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Jury hears tapes of ex-CIA operative in English

by Will Weissert
Jan. 19, 2011
Reprinted from Washington Post

EL PASO, Texas -- Federal prosecutors on Wednesday played tapes of a Cuban-born former CIA operative being asked basic questions and answering them in English during a U.S. immigration hearing, undermining his contention that a shaky grasp of the language led him to make misstatements under oath.

Luis Posada Carriles, 82, is charged with 11 counts of perjury, obstruction and immigration fraud for lying during immigration proceedings in El Paso after sneaking into the United States in 2005.

Prosecutors say he gave false testimony about how he reached American soil and failed to acknowledge planning a series of Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist, even though he admitted responsibility in 1998 interviews with the New York Times.

Posada's attorneys have attempted to raise doubts about English-to-Spanish translations that may have muddled the questions Posada was answering during the three days of hearings in August 2005.

Posada also said during the hearings that he didn't understand he was taking credit for the Havana hotel bombings in interviews with the Times because they were conducted in English.

In a second set of immigration hearings in 2006 that were also held in El Paso, Posada was recorded answering procedural matters in English and not waiting for an interpreter's translation from English-to-Spanish before responding. Recordings from that hearing were played for the jury Wednesday.

"Yes," he was heard saying in a raspy voice that is deeply slurred because Posada lost part of his tongue after being shot in the face during an assassination attempt in Guatemala in 1990. He also used whole phrases, including "In 1960, I had a Green Card" and, "I used maybe other names too, I don't remember."

While appearing in U.S. District Court, Posada wears an earpiece providing simultaneous Spanish translation of what is said. During more than half a dozen exclusive interviews with The Associated Press over the last year - which were conducted both in Spanish and English - Posada spoke mostly Spanish but clearly understood English.

Posada submitted to the 2005 immigration hearings after applying for U.S. political asylum. Once it became clear a prior conviction in Panama as well as past links to terrorism might bar him from obtaining citizenship, he withdrew that application.

He again applied for U.S. citizenship in 2006, however, this time citing an exception that allows for naturalization of those who serve in the U.S. military during times of combat. That application led to the second round of immigration hearings.

Posada participated in the doomed Bay of Pigs invasion but was not among those who made it to Cuban soil during the fighting. He later joined the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant, serving for about a year during the Vietnam War.

Questioning Posada in the 2006 interviews was immigration officer Susanna Bolanos. Bolanos said on the witness stand that, at the time, she was assigned to a special immigration unit that handles potential national security risks.

Bolanos testified that during the hearing, as a requirement for citizenship, Posada needed to prove he spoke, wrote and understood basic English - so she told him she would conduct the start of her questioning in English.

Posada spent several minutes responding in English, before an interpreter was allowed to participate. Even after he had permission to answer in either language, however, Posada continued to mix both - even talking about his father and cracking jokes in English, though at times he would get stuck mid-sentence and revert back to his native language.

In one answer, Posada appeared to confuse President John F. Kennedy with Harry S. Truman, saying Truman allowed him and other Cuban exiles to join the military after attempting to overthrow Cuba's government.

Posada also told Bolanos that he used many aliases while living in El Salvador in the early 1990s, including Louis McCloud, Raul Medina Rodriguez and Franco Rodriguez Mena. He said that country's government supplied gun permits, passports and driver's licenses in those names.

"They were covers. We can use our names, but the government gives us credentials for, or passwords for weapons," he was heard saying on tape in English.

When asked why that was necessary he responded, "the communists will kill us."

An ironic moment came when Bolanos noted that Posada answered 'yes' to a question if he "advocated the overthrow of a government with violence" on an immigration form. He spent decades as a Washington-backed cold warrior, seeking to topple Cuba's communist government - but is not on trial for those activities.

Cuba and Venezuela accuse Posada of masterminding not only the bombs that exploded in about a dozen Havana hotels and one restaurant in 1997, but also plotting the downing of a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 76 people. A U.S. immigration judge has previously ruled he can't be deported to either country, however, for fear he could be tortured.

Posada worked for the CIA in the early 1960s. He later moved to Venezuela and became head of that country's intelligence service. He was acquitted by a military tribunal in the 1976 airline bombing but escaped from prison before a government retrial.

Posada was arrested in Panama in connection with a plot to kill Fidel Castro during a visit there in 2000. He went to prison, but eventually received a presidential pardon - then turned up in the U.S., leading to the current charges against him.

Posada's citizenship application raised red flags, official says

by Juan O. Tamayo
Jan. 19, 2011
Reprinted from Miami Herald

EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. immigration official Susanna Bolanos was concerned when she read the application for citizenship filed by CIA-trained exile Luis Posada Carriles.

Among the red flags:

• In the section of the N400 form that asked if he had ever advocated the overthrow of a government, Posada answered "Yes."

• In a question asking about criminal history, Posada noted a Panamanian conviction that put him in prison for four years.

Posada was arrested in 2002 on charges of plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro during a visit to the Central American country but convicted of a lesser charge.

He received a controversial presidential pardon in 2004.

