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Venezuela Threatens to Sever Ties with US

  • Carmen Gentile

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is threatening to sever ties with the United States over a Cuban dissident wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges. The Venezuelan leader's comments could further escalate tensions between the nations.

In a national address, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to severe diplomatic ties with the United States if it does not extradite Cuban dissident Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela to face terrorism charges.

Mr. Posada was arrested last week in Miami for entering the country illegally, a violation of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.

President Chavez accused the United States of harboring Mr. Posada, who he called an "assassin and terrorist." Mr. Posada is wanted in Venezuela for masterminding the bombing of a Cuban jetliner over Venezuela in 1976, killing 73 people.

The Venezuelan leader says United States has 60 days to turn over Mr. Posada.

Mr. Chavez said, if they don't turn him (Posada) over by the deadline stipulated, we are going to fully revise our diplomatic relationship with the United States.

Both Venezuela and Cuba are demanding his extradition to Venezuela.

Mr. Posada has also been accused of participating in an assassination attempt on Cuban President Fidel Castro in Panama in 2000 and a series of bombings in Cuba in 1997.

He has repeatedly denied his involvement in the 1976 airline bombing. Mr. Posada did admit to participating in the 1997 Havana bombing, only to deny the accusation a year later.

According to news reports Mr. Posada was a paid CIA informant and anti-Castro operative in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Bush administration has expressed concerns that the leftist Mr. Chavez is pushing Venezuela toward becoming a Cuba-style state. In turn, the Venezuela president says the United States is meddling in Venezuelan affairs and plotting his demise. Mr. Chavez also recently moved to further meld the economies of Venezuela and Cuba. Last month, Mr. Chavez met with Mr. Castro in Havana in hopes of wooing other Latin American nations into an alternative trade pact not led by the United States.