Alarcón says U.S. should reject terrorist's bid for asylum
Cuban official demands action on Posada
Producer, NBC News
29 April 2005
HAVANA - Luís Posada Carriles is a household name in Cuba. Havana authorities identify him as "Latin America's Osama bin Laden," blaming him for dozens of terrorist acts aimed at toppling the government of Fidel Castro.
His supporters in Miami, undeniably fewer in today's post-9/11 world than when he first began his fight, prefer the term "militant."
Now his attorney is seeking asylum for Posada in the United States. NBC News producer Mary Murray spoke with Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, President of Cuba's National Assembly, for his views on this case.
NBC: Are you surprised that Luís Posada Carriles has surfaced in Miami?
Alarcón: Absolutely not. In an interview with the New York Times [in 1997] he was asked specifically whether or not he enters the U.S. And he laughed, saying that he has many times and in many different ways. His family has been living in Miami for quite some time.
Not everyone in Miami was happy to hear that Posada surfaced in their city. In fact, some Cuban-Americans oppose his political asylum request. This seems to represent a change in Cuban-American public opinion where at one time anyone who stood against your government was welcomed as a hero. What accounts for that change?
Everybody in the U.S. has strong feelings about terrorists. Ordinary Americans are outraged that he's there and nothing is happening.
This is a very serious problem for the U.S. government. The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars protecting its borders, fighting illegal immigration, hunting undocumented people across the country.
At the same time that a well-known terrorist announced his specific whereabouts –in Miami, Dade County– and his lawyer informed the media that his client applied for political asylum, there are more than 34,000 undocumented people requesting political refugee status.
Posada Carriles is one of them. The only difference is that 34,000 thousand were taken into custody and are now in jail while Posada Carriles is at large. The U.S. is under a clear obligation to find this man, take him into custody and expel him to another country.
After 9/11, the U.N. Security Council, at the request of the U.S. government, adopted Resolution 1373 on Sept. 28, 2001 that makes it mandatory for every government in the world to oppose any form of cooperation with all terrorists - no matter what they did or where. No protection. No refuge. Nothing.
The Security Council established a permanent committee to follow-up on the implementation of that resolution.
Imagine if someone asked the Committee about Posada Carriles? A fugitive of Venezuelan justice. An admitted terrorist. How can he be in the U.S. and nothing happens to him? It is extremely embarrassing for the U.S. to be forced to recognize that a person linked with terrorism is on U.S. soil.
NBC: Does Cuba want him returned to the island?
Alarcón: No. We are not asking for his extradition, although we have that right because he's committed many crimes against us. But, we've officially said we don't want him here.
Twenty years ago Venezuela declared him a fugitive from justice –long before President Chávez came to power. The U.S. has a clear obligation to find Posada, detain him and send him back to Venezuela to answer those charges
NBC: But, wouldn't you like to see Posada go on trial here in Cuba?
Alarcón: We don't want to give people any excuse not to bring him to justice.
We made that decision a long time ago. He was being tried in Venezuela as the result of an international agreement between Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Cuba and Venezuela. I participated in drafting that agreement.
At the time I was Cuba's ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. We met in Port of Spain to analyze where to try those people. It was a Cuban airplane but the victims were not only Cubans, but also Guyanese and from other nations. The incident took place near Barbados, and the assassins were two Venezuelans arrested in Trinidad and Tobago and imprisoned in Trinidad. We agreed that the trial should be held in Venezuela for a number of reasons. First, Venezuela does not have the death penalty while the rest of the countries do. They were mostly Venezuelans or residents of Venezuela like Posada Carriles and a man named Orlando Bosch who now resides in Miami. The action was clearly planned in Caracas.
NBC: His lawyer says that extraditing him to Venezuela would be tantamount to his client receiving a death sentence.
Alarcón: It is completely false that he could be executed. As I said, Venezuela does not have the death sentence. If he were finally found guilty, he would serve time.
NBC: You mentioned that your government delivered a formal appeal to the U.S. State Department.
Alarcón: Two actually. We delivered a diplomatic note here in Havana to the U.S. Interests Section and another one in Washington to the State Department.
NBC: What are you asking for?
Alarcón: First to tell the truth. Recognize the facts. Acknowledge that Posada Carriles is in the U.S. He has friends in the U.S. paying his lawyer and appearing on TV describing how he made it to the U.S. How can the U.S. government continue to claim that it has no evidence that Posada is there?
Second, since the 1970s we've asked for cooperation in the investigation of the terrorist bombing of our airplane. For decades, the U.S. government has refused.
When Posada's associate, Orlando Bosch, entered the U.S. in the late eighties, the Attorney General determined that he was inadmissible due to his terrorist actions. In the Attorney General's document, he said that law enforcement agencies possessed secret evidence regarding the attack on the airplane.
This means that the U.S. has evidence of that crime but they never shared it with anyone. At the time the bombing took place, it was a moral obligation. Now, it is a legal obligation according to Security Council Resolution 1373.
NBC: What has been the response from the U.S. government?
Alarcón: Silence. They continue to say they have no evidence he is in the U.S.
Mary Murray is an NBC News Producer based in Havana.
© 2005 MSNBC.com