Posada in El Renacer, 60 meters from the Panama Canal
BY JEAN GUY ALLARD (Special for Granma International)
LUIS Posada Carriles is the man who attempted to blow up a
Panamanian university auditorium packed with students in November
2000 in order to assassinate the Cuban president; his history
encompasses 40 years of terrorist crimes, including a mid-flight
explosion aboard a Cuban aircraft. He and his three accomplices are
currently being detained in an “open prison” located 60 kilometers
from the Panama Canal, dreaming of a swift escape at the first
Posada Carriles shares the title of “the most dangerous terrorist in
the hemisphere” along with psychopath pediatrician Orlando Bosch.
He is currently being held together with his three hired killers —
Gasper Jiménez Escobedo, Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remón — in El
Renacer (The Rebirth) Rehabilitation Center, a modern prison
complex near Panama City. The jail is famous for allowing its guests
to leave the premises, depending on their generosity, of course.
In the latest roundtable transmitted by Cuban television on the
theme, journalist and deputy Lazaro Barredo explained how, in a
recent visit to the prison with a Latin American inter-parliamentary
delegation, he discovered that at any given time, El Renacer prison
officers “sell” temporary leave passes to gang leaders. Once on
temporary leave, these capos make the most of their liberty, settling
scores in specific neighborhoods of the capital.
After investigating the subject, Granma International can confirm
this situation. Take the case of U.S. heroin trafficker Michael
Sutherland, who walked out of the modern prison “in error.”
INTERPOL, the international police organization, was waiting for that
individual to complete a prison term on the lesser charge of drugs
possession in order to question him about their much more serious
suspicions that he was responsible for a drug trafficking operation
involving 15 kilograms of heroin.
In line with normal procedures, Sutherland was to be handed over to
the immigration services when his sentence had ended. Those
services determine whether or not a person should be deported or
be tried on other charges.
But, with conspicuous naiveté, the prison authorities opened the
prison doors very wide, authorizing...a tremendous rebirth.
Sutherland never surfaced in the country again.
FLIGHT DUE TO “LACK OF COMMUNICATION”
Concepción Corro, director of the National Penitentiary System
(SNP), explained to the press that Sutherland’s flight was attributed
to a “lack of communication between the institutions responsible for
security, and other vigilance agencies.”
That explanation would be more valid if El Renacer had a different
Nevertheless, the Panamanian prison’s archives highlight a recent
situation that supports concerns in relation to the “model” prison
that, without a shadow of a doubt, offers enviable comfort to its
A few months ago, the Panama City media revealed that the
country’s police chief Carlos Bares had informed a press conference
that “a group of police agents” were “under investigation after being
implicated in irregular custodial and supervision activities in El Renacer
According to the Panamanian daily La Prensa, Bares “confirmed that
the police department’s Professional Responsibility Office (ORP) had
submitted a report on the irregularities and an unspecified number of
police units were being removed.”
During the press conference, Bares announced that a deputy
commissioner, a sub-lieutenant, a National Police first sergeant and a
National Air Service (SAN) chief had been removed from their posts
and arrested for alleged links with a criminal organization dedicated
to drug trafficking, and from whom a 1000-kilogram consignment of
cocaine had been seized on November 10, 2002.
It subsequently emerged that first sergeant Victor Quintero, chief
bodyguard for Rosendo Miranda, district attorney for drug
prosecutions, was among the suspects.
RELEASE ALREADY CELEBRATED
In March, the Miami media and mafia circles were already celebrating
the awaited declaration of Posada Carriles’ “innocence” in Panama
and the announcement of his possible release by his drugs lawyer —
a former district attorney well known for his involvement with his
country’s drug barons.
After reports in the Miami media that the Panamanian district
attorney had decided that there was insufficient evidence to try
Posada Carriles and his accomplices for intent to murder —despite a
large body of evidence provided by Cuba — defense lawyer Rogelio
Cruz dared to predict that his four terrorists would be released on
bail before May.
The prediction was not worth as much as the applause he later
received from those paying for his highly professional services.
Given that they have not as yet been released, Cruz and his clients,
regularly represented in Panama by terrorist Santiago Alvarez — at
large in spite of his part in the conspiracy —continue dreaming up
another way of accessing their freedom.
Thus Posada acquired a judge’s order admitting him to the San
Fernando Private Hospital, after complaining of “heart problems, skin
cancer, arterial hypertension and trouble with his middle ear causing
him to suffer loss of balance.” An impressive collection of disorders
for a 74-year-old man who, just 18 months earlier, was feverishly
running around Panama with a cache of explosives.
As is well known in Panama, the penitentiary system’s general office
regulations stipulate that prisoners requiring hospital treatment
should be taken to Ward 31 of the Santo Tomas Hospital, thereby
fulfilling a technical cooperation agreement between the Government
and Justice and Health Ministries.
But according to Cruz, after originally being sent to Santo Tomas
State Hospital by prison doctors, “Posada was removed from Ward
31 for criminals due to the presence of six AIDS patients with
The drug lawyer immediately obtained an order from magistrate
Joaquin Ortega — highly implicated in the case — and Posada Carriles
was taken to a private hospital “to receive specialist medical care.”
The Cuban government’s strong denunciation of the situation
apparently put an end to any ideas Posada had of fleeing. It should
be remembered that some years ago, he escaped from a
Venezuelan jail disguised as a priest, under the well-paid gaze of his
For many observers, Posada Carriles’ arrival at El Renacer
Rehabilitation Center and reunion with the rest of his terrorist gang,
looks like another attempt to illegally spirit him out of the country.
The move adds to the Panamanian authorities’ unjustifiable rejection
of an extradition request by the Cuban government, a lack of
response to the Venezuelan government’s extradition request, the
many legal irregularities and constant visits to Panama by big-time
Miami mafia members.
Ministry of Government and Justice figures on June 17, 2002, inform
that the Republic of Panama’s prison population is 10,093; the
country’s prisons have space for 7,348 detainees.
It is more than likely that those 10,000 prisoners do not have the
right to a similar level of detention and medical care.
CALLS FOR JUDGE TO BE FIRED
Meanwhile, various Panamanian organizations are demanding the
dismissal of Judge Joaquin Ortega, due to repeated irregularities in
the Posada Carriles case. A legal process has been brought before
the Supreme Court by representatives of the United Trade Unions
National Council (CONUSI), the Organized Workers National Council
(CONATO), the Construction and Affiliated Workers Trade Union
(SUNTRACS), Native Peoples’ organizations, and university groups
whose members were present at the Paraninfo University in
November 2000, when Posada Carriles and his hired killers
attempted to assassinate President Fidel Castro.
The plaintiffs state that Ortega’s conduct disqualifies him from
continuing in the trial of Posada Carriles and his four accomplices.
It is highly significant that Judge Ortega has refused to talk to the
Panamanian press on the subject.
It’s also worth remembering that Luis Posada Carriles was a CIA
agent, recruited on the eve of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Apart
from his terrorist trail, Posada found fame in Central America as Felix
Rodriguez’ right-hand man. Rodriguez was George Bush’s trusty aide
in the Iran-Contra drug trafficking scandal.