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"We are going to hit a Cuban airplane," said Luis Posada in Caracas, Venezuela, according to a recently declassified CIA document. On October 6 1976, just days later, Cubana Airline flight 455 exploded off the coast of Barbados, killing all 73 passengers.

Posada, who is 77 and has dual Venezuelan and Cuban citizenship, was arrested in Miami on May 17 for illegal entry into the US. He is claiming asylum and, so far, the Bush administration has refused to extradite him to Venezuela, where he is wanted for the terrorist bombing.

Until 1974, the ex-CIA agent, who specialised in explosives at Fort Benning, Georgia (later home to the infamous School of the Americas), was head of the Venezuelan political police — DISIP — from where he, reportedly, oversaw the assassination of prominent leftists.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to sever diplomatic links if Posada is not turned over, which the US is obliged to do under bilateral treaties. He has accused the US of harbouring a known international terrorist, making a mockery of its “war on terror.”

“We demand that the US government stop its hypocrisy and its two-faced attitude and send this terrorist, this bandit, to Venezuela,” Chavez insisted last month. “The world is watching.”

This case has become a major headache for George Bush, who is loth to give up such a loyal veteran of the right-wing cause.

Posada is hailed as a hero among Miami’s rich, Castro-hating Cuban exiles, who form a key component of his base of support, as well as that of Bush’s brother Jeb, the governor of Florida.

A policeman in the Batista dictatorship, Posada also participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion as part of “Operation 40.” Their mission was simply to assassinate Castro.

He also freelanced for the Las Vegas mafia, at one point, supplying mob boss Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal with detonators and fuses for car-bombs, according to the FBI.

Two Argentinian founders of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a movement which supports parents of missing or tortured people in south America, are also demanding Posada’s extradition. They accuse him of involvement in Operation Condor, the US military plan which co-ordinated the bloodthirsty dictatorships of the 1970s in the region.

After bribing his way out of Venezuelan jail in 1985, he worked for Oliver North, directing terror against the people of Nicaragua, supplying the US-backed Contras with weapons in an illegal war against the Sandinista government.

The main focus throughout his life, however, seems to be an obsession with overthrowing Fidel Castro.

Posada masterminded a string of bombings in Havana during an international youth and student festival in 1997, resulting in the death of an Italian tourist at the Copacabana hotel.

“We didn’t want to hurt anybody,” he claimed in an interview with the New York Times the following year. “We just wanted to make a big scandal so that the tourists don’t come any more.”

“I sleep like a baby,” he famously boasted, showing little remorse for the misery he caused. “That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In 2000, he was caught red-handed in Panama, preparing to assassinate Castro by blowing up a packed auditorium of over 3,000 students with 33 pounds of C-4 explosives. Although found guilty, he was pardoned in 2004 by outgoing President Mireya Moscoso, who promptly moved to Miami.

Reports that he was back in the US began surfacing earlier this year, but the government denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. However, after Posada held a press conference in Miami, this illusion was impossible to sustain and it was forced to act.

Appearing in an El Paso, Texas, courtroom last Monday, dressed in a red prison suit and bullet-proof vest, Posada renewed his request for asylum. His lawyer argued that his green card is still valid and requested that the case be moved to Miami.

The judge set an August 29 trial date and will decide next Friday whether to grant the self-confessed terrorist bail. The immigration trial is seen by Venezuela as a stalling tactic to obstruct the far more serious issue of extradition.

“The US government should not believe that, because it is delaying the process, the people are going to give in,” said Nicolas Maduro, president of the Venezuelan parliament. This week, Maduro announced that a parliamentary delegation had been sent to Washington to demand Posada’s extradition.

That message was echoed by protesters around the world, with millions taking to the streets in Cuba and Venezuela. Outside the El Paso courtroom on Monday and in 13 other cities across the US, demonstrations were held by anti-war coalition ANSWER.

On the same day, solidarity activists from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia campaigns picketed the US embassy in London. Protests have also been held in Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the Philippines.

The problem for Bush is that, if he backs down, it will be seen as a major propaganda victory for Chavez and Castro, whom he views as deadly enemies. Both are left-wing charismatic leaders who give their people hope instead of fear and invest their nations’ resources in health care and education rather than weapons and the stock-market.

