Sunday, September 24, 2006

Posada Carriles´ Victims Not Forgotten

Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

José Pertierra (*)

In less than two weeks, we will solemnly observe the 30th anniversary of the cold blooded murder of 73 innocent men, women and children over the waters of Barbados.

Too often we speak about terrorism in general terms, as if it were something that involves issues-rather than people, and I suppose that this makes it easier to swallow the U.S. government's double standard in its so-called war on terrorism.

But we should never forget that terrorism is principally about the victims and that the memory of lives cut short by bombs or bullets ought never be forgotten.

The most notorious terrorist of the Western Hemisphere, Luis Posada Carriles, stands on the verge of being released from immigration custody by the Bush Administration. This terrorist is wanted in Venezuela for seventy-three counts of first degree murder in relation to the downing of a Cubana de Aviación passenger plane on October 6th, 1976.

Aboard CU-455 were 73 persons. 57 of the passengers were Cubans. 11 aboard were Guyanese, including a little nine year old girl named Harry Paul. The remaining five passengers were Koreans. Those on board averaged only 30 years of age.

Traveling with the group were 24 members of the Cuban fencing team, many of them teen-agers, fresh from gold medal victories at the Youth Fencing Championship in Caracas. One of the young fencers, Nancy Uranga, was only twenty-three years old and pregnant. The athletes proudly wore their medals dangling over their clothes, as they boarded the aircraft. Cubana de Aviación 455 stopped first in Trinidad at 11:03 AM, and then touched down again in Barbados at 12:25 PM.

Nine minutes after take-off from Barbados, two bombs made of C-4 exploded and the plane caught fire. The passengers on board who survived the explosions then lived the most horrifying ten minutes of their lives, as the plane turned into a scorching coffin.

The cockpit voice-recorder captured the last terrifying moments of the flight at 1:24 PM: "Seawell! Seawell! CU-455 Seawell...! We have an explosion on board.... We have a fire on board."

The pilot, Wilfredo Pérez (affectionately known as "Felo"), asked Seawell Airport for permission to return and land, but the plane and its passengers were already doomed.

As the plane approached the shore, it was rapidly losing altitude and control. "Hit the water, Felo, Hit the Water," said the co-pilot.

Rather than crashing into the white sands of the beach called Paradise and killing the beachgoers, Felo courageously banked the plane toward the water where it crashed in a ball of fire one mile north of Deep Water Bay.

Pieces of bodies were slowly recovered from the sea. Most of them too grotesquely disfigured to be identified by their family members.

There were no survivors.

The forensic report performed by the coroner describes the condition of the bodies recovered from the sea. I read to you the part that describes the remains of Harry Paul, the nine-year old Guyanese girl who was traveling with her family to Cuba: "Body of a girl around 9 years of age . . . . Brain missing, only facial bones, scalp and hair remaining. Lungs and heart destroyed. Liver and intestines shattered.

Buttocks missing on right lower limb. Compound fracture of tibia and fibula . . . "

Declassified documents from the U.S. government's own files tell us who the mastermind of the worst act of terrorism perpetrated on a civilian airliner at the time. According to the CIA's own documents from 1976 posted by the National Security Archive of George Washington University, Luis Posada Carriles spoke of his plans to "hit" a Cuban airliner only days before CU-455 was blown out of the sky on October 6, 1976.

The CIA document described a $1000-a-plate fundraiser in Caracas held between September 22 and October 5, 1976, to support the activities of Orlando Bosch, the head of CORU, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization." Bosch was overheard stating: "Now that our organization has come out of the Letelier job looking good, we are going to try something else." Several days later, Posada was reported to have stated that "we are going to hit a Cuban airplane" and "Orlando has the details."

Listen to Orlando Busch's own words during an interview he gave to Barcelona's La Vanguardia newspaper last month. Speaking of the murder of the 73 passengers aboard CU-455, Bosch has no misgivings: "for me it is a target of war. There are many things that I cannot say. But they were actions of war. We had agreed in Santo Domingo (when CORU was formed in 1976) that everything that comes out of Cuba and gives glory to Fidel would run the same risk as those of us combating the dictatorship."

Bosch has been running his mouth to reporters in recent weeks. In early April of this year, he gave an interview to a television reporter in Miami and said of the passengers aboard that plane: "We had decided in Santo Domingo (at the Bonao meeting of CORU) that every one who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny."

He said that he had been particularly peeved at the young Cuban fencers when he listened to one of them on television say that the team dedicated their triumph to the Cuban revolution and "gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant."

Regarding the murder of Favio Di Celmo in Havana in 1997, Bosch said last month: "Luis Posada did that. He paid a Salvadorean and a Central American. Because they're half starving, you give them $100 and they'll do anything. This one entered Cuba, carried the material in a television. He planted three bombs, one in a hotel that killed an Italian; another in the Bodeguita del Medio."

Mr. Bosch, that "Italian" that Posada Carriles killed had a name. He was Favio Di Celmo. He had a family that loved him and will forever live in pain because of his loss. Favio also had a brother (Livio) who is here with us today, working with all of us to free the Five in memory of his brother.

