Reseñas de Casos

Los informes y resúmenes en esta página representan una mera fracción de los miles de casos documentados por Archivo Cuba. Vaya a la Base de Datos, en el menú de la izquierda para mayor detalle sobre cualquiera de los casos en los informes. (La base de datos sólo está disponible en inglés.)

Si tiene información sobre alguna víctima del proceso político cubano, por favor aporte los datos del caso aunque éste aparezca en la base de datos. Se le agradece si imprime una planilla y nos la envía con fotos o documentos que pudiera tener. Presione aquí  planilla_de_datos

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37 víctimas, incluyendo 11 niños

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ISKANDER MALERAS PEDRAZA, 26 años. Asesinado junto a LUIS ANGEL VALVERDE LINFERNAL al intentar llegar a la base naval de Guantánamo el 19 de enero del 1994.

Fecha de nacimiento: 15 de septiembre del 1967.
Residencia: San Gregorio 961, Guantánamo, Cuba.
Afiliaciones: CTC (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba).
Era el más joven de tres hijos (tenía una hermana y un hermano).

Testimonio de la madre, Eulalia Nilda Pedraza.

Aunque Iskander era un joven trabajador, criticaba abiertamente al gobierno y se manifestaba públicamente contra Fidel Castro. Ya lo tenían obstinado, por cualquier cosa que pasaba, venían a buscarlo. Fue investigado, acosado, intimidado, y perseguido por agentes de la policía política, la Seguridad de Estado, el Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones, y los informantes de la cuadra. Fue objeto de innumerables citaciones oficiales, detenciones arbitrarias, registros domiciliarios, y hasta tres meses de arresto. Lo involucraron en un delito común sólo para encarcelarlo, pero tuvieron que absolverlo cuando uno de los implicados declaró que ni siquiera lo conocían y que el agente policial Moso los había instado a implicarlo. Moso le había prometido a Iskander que no descansaría hasta verlo preso.  El se juntó con otros tres en sus ansias de vivir en libertad. El más amigo de él era Luis Ángel (le decían Jelín). Tenía esposa y dos hijos y vivía en Santiago. Los dos se unieron a Luis Gustavo Matos y a Eduardo Serante González y se tiraron al mar para pedir asilo en la Base Naval de Estados Unidos en Guantánamo.  El único que no sabía nadar era Iskander. Iba sobre la diminuta y rústica balsa.  Los otros la arrastraban y trataban de que el oleaje no la volcara.  Jelín, quien tenía puesto un traje de buzo, le dijo que lo protegería y así lo hizo, según contaron los sobrevivientes. El mar estaba muy picado, había muchas olas, y él iba al lado de Iskander, cuidando de que no se fuera a caer. El problema fue que no esperaron la noche y se tiraron antes de la puesta del sol. Ya llegando a la base, cerca de la orilla, los divisaron desde la Garita 1 de Playa Canchera, a unos 50 metros de la Base Naval de Guantánamo de los Estados Unidos. Les abrieron fuego sin previo aviso con ametralladoras AKM. Los jóvenes trataron de sumergirse para protegerse, pero Iskander iba sobre la balsa.  La garita queda a lo alto, sobre unas rocas. Cuando les tiraron, los otros dos gritaban que detuvieran el fuego y que sus compañeros estaban heridos. De la garita les ordenaron subirlos a las rocas, y así lo hicieron. Pensaban que estaban heridos, pero estaban muertos.  Eduardo subió con una soga que le tiraron. Luego fue enjuiciado y sentenciado a arresto domiciliario. Se enfermó de los nervios del trauma. Vive ahora en Miami y tiene los documentos del juicio.  Luis Gustavo Matos, estaba herido en el pie. Le dijeron que se esperara, pero se demoraban, probablemente para que se desangrara. Ya había estado preso en Boniato, así que se tiró al mar y, entrando la noche, logró llegar a la base.  A nosotros nos mintieron ese día. Vinieron con el carnet de identidad preguntando por él entre los vecinos. Luego nos dijeron que había muerto puesto por las minas a la entrada de la base. Mientras la hermana de Luis Ángel nos acompañaba en nuestra   pena, no nos dijeron que su hermano también había sido asesinado. Fueron esa noche a casa de la madre, una viejita que vivía sola. Se desmayó al darle la noticia. Ya murió en Cuba.  Llevaron los cadáveres al hospital y la médico forense se negó a mentir sobre la causa de muerte. Allí hubo un rollo. Así que el certificado de defunción sólo dice fecha y lugar de muerte, no la causa.  Al escaparse Gustavo, el gobierno no tuvo más remedio que reconocer que les habían tirado. Había mucha conmoción en el pueblo. Esa noche, jóvenes en motorcicleta desfilaron frente al cementerio y nuestra casa, gritando su nombre como homenaje póstumo.  El General del Ejército, Ulises Rosales del Toro, y Roberto Robaina, en ese entonces Primer Secretario de la UJC (Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas), fueron para Guantánamo y hablaron por la radio, acusándolos de “traidores de la patria,” “antisociales” y “baseros,” no “balseros.”  No dejaron entrar a la gente que se aglomeró frente al cementerio. Tampoco nos permitieron recibirlos en nuestra casa. No nos dejaron velar su cuerpo ni enterrarlo en el panteón familiar.  Dos días después del asesinato, los enterraron a los dos directamente en la tierra, en un patio del cementerio destinado a las víctimas de las entradas fallidas a la base, donde no se marcan las tumbas. Había patrullas de Seguridad de Estado apostadas en las calles y vigilando la tumba.  A los dos años, los sacamos y vimos como los habían enterrado desnudos. La ropa de Iskander, con los hoyos de la balas, estaba enrollada y metida en el féretro de Luis Ángel. El traje de buzo de él no estaba, deben habérselo robado.  Yo me negué a callar. Iba todos los días caminando al cementerio en protesta. La gente se paraba a verme. Vi como muchas veces venían a enterrar personas, pero sin deudos. Algunos eran viejitos del asilo, pero pienso que muchos eran asesinados tratando de entrar a la base.  Fui al juicio de Gustavo y Eduardo. Pero no aparecieron los responsables, José Antonio Barceló Escalona e Iván Ricardo  Pérez Ramírez. Los trasladaron para protegerlos, pero antes los condecoraron por “cumplimiento del deber.”

