Cuba Documents US-Sponsored Terrorism
The following is a report from the April 16 edition of Granma based on Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roques April 11, 2003 press conference in Havana. He presented an extensive report documenting the role of the United States in recruiting paid agents to carry out a variety of criminal activities, including terrorist acts, designed to destabilize Cuba. Roque also responded in great detail to questions from reporters.
The head of the United States Interests Section is at the forefront of a conscious plan to stimulate illegal emigration via acts of terrorism with the objective of casting aside the migratory agreements between the two countries and creating a chaotic situation. The objective is to stimulate mass migration, obliging Washington to take aggressive action to avoid it. The granting of visas has decreased to 2.5 percent of the minimum volume allowed in the agreement.
All these actions, sponsored by U.S. tolerance and the indiscriminate application of the Cuban Adjustment Act, have led to seven registered aircraft and maritime vessel hijackings in the last seven months, all serious acts of terrorism where the protagonists used violence and placed hundreds of people, a large number of them women and children, in great danger.
The Cuban authorities have revealed that these incidents, directed at utilizing illegal emigration to the United States, are part of a conscious plan.
It is worth recalling that the migratory agreement signed by the governments of both countries states: would-be immigrants rescued at sea attempting to reach the United States will not be allowed to enter. Similarly, both governments will take effective measures to oppose and prevent the use of violence by persons trying to reach, or who succeed in reaching, the United States from Cuba by forcefully diverting aircraft and maritime vessels.
Nevertheless, the U.S. authorities have accepted and even released the perpetrators of such crimes involving violence and the use of firearms, grenades and knives, punishable under international law, to which the United States supposedly adheres.
During a press conference, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque recalled that in four of the recent cases, hijackers who committed acts of terrorism are now at liberty, as has occurred in Miami, where individuals who killed to divert vessels and aircraft are also on the street. Likewise roaming free in that city is Orlando Bosch, one of the main authors of the mid-air explosion of a Cubana Aviation passenger liner over Barbados, a criminal act that killed the 73 passengers and crew on board.
It was also demonstrated that James Cason, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, has intensified his activities with dissident elements in the hope of creating a fifth column on the island to undertake counterrevolutionary activities in line with the Helms-Burton Act, which promotes subversion on the island. As part of those plans, he was responsible for delivering money and items to those people, as was proven in the summary procedure trial against 75 detainees, sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years.
All the judicial processes were instructed with a penal nature in virtue of Law number 5 of 1977 and the Criminal Proceedings Law of 1973, which dates back to the Criminal Prosecution Law established in the Spanish colony in 1888.
Those accused were participating in conspiratorial meetings with Cason, receiving money and delivering distorted information for the application of the Helms-Burton Act, which intensifies a blockade of Cuba that has cost the country some $70 billion USD. The U.S. foreign aid agency USAID assigned $22 million USD from 1997 for subversion in Cuba. Of that total, more than $8 million was spent in 2002.
The most recent acts of terrorism
On March 18, a DC-3 passenger plane traveling from the Isle of Youth to Havana with 37 people aboard was hijacked by six individuals armed with knives, who forced the pilots to fly the plane to the United States. On March 31, a terrorist armed with grenades hijacked an AN-22 aircraft covering the same route, this time carrying 40 adults and six children, and demanded that the pilots redirect the flight to the United States. Both aircraft were confiscated there.
A little over 24 hours later, on April 2, the hijacking of one of the passenger ferries used to transport people from Havana to the suburb of Casablanca occurred.
At knife- and gunpoint, the terrorists took the ferry to 30 miles off the Cuba coast where the vessel ran out of fuel with 34 passengers and crew aboard.
They demanded a new vessel so they could continue towards Florida; if their request was not met they would begin throwing hostages into the sea, which at that point and location had reached force four.
As is the normal practice, the Cuban Border Patrol reported the case to the U.S. Coast Guard service, which responded that it was not prepared to act in this case, as it had always done in the past.
Cuban Border Patrol units stayed close to the ferry and continued negotiations with the terrorists in the hope of convincing them to abandon their plans. Finally, the ferry was towed back to the port of Mariel, where the hijackers continued to demand fuel in exchange for the hostages lives, until two of them (French tourists) jumped overboard and made it possible for Cuban special forces to board the ferry and capture the terrorists.
Death penalty for three assailants
Summoned before the Crimes against State Security courtroom in City of Havana Peoples Court, three of the assailants were given the death penalty, four were sentenced to life imprisonment and the others received various prison terms.
Those accused were answering charges for the hijacking and attempted violent rerouting to the United States of the Baraguá ferry. This hijacking was accompanied by extreme violence and death threats to the crew and passengers on board the ferry in service in the Bay of Havana, and seriously endangered the lives of dozens of people taken hostage who were at the point of perishing when, 30 miles from our coast, the vessel, designed for navigating in off-shore waters, ran out of fuel in a force-four sea and could easily have sunk before the arrival of the Border Patrol units to lend assistance.
The Court applied the summary proceedings system laid down in Articles 479 and 480 of the Criminal Law Proceedings, with full respect for the guarantees and basic rights of the accused. The three men given the death sentence were allocated the immediate recourse of appeal to the Peoples Supreme Court, the maximum justice agency, which duly held a new trial in which the sentence was ratified.
The maximum penalty sentences were subsequently officially referred to the consideration of the Council of State. During a lengthy meeting called to this effect the collective discussed in all detail the proven facts giving rise to the sentence, the gravity of the same, and the potential danger they implied for both the lives of a large number of innocent persons and for the security of the country, subjected to a sinister plan of provocations hatched by the most extremist sectors of the U.S. government and its allies among the Miami terrorist mafia, with the sole objective of creating conditions and pretexts for attacking our homeland, which will be defended at any price necessary. The Council of State viewed the sentences as absolutely just and the decisions of both courts in strict adherence to the laws, and ratified the sentences.
On April 8, at a Revolutionary Armed Forces fuel reserve depot in the village of La Fe on the Isle of Youth, five individuals stole an AK-M rifle from a guard undertaking military service. Some hours later, four of the assailants were captured close to the airport. In the getaway vehicle, the authorities seized the stolen weapon plus three magazines, two knives and exercise weights. The plan was to board the last remaining flight of the day, taking the passengers and crew hostage and forcing them to fly to the United States.
Abrupt reduction of visas
According to the Migration Agreement signed between both countries, the government of the United States is committed to granting 20,000 emigrant visas per year.
Each year of the agreement commences on October 1. Between October 1 and February 28, the first five months of the current period, Washington has granted 505 visas. During the same period last year 7,237 visas were granted; in 2001, over 8,300; in 2000, 10,860; and in 1999 some 11,600 Cubans received visas and emigrated to the United States.
What does this abrupt reduction in visas, in plain violation of the Migratory Agreement, imply? Why is the U.S. government not meeting its commitment? Why have five months passed during which nothing like 10,000 (half the total of) Cubans have been granted visas but instead barely 2.5 percent of the total visas agreed have been conceded? These questions were posed by Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque during his press conference on April 9.
In the press conference the Cuban government revealed documentary evidence in the form of checks received by State Security agents and statements by those Cuban agents who infiltrated the dissident groups.
Granma, April 16, 2003