The US backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and it has consistently labeled him a “negative force.” As well as providing an energy lifeline to Cuba by bartering oil for doctors, he has successfully torpedoed the neoliberal FTAA agreement, promoting his own “Bolivarian” alternative based on co-operation not competition between countries. The US imports 15 per cent of its oil from Venezuela.

Luis Posada is an old man who has dedicated his life to terrorising progressive movements in Latin America on behalf of the US. But one of the most dramatic allegations against him centres around some terrorism a little closer to home. Compelling evidence exists suggesting that Posada was part of the team that assassinated John F Kennedy, on whom he blamed the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

“Who, in 1963, had the resources to assassinate Kennedy? Who had the means and who had the motives to kill the US president?” asks Fabian Escalante, former head of Cuban counter-intelligence. “CIA agents from Operation 40 who were rabidly anti-Kennedy.”

Maria Lorenz was briefly Castro’s lover before being recruited by the CIA. In 1985, she testified under oath that, the week before the JFK assassination, she travelled from Miami to Dallas with members of Operation 40 in two cars carrying weapons in the boots.

In a videotaped interview made shortly before he died, Chauncy Holt, a self-confessed CIA asset and mobster, identified Posada as one of the Cuban exiles who were in Dealey Plaza at the time of the assassination.

Whether he was involved or not, it is clear that Luis Posada is a dangerous, vicious psychopath who should not be able to freely wander the streets no matter who he works for. As Chavez puts it, “The US has no choice, either send him to Venezuela or be seen by the world as protecting terrorism.”

The US corporate elite, who are no fans of Chavez themselves, seem to agree that Posada must be sent to Venezuela or US credibility in the “war on terror” will be completely lost. All major newspapers support the extradition, even the right-wing Miami Herald — aka the “Coup-plotters’ Journal.”

Bush himself put it best when he said bluntly, shortly after September 11, “If you harbour terrorists, you are terrorists.” But will the CIA ever let someone as knowledgeable as Posada spill the beans on all their dirty tricks over these last four decades in Latin America?

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For the last four weeks, Bolivian workers and peasants have been mobilising demanding the nationalisation of the country's oil and gas reserves. This movement represents the will of the majority of Bolivians to win control over their natural resources. The oil and gas multinationals have been benefiting from the country’s natural resources through illegal contracts for years, while the majority of Bolivians live under the poverty line.

Far from being a “radical minority” as president Mesa said, those who demand nationalisation of gas are the majority, as was shown by the open mass meeting that took place on June 6th in La Paz, with half a million people present, and the continued strength of the general strike, road blockades, mass marches and demonstrations.

We wholeheartedly support the legitimate demands of Bolivian workers and peasants and give support to their movement and organisations and the decisions they take about how to conduct their struggle.

We reject any attempt of the government or sections of parliament to impose a military solution or the use of repression to put an end to the protests. We also reject the attempts of the so-called “Civic Committees” in Santa Cruz and other regions to use paramilitary gangs against the peasant mobilisation.

We reject any foreign intervention. The solution to the problems facing the Bolivian people must be in the hands of the people themselves, without any interference from the Organisation of American States, the United States, etc.

We appeal to the labour and trade union movement worldwide and to all progressive people to show solidarity with the Bolivian workers and peasants in these crucial moments, send solidarity resolutions, pass motions, organise pickets of the embassies and oil multinationals, and in general support our Bolivian brothers and sisters.

Further details from
Bolivia Solidarity Campaign
53 Fladgate Road
London
E11 1LX

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Ft. Lauderdale, FL, June 5, 2005—The representative of the host state, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, spoke at the 35th General Assembly of the OAS this Sunday night.

Referring to Secretary General Insulza, Rice said she and US President George W. Bush looked forward to working with Insulza towards making the OAS a “very effective organization for the promotion of democracy and prosperity in our hemisphere.”

Rice cast the US conflict with Venezuela as a divide between “nations that promote democracy, good governance and free trade, and those that do not.  Washington is eager to have good relations with all nations…provided that they agree on those core concepts.”  Her paring of democracy with free-markets provides a particular contrast to Venezuela, given that perhaps the most fundamental conflict between the US and Venezuela is over the neoliberal model.

"The last time the OAS met in the US in 1974," noted Rice, "10 of 23 members were dictators."  "For seven days leaders of non-democratic countries waxed hypocritically on the ideals of 'democracy,'" she said, criticizing the 'old OAS' for being “long on talk and short on action.”

At the time, many of the military dictators Rice referred to were the US government’s closest allies in the region.  The meeting in 1976, when the OAS held its 5th General Assembly in Santiago, Chile, was home of the US-supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Rice also reiterated a now common statement, generally understood as a reference to Venezuela, saying, “Governments that are elected democratically, must govern democratically.  And as Secretary-General Insulza has rightly declared: governments that fail to reach this crucial standard must be accountable to the OAS.”  When Insulza made this statement, it was, according to an aide to Secretary Rice, insisted upon word-for-word by Secretary Rice as the condition for US support for Insulza’s leadership bid at the OAS.

"We at the OAS must be impatient, we must replace excessive talk with action,” said Rice.  “We must never accept that democracy is merely an ideal to be admired instead of a purpose to be realized.”

OAS Interventionism

In a press briefing given on the plane to Florida this morning, Secretary Rice did not mince words on what she sees as the necessary teeth the OAS must develop.  Rice responded to a question regarding the adverse reaction of a number of Latin American ambassadors to US proposals to create a mechanism for OAS intervention, saying “let me say again the OAS has intervened in the past…this is not a matter of intervening to punish; it is a matter of intervening to try and sustain the development of democratic institutions across the region.”

For his part, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said “if any member-government of the OAS should be monitored, it’s the government of the United States.”  “A government that supports terrorists, invades countries, that tramples its own people, that is trying to impose a global dictatorship,” said the Venezuelan President, “is the government that should be monitored for human rights violations.”

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Protest Outside the US Embassy (Grosvenor Sq, London) Monday 13th June 4-7pm

BUSH - GIVE UP THE TERRORISTS!

"America has a message for the nations of the world: If you harbor terrorists, you are terrorists. If you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist, and you will be held accountable." George W. Bush, 21st November 2001


Cuban-Venezuelan Luis Posada is wanted for blowing up an airliner in 1976, killing 73 people. He was arrested last month in the US, which is refusing to hand him over to Venezuela, where he escaped from jail. His partner in crime, Orlando Bosch, was given a presidential pardon by Bush the Elder and now lives in Miami, where they have named a street after him.

In Colombia this year a total of seven US soldiers (including a colonel) have been arrested for, between them, selling ammunition to right-wing paramilitaries and attempting to smuggle cocaine into the US. Before the Colombian judiciary could blink, they were whisked out of the country to prevent further embarrassment and have not yet been charged with any crime.

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada used to be President of Bolivia, before he ordered the massacre of peaceful protesters in 2003 and fled to Miami to escape the furious backlash. Bolivians want him tried for crimes against humanity, but that doesn't seem likely while he's protected by the US government, who immediately granted him political asylum.

Notice a pattern?

The problem for Bush is that these cases all reveal the ugly underside of US foreign policy in Latin America. Declassified FBI documents prove Posada was a CIA agent (specialising in explosives) while also freelancing for the Las Vegas mafia. After escaping Venezuelan jail in 1985 he worked for Oliver North supplying arms to the US-backed Contras in their war against the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua. His terrorist career continues in Cuba (where he had been a policeman under the Batista dictatorship) with a string of hotel bombings during an international youth festival in 1997, resulting in several injuries and the death of an Italian tourist. In an interview with the New York Times the following year Posada practically boasted about this terrorism. He was part of the infamous Operation Condor, which co-ordinated right-wing military dicatorships in the region for the US government, and has tried to assassinate Castro at least twice: once in Caracas in 1971 (while head of DISIP, the Venezuelan political police) and again in 2000 in Panama, where he served four years in jail before being pardoned by the outgoing president (who now lives in Florida).

On Monday 13th June, there will be an immigration hearing in El Paso, Texas, to decide Posada's fate. The case has become a major headache for George Bush, as Posada is hailed as a hero amongst the rich right-wing Castro-hating Miami Cubans who form a key component of his (and especially his brother's) base of support. However, refusal to extradite Posada will clearly make a mockery of the whole "War on Terror". Posada is a 77-year-old man who has lead a lifetime of terrorism directed against progressive movements in Latin America. The embarrassing fact that this terror was in line with US foreign policy and supported by the US government doesn't make harbouring him any less hypocritical. Join the international outrage over these double-standards and protest outside the US embassy in London on this day from 4pm to 7pm. Music, food and an open-mic, with speakers from Hands Off Venezuela, Bolivia Solidarity Campaign, Colombia Solidarity Campaign and others. Pass it on!

www.handsoffvenezuela.org
www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk
www.boliviasc.org.uk

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On his way back from the International Labour Organisation Conference, Orlando Chirino, National Coordinator of Venezuela's National Workers Union (UNT) will be speaking at a meeting in London.

The UNT was founded in August 2003 as the response of democratic trade unionists in Venezuela to the fact that the unelected and illegitimate leadership of the CTV had supported and participated in the military coup in April 2002 and the bosses lock out in December 2002.

The UNT has now became the main trade union organisation in Venezuela and is actively participating in the struggle for workers' control and co-management that is taking place in state owned companies like Alcasa and Cadafe and recently nationalised ones like Venepal and CNV.

With decades of experience in the trade union movement, especially in the hard struggles of the textile workers, Chirino became one of the main trade union leaders in the industrial state of Carabobo, participated in the formation of more than 80 different unions and was a member of the regional trade union centre Fetracarabobo. He played a key role in the struggle against the coup in April 2002, and the bosses lock out of December 2002. He lead the foundation of the UNT in his capacity as a leader of the Bolivarian Workers' Force.

Other speakers at the meeting are still to be confirmed, but with growing interest in the British trade union movement about the situation of the trade unions in Venezuela this is a unique chance to come and discuss.

June 15th
7pm
University of London Union
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HY
(nearest tube stations: Russel Sq, Goodge St, Warren St)
see map

orlando_chirinos.gif

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Hands Off Venezuela supporters organised a stall at the conference and we were able to distribute literature and collect 130 signatures (about half of conference delegates) for our open letter to the US trade union movement, including many of the leaders of the union. There was a lot of interest in our stall, delegates were keen to hear about events in Latin America and we had some very interesting discussions. We also made some important new links for the campaign with several delegates agreeing to organise film screenings in their colleges.

Fringe meeting

We held a joint fringe meeting, with Justice For Columbia and the Cuban Ambassador in the conference hall on Saturday evening. The attendance, of around 35, was not bad considering it was cut across to some extent by the late finish of conference and other meetings taking place at the same time.

Zelmys Dominguez, Political Counsellor of the Cuban Embassy spoke first and highlighted the role that Cuba has played in helping other countries around the world develop their health and education systems by providing teachers and doctors. This has been very important in Venezuela. She also explained that US imperialism has been trying to isolate Cuba, and that international labour movement support has been important.

The next to speak was Hubert de Jesus Ballesteros, Deputy Leader of the Fensuagro, the Colombian agricultural workers union, who talked about the climate of repression that exists for trade unionists in Colombia. He explained that assassination of leaders and activists is a standard way for the bosses to deal with the unions, and even ‘respectable’ multinationals are implicated in this.

Noting that there are stark contrasts in Latin America, from the severe repression of Colombia to the situation in Venezuela that is strongly in favour of the working class, the chair, NEC member Maire Daley, introduced Jorge Martin from the Hands Off Venezuela campaign.

Jorge talked about recent pressure by US imperialism to isolate Venezuela diplomatically. A recent article by Otto Reich, describes Castro and Chavez as an axis of evil, while high profile trips to Latin America by Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfelt have attempted to stir up opposition. These attempts have so far been unsuccessful.

He explained that the masses have been the driving force of the revolution at every stage, first in overturning the successful opposition coup, then in saving the economy by taking over the running of industry at the time of the bosses lockout and finally in defeating the opposition during the recall referendum. He went on to list the social gains of the revolution which include the nationalisation of certain factories under workers control, the distribution of unused land to the peasants and the extensive social programme which is introducing universal healthcare and eradicating illiteracy.

