Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Staging Area for Anti-Castro Forces - Miami: a Refuge for Terrorists By GLORIA La RIVA

How is the surrender of huge weapons caches supposed to lighten someone's sentence?

This is the case with Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, who by any dictionary's definition, are terrorists. The evidence against them? Machine guns, C-4 explosives, dynamite, grenade launchers, recorded statements calling for a nightclub full of people to be bombed, admissions of plots to assassinate the Cuban president, etc.

Yet, now the U.S. attorney's office in Miami has arranged the surrender of Alvarez's weapons caches in order to lessen his prison sentence. That sentence is already a pitiful slap on the wrist, four years for Alvarez, three for Mitat, for the one weapons charge they were allowed to plead guilty to in November.

The last time I heard, Miami was a city in the United States. The last time I heard, there are United States laws against launching armed actions against a country with whom the United States is not at war with. Yet, Alvarez's and Mitat's lawyers state openly that their clients' aim was "always" to overthrow Fidel Castro.

The situation in Miami is becoming more and more bizarre, but it is not a funny kind of bizarre. This is terrorism we are talking about.

Alvarez will get a lesser sentence but the "Cuban Five," men who were working in Miami to stop the terrorists, are unjustly serving 15 years to double life in U.S. federal prison.

The unfolding revelations of the terrorists' activities in Miami-and the influence they wield over Miami institutions-proves more and more that the Cuban Five could never have hoped to receive a fair trial in Miami. From day one, every aspect of the U.S. government's prosecution of these five men, their arrest, trial and sentencing, was politically motivated.

It is apparent that the U.S. government's objective in the Cuban Five's prosecution was to tie the hands of these anti-terrorists. At the same time it looked the other way while terrorists like Alvarez and Mitat amassed weapons and hatched assassination plots.

The terrorist bands must feel that Miami is the perfect refuge for their kind. After all, it is where Alvarez and crew smuggled Posada in. Don't forget Posada's three accomplices in the Panama terrorist plot. They flew into Miami hours after their ignominous pardon in August 2004.

Has the FBI or U.S. Attorney's office ever considered prosecuting those three terrorists? There is certainly enough evidence against Guillermo Novo Sampol, Pedro Remón and Gaspar Jiménez for their terrorist crimes committed on U.S. soil. And their plot to try to assassinate Fidel Castro in Panama, definitely qualifies as a violation of the Neutrality Act.

But the FBI interviewed the three terrorists upon their Miami arrival and let them go.

On Jan. 15, Alvarez and Mitat were indicted for refusing to testify to a grand jury in El Paso about their role in smuggling Posada into the United States in March of 2005.

And the U.S. Attorney is going to lessen their sentence? What is going on here?

It is clear that the U.S. officials' orientation in coddling the Miami terrorists comes directly from the White House. George Bush has failed to utter one word denouncing or acknowledging Luis Posada Carriles' presence in the United States or his terrorist history.

Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, has yet to declare Posada a terrorist. By his inaction Gonzales may be giving the ultimate green light to Posada. The immigration judge has set Feb. 1 for the U.S. government to declare Posada the terrorist that he is, or he could very well be freed.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to ignore Venezuela's extradition request of Posada for his leading role in bombing the Cubana airliner in 1976 and killing 73 people.

The absolute impunity with which the anti-Cuba Miami terrorists operate, and the complicity of the U.S. government in protecting them, demands an outside independent investigation. Investigation and prosecution of the terrorists are what is needed, not symbolic sentences.

In the meantime, supporters of the Cuban Five continue to fight for their freedom. To learn about the campaign and their appeals, freethefive.org

Gloria La Riva is Coordinator, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five