U.S. has its own history of terrorism against Cuba
by Keith Bolender
May 29, 2009
Reprinted from South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Immediately following the attacks on 9/11 America declared a war against terrorism. In Cuba, for the past 50 years the government and its people have been fighting their own, largely unknown war. Their struggle against terrorism has cost the lives of more than 3,000 civilians; victims of bombings, biological warfare, torture, murder and the second worst act of air terrorism in the Americas.
While recent articles from anti-Castro supporters such as Frank Calzon have tried to loosely connect the Cuban government with terrorism through a series of largely unrelated events, the reality is that the United States has been either directly involved in terrorist programs against Cuba, under such actions as Operation Mongoose, or indirectly connected through support and tolerance of such organizations as Alpha 66 and Omega 7. Add to that the lack of action against internationally recognized terrorists as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.
Cuba remained on the State Department list of state sponsors for terrorism in 2008 not because the American government could prove one single act of terror that the Cuban government conducted on American soil, but because of the entirely subjective description of not being sufficiently supportive of American's war against terrorism. Additionally, Cuba's supposed support of terrorism was implied in part because they have previously accepted members of Spain's Basque ETA separatist movement.
So while there is no serious justification for the State Department to keep Cuba on the terrorist list, there is overwhelming evidence of the thousands of acts directed against Cuba.
The Cubana Airlines bombing of 1976 is probably the best known. More than 70 civilians were killed, including the entire Cuban youth fencing team. Jorge De La Nuez was five years old when he lost his father, head of a fishing delegation that was on board the doomed flight. Jorge still remembers vividly the sense of betrayal -- that somehow he did something wrong and that his father was punishing him by not coming back.
In 1997 after threats from various counter-revolutionary groups in Florida, a series of bombs were set off in Cuban hotels and tourist spots. The result was the death of an Italian tourist, with dozens more injured. Marisol Visozo happened to be sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Nacional, quietly talking to a friend, when her conversation was shattered by a bomb that had been placed under the sofa she was sitting at. Marisol suffered a deep cut running the length of her left side of her face. The blast left her partially deaf, permanently scarred and in a state of constant nervousness.
Alpha 66 continues to brag of these actions on its website, along with references to attacks against Cuban villages. One of those villages was Boca de Sama on the north east coast. Two villagers were killed and eight injured during the assault in 1971. One of those wounded was Nancy Pavon, who had her right foot shot off during the battle. Since then she's endured more than two dozen operations to repair the damage.
In the early 1980s Cuba suffered from an array of biological terrorism, according to government scientists and officials. These experts, including United Nation specialists, point to the substantial evidence to conclude that a variety of infections were intentionally introduced into Cuba, such as -- swine flu, sugar cane rust, anthrax, botulism, tobacco fungus and Dengue 2. Evidence includes the testimony of Eduardo Arocena, a Cuban-American connected to Miami-based anti-revolutionary group Omega 7. Arocena confessed to introducing biological agents to Cuba during his trial in New York for his connection with the assassination of Cuban diplomat Felix Garcia.
At his 1984 trial he testified, "The mission of the group was to obtain certain germs to introduce them to Cuba to start the chemical war." One of the results was an epidemic of Dengue 2. More than 100 children died.
Ana Elba Caminero was one of the first to fall victim to the disease. Living near the Havana airport, Ana Elba was faced with the horror of seeing her two daughters Janet and Isnaviz come down with headache, fever, and aching bones. Both soon started vomiting blood. One day later Janet, six years old at the time, died. The same day Ana Elba buried Janet she had to visit the hospital to comfort her other daughter, Isnaviz, 12, who was aware her younger sister had just died of the same disease she had. Fortunately, a few days later Isnaviz recovered and Cuban authorities were finally able to identify the infection.
In the early 1960s terrorists targeted innocent young teachers who went to the country to teach farmers to read and write during literacy campaign. One teacher, 16-year-old Manuel Ascunce, and his adult student, Pedro Lantigua were both kidnapped, tortured, and hung from a tree. Ascunce was one of more than a dozen teachers killed.
There have been hundreds of other acts of terrorism against innocent Cuban civilians in a war of terrorism unknown and unrecognized outside the country. Department stores bombed, sugar fields destroyed, fishermen tortured and killed, attacks on organizers of Cine Movil, the program to show commercial films to the rural population.
Yet it is Cuba that finds itself on the United States arbitrary list of states that sponsor terrorism. It is not surprising the Cuban government is particularly sensitive to the hypocrisy of this particular issue.
Keith Bolender is the author of the forthcoming Voices from the Other Side; Cuba's Unknown War Against Terrorism. (Pluto Press, available 2010.)