Iskander’s sister, Nilda Maleras, and Iskander’s mother, Eulalia Nilda Pedraza

A nosotros, sus padres y hermanos, esto nos marcó para siempre. Fue un crimen alevoso y cruel que nos arrancó un pedazo de nuestro corazón. Como madre, me sentí impotente y humillada al no recibir al menos una disculpa. Mis hijos, Nilda y Antonio, fueron acosados y perseguidos. A Nilda, quien era profesora universitaria, la echaron de su trabajo.  Tuvimos que emigrar, muriendo mi esposo en Cuba antes de reunificarse nuestra familia. Vine para el exilio hace seis años.  Iskander poseía una gracia natural que atraía simpatías hasta en sus travesuras infantiles. Era de carácter afable y bondadoso, sobre todo con las personas mayores y desvalidos con los que compartía desde un cigarro hasta la comida, ropas, y zapatos. Tenía muchos amigos, blancos y negros, mayores y menores. No era capaz de delatar a nadie aun a costa de su propia libertad. Su entretenimiento favorito eran su bicicleta y una pequeña motocicleta. Pasaba horas dándole mantenimiento.  Se dieron informes de lo sucedido por Radio Martí, gracias a una organización allá en Cuba dirigida por Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia.  Los vecinos también lo denunciaban. No sé porque no se habla sobre ellos ni otros como ellos.  Fuentes: Entrevistas telefónicas con la madre de Iskander, Eulalia Pedraza, residente en Miami, marzo y abril del 2006. Entrevista telefónica con uno de los sobrevivientes, Eduardo Serante, abril 2006. LaNuevaCuba.com “Un crimen a sangre fría: el asesinato de Iskander Maleras Pedraza y Luis Ángel Valverde Linfernal.” Copia de la causa del juicio de Matos y Serante.

