A handful of protesters flew to El Paso to rally against the release of alleged Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles today, the day Posada's trial was supposed to start.
Posada was set free last Tuesday when an El Paso federal judge dismissed immigration charges against him and the trial was cancelled.
"He was held on minor immigration charges and even those were dropped. It's a complete maneuver by the U.S. government to free this man. The people of the world are outraged," said Gloria LaRiva, the protest's organizer with the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, a group seeking the release from U.S. prisons of five alleged Cuban spies.
LaRiva was one of about 15 protesters who saw Posada's release as a ploy by the U.S. government to protect Posada, a former CIA operative.
But Monday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone found that the government had gone to excessive lengths to bring charges against Posada, even engaging in "fraud, deceit, and trickery," according to court records.
Posada, 79, was facing charges of immigration fraud and false statements for allegedly lying during his naturalization interview in El Paso in 2006. The judge found that the government had no intention to give him U.S. citizenship and instead conducted the interview to gather information for ongoing criminal investigations targeting Posada, unbeknown to him.
One protester today, Priscilla Felia, flew from New York on a rather expensive ticket to be in El Paso, she said.
"I could have gone to a demonstration on the east coast but I'm here because he (Posada) is not in the court like he's supposed to be," she said.
The protesters said similar rallies were taking place in 22 other locations around the United States and elsewhere.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, whose presence at the El Paso rally had been announced were not present.
Posada, a former CIA operative, is wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 passengers. He denies any involvement. An El Paso immigration judge ruled that he could not be deported to Cuba or Venezuela because he risked being tortured there. The U.S. government has not found any other country willing to take Posada in.
Cuba accused the U.S. government on Friday of violating international anti-terrorism treaties by allowing Posada to walk free.
"The U.S. government has not only violated its own laws and supposed commitment to its self-proclaimed 'War Against Terrorism,' but also to its own international obligations," said a government declaration published today in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
In El Paso, protester Amelia McDonald echoed that sentiment.
"It is symbolic of the hypocrisy of our government. I believe it was President Bush who said if you harbor a terrorist, you are as guilty as a terrorist. We should look at who the real terrorists are. They are in the White House and in the halls of Congress," she said.
Posada is also being investigated by the FBI for his alleged role in a 1997 string of bombings of restaurants and hotels in Havana that killed one Italian tourist.