Luis Posada Carriles, 77, a former agent for the CIA, was arrested in Miami on Tuesday after slipping into U.S. territory illegally via Mexico in mid-March. Carriles is wanted by Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people near Barbados. He is also wanted by Cuba for a 1997 hotel bomb attack in Havana that killed an Italian tourist.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency charged Carriles in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. He will be held in custody until his immigration hearing on June 13. According to several Miami reports, Carriles is reportedly being held at a U.S. detention center in El Paso, Texas.
Carriles, a Venezuelan citizen who is applying for political asylum, has denied any involvement in the airline bombing, but in an interview with the Miami Herald has not confirmed or denied whether or not he was involved in the hotel bombing.
In Venezuela, Carriles was acquitted after two trials, but he escaped from prison in 1985 after awaiting prosecutor’s appeal. Both governments want him to stand trial for the alleged crimes.
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel cited a 1922 treaty between the United States and Venezuela, and said the United States is obliged to extradite Posada, who he maintains is linked to “horrendous criminal acts.”
“The U.S. government evades its legal commitments, its responsibility in this case. It allowed Posada Carriles to be in U.S. territory for more than two months without officially recognizing it, and then later publicly acknowledged he actually was in the United States,” said Rangel.
The Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Mr. Luis Posada Carriles into custody, pending review of his immigration status.”
By law, it will take 48 hours to bring immigration charges after a person is taken into custody, according to the government.
According to Carriles’ lawyer, Edward Soto, his client should be granted asylum because of his anti-Castro views, his past history as an ex-CIA agent and that he may face persecution from both governments.
The U.S. government has stated that it will not extradite Carriles to a country that will potentially hand him over to a Fidel Castro regime. Venezuela has promised the U.S. government that Carriles would not be extradited to Cuba if he is released to them.
Soto told reporters, “I believe he is legally in this country now.”
Despite assurances from U.S. law enforcement that Carriles will not be extradited to Cuba, the arrest marks a political victory for Castro, who had long demanded that the U.S. government arrest Carriles for the airline bombing. Castro led a march through Havana demanding the United States act against Carriles, who he has labeled as a terrorist and a “bloodthirsty exponent” of “imperialist terrorism.”
At the rally, protesters chanted, “Capture the terrorist.”
The Cuban government has said that if Washington does not act against Carriles, the United States would be guilty of a double standard in the war against terrorism if they grant him safe harbor.
In the bulletin of Inter-American Dialogue, William Rogers, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs under Presidents Nixon and Ford, said Carriles’ extradition negotiations must be handled with great care. He said a refusal to extradite him “will be interpreted throughout the hemisphere as U.S. acceptance of terrorism as long as the terrorist act was directed against a regime we don’t like.”