Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela to ask Obama to extradite former spy


Venezuela will renew its demand for the US to extradite a former CIA operative accused of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane that killed all 73 people on board, a lawyer for the Venezuelan government said on Friday.

Venezuela hopes US President Barack Obama’s administration will shift policy on the case of 80-year-old Luis Posada Carriles and turn him over to face trial in Venezuela, attorney Jose Pertierra said.

Venezuela and Cuba have accused Washington of being hypocritical in sparing the Cuban-born militant from extradition while demanding a global war against terrorism.

Venezuela submitted an extradition request in 2005 to former US president George W. Bush’s administration, but the matter has not been resolved.

The request will be reactivated in the coming days and documents will be presented to the US State Department, Pertierra said.

“This is a new administration and Venezuela sees this as a fresh start in matters of mutual cooperation. What we’re hoping is that this case will not be seen as politicized, as the Bush administration made it,” he said by telephone from Washington.

He said Venezuela hopes the Obama administration evaluates the case “on its merits.”

A US immigration judge ruled in 2005 that Posada should be deported, but could not be sent to Venezuela or Cuba because of fears he would be tortured. No other country has been willing to let him in. It’s unclear if that ruling would influence the US State Department’s decision.

Cuban officials brand Posada “the most notorious terrorist of the Western Hemisphere,” and Chavez has likened him to Osama bin Laden. Cubans say that he was involved in a series of hotel bombings in Havana, one of which killed a civilian, and that he has tried repeatedly to kill former Cuban President Fidel Castro.

But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has approved diplomatic guarantees of safety and a fair trial for Posada, Pertierra said.

Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan, once held a prominent role in Venezuela’s secret police. Venezuela accuses him of plotting the 1976 jetliner bombing off Barbados while living in Caracas. Posada has denied involvement.

He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 and was detained in Florida in May 2005 for entering the US illegally.

He has been living freely in Miami since 2007, when a court dismissed charges that he lied to authorities in his bid to become a US citizen.

A US appeals court in New Orleans overruled the decision last year, however, and ordered him to stand trial on immigration fraud charges.

Posada’s lawyer did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The Venezuelan leader and Obama have already traded barbs after the new US president called Chavez “a destructive force in the region” in a recent interview with the Spanish-language television network Univision.

But in a speech on Friday, Chavez praised Obama’s decision to order the Guantanamo Bay prison camp closed within a year. He said the order to shut the military prison camp in Cuba “must be applauded.”

Chavez also called Obama “a man with good intentions” and praised him for banning torture.

“That’s a very important signal,” he said.

“We can’t say that everything that comes from the US government is absolutely bad,” Chavez said.

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