- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

OAS applauded

This much is clear: The Organization of American States is still against terrorism.

The political body that represents the nations of the Western Hemisphere emphasized that position in an extraordinary session on Memorial Day, after extensive weekend negotiations between U.S. and Venezuelan diplomats. One might be excused for assuming that a resolution against terrorism in 2002 had already settled the matter.

Yes, representatives of the Bush administration and the anti-American government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has called President Bush “Satan” and the U.S. government a “terrorist administration” worked over the holiday weekend to craft a statement that pleased both sides and won applause from the other OAS ambassadors who attended Monday’s session.

The result was a resolution titled “Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation in the Fight Against Terrorism and the Impunity of Its Perpetrators.”

The hearty backslapping at OAS headquarters on 17th Street Northwest overshadowed the tension among the delegates of the 34 nations active in the organization over the reason for the resolution: an anti-Castro Cuban exile in the United States with past CIA connections, whom Venezuela accuses of plotting terrorism from its capital, Caracas.

Luis Posada Carriles ran a detective agency in Venezuela in 1976, when two of his employees confessed to planting time bombs on a Cuban airliner, which exploded killing 73 passengers and crew.

Venezuela accused Posada of masterminding the bombing. He served eight years in prison without being convicted and escaped after bribing some guards. Posada fled to Central America and was later linked to bombings of tourist destinations in Cuba in 1997. He was convicted in Panama in 2000 for plotting attacks against Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a close ally of Mr. Chavez.

Posada was arrested in Florida in 2005 and charged with entering the United States illegally. An immigration judge ordered him deported but refused Venezuela’s extradition request out of fear Posada might be tortured. A U.S. District Court judge earlier this month threw out most of the government’s case of immigration fraud charges, which enraged Venezuela and led to an intense debate at the OAS last week.

“The case of Luis Posada is emblematic of the fight against terrorism, and the fight against terrorism should apply without any hypocrisy to all democratic states,” said Jorge Valero, Venezuela’s OAS ambassador.

“There are no good terrorists. Terrorism must be fought in all its forms, no matter who practices it, whether individuals or states.”

Mr. Valero then proposed a resolution that U.S. delegates thought was designed to embarrass the Bush administration, which Mr. Chavez has accused of sheltering Posada. It was titled “Support for the Request for Extradition of the Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.”

Initially, about 20 member states were inclined to endorse the resolution, but “the United States took one look at it said, ‘no way,’ according to one OAS source.

Robert Manzanares, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, persuaded the delegates to set aside the resolution because, he said, its was “clearly” a bilateral dispute between the United States and Venezuela. He said Posada is still under a deportation order and the Justice Department is examining the District Court judge’s decision.

The United States “has acted consistently with international law, as well as its domestic legal framework that provides for due process and various constitutional safeguards,” Mr. Manzanares said.

Over the weekend, he and Mr. Valero hammered out an alternative resolution that broadened the measure to condemn terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations, regardless of its origin or motivation.”

Mr. Valero on Monday claimed victory because the resolution contained a clause urging OAS nations “that have received requests lodged by member states for the extradition of terrorists to process them duly.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @ washingtontimes.com

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