U.S. Releases Wanted Terrorist

Venezuela protests militant's release

By IAN JAMES, Associated Press Writer

Sun Apr 22, 11:09 PM ET

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that Venezuela will lodge a protest with the United Nations after the U.S. released a Cuban militant on bond, accusing Washington of letting a terrorist go free.

Venezuela had asked the U.S. to extradite 79-year-old former CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles on charges that he plotted the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane, in which 73 people died.

Chavez also said Posada has been plotting to assassinate him for years, and accused President Bush of complicity in failing to bring Posada to justice.

"President Bush, you are a protector of terrorists. As such, you are a terrorist," Chavez said during his weekly TV and radio program "Hello, President."

"The Venezuelan government will take this case to the United Nations, because it cannot be," Chavez said. "We've been asking for his extradition for more than two years. We sent them all the evidence."

Venezuela accuses Posada, a militant opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, of plotting the bombing while living in Caracas. Posada has denied involvement.

He escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985 and was detained in Florida in May 2005 for entering the United States illegally.

Posada was indicted on charges of lying to U.S. immigration authorities, but an appeals court ruled last week that he could post bail and return to his family in Miami while awaiting trial.

Chavez said Posada "has for many years been planning the assassination not only of Fidel Castro but also my assassination, and he has a powerful network that has been supported by the CIA for many years," Chavez said.

He said Posada's release is linked to larger "plans against Venezuela."

The Bush administration has repeatedly denied Chavez's accusations but calls the leftist president a threat to democracy and a negative force in Latin America.

Venezuela, along with other countries, plans to bring the Posada case before a U.N. Security Council committee monitoring counterterrorism efforts, said Jose Pertierra, a lawyer representing Chavez's government.

The Nonaligned Movement, which comprises 118 mainly developing countries including Venezuela, expressed concern about Posada's release in a statement issued Friday, reiterating its support for Venezuela's extradition request.

Chavez also said Sunday that he will enact a law to regulate prices at private hospitals and warned that his government would seize any hospital caught flouting the new controls.

Chavez said he will approve the law by presidential decree, using special powers granted to him by the National Assembly nearly three months ago, as he aims to steer the South American country toward socialism.

"We're going to have strict regulation. Any clinic that doesn't comply, let it be closed down," Chavez said.

Venezuela has a two-tiered health system in which wealthier, insured patients often can afford prompter, better treatment at private hospitals. Chavez has expanded the public health system, building new clinics, refurbishing hospitals and sending thousands doctors to live in poor neighborhoods and provide free care.

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