US groups back Cuban charges against US

May 21st, 2008 - 5:07 am ICT by admin  

Washington, May 21 (DPA) A coalition of US activist groups Tuesday said that the US has allowed a known terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, to agitate for violence against Cuba and funnelled tainted money to human rights activists in the Caribbean country. Brian Becker, coordinator of Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism (ANSWER), demanded that the US bring formal terrorism charges against Posada, who has been the subject of repeated requests for extradition for years by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

Becker appeared at a press conference with the one-time chief of the US Interests Section in Havana, Wayne Smith; Venezuela’s attorney on the Posada extradition, Jose Perteirra; and a group that wants five Cubans jailed in the US on charges of espionage to be released.

Their charges came in a week of rising tensions over US-Cuba relations.

Monday, the Cuban government accused the top US diplomat in Havana, Michael Parmly, of providing money from exiled groups in the US to dissidents on the communist island.

Cuban officials said Parmly passed money that came from the Miami-based foundation Rescate Juridico, which is reportedly funded by Santiago Alvarez Fernandez-Magrina, an anti-Castro activist jailed in the US for illegal possession of firearms.

Tuesday, the US State Department called for solidarity with jailed Cuban rights activists.

Wednesday, US President George W. Bush is to mark Cuban Independence Day with a renewed declaration of Washington’s tough sanctions against the communist-governed island just 100 km off its Florida shore.

Becker, Smith and Perteirra greeted Cuba’s revelations about the Santiago Alvarez connections, adding that the same man had also provided funds for Posada Carriles.

Posada Carriles, 80, is accused by Havana and Caracas of the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and other lethal attacks. He was convicted in Venezuela of being one of the masterminds of the bombing, but he escaped from prison after eight years and joined US-directed covert counterinsurgency operations in Central America.

He entered the US illegally in 2005, and was detained by US officials. But the US refused extradition requests from Cuba and Venezuela, and in 2007 dropped charges against him on immigration fraud.

Since then, he has moved freely among the Cuban exile community in Florida, where he is regarded as a hero. He was recently widely quoted as telling a Miami gathering held in his honour that they need the “sharp edge of a machete” to go after the Castro government.

Becker charged that Posada now “walks as a free man given safe haven by the Bush administration.”

“It is outrageous the United States allows (Posada Carriles) to live freely in Miami inciting his followers to violence,” the lawyer Pertierra said.

Pertierra said Venezuela had never received a response from Washington to its request for extraditing Posada.

US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon told reporters Tuesday that “Posada Carilles’ legal status in the United States is still an open question.”

A federal appeals court is to hear an appeal by the US Justice Department in June in New Orleans against the dismissal of immigration charges, according to a recent Miami Herald report.

On the issue of the US supplying support to rights activists, Shannon said the United States would continue to support Cuban dissidents and the families of jailed leaders of the opposition.

President George W. Bush has vowed to keep sanctions against Cuba in place until the regime takes steps toward democratic change and free elections.

Shannon repeated US calls on the regime to free the political prisoners held on the communist island.

“There has to be some kind of broad national dialogue about Cuba’s future,” Shannon said.

Cuba policy could play prominently in the Nov 4 presidential election, particularly in the key battleground state of Florida, where Cuban-Americans back a hardline approach toward the Castro government.

John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Tuesday faulted leading Democratic candidate Barack Obama for suggesting he would meet unconditionally with the Cuban leadership.

McCain vowed to continue pressuring the Cuban regime by keeping tight sanctions that have been in place since the 1960s until the communist island takes steps toward democratic reforms and free elections.

The Arizona senator said he would provide more assistance to Cuban dissidents struggling for civil rights.

“I would provide more material assistance to courageous human rights activists,” he said.

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