Still Protecting Carriles

Thu May. 19, 2005 12:16 PM PDT

Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan who is wanted in both countries for allegedly blowing up a civilian airplane and bombing hotels in Havana, was finally arrested in the United States on Tuesday. Up until this point, the United States seemed to be uninterested in capturing Carriles. But on Tuesday, Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told the New York Times, "Today is the first time there was verifiable information about his presence in the country. We had received leads prior to today, which we pursued, but they ultimately did not go very far." Well, they finally got their lead—when Carriles held a press conference.

If ICE really wanted to find him, maybe officials should have asked Carriles' lawyer, who has been telling the press that Carriles has been in the United States for weeks, awaiting the outcome of his application for political asylum. This suspected terrorist, formerly on the CIA payroll, wasn't even taken down by the CIA or FBI. No, he was arrested by immigration agents following his press conference. The ICE agents had the presence of mind to wait until Carriles finished telling the Miami Herald, "If my request for political asylum should become a problem for the United States government, I am willing to reconsider my request." The agents probably should have arrested him immediately following this rather than letting him explain to the press that "he was hiding less these days because it seemed that the United States was not looking for him…he took a bus from Houston to Miami after crossing into Texas with a smuggler, and…while here, he had read Confucius and painted Cuban landscapes."

Carriles has been charged with an immigration violation. It's a piddling offense considering that Venezuela is seeking his extradition to charge him with the murder of at least 73 people. The immigration charges look like an attempt to assuage the media and public which have pointed out the irony that, while the U.S. is fighting a war on terrorism, suspected terrorist Carriles was applying for asylum. According to the BBC, "U.S. officials said they do not turn over those suspected of crimes to any regime that would hand them over to Cuba." Unfortunately for them, that excuse probably won't last long. Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel today stated, "There is no possibility that Venezuela would turn over to another country if Posada Carriles' extradition to Venezuela is approved." The administration is running out of excuses.

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