Cia asset blew up cuban airliner in 1976
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History turns against Venezuela's "Inspector Basil"
12 May 2005 16:09:52 GMT
By Pascal Fletcher
CARACAS, Venezuela, May 12 (Reuters) - Three decades ago, colleagues in Venezuela's counterintelligence services called him "Inspector Basil," a Cold War hunter of communists.
Today, Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles is on the Venezuelan government's most wanted list, branded a terrorist by Caracas and Havana for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. He escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985.
In a case that could test Washington's commitment to fighting global terrorism, Venezuela is demanding Posada's extradition from the United States where his lawyer says he is seeking asylum. The U.S. government's public position so far is that it has no evidence he is there.
"This is a diplomatic priority for us," Venezuela's ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, told Reuters. He expected the extradition request for Posada, who is a naturalized Venezuelan, to be delivered this week.
Under a right-wing government in Venezuela more than 30 years ago, Posada and a powerful group of other Cuban exiles fought in a U.S.-backed security campaign to defeat leftist "subversives" supported by communist Cuba. Declassified U.S. documents show he was a CIA asset for years.
Three decades later, the Cold War is over and Venezuela's left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, has turned his country, which Posada once served, into a major ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, the man Posada has dedicated his life to fighting.
Chavez and Castro are badgering Washington to deliver up the 77-year-old Posada, saying his presence in the United States shows up double standards in President George W. Bush's war against terrorism.
The two presidents -- Latin America's leading "revolutionaries" -- repeatedly accuse Washington of plotting to invade their nations.
But in the Cold War days of the late 1960s, Castro sent Cuban military infiltrators to land on Venezuela's Caribbean coast in support of local Marxist guerrillas fighting to overthrow the elected government.
Using the title of "Comisario Basilio" (Inspector Basil), Posada from 1967 to 1974 was an officer in Venezuela's DISIP security police fighting communist "subversion." He even headed the force's arms and explosives brigade.
"The Cuban exiles ran the DISIP counterintelligence division, they were the stars," a former DISIP officer, who asked not to be identified, said.
"The idea was that since it was Castro's Cubans who were fomenting subversion in Venezuela at the time, the best people to deal with them would be other Cubans," he told Reuters.
In 1976, Posada, who ran a detective agency after retiring from the DISIP, was detained with two Venezuelan employees and another Cuban exile, Orlando Bosch, for the bombing of the Cubana Airlines plane that came down near Barbados.
Posada and the others were charged with homicide, but although detained for nine years, his case dragged on in the courts and in 1985 he mysteriously escaped from jail. The two Venezuelans served prison time while Bosch was later freed and lives in the United States.
Posada has always denied any role in the bombing, but declassified U.S. intelligence documents link him to plots against Cuban targets. His lawyer, Eduardo Soto, has said his client has never been convicted of a terrorist act.
CIA and FBI files, published by George Washington University's National Security Archive, quote informants indicating the Cuban exile contingent of Venezuela's DISIP was involved in the Cubana bombing and a subsequent cover-up.
A 1976 FBI report after the attack said Cuban-born DISIP officer Ricardo "Monkey" Morales Navarrete held at least two meetings in Caracas with Posada and anti-Castro Cuban exiles from Miami to plot the bombing.
"Morales Navarrete said that some people in the Venezuelan government are involved in this airplane bombing, and that if Posada Carriles talks, then Morales Navarrete and others in the Venezuelan government will 'go down the tube," the FBI report quotes an unidentified informant as saying.