By Wayne S. Smith
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Astonishing! And just when many of us were convinced that the trial of Luis Posada Carriles was simply a farce. After all, wasn't the U.S. government just trying this arch terrorist for perjury, for lying about the way he entered the United States (illegally of course), leaving aside his myriad terrorist activities?
But no. U.S. prosecutors have now presented evidence of terrorist acts he committed against Cuba, and in Cuba. He's still not being tried for terrorism; rather, he's accused of having lied about it. But the result may well be the same. If he's convicted, he'll spend a long time in jail. And the conviction will be tied to his acts of terrorism.
Even more incredibly, much of the evidence is being presented by Cuban officials invited by the United States to testify against him. This is really a first.
Posada Carriles is accused on three counts of perjury related to a series of bombings against various Cuban hotels between April and September of 1997, resulting in the death of an Italian tourist. He lied about them, and the United States intends to prove that the bombings, in fact, took place.
One of the key Cuban witnesses is Major Robert Hernandez Caballero, who was involved in the investigation of the hotel bombings back in 1997. And there are two other Cuban witnesses, a forensic doctor and another police investigator.
This is a case we will all watch with fascination. A first of its kind, so to speak.
Posada Carriles is of course an arch terrorist, who is believed to have been involved in plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, in the downing of a Cubana airliner with the loss of 73 lives back in 1976, and in various other acts of violence. And in most of those past episodes, he is thought to have had the sympathy if not the active support of various U.S. agencies.
If he is now brought to justice by representatives of the U.S. government, it may suggest that a new, and prouder, day has dawned.
Wayne Smith served as Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 1979 until 1982 and since then has been on the faculty of John Hopkins University, involved in Cuban affairs. Since 1992 he has also been Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. , where he directs the Cuba program.