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1 8th August 12:13
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Default To curry favor with Cuban Americans, Bush turns a blind eye

The terrorist backgrounds of Posada's
three comrades-in-arms are as well
do***ented as their leader's. .,1,2644811.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary
To curry favor with Cuban Americans, Bush turns a blind eye

By Julia E. Sweig and Peter Kornbluh

A little-noticed but chilling scene at Opa-locka Airport outside Miami
last month demonstrates that the Bush administration's commitment to
fighting international terrorism can be overtaken by presidential
politics - even if that means admitting known terrorists onto U.S.

That's what happened when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso
inexplicably pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of "endangering
public safety" for their role in an assassination plot against Fidel
Castro during a 2000 international summit in Panama.

After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private
jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized
by the hard-line anti-Castro community.

Federal officials briefly
interviewed the pardoned men -
all holders of U.S. passports -
and then let them go their way.

The fourth man, Luis Posada Carriles,
was the most notorious member of
this anti-Castro cell.

He is an escapee from a prison in Venezuela,
where he was incarcerated for blowing up an
Air Cubana passenger plane in 1976, killing 73.

He also admitted plotting six hotel bombings in Havana
that killed one tourist and injured 11 others in 1997.

Posada has gone into hiding in Honduras
while seeking a Central American country
that will harbor him, prompting Honduran President Ricardo
Maduro to demand an explanation from the Bush administration on how a
renowned terrorist could enter his country using a false U.S.

The terrorist backgrounds of Posada's
three comrades-in-arms are as well
do***ented as their leader's. .

For a small but powerful minority in the Cuban American community, the
Posada gang are freedom fighters. But Sept. 11 taught the rest of us
about the danger of political fanatics who seek to rationalize their
violence. To uphold his oft-stated principle that no nation can be
neutral in the war on terrorism, shouldn't President Bush have
condemned Moscoso's decision to release these terrorists? To protect
the sanctity of U.S. borders and the security of Americans, shouldn't
the administration have taken all available steps to keep known
terrorists out of the United States?

But Florida is crucial to Bush's reelection strategy. Currying favor
with anti-Castro constituents in Miami appears to trump the
president's anti-terrorism principles. So far, not a single White
House, State Department or Homeland Security official has expressed
outrage at Panama's decision to put terrorists back on the world's
streets. The FBI appears to have no plans to lead a search for Posada
so he can be returned to Venezuela, where he is a wanted fugitive.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which has rounded up and
expelled hundreds of foreigners on the mere suspicion of a terrorist
link, has indicated no intention to detain and deport Novo, Jimenez
and Remon. .

"I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a
tool are less acceptable in parts of the world," Bush recently said in
an interview.

But the decision to allow members of the Posada gang into this
country, and the televised spectacle of Miamians applauding their
return, sends a different and dangerous message: In a swing state,
some terrorists are not only acceptable but welcome.
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