From Socialist Voice, October 2009


The untold story of the Cuban Five

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada

In the mid and late nineties, attracting foreign tourism was one of the few possibilities of earning much-needed hard currency. Knowing that, Washington reinforced its sanctions and threats against foreign companies investing in Cuba or having any transactions with the country. Coincidentally, the so-called Cuban-American National Foundation and other anti-Cuba terrorist groups openly declared such visitors “enemies” and justified violent attacks against them.
     As tourists were arriving in Cuba in larger numbers, a series of bombs exploded, and others were found at our hotels and beach resorts in 1997 and 1998. From April to September 1997 these attacks had the city of Havana as their main target. As a result, four people were wounded on the 12th of July when bombs exploded at the Nacional and Capri Hotels.
     On the 4th of September explosions occurred almost simultaneously in the Copacabana, Chateau and Triton Hotels and at a Havana restaurant. In the Copacabana a 22-year-old Italian tourist, Fabio di Celmo, was killed.
     On the 11th of August 1997, in the middle of that terrorist campaign, CANF made public a statement describing it as “incidents of internal rebellion which have been taking place in Cuba over the last few weeks” and stating that “the Cuban-American National Foundation supports these without hesitation or reservations.”
     These acts were not “internal,” much less a “rebellion.” Some Central American mercenaries arrested in Havana had admitted that they were acting under the instructions of Luis Posada Carriles, a fugitive criminal who had escaped from trial for masterminding in 1976 the first mid-air destruction of a civil aeroplane.
     Posada now enjoys total immunity in Miami. On the 12th of July 1998, in a front-page interview with the New York Times, Posada Carriles admitted full responsibility for the new terrorist attacks, recognised that he was financed by CANF, and cynically referred to Fabio di Celmo as a person “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” whose death didn’t disturb him. Posada said he was able to “sleep like a baby.” He repeated similar words in front of a television camera on a programme broadcast throughout the United States.
     Between March and April 1998, Cuba was approached several times by the US State Department and its representatives in Havana to share with us some sensitive information they had got, the gravest of all relating to possible attacks on civilian aeroplanes flying to Cuba. We spent hours jointly examining intelligence that the Americans considered so credible that the Federal Aviation Administration issued a special warning to air companies.
     In view of those positive exchanges, Fidel took a very important initiative. Gabriel García Márquez, a well-recognised friend of Cuba and of the leader of its Revolution, would be travelling soon to attend a conference at Princeton University in New Jersey and was expected to meet President Clinton, a reader and admirer—like many millions—of the Nobel Laureate in Literature.
     On the 18th of April, Fidel personally drafted a message to Clinton and gave it to Gabo, who arrived in Washington on the 1st of May. He waited for several days “in my impersonal room at the Washington hotel, where I spent up to ten hours a day writing. However, even if I refused to admit it, the true reason for my confinement was the custody of the message lying in the safety box . . . I devoted myself to its custody while I continued to write, to eat my meals and to receive my visits in the hotel room.”
     Unable to receive García Márquez personally, President Clinton arranged for some of his closest associates to meet him at the White House on the 6th of May.
     According to Gabo’s report, Fidel’s message was taken very seriously. One after the other they read it with keen interest. Richard Clarke, a senior official at the National Security Council, said “they would take immediate steps for a joint US-Cuba plan on terrorism.” James Dobbins, also a senior official at the NSC, concluded “that they would communicate with their embassy [sic] in Cuba to implement the project.” Mack McLarty “expressed his appreciation for the great importance of the message, worthy of the full attention of his Government, of which they would urgently take care.”
     In closing the meeting, McLarty said: “Your mission was in fact of utmost importance, and you have discharged it very well.”
     Both Fidel’s message and García Márquez’s entire and fascinating description of his mission were published, unedited, by Fidel Castro in a special public address on the 20th of May 2005. Having concluded such a delicate task, Gabo was happy, almost completely happy. “My only frustration on the way back to the hotel was not having discovered and enjoyed till then the miracle of the cherries in blossom during that superb spring season.
     “I barely had time to pack my bags and catch the flight at five that afternoon. The plane that had brought me from Mexico fourteen days earlier had had to return to base with a broken turbine, and we waited for four hours at the airport till there was another available flight. The one I took back to Mexico, after the meeting at the White House, was delayed in Washington for an hour and a half while they repaired the radar with the passengers on board.
     “Before landing in Mexico, five hours later, the plane had to hover over the city for almost two hours because of an out-of-service runway. Ever since I began flying fifty-two years ago I never had gone through anything like this. But then, it couldn’t be any other way for a peaceful adventure that will for ever hold a privileged place in my memories.”

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