There was a lively discussion that focused on how best to build links with the workers in each of these countries, especially Colombia and Venezuela, and on what we can do to help. The meeting helped to prepare the ground for the motion before conference to support Venezuela.

Conference motion

The motion on Venezuela was heard in the international discussion on Monday morning. The mover of the motion, Darrel Cozens from West Midlands region, drew attention to the gains that the revolution has meant for ordinary people, pointing to the social programmes that are bringing health and education to young and old. He also explained that Venezuela has become a beacon of hope to the oppressed across Latin America, noting especially the recent demonstrations and uprisings in Bolivia over multinationals exploiting the country’s gas reserves.

The speakers on the motion were very well received and the motion unanimously supported. This opens the way for greater links between this union and those in Venezuela and this will be further advanced by the commitment to participate in a joint union delegation to Venezuela to see the revolution in action.

The conference was a step forward for the campaign and has given us many new links and points off support to build upon. The task now is to follow up on these and use them to spread the word about the Bolivarian Revolution and Hands Off Venezuela, to which NATFHE already agree to affiliate at last year’s conference.

Text of the motion:

This conference congratulates and supports the Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan government for utilising the country’s wealth and resources for reforms to benefit the working class, the poor and the landless.

Conference views with alarm however the bellicose statements being made by the USA and its allies Columbia and the financial oligarchy in Venezuela which pose a real threat to these reforms.

Conference agrees to join with the NUJ to organise a trade union delegation to Venezuela in solidarity with the Revolution and to support a delegation to the World Youth Festival in Caracas in August 2005.

Key signatories to the Open Letter to US Trade Unionists.

Fawzi Ibrahim, NATFHE, Treasurer
Paul Mackney, NATFHE, General Secretary
M. O’Mara, NATFHE, Ex – President
Paul Bennett, NATFHE, Fulltime Officer
M. Daley, NATFHE, NEC
D. Armstrong, NATFHE, NEC
J. Clay, NATFHE, NEC
M. Jardine, NATFHE, NEC
Stephanie Sanders, NATFHE, NEC

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The Hands Off Venezuela campaign has received a letter from the UNT in which the UNT leadership expresses its support and recognition for the campaign. We provide a scanned version of the signed letter (signatures of Ruben Linares and of Orlando Chirino, Stalin Perez and Eduardo Piñate), which is a tremendous recognition for the solidarity work we are doing throughout the world!


 

Reconocimiento de la UNT a Manos Fuera de Venezuela

Los abajo firmantes, miembros de la Coordinación Nacional de la Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT) queremos hacer llegar nuestro reconocimiento a la Campaña "Manos Fuera de Venezuela" por las distintas campañas de solidaridad que viene realizando en apoyo al proceso de cambios que vive nuestro país y en particular al movimiento obrero revolucionario venezolano.

Reconocemos en particular  la positiva labor que esta campaña ha llevado a cabo en relación a las organizaciones políticas y sindicales de la clase obrera en distintos países de Europa y otros continentes con el fin de colaborar en la difusión de la realidad del movimiento sindical venezolano entre los activistas polìticos y sindicales de la izquierda, denunciar las manipulaciones mediáticas del imperialismo contra la revolución bolivariana y colaborar en el reconocimiento de la UNT por parte de varias organizaciones sindicales de diferentes países.

Deseamos que esta colaboración  continúe y llamamos a todos los colaboradores de la campaña "Manos Fuera de Venezuela" en los distintos países  a continuar trabajando en pro de esos mismos objetivos tal y como lo han venido haciendo hasta ahora.

Firmado,

Orlando Chirinos, Stalin Perez Borges, Ruben Linares, Eduardo Piñate (Coordinacion Nacional UNT)

 

UNT recognition of Hands Off Venezuela

The signatories, members of the National Coordination of the National Workers Union (UNT) would like to send our recognition to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign for the different solidarity campaigns it has organised in support of the process of changes which our country is living through and particularly of the Venezuelan revolutionary trade union movement.

We recognise, particularly, the positive role played by this campaign regarding the political and trade union organisations of the working class in different countries of Europe and other continents with the aim of collaborating in explaining the reality of the Venezuelan trade union and left wing political activists, denouncing the imperialist media manipulation against the Bolivarian revolution and collaborating in getting the UNT recognised by several trade union organisations from different countries.

