging the presence on their territory of the supposed Cuban terrorist, who escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985.
Two weeks ago they finally took him into custody for entering the U.S. illegally. Now Washington’s dilemma persists. Returning Posada Carriles to the Venezuelan authorities would incite the anger of the politically potent Cuban exile community in Miami, whose radical wing has made Carriles a hero. President George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, cannot allow this.
But to refuse to extradite Carriles could be interpreted as a manifestation of American hypocrisy, i.e.: that the war against terrorism, launched shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001 against World Trade towers in New York, does not apply to criminals friendly to Washington – since Posada Carriles was a long time employee of the CIA.
The Venezuelan side is delighted by the American embarrassment. "Washington has rendered us a great service by refusing the extradition,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official Caracas. “Everyone makes fun of Posada Carriles here. What amuses us is to see the American government embarrassed by this hot potato."
On June 13th, the Cuban will be brought before an American immigration judge who will have to decide whether to release Carriles on bond.
After having threatened to freeze diplomatic relations with Washington if he does not obtain the extradition, President Hugo Chavez now seems more concerned not to ignite the argument.— BBC NEWS VIDEO: Venezuelans Demonstrate to Demand that the U.S. Extradite Luis Posada Carriles, May 29, 00:02:06
Saturday, surprisingly, Chavez chose not to take part in a march and demonstration with tens of thousands of participants in Caracas demanding justice from Washington. According to his closest advisers, Hugo Chavez has even decided to cancel his Sunday radio show, "Hello Mr. President," during which he would have inevitably attacked George W. Bush.