Looking into the eyes of the terrorists who blew up a Cuban plane


Photo | Alicia Herrera

We planted the bomb… and so what?


Forty years after the bombing of a Cubana airlines flight off the coast of Barbados on October 6, 1976, which killed 73 innocent people, those responsible for this horrific terrorist act remain unpunished, despite the overwhelming evidence filed to incriminate its material and intellectual authors and their accomplices, and presented to the United States intelligence services.

The Cuban people, revolutionary government, and in particular the families of victims of the Barbados crime have not rested, in all these years, in their struggle for justice. Their pain was transformed into the strength and courage to establish the truth regarding the case, in all settings, not only on the island but across many countries of the world. This long-awaited justice, however, has not materialized.

On the contrary, the Cuban-born terrorists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, the self-confessed masterminds of this heinous crime, were protected by the U.S. government, safe from facing justice in U.S. territory, where they received the full support of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had trained them since the early 1960s, to commit all kinds of attacks against the Cuban people and their Revolution.

relatives-of-the-victims-of-1976-bombing-of-cuban-airlineThe bombing of the Cubana de Aviación flight CU-455, covering the Guyana-Trinidad & Tobago-Barbados-Jamaica-Havana route, was an alarming event, as never had such an incident taken place in the Western Hemisphere. The machinations to murder innocent people under the protection of the Venezuelan government of the time, headed by Carlos Andrés Pérez, and with the consent of the CIA, reveals the true criminal essence of all those involved.

Perhaps younger generations are not fully aware of how malice expressed itself against Cuba in those years, when thousands of Cubans were killed as a result of terrorist acts encouraged and financed by successive U.S. administrations to destroy the Cuban Revolution.

we have the duty to rescue the memory of those events, which must never be repeated.

Today, 40 years after that Cuban airliner was blown up over Barbados, we have the duty to rescue the memory of those events, which must never be repeated.

I recalled that a couple of years ago, at the end of a discussion with a group of high school students, an insightful boy approached me and curiously asked me whether the point in the documentary we had just seen in which the voice of the co-pilot of the Cuban plane is heard before it descends into the sea, was a recreation of that dramatic moment.

I was surprised and asked him to explain why he thought so, while explaining that the harrowing cry (“This is worse, aim for the water Felo, hit the water!”) was so authentic that it expressed the great humanity of these men who, until the very last moment, tried to stop the plane from crashing.

The young man had no clear idea about this tragedy that left families in Cuba, Guyana, and the People’s Republic of Korea in mourning. He believed that the image of the falling plane off the coast of Barbados was fiction. Who knows how many more like him remain unaware, or are still confused regarding this sad episode in the history of attacks on the island.

It’s for this and other reasons that we are committed to denouncing the Barbados crime, seizing these moments of remembrance to transform them into a platform to pass on the truth to the youth, as the surest path to achieving justice.

Some readers will recall that I was the Venezuelan journalist who denounced the terrorists Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, Hernán Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, for their direct involvement in the bombing of the Cubana de Aviación plane.

As a twist of fate, I visited Freddy Lugo, a photographer and colleague at the magazine Páginas, in the San Carlos prison in Caracas, where he had been detained for his alleged involvement in the bombing of the Cuban airliner. I couldn’t believe that he and Hernán Ricardo, a photographer with the daily El Mundo, were involved in such a terrible crime.

Long before Lugo and Ricardo placed the explosives in the Cubana plane, they were part of my working life, I knew them as hardworking young men, and was a little more familiar with Freddy Lugo, with whom I frequently covered stories for Páginas.

Posada Carilles in uniform

Posada Carilles in uniform

Through Lugo, my contact with other terrorists imprisoned at the Cuartel San Carlos emerged. As the court case proceeded, I discovered during my visits to the prison that it was completely rigged, with the consent of President Pérez and, once he concluded his mandate, with the support of President Luis Herrera Campins and his secret police (DISIP), of which Posada Carriles had been commissioner.

