Saturday, April 9, 2011

Posada Carriles acquitted of immigration fraud

A US jury found an elderly Cuban-born former CIA agent, wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for several deadly bombings, not guilty on charges of perjury and immigration fraud. Judge Kathleen Cardone read the verdict after the jury deliberated for three hours after the 13-week trial of Luis Posada Carriles, a fierce opponent of former Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Tears were shed as Posada Carriles, 83, hugged his three defense attorneys at the end of the trial in which 33 people testified including several Cubans.

US prosecutors had sought to prosecute him for years. Arrested and jailed in 2005 for illegally entering the country, Posada Carriles was released on bail in May 2007 by a federal judge in Texas who said the US government had tricked the ex-CIA contractor by using a citizenship interview to obtain evidence against him.

He was charged with 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud in the case, and had faced up to 60 years behind bars if convicted. A Cuban-born Venezuelan national, Posada Carriles spent years allegedly trying to overthrow the Communist government in Cuba.

In 1976 he was jailed in Venezuela for allegedly masterminding the downing of a Cuban jet off Barbados that same year that killed 73 people. The plane had taken off from Caracas.

He escaped in 1985, but was sentenced to eight years in jail in Panama for a 2000 bomb plot to assassinate Castro. He served four years before being pardoned.

Cuba accuses him of several assassination plots against Castro, and of involvement in a 1997 Havana hotel bombing that killed an Italian tourist.

US officials have refused to extradite Posada Carriles to either Cuba or Venezuela, despite extradition requests, on grounds that he could be tortured.

In Miami, Cuban exile leaders were thrilled at the outcome. "Justice has prevailed, even though the Cuban dictatorship sent witnesses to destroy the credibility of (Posada Carriles) and to denigrate the Cuban community in the United States," said Ninoska Perez-Castellon, who heads the fiercely anti-Communist Cuban Liberty Council. "They cannot say that it was not a just trial with anti-Castro influences, because it didn't even take place in Miami," she said.

Cuba "has been left without one of its propaganda tools," Orlando Gutierrez, who heads the Cuban Democratic Directorate, another anti-Castro group, told AFP. "This is a legal decision in a country where the rule of law is respected -- something that does not exist in Cuba," Gutierrez said.

Declassified US documents show that Posada Carriles worked for the CIA from 1965 to June 1976.

With a tangled past reaching back to the doomed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and intelligence operations in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Argentina, Posada has been a constant embarrassment to Washington.

A key plank of the US case, was an interview with the New York Times Posada Carriles gave in 1998 about several bombings that took place in Cuba a year earlier. The daily quoted him as saying that he was responsible for planning the attacks. However, in the trial Posada's defense team denied the allegations, saying he does not understand English well and could not have made the statements.


Mexican authorities make arrest in ICE agent’s murder

On Tuesday, Mexican authorities announced the arrest of Jose Manuel Garcia Soto (aka "El Safado" or "The Crazy One") in the northern state of San Luis Potosi. Garcia is a member of the Zetas drug cartel and is accused of taking part in the ambush and shooting death of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata.

According to a statement released by the Secretariat of Public Security, Garcia was taken into custody on Saturday.

Mexican police report that Garcia ran extortion, kidnapping, robbery and drug trafficking operations for a Los Zetas cell, under the command of Julian Zapata Espinosa.

On February, 15, ICE agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were ambushed at a so-called “narco-blockade” in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. The shooting is believed to have been carried out by Los Zetas Cartel.

These makeshift blockades are becoming a common sight throughout Mexico. Drug traffickers will block a road to keep either law enforcement or operatives from rival cartels out of a certain neighborhood or town.

Of course, the attack took the life of Agent Zapata, while Agent Avila survived his wounds. As per Mexican law, both agents were unarmed.


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