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On May 19th Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez denounced the Bush Administration’s decision to try Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles for violating US immigration laws instead of recognizing him as a "self-confessed terrorist" and complying with Venezuela’s extradition request. According to Chávez, the US government will have to answer to the international community.

"Now [the Bush administration] is saying cynically and hypocritically that they are going to try Posada for having illegally entered the US. What cynicism!” said Chávez while speaking at a government function in the coastal town of Cúmana. “The government of George W. Bush is protecting an international terrorist. It will be necessary to apply international laws to that government."

Posada Carriles, who has dual Venezuelan-Cuban citizenship, is wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for masterminding the 1976 in-flight bombing of a Cuban airplane resulting in 73 deaths. He was tried twice and acquitted in Venezuela, but escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 while awaiting an appeal. Since then, declassified FBI and CIA documents have linked Posada to the crime.

Posada was arrested again in 2000, this time in Panama while allegedly planning to assassinate Castro, but in the final hours of her Presidency, outgoing President Mireya Moscoso gave Posada and three other Cuban-exiles involved in the plot presidential pardons. Posada’s fellow conspirators immediately surfaced in Miami, but Posada stayed underground before turning up in Miami himself in March of this year.

The US government denied knowledge of Posada’s whereabouts, even after his lawyer entered an asylum plea on his behalf. On April 12th Venezuela filed an extradition request to have Posada returned to face trial in Caracas, but the Bush administration continued to profess ignorance as to Posada’s location until he held a press conference in Miami last Tuesday. Immigration police arrested him soon afterwards.

Posada, a former CIA agent during the 1960s and 1970s and a near-Bay of Pigs veteran (his ship had not yet landed when the April 17th, 1961 attack failed), has dedicated his life to the violent overthrow of the Cuban revolution.

In addition to the 1976 bombing, In the 1980s Posada assisted Oliver North’s illicit contra-supply network to supply US-hired and trained mercenaries, the “Contras” fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Contras committed large-scale human rights violations and fought a protracted war against the Nicaraguan revolution that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

Posada has also admitted to masterminding a series of bombings at Cuban hotels and tourist areas in 1997 in which an Italian businessman Fabio di Celmo was killed. He has been quoted on several occasions referring to his victims as being "in the wrong place at the wrong time," and asserting that "at times, you cannot avoid hurting innocent people."

Posada was extensively trained in explosives, interrogation tactics and espionage by the US military-techniques he implemented during his tenure in Disip, the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI. According to Chávez, Posada and convicted anti-Castro terrorist Orlando Bosch were responsible for numerous cases of torture, repression and disappearances in Venezuela.

Tuesday’s capture of Posada is nothing more than a "show," Chavez affirmed, adding that the US "captured him in order to protect him." Posada crossed the Mexican border in mid-March and spent two months in Miami before his arrest. Posada is currently "being held without bail at a federal lockup in El Paso, Texas, for a hearing before an immigration judge June 13th," stated US authorities.

During a televised speech Chávez held up declassified CIA and FBI documents revealing that the US government knew that the Cuban exiles were planning to “plant a bomb on a Cuban Airline flight” four months before it took place in 1976. These documents were declassified on May 10th, 2005 and verified by sources in the National Security Archive, and independent Washington-based organization. "George Bush the father was the director of the CIA in that moment," Chávez stated, adding “now George Bush the son is protecting the terrorist.

The cynicism of the US is that [for them] there is good terrorism and bad terrorism. They armed Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein only to throw them to the wolves against the Iranian revolution. They tried to use us against Guyana. They are in Colombia trying to set up an altercation between [the Colombians] and Venezuela,” said the Venezuelan leader.

Chávez affirmed that the decision of the US government basically equates to "spitting on the world," because Posada is an "assassin" and his actions show that although he "has a human form, he is not human; he is a beast." The Venezuelan President then reminded the world that the US uses the war against terrorism as an excuse to violate the people of the world, citing Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia as the most recent examples.

Over the course of the past few weeks, the US media has referred to the Posada case as a "political dilemma" for the Bush Administration. However, by legal (and humanitarian) standards it is a fairly clear-cut case. The 1992 Venezuelan-US extradition treaty states that, "[i]f a fugitive criminal claimed by one of the parties hereto shall be also claimed by one or more powers pursuant to treaty provisions, on account of crimes committed within their jurisdiction, such criminal shall be delivered to that state whose demand is first received." To date, Venezuela is the only country to have filed an extradition request for Posada, meaning any attempt by the US to extradite Posada to a third country (such as Italy) would violate the treaty.

The other option, granting him political asylum in the US, has been condemned by human rights group and major newspapers across the world, as well as by the Chávez administration as a sign of blatant US hypocrisy. "We demand the US government stop its hypocrisy and its two-faced attitude and sent this terrorist, this bandit to Venezuela...the world is watching," stated Chávez adding that, "the US has no choice, either send him to Venezuela or be seen by the world as protecting terrorism".