We wish to see the continuation of this collaboration and we appeal to all the Hands Off Venezuela supporters in different countries to continue to work in favour of the same aims as they have done until now.

Signed

Orlando Chirinos, Stalin Perez Borges, Ruben Linares, Eduardo Piñate (National Coordinators of the UNT)

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Hands Off Venezuela (http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org). Speaking at a meeting in solidarity with Venezuela in London on Wednesday May 25, Frances O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, made clear the opposition of the TUC on US interference in Venezuela. "We oppose intervention of countries like the USA in Venezuela's internal affairs" said O'Grady, adding: "last week I'm pleased to say the TUC executive formally agreed to raise concerns about US intentions, including threats to the President, with the British Foreign Office"

She expressed in no uncertain terms that the official position of the British trade union movement was one of support for the Venezuelan government against any foreign threats. "As trade unionists we absolutely reserve the right to stand side by side with the Venezuelan government in opposing threats of military - or any other kind of intervention, while at the same time raising any concerns about any government anywhere in the world if there is unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of working people and their unions."

This was the result of a meeting convened by Hands Off Venezuela supporter and general secretary of the National Union of Journalists a few weeks ago. At the meeting, a number of national officials of UNISON, the FBU, the RMT, NATFHE, TGWU and the GMB, with whom we have been discussing the situation of the trade union movement in Venezuela, expressed their concern about the increased belligerence of Washington's statements on Venezuela.

Regarding the proposal raised by the Venezuelan business federation, FEDECAMARAS, to open an International Labour Organization Commission of Enquiry on alleged violations of trade union freedoms by the Venezuelan government, Frances O'Grady explained in no uncertain terms that the British TUC will oppose it. "But for those who may ask, and I am anticipating here, whether the TUC will support Venezuelan employer attempts to bring an ILO complaint against the Venezuelan government, then let me make it clear: we will resist any attempt to turn the ILO into a political football. Concerns about Venezuela frankly look small compared to the killings and the collusion that happen every day in Colombia. And yet, the Colombian unions' calls for an investigation backed by the UK trade union movement and backed by the South African government have fallen on deaf ears. So, we may be simple trade unionists, but we are not naive."

The proposal, which will be discussed at the ILO International Labour Conference taking place from May 31 – June 16, has been promoted by the Venezuelan opposition, and particularly the business federation FEDECAMARAS. This is the same body that participated in the military coup against president Chavez in April 2002, and whose president Pedro Carmona was the country's illegitimate president during the short lived coup. Opposition to their proposal by the TUC, with member unions representing 6 and half million workers, will certainly carry a lot of weight within the European trade union movement. The TUC’s opposition to the proposal also comes against strong pressure from the British employers federation CBI.

O'Grady summed up the position of the TUC by explaining that "the achievements of the Venezuelan government are truly impressive, and we support them. And while we will always retain our right to express concerns about union freedoms, we would say neither of these positions are negotiable and they can go hand in hand. We want to listen and learn much more from our Venezuelan sisters and brothers and support them in building both social justice and free trade unionism."

The patient work of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign in Britain over the last 3 years has certainly raised the profile of Venezuela within the trade union movement. A number of unions have already passed motions on Venezuela and this year's trade union conference season will see most British unions discussing similar ones. All of this is preparing the ground for a full discussion on Venezuela at the forthcoming TUC congress in September.

The audio files for Frances O'Grady statement can be heard here:

http://www.handsoffvenezuela.dsl.pipex.com/ogrady1.mp3
http://www.handsoffvenezuela.dsl.pipex.com/ogrady2.mp3

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If Washington refuses to extradite Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles Venezuela could severe diplomatic ties between the two nations, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez yesterday.  “We can't rush things, but if the United States does not extradite [Posada] we will be forced to reconsider our diplomatic ties,” affirmed Chávez during his weekly Sunday television address Aló Presidente.

Last week Caracas invoked a 1922 US-Venezuela extradition treaty to request that the US deport Posada—who has dual Cuban-Venezuelan citizenship—to Venezuela to stand trial for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner that killed all 73 people on board.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shows the audience documented evidence of Posada's terrorist activities and of the CIA's knowledge during last Sunday's "Alo Presidente."

