by Patrick Moser
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP): Outside the US diplomatic mission in Havana, President George W. Bush is portrayed as a bloodthirsty vampire, on a giant billboard meant to illustrate Cuba's claim that Washington supports terrorism.
Cuba, which for years has figured on the US list of states that sponsor terrorism, has turned the tables on Washington, claiming the United States harbors terrorists responsible for the deaths of dozens of people.
The communist government is waging a major campaign to demand the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, who is accused here and in Venezuela of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Posada Carriles is portrayed alongside Bush on the billboard made to look like a movie ad, which advertises "The Assassin - coming soon to a US court near you."
A former CIA operative, he was indicted last week on minor immigration charges in the United States, stirring an angry response from relatives of the 1976 bombing.
"It is an outrage that Posada Carriles is not tried as an assassin, a terrorist, that there is no justice for the victims of this criminal act," said Margarita Morales, 44, the daughter of a Cuban athlete killed when the Havana-bound Cuban jetliner exploded upon take off from Barbados.
"How can they say they are fighting against terrorism while they support Cuban terrorists," she said in an interview with AFP.
The Cuban foreign ministry claimed Posada Carriles' indictment was "a smoke screen to grant him impunity for the serious crime of terrorism."
The United States has refused to extradite Posada Carriles to Venezuela or Cuba, claiming he might be tortured there and found no takers when it suggested sending him to another country.
Havana claims Washington is effectively supporting terrorism, and has compared the Cuban-born Venezuelan to Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terror network blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
"If someone had Bin Laden now and instead of extraditing him to face charges of terrorism he were held on visa issues, wouldn't that be scandalous?" parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcon asked in a recent interview with AFP.
Posada Carriles is the best known of several people living in the United States whom Cuba accuses of acts of terror, including bombings in Havana.
Accused of masterminding the 1976 attack, he was jailed in Venezuela, but eventually escaped. He was arrested again in Panama for allegedly planning to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000. He was pardoned four years later, and made his way, allegedly illegally, to the United States.
While the former CIA operative has turned out to be a hot potato for the US administration, some anti-Castro exiles in Miami consider him a hero, and have staged demonstrations of support, infuriating Cubans who lost relatives in the 1976 bombing.
"It's very sad knowing there are people who continue to support a terrorist," said Morales.
"I would imagine anybody who lost a relative in the twin towers would feel the same way knowing somebody, somewhere is demonstrating to support terrorists," she said in reference to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
"They would be just as outraged," she said, her voice cracking with emotion as she added that more than 30 years on, "I can still feel the pain."
The now ailing Castro condemned the attacks at the time, but also said they were a reaction to what he called US "terrorist methods."
Washington had long accused Havana of actively backing terrorist groups, and still includes Cuba in its list of states that sponsor terrorism, even though Castro had said in 1992 that Cuba's support for insurgent groups was a thing of the past.
In its 2006 "country report on terrorism" the US State Department said Cuba harbored a number of US fugitives, including convicted murderers and hijackers.
But Morales doesn't think much of Bush's "war on terror."
"What terrorism is he fighting against? We too are victims of terror."
"IN TIMES OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WILL BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT." - George Orwell
“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano
A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow