Below is a report on the press conference that the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition organized announcing that more than 20,000 letters have been sent to Bush and Congress. The press conference received a great deal of media coverage. Also below is a link to the Miami Herald article on the press conference.
Washington DC press conference
demands Posada be extradited
A major press conference to demand the immediate arrest and extradition of Luis Posada Carriles was held in Washington DC’s National Press Club on Friday, May 13. It was sponsored by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.
Featured speakers were Wayne Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana; Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition; Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the National Lawyers Guild and Partnership for Civil Justice; Trevor and Kenrick Persaud, the brothers of Raymond Persaud, Guyanese youth was killed in the 1976 Cubana plane bombing perpetrated by Posada; and the Rev. Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington DC and a leading voice in the national antiwar movement.
Gloria La Riva presented video documentation of family members of Posada's victims from the Cubana Airlines Flight 455 plane bombing. They were interviewed in Cuba in early May.
Brian Becker spoke of the national campaign launched by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition to put pressure on the Bush administration. "The U.S. government, according to international law, has an affirmative obligation to take Posada, to arrest and extradite him to Venezuela where he has been charged with a grievous crime. The Bush administration might want to sweep this case away and find some third way, but justice requires only one way. Justice requires that Luis Posada Carriles be extradited to Venezuela, to stand trial for the bombing of Cubana Flight 455."
He announced to the press the success of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition campaign to push for extradition. "On the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition website at www.ANSWERcoalition.org we have an easy-to-use mechanism so that people can send a standard or customized letter to the President and members of Congress, to register with elected officials the widespread opposition to granting of asylum.
"We are using tactics that we have learned from the civil rights and antiwar movement. We see that for the first time members of Congress are starting to demand that he not be given asylum."
Wayne Smith explained the Bush family’s links with the right-wing Cuban exile groups. "Jeb Bush was working on the re-election campaign of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and was part of the campaign to allow Orlando Bosch to remain in the United States. George H.W. Bush, then president, approves the pardon and allows Bosch to remain.
"Posada has never expressed any regret of the bombing of the airliner. He continues to say there were no innocent people, he has never renounced terrorism."
After reviewing Posada’s extensive history of crimes in Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador and in Cuba, Smith said, "What is the position of the U.S. government? History repeats itself, but after different circumstances. We are supposedly in an all-out war to combat terrorism. How can we harbor Posada Carriles and maintain any credibility? Bush on September 19, 2001, said anyone who harbors terrorists encourages terrorism. He said on September 23 if you harbor a terrorist you are just as guilty as a terrorist. What is the U.S. government going to do?"
Trevor and Kenrick Persaud came from New York City to speak on behalf of their family. Their brother Raymond, who was 19 years old, died on the Cubana flight.
Trevor said, "My brother worked hard to get where he wanted to go. He excelled at his high school, he won a scholarship which was quite an accomplishment, because it was very competitive to get a scholarship to study medicine.
"He was on his lifelong dream, to be a doctor. There were five other students from Guyana on that plane. I'm here to say it is not a faceless crime, our whole lives were disrupted. After the crime, there was no body, no funeral, for a long time there was no closure in the process. Not having a funeral, we never had closure. A gentleman in Cuba said his father was in the plane, and he always had the feeling that his father got off the plane, because no body was ever recovered.
"Over the years you come to terms with it, 29 years later, this has come up back again. My mom just saw an article in New York, she called my sister. Here we are. This man deserves to be extradited and be tried for his crimes."
Kenrick said, "I was here in 1976 when this incident happened off the coast. Growing up with Raymond, he was very studious. My father pushed education in him, he aspired to become a doctor, he reached for the stars. My father was obsessed with the bombing, because Raymond was his favorite son. Raymond would have made us all very proud. Our father passed away two years ago. He collected clippings, until he passed away. He was going to write a book in conjunction with the World Trade Center bombing. My mother still grieves over what happened 29 years ago.
"There were no more dreams for our brother, they went down in the ocean. As far as Posada, I think he should be extradited to Venezuela. He should not be granted asylum."
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild gave legal background to the asylum issue. "The Bush administration has been trying to avoid the Posada situation by claiming that they don’t know if he is in the United States. That is not credible. Look at the obvious: Posada's own attorney has sought asylum for him. Presuming that his attorney acted in a traditional fashion for a formal asylum request that request would be in the possession of the U.S. government. The government then has an obligation to call the applicant asking for asylum in for an interview. If the U.S. government was really 'looking' for Posada Carilles, all they have to do is call him. If he fails to appear, he would not be granted asylum."
Verheyden-Hilliard continued, "As anyone can recognize, there is no way that Posada can be eligible for asylum by any standards. He would be barred from being granted asylum because the first primary bar rendering a person inadmissible is if a person has engaged in terrorist activities. Without question, Posada meets this standard.
"Bush's posture in this situation takes us back to the question, what is a terrorist? … Posada has bragged about his conduct in murder. He has been linked to the most awful and sick crimes, and yet for the Bush administration, this is not troubling. If Bush is so plainly harboring Posada, he is equally culpable and plainly responsible for the crimes of Posada and his colleagues."
Speaking as a foremost religious leader in the peace and justice movement, Rev. Graylan Hagler said, "As a pastor, and for many clergy, we approach life so that principles are principles. When you don’t have principles, you engage in situational ethics. If we are opposed to terrorism, then we have to be opposed to terrorism everywhere. We cannot exempt certain personalities and individuals just because they fit into some political plan.
"If you stand against terrorism in one place, you have to stand against terrorism across the board. If Posada is in the United States, he needs to be brought to justice."
Gloria La Riva brought video testimony from the Cuban families of Posada's victims. Lilia Pérez Rodríguez was only two years old when her father, plane captain Wilfredo Pérez Pérez, died. "I never knew what it was like to know the love of a father. … I only remember his voice when he was speaking to the control tower. I have to live with that."
The voice box shows the pilots were valiantly struggling to save the plane and passengers. Pérez’s father can be heard in the recording.
The struggle of the five Cuban political prisoners, held in the United States prisons for opposing the Miami terrorism, was highlighted by La Riva. She called on the media present to investigate and cover the case of the "Cuban Five," whose struggle is directly linked to the fight against terrorism.
Among the press that attended were Agence France-Presse (AFP), Reuters, ABC Network for ABC News Nightline, Associated Press, Scripps Howard, Venezuela TV, The Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, Final Call, Cox Newspapers, Televisa, NOTIMEX - Mexican News Agency, the German Press Agency, Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), Illustrator, El Tiempo Latino, PALM, and other media. There was an extensive discussion and question-and-answer period.