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Venezuela-US Relations at Stake over US Protecting of Terrorist

Agencia Cubana de Noticias (AIN)

HAVANA, May 23 (AIN) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that if Washington does not extradite the fugitive terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to his country it could have a direct impact on bilateral relations.

Posada is an ex-CIA operative in US custody awaiting a decision on whether he will be sent to the South American country for his lead role in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed all 73 passengers and other crimes.

A naturalized Venezuelan citizen, Posada escaped from a Caracas prison in 1985.

In his weekly TV and radio program Alo Presidente Chavez said, "We can't rush things, but if the United States does not respect the extradition treaty signed in 1922 we will be forced to reconsider our diplomatic ties." He added, "We will have to consider whether it's worth having an embassy there, and whether it's worth the United States having an embassy here.''

President Chavez noted that Washington lied when it said that US authorities did not know about Posada Carriles' whereabouts, but finally had to bring him out of his hideout.

The Venezuelan leader said there is abundant proof to accuse Posada Carriles and recalled that besides the plane bombing, the Cuban-born man supervised torture and murder at the secret police school for terrorists he founded in Venezuela.

On the program, 58-year-old economist Jesus Marrero told President Chavez that he and other Venezuelans were the victims of torture in the presence of Posada Carriles. Marrero denounced the murder of Pancho Alegria and Jesus Castillo, and the disappearance of Noel Rodriguez. He recalled how 33 years ago he was taken to the basement of the secret police building for two months, during which he was tortured.

The decision by US authorities to only charge a fugitive of the likes of Posada with entering the country illegally, like any ordinary "wetback", has drawn sharp criticism from Chavez, who accuses Washington of harboring a terrorist and seeking to justify not turning him over for trial. Posada is expected to request asylum at an immigration hearing scheduled for June 13.

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