- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he sees “good signals” from the United States after Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles was charged with lying about his involvement in a series of 1997 bombings in Cuba.

Chavez made the remark to Caracas-based TV channel Telesur while traveling from China to Cuba, where he arrived for a visit Friday. Chavez said he was encouraged by the indictment handed down this week against the 81-year-old former CIA operative, who is accused of lying about his involvement in bombings in Havana that killed an Italian tourist.

“They’re opening a trial against Posada Carriles in the United States, they’re summoning the terrorist again,” Chavez said in the interview, which was shown Friday on Venezuelan state television.

“They seem like good signals on the part of the United States,” Chavez said.

Venezuela has sought to reactivate a long-stalled request for the U.S. to extradite Posada, a naturalized Venezuelan citizen who is accused of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner while living in Caracas.

Posada, who has denied wrongdoing, is due to be arraigned in U.S. federal court on April 17.

Chavez, whose relationship with Washington grew increasingly tense under former President George W. Bush, has said he hopes to “reset” Venezuela’s relations with the United States under President Barack Obama.

The Venezuelan leader also said he was encouraged by U.S. authorities’ cooperation in a large drug bust aboard a Venezuelan boat off South America. Chavez said the U.S. Coast Guard detected the Venezuelan-flagged boat in international waters and “called and asked permission to board.”

“Now they’re going to turn over to us the boat, the drugs, the prisoners. Those are good signals because that didn’t used to happen,” Chavez said.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Matt Moorlag in Miami said the Coast Guard located the Venezuela-flagged fishing boat 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Brazil, boarded the vessel Wednesday and found about 2,500 pounds (1,135 kilograms) of cocaine.

Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2005, accusing its agents of espionage _ an accusation the DEA denies. Cooperation has been limited since then.

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