HAVANA, May 12, 2005 — -- If Cuba has its way, the name Luis Posada Carriles will soon be as familiar to Americans as Osama bin Laden, and just as loathed.
President Fidel Castro has called on Cubans to take to the streets next Tuesday to demand the Bush administration arrest the 77-year-old Posada and a few other Cold War relics roaming the Miami area.
Posada -- who is wanted in Venezuela on terrorism charges, and has been accused of involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane -- sneaked into the United States in March, according to his Miami lawyers and Cuban exile friends. He wants political asylum after years of allegedly targeting Cuban soft targets and Castro himself in a futile effort to end the communist dictator's rule over the Caribbean island.
U.S. officials appear conflicted as to how to handle the Posada issue, insisting they are not even sure he is in the country, despite what his lawyers and friends say.
"In terms of where he presently is, I think it is fair to say we do not know," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Monday.
On the one hand, there are Posada's pre-9/11 ties with Washington and still-strong links with powerful Cuban-American Bush supporters in Florida, where the president's brother Jeb is governor. On the other hand, there is the war on terrorism, and the president's insistence those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as terrorists themselves.
Castro, in a series of recent televised speeches, has said that when the people of the United States understand the Posada issue they will demand justice, just as he said they overwhelmingly supported efforts to unite young castaway Elian Gonzalez with his father in Cuba over protests from Miami's Cuban-American community.
"They have committed an extremely serious error, like the one they committed with Elian Gonzalez, when we fought without respite until they returned the boy," Castro recently said of efforts to make the United States Posada's new home.