"Those definitely raised concerns," Bolanos testified Wednesday at Posada's trial on charges that he lied under oath at his asylum and naturalization hearings in 2005 and 2006.

Bolanos, an official of the Department of Homeland Security's Citizen and Immigration Services who specialized in cases with "national security concerns," conducted Posada's citizenship hearings.

His sworn testimony to Bolanos, as well as testimony during his asylum hearings, are at the root of the 11 charges against the 82-year-old Posada, a CIA-trained expert in explosives.

But segments of the recordings of the interviews played for the jury showed some confusion and outright errors as Bolanos, a translator and Posada went back and forth between English and Spanish.

At one point no one corrected Posada when he said it was "Truman" who tried to overthrow Fidel Castro in the 1960s.

At another, the written transcript had the wrong English date for a year that Posada had mentioned.

Bolanos' copy of Posada's N400, which she marked up in red ink as she interviewed him, showed 83 "corrections" -- clarifications or changes to Posada's sworn answers.

Defense lawyer Arturo V. Hernandez made it clear he intends to challenge the transcriptions and translations when he cross-examines Bolanos. He hopes to cast doubt about whether Posada knowingly lied under oath.

"This is a perjury case," Hernandez said, adding that he will also introduce his own versions of the transcriptions and translations of the Posada testimonies, which differ from the prosecution's.

Bolanos also testified that Posada did not appear to have had any problems understanding English during his testimony. Hernandez has argued Posada was not fluent enough to have fully understood all the questions. The recordings revealed he had some occasional problems with the language.

Posada applied for citizenship after he sneaked into the United States in 2005.

His application was based on his U.S. army service at a time when veterans of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba were briefly commissioned in the military.

The 11 charges against Posada include lying about how he entered the U.S., denying his role in nine bombings of Cuban tourist spots in 1997 that killed one Italian man and wounded a dozen other people, and his denial that he had a Guatemalan passport.

In one odd sidelight, Posada's N400 noted that he was a citizen of Venezuela, where he was naturalized when he served as head of operations for the country's intelligence agency in the 1970s. Only when Bolanos pressed him did he acknowledge that he also had Cuban citizenship.

Cuban security officials, meanwhile, have alleged that Posada was involved in a previously little-known 1998 plot to bomb a civilian airliner flying between Cuba and Central America.

Brig. Gen. Alberto Rabeiro, head of criminal investigations at the Cuban Interior Ministry, claimed the information was given that year to an FBI team that visited Cuba to investigate Posada's role in the tourism bombings.

"Cuba alerted the United States in 1998 to the plans to blow up an airplane that flew the route Central America-Cuba, Rabeiro said, giving no further details of the alleged plot. The FBI team members showed a lot of interest in the information and "gave the impression of being professionals," Rabeiro added.

His comments were posted Monday on CubaDebate, an official government website. They were made during Rabeiro's Jan. 11 appearance on Mesa Redonda, a current affairs TV program.

The alleged bomb plot had not been widely reported in the past, though Posada was linked to half a dozen allegedly violent plots against Cuba in the last half of the 1990s.

Posada also was accused in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. He has denied that allegation, and was acquitted in a trial in Venezuela.

He escaped from prison after the prosecution won an appeal for a new trial, and lived under cover in El Salvador for about 15 years before moving to Honduras and later Miami.





Diario de El Paso

Teatro al estilo "Art"

por José Pertierra
19 de enero de 2011
Tomado de CubaDebate

“Su Señoría, yo me pregunto si el abogado Hernández está tratando de confundir y ofuscar al jurado” exclamó molesto el fiscal Jerome Teresinski esta mañana. El problema surgió cuando el fiscal trató de presentar como evidencia la solicitud de naturalización que envió Posada a Inmigración en el año 2005, más las grabaciones y transcripciones de las dos entrevistas que le hizo la oficial Susana Bolaños, el 26 y 27 de abril de 2006 en El Paso.

"Art" Hernández, el abogado de Luis Posada Carriles

Arturo Hernández -se ha presentado en la corte como “Art Jernández”- se opuso vigorosamente, alegando que la solicitud de naturalización que presentó la fiscalía es una copia y que la Sra. Bolaños no preparó las transcripciones y consecuentemente no está capacitada para decir que son verídicas representaciones de las grabaciones. Pidió poder revisar el formulario original de la solicitud de ciudadanía, y examinar las cintas originales.

En ese momento, Teresinski estaba interrogando a Susana Bolaños. Ella es una mujer de mediana edad, chicana, con el pelo castaño oscuro, recogido al estilo “cola de caballo”. Es oficial del Departamento de Seguridad y trabaja en la oficina de Inmigración en El Paso.

La fiscalía necesita del testimonio de Bolaños. También le es importante que el tribunal permita que el jurado escuche las grabaciones de las entrevistas, para que se den cuenta de que Posada habla suficiente inglés. Posada alega que no entiende suficiente inglés para comprender las preguntas que le hicieron y que consecuentemente sus respuestas han sido mal interpretadas por el gobierno. Las grabaciones y sus correspondientes transcripciones, en la opinión de la fiscalía, muestran que Posada Carriles mintió durante las entrevistas con la Oficial Bolaños.

