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.
That’s what happened when outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso inexplicably pardoned four Cuban exiles convicted of “endangering public safety” for their role in an assassination plot against Fidel Castro during a 2000 international summit in Panama.
After their release, three of the four immediately flew via private jet to Miami, where they were greeted with a cheering fiesta organized by the hard-line anti-Castro community. Federal officials briefly interviewed the pardoned men – all holders of U.S. passports – and then let them go their way.
“I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world,” Bush recently said in an interview.
But the decision to allow members of the Posada gang into this country, and the televised spectacle of Miamians applauding their return, sends a different and dangerous message: In a swing state, some terrorists are not only acceptable but welcome.