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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | August 13, 2002

Trade with Cuba, the terrorists have won

It's become DC's biggest political cliché. If you can't get what you want, make a connection, however tenable, to the war on terror.

Supporters of the Cuban embargo, seeing their ranks dwindling rapidly, are charging that Cuba harbors terrorists. The charge is laughable, resting on the fact that a handful of suspected terrorists are exiled in Cuba.

And if providing sanctuary to terrorists warrants measures as harsh as an embargo, look no further than Miami, where convicted terrorist Orlando Bosch has been lionized by anti-Castro wackos. Miami's Radio Progreso summarizes:

Back in 1989 Orlando Bosch, one of the two most notorious Cuban-American terrorists (the other is Luis Posada), was in prison in Florida.  He had returned from Venezuela and was being held on a parole violation.  The United States Justice Department ruled that Bosch should be deported because of his terrorist activities.  The deportation order cited FBI and CIA reports that Bosch "has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death," including 30 acts of sabotage in the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama from 1961 through 1968.  In the worst charge against Bosch, 73 people were killed when a bomb blew up a Cuban passenger jet. Acting Associate Attorney General Joe Whitley wrote in his decision to deport Bosch: "The October 6, 1976, Cuban airline bombing was a CORU operation under the direction of Bosch. CORU is the name of Bosch's terrorist outfit."  That bombing marked the first time that a civilian passenger jet was turned into a weapon of terrorism.


By 1989 George Bush the elder had become president.  A campaign was launched to get his administration to reverse the Justice Department's decision to deport Bosch.  That campaign was successful and Bosch walks free today in Miami.  Among the leaders of that effort to turn the convicted terrorist into a hero were Republican Ileana Ros Lehtinen, who was running for Congress, and her campaign manager, Jeb Bush, son of the president.

Convicted terrorist Bosch is pardoned by Bush I, and is considered a hero on the streets of Miami. Now Ros Lehtinen charges that Cuba is a terrorist state. And there's much more, as detailed in this op/ed piece in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Ros-Lehtinen has also urged the release of Valentine Hernandez, whose principal crimes were the murder of other exiles -- exiles who dared to advocate a dialogue with the Castro government. But Ros-Lehtinen thinks he should go free. And neither she nor Gov. Bush, by the way, have ever backed away from their support of Orlando Bosch.

And then there is the case of Luis Posada Carriles, who along with Bosch master-minded the 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner. He, too, spent time in a Venezuelan prison, but escaped in 1985 and turned up in Central America working in Oliver North's secret Contra operation, along with Felix Rodriguez, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal with close ties to then Vice President Bush.

In 1998, Posada Carriles acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that he had directed the bombing of a number of hotels in Havana the previous year which had resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. Though Posada Carriles confessed his culpability, no charges were ever filed against him in the U.S. Today, he is in prison in Panama, accused of involvement in a recent assassination plot against Fidel Castro.


Thankfully, no one seriously believes Cuba is a terrorist state, and the momentum is clearly with the embargo foes. The House has already voted to end the Cuba embargo, and the Senate should soon follow suit. Even House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- a staunch anti-terrorism, anti-communism conservative -- argues the embargo should be lifted (even though he voted against doing so out of loyalty to the GOP's Cuban-American House contingent).

Embargo supporters have one last line of defense -- Bush's threatened veto. While Bush has yet to veto a single bill, Florida politics demand he make this his first. And it will be interesting to see how this plays. Bush will override the will of the vast majority of Congress -- a strongly bipartisan majority no less, to protect the narrow (and irrational) interests of a small special interest group for the benefit of his his and his brother's reelection campaigns.

Posted August 13, 2002 12:10 AM | Comments (2)


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