La acusación formal contra Posada alega que durante su entrevista de naturalización mintió y dijo que había ingresado a los Estados Unidos vía México en un vehículo particular, con la ayuda de un coyote en marzo de 2005. La fiscalía sostiene que él ingresó en una embarcación llamada El Santrina. También dijo en esa entrevista que en marzo de 2005 no había pasado por Cancún o Isla Mujeres. Eso, afirma la Causa legal, es otra mentira.

Posada también mintió, alega la acusación, durante su entrevista de naturalización con la Sra. Bolaños, cuando dijo que no había visto El Santrina en México, ni tampoco a Santiago Álvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, Rubén López Castro o José Pujol en México en marzo de 2005. La acusación que presentó al tribunal la fiscalía aporta que Posada también le mintió a la oficial Bolaños en el 2006 al decirle que jamás había tenido un pasaporte guatemalteco. Sin embargo, tenía un pasaporte de ese país con el nombre de Manuel Enrique Castillo López.

Es importante la documentación acerca de la solicitud de naturalización, que muestra el perjurio cometido por Posada. También, el testimonio de Bolaños. Hernández, el abogado de Posada Carriles, sabe que tanto el testimonio como la documentación y las grabaciones de la entrevista serán aceptadas como evidencia. Sin embargo, el punto no es ese. En los Estados Unidos, el litigio es más teatro que evidencia. Hernández lo sabe y tiene escrito un guión para el espectáculo judicial que supone redundará en su beneficio ante el jurado, quien tiene la responsabilidad de decidir si Posada Carriles es culpable de haberle mentido a Inmigración.

Hernández trata de proyectar cierta imagen para que el jurado simpatice con él. Tiene que ser así, porque no hay forma de que simpaticen con su cliente. Quiere dar la impresión de que respeta mucho al juez, al jurado, a los fiscales, al testigo. Cultiva la cortesía hasta la untuosidad. Viste un traje elegante y caro. Se abotona el saco deliberadamente cada vez que se levanta, y se lo desabotona cuando se vuelve a sentar. Algo laborioso, porque se para y se sienta muy a menudo, siempre mirando hacia el jurado.


Hoy el guión incluía dar la impresión que las grabaciones de Posada Carriles pueden haber sido adulteradas, que quizás el gobierno hizo trampa y sustituyó el formulario que completó y firmó su cliente en el 2005 por uno falso. Por supuesto, no presentó pruebas. No las tiene, y no le hacen falta. Lo que busca Hernández es precisamente lo que observó el fiscal: “confundir y ofuscar” al jurado. Cuando el fiscal le muestra los casetes de las grabaciones, Hernández aparenta que le parecen extraños, aunque son materiales que él ha examinado previamente muchas veces.

Las objeciones de Hernández desbordan furia, pero no significan nada. La jueza las niega una tras otra. Permitió el uso de las grabaciones, de las transcripciones, más el testimonio de Susana Bolaños. Sin embargo, el jurado probablemente quedó confundido. Ganó Hernández esa pequeña escaramuza legal.

Cuando al fin se lo permitieron, Terisinski puso el audio de las entrevistas que Inmigración le hizo a Posada en el 2006, y nuevamente escuchamos la voz del pasado. Es probable que Posada no testifique en este juicio, y por eso estas grabaciones serán las únicas oportunidades para escuchar sus declaraciones.

Por los altoparlantes en el tribunal oímos la voz gangosa de Posada Carriles responder en inglés “Yes” a la pregunta de Bolaños: “¿Jura decir la verdad y solamente la verdad con el favor de Dios?” “Yes”, volvió a decir. En la grabación también escuchamos a Posada conversar en inglés, animadamente, sobre su afición por la pintura.

Claramente le escuchamos decir que el gobierno salvadoreño le dio pasaportes falsos con los nombres de Ramón Medina y Franco Rodríguez, y que también le facilitó una autorizaron para portar armas. “Para combatir a los comunistas”, dice la voz inconfundible de Posada en perfecto inglés. La grabación también registra el comentario: “Me dieron una licencia como instructor de policías” en El Salvador.

La fiscalía dice tener un pasaporte guatemalteco con el nombre de Manuel Enrique López y la foto de Luis Posada Carriles. Por eso Teresinski le preguntó a la oficial de Inmigración si entre los pasaportes y nombres falsos que Posada admitió haber usado anteriormente estaba el de Manuel Enrique López. “No”, respondió Bolaños claramente. “Nunca mencionó ese nombre”.

La acusación formal contra Posada incluye cargos de haber mentido bajo juramento a oficiales de Inmigración al desmentir que ha utilizado el nombre y el pasaporte de un tal Manuel Enrique López. Buen punto para Teresinski.

La jueza concluyó la audiencia de hoy más temprano de la cuenta, porque un miembro del jurado tiene una cita médica para que le quiten el yeso de una pierna partida. Mañana a las 8:00 AM, continuará el fiscal interrogando a Susana Bolaños. Después “Art” Hernández le hará un contra-interrogatorio.






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