In defending his government's decision to offer asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Venezuela's president slammed the United States for its hypocrisy in calling for Snowden's extradition while harboring the hemisphere's most notorious terrorist.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, along with Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, have all offered Snowden political asylum. Snowden, whose American passport was revoked after he revealed a highly classified US government surveillance program under which phone and Internet communications of millions of Americans and foreigners were monitored, has been stuck in limbo in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport for more than two weeks.
The United States government, which has charged Snowden with espionage and has been actively lobbying nations which might offer him asylum to return him to the US for prosecution, is none too happy about Maduro's decision. White House spokesman Jay Carney said US officials "made very clear that he's been charged... with felonies and as such he should not be allowed to proceed in any further travel."
Maduro shot back that the US lacked the moral authority to call for Snowden's extradition, pointing to the fact that the Western Hemisphere's most wanted terrorist, a man who escaped from a Venezuelan prison while awaiting trial for the deadly bombing of a Cuban airliner, lives freely in the United States today.
"Who is the terrorist?" asked Maduro, "a government like us, who seeks to serve the young Snowden, a figure of humanitarian asylum, from persecution by the American empire? Or the United States government, that protects... Luis Posada Carriles, a confessed convicted murderer and terrorist who is wanted by Venezuela for the bombing of the Cubana plane in 1976?"
Born in Cuba, Luis Posada Carriles fled to the United States following the 1959 revolution that ousted the brutal, US-backed Bautista dictatorship. Almost immediately, he took up arms against the new Castro regime. He helped plan the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. He then received CIA training in explosives and sabotage and put those skills to work as he carried out numerous terrorist attacks throughout Latin America. The deadliest of these was the October 6, 1976 bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455, which killed 73 innocent civilians, including Cuba's junior Olympic fencing team. He was also involved in the assassination of former Chilean minister Orlando Letelier and his young American assistant Ronni Moffit in Washington DC in 1976.
In the 1980s, Posada worked as a CIA gunrunner during the infamous Iran-Contra affair. In the 1990s, he masterminded a series of hotel bombings targeting Cuba's burgeoning tourism industry. He was also responsible for more than 40 terror bombings in Honduras.
Posada settled in Miami, where he and other anti-Castro terrorists like Cubana 455 co-mastermind Orlando Bosch were hailed as heroes by many of their fellow Cuban exiles and Republican leaders such as US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Posada was tried-- for immigration violations-- and acquitted in 2011. He continues to live freely in Florida, despite extradition requests by multiple Latin American nations including Venezuela.