Freddy Lugo shared a cell with one of the most notorious Cuban-born counterrevolutionaries, Orlando Bosch, something of a hero to him, who he always urged to tell his stories as a “fighter for democracy in Cuba.” Rubbing his hands together, Bosch enjoyed detailing his terrorist acts. Thus I came to the conclusion that this man, with such a criminal record and already imprisoned, was most probably involved in the downing of the Cubana de Aviación DC-8 aircraft.

I felt very tense when this man with an inquisitive look, behind thick glasses, was before me. He insisted on providing me with even the smallest details of how to place bombs in Cuban embassies and consulates abroad, as well as the offices of Cubana de Aviación and others dedicated to tourism on the island.

They were very disturbing, difficult moments, charged with surprise, anger, and fear… because it really was frightening, my legs shook, but I tried to keep it together, almost without uttering a thing, as it was not necessary. Bosch took hold of the stage, gesticulating with his huge hands; sometimes he got up from his seat and relayed his crimes in a loud voice, as if before a captive audience.

It was then that I decided to investigate and report the case of the Cuban airliner using two primary sources, Bosch and Lugo.

Over the course of more than two years I visited the terrorists in the San Carlos prison. There I met Bosch’s wife, Chilean Adriana Delgado, and Nieves de Posada, the wife of Posada Carriles. I came into close contact with both, we always ran into each other during visits and they contributed useful data for the investigative journalism piece I was working on.

The two, imprudent and talkative, confirmed everything Bosch said about his efforts “to free the long-suffering homeland” along with Posada Carriles. Nieves, a secondary but very valuable source, boasted that her husband had managed to train in the CIA and was an explosives expert.

This woman was key to discovering how Posada Carriles planned the bombing of the Cubana airliner together with Orlando Bosch, as well as other criminal acts of Cuban counterrevolutionary groups, including the assassination of Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his secretary Ronni Moffit, in Washington, three months before the midair explosion over Barbados.

They told me everything. Lugo explained step by step how they placed the bomb in the toilet at the rear of the plane. Bosch, in an angry outburst in my presence, said that he had blown up a plane full of Communists. According to declassified FBI files, Posada announced, “We are going to hit a Cuban airliner,” and Ricardo brazenly shouted for everyone in the exercise yard of the San Carlos prison to hear: “We planted the bomb, and so what?”

I have broadly recalled episodes of that moment that changed my life forever. Once I learned that these men were the murderers of 73 innocent people aboard the CU-455 flight, a decisive decision lay before me: to denounce them or to keep quiet, and automatically become an accomplice. I opted to report them and was obliged do so outside of my home country to protect my life from the Christian Social Party (COPEI) government assassins of Luis Herrera Campins.

In September 1980, on hearing that a military court had acquitted the four terrorists on the grounds that the evidence which served as the basis for the charges was “destroyed,” I called a press conference with domestic and foreign media in Mexico City and denounced those responsible for the attack. I revealed everything I was told about its planning and execution, and the complicity of the governments of Carlos Andrés Pérez and Luis Herrera Campins.

I also referred to a series of terrorist acts committed in other countries by Bosch and Posada Carriles resulting in death and destruction, and particularly alerted the international community about the intention of these criminals to continue to commit such acts against Cuba and its people.

This accusation was subsequently expanded on in my book We planted the bomb… and so what? in reference to Hernán Ricardo’s cry, the perpetrator, along with Freddy Lugo, of this monstrous crime.

Twenty-five years after the publication of my research, a new expanded edition of the book including CIA and FBI declassified documents on the attack on the Cuban airliner was launched, which fully corroborated my claims, thus dismantling the right wing media campaign maintaining that the story had been manufactured to favor the Cuban Revolution.

september 19, 2016 17:09:54


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1 Comment

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One response to “Looking into the eyes of the terrorists who blew up a Cuban plane

  1. Pingback: This day. The Barbados crime, Cubana flight 455 (I) | Tony Seed's Weblog

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