- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

CARACAS, Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuela will protest to the United Nations after the release of a Cuban militant on bond, accusing Washington of letting a terrorist go free.

Venezuela had asked the United States to extradite former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles, 79, on charges that he plotted the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane in which 73 persons died. Mr. Chavez also said Mr. Posada has been plotting to assassinate him for years and accused President Bush of complicity in failing to bring Mr. Posada to justice.

“President Bush, you are a protector of terrorists. As such, you are a terrorist,” Mr. Chavez said during his weekly TV and radio program “Hello, President.”

“The Venezuelan government will take this case to the United Nations, because it cannot be,” Mr. Chavez said. “We’ve been asking for his extradition for more than two years. We sent them all the evidence.”

Venezuela accuses Mr. Posada, a militant foe of Chavez ally Cuban President Fidel Castro, of plotting the bombing while living in Caracas. Mr. Posada has denied involvement. He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 and was detained in Florida in May 2005 on charges of entering the United States illegally.

Mr. Posada was indicted on charges of lying to U.S. immigration authorities, but an appeals court ruled last week that he could post bail and return to his family in Miami while awaiting trial.

Mr. Chavez said Mr. Posada “has for many years been planning the assassination not only of Fidel Castro but also my assassination, and he has a powerful network that has been supported by the CIA for many years.”

He said Mr. Posada’s release is linked to larger “plans against Venezuela.” The Bush administration has repeatedly denied Mr. Chavez’s accusations and calls him a threat to democracy and a negative force in Latin America.

Venezuela and other countries plan to bring the Posada case before a U.N. Security Council committee monitoring counterterrorism efforts, said Jose Pertierra, an attorney for the Chavez government.

The Nonaligned Movement, which comprises 118 mainly developing countries including Venezuela, expressed concern Friday about Mr. Posada’s release, repeating its support of Venezuela’s extradition request.

Mr. Chavez also said Sunday that he will enact a law to regulate prices at private hospitals and warned that his government would seize any hospital caught flouting the new controls. He said he will approve the law by presidential decree, using special powers granted him by the National Assembly nearly three months ago, as he aims to steer Venezuela toward socialism.

“We’re going to have strict regulation. Any clinic that doesn’t comply, let it be closed down,” Mr. Chavez said.

Venezuela has a two-tier health system in which wealthy insured patients often can afford prompter, better treatment at private hospitals. Mr. Chavez has expanded the public health system, building new clinics, refurbishing hospitals and sending thousands of doctors to live in poor neighborhoods and provide free care.

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