July 6, 2010 / 11:39 PM / 9 years ago

Venezuela to send terrorism suspect to Cuba-Chavez

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela will hand over to Cuba a Salvadorean man wanted for allegedly carrying out bombings of Cuban tourist hotels in 1997, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday.

Salvadorean Francisco Chavez Abarca is seen in this undated handout photo released by the Venezuelan Ministry of Interior and Justice on July 3, 2010. REUTERS/Ministry of Interior and Justice/Handout

Francisco Chavez Abarca was arrested by Venezuelan authorities last Thursday when he arrived at Caracas’ international airport.

Venezuelan officials said Chavez Abarca was a member of an anti-communist group trained and led by Cuban exile and former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, who is also wanted in Cuba and Venezuela on terrorism charges.

Chavez Abarca was detained under an Interpol arrest warrant requested by Cuba and was carrying a false Guatemalan passport, President Chavez said.

“In the next few hours, he’ll be sent to Cuba,” Chavez said in comments broadcast by state television. The Venezuelan leader, a close ally of Cuba’s communist rulers, called Chavez Abarca a “terrorist.”

Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said last week that Chavez Abarca was accused by Cuban officials of being one of several Central Americans who carried out the 1997 bombings in an operation allegedly masterminded by Posada Carriles, who lives in the United States.

Cuba and Venezuela have repeatedly demanded Washington extradite Posada Carriles, whom they also accuse of being behind the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.

Posada Carriles escaped from a high security prison in Venezuela in 1985. He was arrested in the United States on immigration charges a decade later but was freed in 2007, provoking anger in Havana and Caracas.

In a separate case, Chavez said Venezuela would extradite to the United States an accused Colombian drug-trafficker, Carlos Alberto Renteria, alias “Beto”, who was arrested in Caracas on Monday.

A Venezuelan Justice Ministry source told Reuters that Renteria, a leader of the former Norte del Valle Colombian drug cartel, was captured with the help of British intelligence experts.

Narcotics experts say Venezuela is a major transit point for Colombian cocaine being transported by traffickers to U.S. and European markets. Chavez has rejected U.S. accusations that his government does not do enough to halt the trafficking.

Reporting by Diego Ore and Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Daniel Wallis and John O'Callaghan

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