The most controversial of those pardoned, Luis Posada Carriles, is a Bay of Pigs veteran and admitted terrorist is now in an undisclosed neighboring country (not El Salvador--after President Tony Saca explicitly rejected him), while the other three arrived home "triumphantly" to Miami (they're Cuban-Americans). Here's the Washington Post's rundown on these very bad guys:
Venezuela had sought one of the activists -- Luis Posada Carriles -- because he had escaped from a Venezuelan jail where he had faced charges of planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people. Posada, 74, is not a U.S. citizen, and it is not clear whether he left Panama. Posada has also claimed credit for having planned and directed six Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people.The Post's Glenn Kessler is the only reporter, however, to explicitly note the hypocrisy of U.S. policy pronouncements--or rather, the lack thereof-- on the matter:
New Times, a Miami newspaper, said U.S. law enforcement records say that Jimenez, 69, helped kidnap Cuba's consul to Mexico in 1977 and killed a consular official, and that Remon, 60, was identified as the triggerman in the slaying of a pro-Castro activist and a Cuban diplomat. Novo, 65, was convicted in the United States in the late 1970s of taking part in the 1976 assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier. He was acquitted on appeal but served four years in prison for lying to a grand jury.
Reflecting the political sensitivities of the case, U.S. officials declined to condemn the actions of the four men -- who authorities said had planned to use 33 pounds of explosives to kill Castro -- even though Bush has said the war on global terrorism is his top priority.
However, I think he get's his lead wrong as he tries to link this to Bush's campaign stop in Miami today, calling the pardons "politically fortuitous." It's hard to see how this helps Bush in Florida with Cuban-Americans -- since its the more recent immigrants that are upset with Bush's policies, not the crazy old guard that welcomed these guys home. Sure, this plays right into Bush's get-out-the-base strategy for these elections, but the timing has nothing to do with the U.S. electoral calendar. Over 200 others were pardoned along with these guys.
Kessler does give decent space to a reasonable Administration critic:
"These are bad guys. The absence of a statement says a lot," said Julia E. Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "It is the most preposterous violation of what this administration stands for." Sweig said direct White House involvement in the pardons was perhaps unnecessary. She noted that Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), is influential in Cuban American circles, and that there is a complex web of business and personal connections between Panama and the Cuban American exile community. "My gut is this reeks of political and diplomatic cronyism," Sweig said.
Perhaps surprisingly, the arch-conservative El Diario de Hoy makes some strong points in its front-page story. Only EDH seems to remember that Posada Carriles, after busting out of jail in Venezuela in 1985, got hired in El Salvador by CIA operative Felix Rodriguez to help with the arms smuggling operation to the contras in Nicaragua, operating out of Salvador's Ilopango airport. (La Prensa Gráfica doesn't provide this background.)
Of course, all that happened under the evil Christian Democratic government of Duarte, which is perhaps the most salient reason why the government is interested in prosecuting Posada Carriles, for falsification of documents. It was under a Salvadoran passport and the assumed name of Ramon Medina that Posada Carriles made it into Panama to try to carry off the 2000 assassination of Castro.
EDH also claims credit for working with the Miami Herald in 1997 to expose the fact that Posada Carriles had recruited Salvadorans to carry out the 1997 bombings in Cuba, a fact which he admitted in a 1998 interview with the New York Times.
I think it reveals Bush's tone deaf nature regarding the Cuban exile community. His base is only in the hadrliners and that's the only group he feels a need to appeal to.
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