President Bush said this week that he would "absolutely" order military operations inside Pakistan if Osama bin Laden or other top terrorists were found to be hiding there. The Bush Administration's pursuit of terrorists is widely publicized, as the United States military invades countries, detains suspects without charges, tortures and disappears them at will. Virtually everything is permitted in the American War on Terrorism. It is a battle for freedom, Bush says, and the U.S. is winning.

All over the world, said President Bush at the United Nations last week, "people are choosing freedom." Mr. President, among those choosing freedom, do you include terrorists such as Orlando Bosch, Guillermo Novo Sompol, Pedro Crispín, Remon Hernández, Gaspar Jimenez Escobedo and so many others whose "freedom" was negotiated by the United States government, so the terrorists could live in freedom and receive a parade in Miami? Mr. President, why does the U.S. government choose freedom for its terrorists of choice? Mr. President, you don't have to go to all the way to Pakistan to find terrorists. Many of them live freely in Miami. You and your predecessors have set them free.

Luis Posada Carriles, the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America, now stands on the verge of freedom, Mr. President. Thanks to you.

From the moment that Luis Posada Carriles arrived in the United States last year, the United States government has preferred to shelter rather than prosecute this terrorist. Under instructions from the White House, the Department of Justice has ignored Venezuela's request for extradition and instead charged Posada as an undocumented immigrant. We have sent countless diplomatic notes, made countless telephone inquiries and had high level meetings with State Department officials regarding the extradition case - only to be told in November of last year that "soon" Venezuela would receive "questions" that the Department of Justice had formulated. "Soon" has never arrived, and the White House has now chosen to mock its international legal obligations to extradite or prosecute this terrorist.

During the immigration proceedings, the United States offered no witnesses and no evidence. During the habeas corpus proceedings, the United States again offered no witnesses and no evidence. Is that the way this government fights a war on terrorists?

On September 11 (an ironic date for such a decision), Magistrate Garney recommended that Posada Carriles be released from immigration custody. We don't blame Magistrate Garney. Judges and Magistrates do what the evidence tells them to do. Magistrate Garney pointed out, in a carefully worded 23 page decision, that the prosecutor offered no evidence or witnesses to show that the detainee is a terrorist. The prosecutor, continued the Magistrate, failed to certify (as the regulations require) Posada as a terrorist, and the prosecutor failed to make a motion that the Immigration Judge continue to detain him as a danger to the community. In the face of such inaction by the government, the Magistrate had no choice but to recommend his release. He gave the government ten days to rebut the findings, a deadline that the government has asked to extend to October 5. It is evident that the government is not interested in extraditing, prosecuting or even detaining Luis Posada Carriles. Although he is a terrorist, he is the government's terrorist of choice.

All terrorists are criminals. Their political ideology makes no difference. Even war has rules. To blow innocent passengers out of the sky is terrorism. To murder innocent tourists in a hotel is terrorism. Those who perpetrate terrorism ought to be tried (not rewarded) for their crimes. They should never be set free to live in our communities and to appear on late television in Miami.

Mr. President: we don't want to see Luis Posada Carriles living comfortably in Miami, while his crimes go unpunished. We don't want to see him exhibit his fourth-grade quality paintings in a Miami gallery again. We don't want to see him again on Miami television as an honored guest, pontificating about his warped version of freedom.

We want to see him punished. For the sake of Harry Paul, the little nine year old girl whose body was blown to pieces by his bombs, we want him punished. For the sake of Nancy Uranga, a pregnant 22 year old fencer from Cuba, we want him punished. For the sake of the families of the 73 passengers aboard Cubana de Aviación 455, we want him punished. For the sake of Livio Di Celmo (who is here with us today) who lives with the pain of losing his brother Favio to one of Posada Carriles´ bombs, we want him punished.

For Carlos Alberto Cremata and his brothers who were mere teen-agers when they lost their father, their inspiration and their friend, Carlos Cremata Trujillo. For Margarita Morales who lost her father, Julio-the fencing team's trainer. For Odalys Pérez, whose father Wilfredo bravely piloted the doomed plane away from Paradise Beach to avoid crashing it into the beachgoers on shore. For Camilo Rojo, whose memories of his father, Jesús, are the incomplete memories of a toddler.

For their sake, and for the sake of the pain they have endured for the past thirty years. For the pain of growing up without a father or a mother or a brother or a sister or a spouse, we want him punished.

In Caracas, in Washington. It doesn't matter where, we want him punished.

We want this terrorist punished for his crimes. We will not forget the victims. Venezuela will not let them be forgotten. Cuba will not let them be forgotten, and neither will all of you here today. Their memories will live long after we are gone from this planet.

Compañero, Orlando Letelier - presente.

Compañero, Fabio Di Celmo - presente.

Compañero, Carlos Alberto Cremata - presente.

Compañero, Jesús Rojo - presente.

Compañero, Julio Morales - presente.

Compañero, Carlos Múñiz Varela - presente.

Compañerita, Harry Paul - presente.

Compañera, Nancy Uranga and her unborn baby - presente.

All of the compañeros who were murdered aboard Cubana de Aviación 455 - presente.

(*) Presentation on September 23, 2006 at George Washington University in Free the Five Forum

Source: Prensa Latina

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