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GOP Convention Overlooks U.S. Approved Terrorists

by Roberto Lovato

The Long Shadow of Uncle Sam

(PNS) -- While GOP convention protesters and politicians address a world audience with speeches about terrorism and platforms about protecting Americans, Jesuit priests testifying this week in the case of a man accused of killing Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in 1980 have an audience small enough to fit into a San Joaquin Valley courthouse. And while protests and security measures in New York smash against each other in the fight to define who does and doesn't make us safer, several men convicted and jailed for endangering more than 2,000 Panamanian citizens in an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro, walked off a plane in Miami. They screamed "Ganamos" ("We won") to a cheering crowd which included Cuban American Republicans, unable to join the anti-terrorist chorus at the Convention.

The glitz and gravitational pull of terrorism talk at the convention in the Big Apple blinds us to terrorism beyond that officially designated by our government since 9/11. Though moving, speeches at the convention by victims of 9/11, capture only a sliver of the terrorism that has enveloped the planet for years. Given the heavy security focus inside and outside the convention, it's disconcerting how little convention attendees seem to care about those proven terrorists who live and work among us -- and who our government knows about.

Nowhere are the terrorist double standards and danger to Americans clearer than in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and one of four Cuban Americans granted amnesty last week by the government of outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso following a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that same week. In 1998, Carriles admitted in a New York Times interview that he planned a series of bombings of hotels and other buildings in Cuba.

Posada Carriles and another colleague are also accused of masterminding the midair explosion of Cubana Flight 455 carrying the Cuban fencing team and other passengers. Carriles was convicted in Venezuelan courts of the bombing and served eight years in prison there before he escaped. In the same way those 9/11 families search for the truth in the U.S, families searching for truth about victims of Cubana 455 believe that Colin Powell's visit to Panama last week led Moscoso to grant prisoners amnesty during her final days in office so that Washington could avoid the embarrassment of a Carilles extradition and trial in Cuban or Venezuelan courts.

A show trial featuring Carriles, who is believed to be in hiding in Miami, would detract attention from the upcoming trial of an officially designated terrorist and terrorist supporter, Saddam Hussein. In the age of anti-terrorist politics, the different fates of former U.S. friends Hussein and Carriles provide us with valuable insights into the double standards and dangers of terrorist and anti-terrorist politics.

So does the case of Alvaro Rafael Saravia, a retired Salvadoran Air Force captain trained and funded with U.S. tax dollars who this week is accused in Fresno's civil courts of planning the murder of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. Salvadorans attending the emotional trial -- many of whom are friends -- of the most famous victim of El Salvador's state-sponsored terrorism have told me that they attended the trial to bear witness to the possibility of justice in the United States. They wonder why the more than 80,000 victims of El Salvador's state terrorism in the 1980's are not paid the same attention as the thousands of victims of Saddam Hussein's state terrorism also from the 1980's. How, they ask, are Saravia and thousands of other known terrorists from El Salvador, Panama, Chile, Indonesia, Bosnia and other countries roaming the streets as legal residents of the United States living in Fresno, Miami or New York?

Today's focus on terrorism is on the violent actions of individuals and networks that sponsor violence. Today, we do not think of governments, except for that of Hussein's Iraq, the other members of the "axis of evil" and a few others, as "terrorist" or "terrorist-supporting." Formet New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other speechmakers this week will continue defining "terrorism" and "terrorist" as narrowly as possible.

Not to do so would require they leave the confines of the garrisoned convention and interacting with not-so-sympathetic New Yorkers like the young woman in the subway who told me she wants to ask Republicans why New York ranks 36th in Homeland Security funding; not to do so would require conventioneers walk to the nearby New York Public library to look at history books, including books about the recent history of state-sponsored terrorism in El Salvador, Venezuela and other places that make the U.S. government look like it was a supporter of terrorism.

The cotton fields and courthouses of Fresno and the retro chic coffee shops of Miami have more to teach us about the politics of terrorism than do the on and off-Broadway theatrics of the Republican National Convention in New York.

I should be in Miami or Fresno.

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Albion Monitor August 30, 2004 (

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