From the Archives: Harboring a Terrorist — Posada Carriles and the Iran-Contra Affair (2005)
According to US government documents, Cuban exile and known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles participated in the Iran-Contra scandal, a program carried out illegally by the Reagan administration whereby arms were sold secretly to Iran and the proceeds from the sales were funneled illegally to the rebel group known as the “Contras” in Nicaragua.
Posada, 77, recently turned up in Panama and traveled through Mexico to Miami, Florida where he was detained by US immigration authorities. He has applied for asylum.
At the time of his arrest, Posada was using the fake identity he had assumed while working as a CIA operative on and off from mid-1960s through the 1980s, including work on the Iran-Contra arms deal. Using this identity suggests that he intended for the US government to locate him.
Posada is being held in El Paso, Texas awaiting an immigration hearing in mid-June.
According to an Associated Press story, US government documents show that Posada, using his phony identity, aided in funneling arms to the Contras through a US-controlled airbase in El Salvdaor in 1985.
Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison 20 years ago, convicted of numerous terrorist activities, and subsequently became deeply involved in the Reagan administration’s illegal and secret arms deal, according to the final Iran-Contra report issued by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh. The arms deal raised funds for the Contras, a US-organized rebel group in Nicaragua created for the sole purpose of overthrowing the left-leaning Sandinista government in that country.
The Sandinistas led a successful rebellion against the US-installed Somoza dictatorship in 1979. Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was elected to the presidency of Nicaragua in 1984. This and the fact that Ortega established friendly relations with the Soviet Union earned the ire and ultimately a US-backed armed intervention.
After Ortega’s rise to the presidency, Posada used the name “Ramon Medina” and worked closely with another militant Cuban exile known as “Max Gomez” at the major Contra staging area at Ilopango Air Base in El Salvador. “Max Gomez” was an alias for Felix Rodriguez, a long-time CIA operative.
According to the Walsh report, Posada helped distribute the $6 million collected illegally for the Contras by Oliver North, a White House aide who directed the operation. The cash and supplies were shipped to El Salvador through a CIA front in Miami.
Oliver North was criminally charged and sentenced for his role in the project, but did not serve time under an “immunity agreement” arranged with the Senate committee that held hearings on the matter.
Observers of the scandal believe that North’s immunity deal resulted from his willingness to take the fall for other Reagan administration officials, including the president and the vice president.
Posada’s role, as well as that of Rodriguez, was revealed when a US military plane was shot down in Nicaragua carrying funds and supplies to the Contra operatives in Nicaragua. A crew member on the flight confessed to many of the details of the operation.
Posada’s terrorist career began with training by the CIA in the use of explosives as part of the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, according to the Washington Post. FBI and CIA documents revealed by Freedom of Information Act requests show that in the 1960s and 1970s, Posada was engaged in numerous terrorist plots to blow up various non-military targets throughout Latin America linked to Cuba or the Soviet Union.
Posada also helped Venezuelan secret police hunt leftists in the 1970s. FBI documents state that Posada was an organizer of the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner that killed 73 people. In addition, Posada has publicly admitted to participating in a wave of terrorist bombings in Cuban tourist hotels that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people and is tied to a 2000 plot to assassinate President Fidel Castro.
Public records show that Posada has had relationships with the Cuban American National Foundation, an anti-Castro organization, and to the Miami-based Cuban American mafia.
Posada’s presence in the US has posed a major conundrum for the Bush administration. If they protect a person accused of terrorism, it undercuts their threats to other countries suspected of protecting terrorists. On the other hand, Posada is a long-time CIA operative who knows things they prefer not to be publicized.
So far the administration hasn’t made up its mind and continues to harbor the terrorist.