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LA Times Sept. 12, 2004
WASHINGTON — A little-noticed but chilling scene at Opa-locka Airport outside Miami last month demonstrates that the Bush administration's commitment to fighting international terrorism can be overtaken by presidential politics — even if that means admitting known terrorists onto U.S. soil.
Panama's president on Thursday pardoned four Cuban emigres accused of trying to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro despite Havana's threat to cut diplomatic ties over such a move.
Announcing the pardons just days before she was to leave office, President Mireya Moscoso said she wanted to prevent a future government from extraditing the four when they finish their terms. She pardoned Luis Posada Carriles, Gaspar Jimenez, Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remon.
Posada, a 76-year-old former CIA operative, faces criminal charges in Venezuela as well as Cuba.
Panama thumbs nose at Cuba
Cuba threatened to immediately break off relations with Panama if Moscoso pardoned the four exiles. Expressing anger at the tone of the Cuban complaints, Moscoso withdrew her country's ambassador from the island this week and ordered the Cuban ambassador here to leave.
a pun or real?
GAS, or Geezers Assassination Society, a Miami source claims, refers to a secret club formed by four recently pardoned anti-Castro terrorists, all in their twilight years. The group offered honorary membership -- women can only become honorary members -- to outgoing Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso, who on August 26, released the convicted men. A Panamanian court had sentenced them and two others to 7 and 8-year terms for threatening public security and falsifying documents. The prosecutor presented a large cache of explosives and related gear with the defendants' fingerprints on them. Witnesses avowed that the men planned to use this material in 2000 to bomb Cuban President Fidel Castro - not engage in playful fireworks -- during a scheduled speech at a Panamanian university.
“This pardon by President Mireya Moscoso has to be seen as the most recent in a long line of terrorist acts against the government and the people of Cuba. It is not insignificant that this happens on the eve of the Republican Convention. That the United States desired this and caused it to happen would be hard to deny and it is sad to see in the midst of President Bush’s war on terrorism, he continues the US war on terrorism against the sovereignty and independence of the people of Cuba.”