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Release of anti-Castro terrorist ends embarrassment for Venezuela

The most notorious anti-Castro terrorist, Orlando Bosch, has been released after 11 years in prison here and now vows to continue his fight ``to free Cuba.'' Mr. Bosch, a 60-year-old Cuban pediatrician, left prison Friday after a superior court acquitted him of charges that he helped bomb a Cuban jet that crashed off Barbados in 1976, killing all 73 passengers.

The court sentenced Bosch's two Venezuelan codefendants to 20-year terms. A third defendant, Lu'is Posada Carriles, a former operative of the US Central Intelligence Agency, escaped in August 1985. The Venezuelan press has speculated that Mr. Posada escaped with CIA help.

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The court's decision to free Bosch on bail pending a Supreme Court hearing is expected to further chill the cool relations between Venezuela and Cuba. In 1980, tensions from the case and from a series of diplomatic incidents in the Venezuelan Embassy in Havana caused both Venezuela and Cuban to recall their ambassadors.

Venezuela's current foreign minister favors restoring relations and has asked Havana not to hold the government responsible for a judicial decision.

Venezuelan police arrested Bosch and former Venezuelan police agent Posada, also a Cuban native, here the day after the Cuban plane went down. They were identified as co-conspirators by two Venezuelans defendants in the case.

Bosch, a thin man with thick glasses and intense brown eyes, has become the best known of the Cuban exiles dedicated to overthrowing Cuba's communist government by violent means. He is a hero in Miami's Cuban community, and the city declared Orlando Bosch Day on March 25, 1983, to call attention to his case.

In 1967, Bosch was caught firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter in Miami. He was paroled after serving four years of a 10-year sentence. He then went underground, resurfacing in Caracas.

Venezuela's foreign minister says Venezuela will extradite Bosch to the United States if asked. But there is already concern in government circles that Bosch may have jumped bail.

Escape routes are apparently well established. Posada told a Venezuelan reporter earlier this year that he got out of the country with the help of former police officials. During the Iran-contra hearings, Posada was identified by former CIA agent Felix Rodr'iguez as one of those who assisted him in running a contra supply line out of El Salvador.

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The ending of the Cuban airliner case will end an embarrassment for Venezuela, which has been reproached by Organization of American States' human rights commission for taking so long to process the charges. The case took a convoluted course through Venezuela's clogged courts. Under the country's antiquated legal system, even simple criminal cases must be argued with lengthy written briefs prepared by prosecuting and defense attorneys and decided in written opinions from judges, after long delays.

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