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US Charges Cuban Exile with Illegal Entry


Luis Posada Carriles

U.S. Immigration authorities on Thursday charged an aging Cuban exile linked to the bombing of a Cuban airliner with illegally entering the United States. The move could lead to a deportation order, but any resolution of the case is likely to take months.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have charged Luis Posada Carriles with illegally entering the United States. They say he will face an immigration judge on June 13.

Mr. Posada was arrested this week in Miami, after he surfaced to give a series of media interviews ending intense speculation about his whereabouts. The governments of Venezuela and Cuba say the 77-year-old Cuban exile is the mastermind behind the 1976 bombing of a Cuban Airways passenger jet that killed 73 people. Recently released FBI documents in the United States also link him to the attack. Cuban authorities also accuse him of orchestrating a hotel bombing campaign in Havana in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist.

Mr. Posada's attorney, Eduardo Soto says his client will fight deportation, and that Mr. Posada obtained permanent U.S. residency more than 40 years ago, making him eligible to apply for political asylum in the United States.

"It is our position that beyond his voluntary wishes, he was not able to return to the United States and for those reasons did not lose the cloak of permanent residency," said Eduardo Soto. "Those are arguments we will be making."

Mr. Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen, was jailed in Venezuela on charges of involvement in the airliner bombing, but he escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985. He was released from a Panamanian prison last year where he had been jailed on charges of attempting to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Venezuela has formally requested Mr. Posada's extradition. Cuban officials say they want to see him tried in Venezuela or before an international tribunal. U.S. Homeland Security officials say they generally do not deport individuals to Cuba, or to any country acting on Cuba's behalf.

Damien Fernandez, the Director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University in Miami, says Mr. Posada's case is being watched closely throughout Latin America.

"Because it is both Venezuela and Cuba, countries with whom the United States is having a mini Cold War, that are claiming Posada-Carriles extradition and that he be tried for alleged terrorist acts," said Damien Fernandez. "So, this really presents a political quagmire for the United States, and it is not clear how U.S. policy will pursue this issue, but it is clear it will have ramifications in U.S. Latin American policy."

Mr. Posada's attorney says he will immediately seek bond for his client, and will re-file an application for political asylum. He says he expects it could take as long as six months for the case to work its way through the immigration courts.

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