Tomorrow, October 6, solidarity groups all over the globe are commemorating the 30th anniversary of the murder of 73 innocent persons aboard a Cuban airliner that exploded over Barbados on October 6, 1976. This barbarous act of terrorism was perpetrated by CIA operatives directed by Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro Cuban recruited by the CIA in 1961 and trained, as he himself admitted, in sabotage and the use of explosives. Among the 73 victims were all 24 members of the Cuban youth fencing team and 11 students from Guyana. The Cubans were returning home after having won gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship. The Guyanese were traveling to Cuba to study medicine.
Programmed to coincide with this 30th anniversary of the CIA-sponsored terrorist act over Barbados in 1976, solidarity groups have also just completed a 25-day worldwide campaign to call attention to the fact that five Cuban heroes of anti-terrorism are being held prisoners in the United States. These Cubans—Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González, Gerardo Hernández and Fernando González—are currently serving outlandish sentences, including in two cases more than two life sentences each, for the “crime” of having exposed terrorist plans being developed in Miami against Cuba and handing this information over to the U.S. government. These men suffer this indignity despite the fact that voices have been raised around the world declaring the judicial procedure used against them as unjust, arbitrary and illegal. Opposition includes the UN Human Rights Commission, whose working group on arbitrary detentions declared last year that the incarceration of the Cuban Five was illegal and in violation of international law.
In the aftermath of the Barbados tragedy, soon after blowing up the plane, Posada Carriles, a nationalized Venezuelan, was captured along with others responsible for the atrocity. He was tried, convicted and imprisoned in Caracas. After several attempts to escape from prison, he finally succeeded in 1985 and quickly made his way to El Salvador, where he joined Félix Rodríguez, a Cuban terrorist sent there by Oliver North to help the Nicaraguan Contras. Although Posada Carriles is among the world’s most notorious terrorists, he is currently enjoying the official protection of the U.S. government, which has repeatedly denied Venezuela’s request for his repatriation and return to prison. The Bush administration is said to be concerned that Posada Carriles, a convicted terrorist, may in fact encounter the same tortuous fate as the untried prisoners languishing in Guantánamo held by the U.S. government.
When it comes to the War on Terror, these are but two examples of official U.S. hypocrisy, leaving aside the whole fiasco around the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, which according to a recent report of U.S. intelligence agencies, has increased rather than reduced global terrorism. This obviously throws a wrench in President George W. Bush’s claim that the U.S. is a law-abiding country, interested in peace and the promotion of democracy.
In his speech before the UN General Assembly on September 19, President Bush called on the world’s governments to join the United States in its War on Terror and the struggle for democracy. To a great many people both inside and outside of the UN, his words ring hollow. The image of the U.S. government supposedly committed to the rule of law, to strengthening democracy and to building a more hopeful future for humanity, has come into question as never before.
An overwhelming majority of the globe’s inhabitants perceive President Bush as the greatest single threat to the peace and security of our world. When he speaks of wanting to build a more hopeful world and says that it can be attained if all the nations would only work together with him, he just adds insult to injury. He himself is widely viewed as the number one world terrorist. When he tries to pass himself off as a well-meaning moderate, it only adds more fuel to the growing anti-U.S. sentiment exploding on all five continents. That’s why so many applauded Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s recent characterization of President Bush as “the devil.”
This is obviously not good for the United States or the world. It is important to lay aside cynical explanations that claim that those who criticize U.S. official behavior do so because they hate freedom and democracy. It is up to the people of the United States to make their democracy work; that is, if in fact it is a democracy and not just a reckless, lawless and expansionist plutocracy, as it is being perceived by many worldwide.
Miguel d’Escoto Brockman is the former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua (1979-1990) and a Maryknoll Priest.