Although Posada, a former CIA agent, illegally entered the US through the Mexican border in mid-March, US officials repeatedly denied that they were able to verify his whereabouts.  But Posada, a self-described “freedom fighter,” forced Washington's hand last week by holding a press conference outside Miami.  Shortly after Posada affirmed that he would "not denounce violence," he was arrested by US immigration officials.  Facing charges of illegal entry rather than terrorism, Posada is being detained in a federal detention center in El Paso, Texas without bail until his June 13th trial.

“If they don't extradite him in the time allowed in our agreement,” warned Chávez, “we will have to consider whether it's worth having an embassy there, and whether it's worth the United States having an embassy here.”

Until Chávez came to power in 1998, Venezuela and the US had a cozy relationship.  Posada and the CIA cooperated regularly in the oil-rich nation until Posada’s arrest in 1976 for the airplane bombing.  After he escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985, Posada surfaced in Central America where he worked with Oliver North’s illegal mission to supply the Contras with weapons in Nicaragua’s US-fueled civil war.

But with Chávez’s election, US-Venezuelan relations have gone from close to hostile. The Venezuelan government has aggressively pursued a path of sovereignty and social justice, fiercely attacking what Chávez describes as the US’ economic and political exploitation of Latin American countries.  For their part, the Bush administration refers to Chávez as a "negative force in the region" and a "democratically elected leader who governs in an illiberal way,”—just a few of the more vaguely-worded, recycled "concerns" about Chávez emitted by US spokespeople on an almost daily basis.

Chávez' statements on Sunday eluded that already poor bilateral relations might very well take a sharp turn for the worse if Washington decides to blatantly and hypocritically ignore its own "war on terror" rhetoric. After emphasizing that "now there is proof that the US protects terrorism because in there territory is one of the greatest terrorists in the history of America and of the world," Chávez put the option of taking the dispute to an international tribunal on the table.

Luis Posada Carriles is wanted in Venezuela and Cuba for his involvement in a 1976 bombing that killed 73. The US has so far refused Venezuela's extradition request.

"We have sufficient material to go to an international tribunal and accuse the US government of protecting a terrorist; we will go to the United Nations, we will invite all of the people to denounce this,” said Chávez.  “[This is] a government that invades a country using terrorism as an excuse, that attacks Iraq only to take out one man in that government…now they have him in prison and they publish a photo of him in his underwear.  At the US Army prison in Guantanamo Bay, “they have been so disrespectful to the Koran that they have provoked a dignified response from the Islamic people of the world," added the Venezuelan President.

Chávez went on to add that the Venezuelan government has evidence that Posada, along with his contacts in Venezuela and Central America, "participated in preparations for the April, 2002 coup" that abolished all democratic institutions in Venezuela before being reversed 48 hours later.

“It is difficult, very difficult, to maintain ties with a government that so shamelessly hides and protects international terrorism,” said Chávez.

The decision to charge Posada with illegal entry and ignore his resume of terrorist activities has enraged the majority of Venezuelans. Thousands of Venezuelans signed a petition in favor of the extradition request on Friday and then marched on Saturday in the squares of major cities in protest.

This observation has also been noted by several US politicians.

"While I'm glad that the Department of Homeland Security finally arrested Posada, it's amazing that he almost had to goad them into doing it," stated José Serrano (D-NY) adding that, "Here is a guy who has admitted to committing terrorist attacks who escaped justice by bribing his guards and hightailing it out of prison, and we're not willing to extradite him to face justice.  73 people died in that airliner, many of them children. How can we with any credibility ask other nations to help us out with our global struggle against terror when we won't cooperate with others' anti-terror proceedings? There is a two-way street here…Posada was a wanted man in Venezuela long before Hugo Chávez was elected President there.”

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and a group of twenty legislators sent a letter to President Bush recommending that international laws be followed and Posada be turned over to Venezuela.  And in a letter to the US Congress, Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) called upon her colleagues to "uphold the principles we espouse, refrain from keeping double standards," and "extradite [Posada] to the governments with jurisdiction."  McKinney argued that "for the Department of Homeland Security to say it would not deport Posada to Cuba or Venezuela is counterproductive to our efforts in the War on Terror."

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