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Víctima: Vicente Fleitasvicentefleitas

 

Cuñados fusilados el 1ro de octubr del 1982 en la prisión Fortaleza de  La Cabaña Fortress Prison en La Habana. Se presume que los dos primos, que murieron de supuestos suicidios en hechos separados y en distintas prisiones, fueron asesinados.
  
Presione aquí para bajar el documento  doc Familia Toledo 
Armando Hernández González, Age 29

Ramón Toledo Lugo, Age 39

*Disponible solo en Inglés

Roberto Pereda López, in his 40s. Disappeared September 26, 1972.

Pereda was a research scientist with the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas(CENIC)in Havana. In the early 1960s, a close friend, scientist Yamil Kourí, got in trouble with the law and was sent to prison. The friendship with Kourí had marked Pereda as suspicious.

Later, at CENIC, Pereda refused to carry out certain scientific work and openly declared himself against the government. He told his family his life was at risk.  On September 26, 1972 he left for work and was never found again. He left two sons, ages twelve and thirteen.

In 1977, five years after his father disappeared, the older son Alex had to enter the obligatory military service. He refused to go on an internationalist mission overseas, saying he opposed the government and wouldn’t kill on its behalf. He was sentenced to three years of prison. Alex Pereda was 17 at the time of incarceration at Nieves Morejón Prison, Santi Spiritus, in Las Villas, province (a prison that is now closed). In prison, Alex took part in a protest with fellow political prisoners, demanding they be held separate from common prisoners. A fight with the guards ensued and he was sentenced to four more years in prison.

During his imprisonment, Alex befriended two men serving sentences for common crimes (non political). Peñate (he did not know his first name), who was in his 30s, was a taxi driver from Havana imprisoned for killing a woman, although he always sustained his innocence. “Samurai,” was in his 20s, was from Jatibonico, Sancti Spiritus province, and did not have a family. He did not know his real name, as they only used the nickname he was given in prison for having beheaded a man with a machete.  In 1982 or 1983, Peñate, Samurai and a few others, started a group in prison to allegedly overthrow Fidel Castro. When prison authorities found out, Samurai disappeared and Peñate was found dead, hanging in his cell. Fellow prisoners presumed he had been killed by prison authorities, as he was not suicidal.

Released in 1984, Alex left Cuba in 1988 for the United States and currently lives in Miami.

*Disponible solo en Inglés

PEPE MILLÁN, ONE OF NINE VICTIMS

José Santos Millán Velasco
Age 31
November 1, 1929 – April 22, 1961

José, “Pepe,” was born in Mexico City unexpectedly, as all his family was Cuban.  His mother, Isabel, had given birth prematurely while accompanying his father, José, during a tour as a professional jai-alai player.

Pepe studied law at the University of Villanueva in Havana, but was an avid sportsman, competing in both crew and swimming. After college, he followed in his father’s path and became a professional jai-alai player.  In 1955, he married his neighbor Myrna Pardo. They had two children in short order, Myrna María and José Ángel.

Myrna’s father had been a member of Cuba’s House of Representatives, belonging to a party that had supported Batista in the last elections held in Cuba before Batista’s coup d’etat.  Even though he had opposed Batista’s takeover, the alarming wave of violence that followed the Revolutionary triumph convinced him to seek refuge in Miami.  Batista supporters, real or suspected, were being rounded up and sent to prison and to the firing squads in large numbers.

In February 1959, Myrna’s parents left for exile in Florida.  A few months later, she, Pepe, and the children went to Miami to visit them. They had planned to return to Cuba, but Pepe decided they had to stay, as the situation in Cuba was getting worse and he had been concerned about Communist influence within the Rebel Army since its days fighting Batista.  Myrna was shocked to find herself so unexpectedly leaving behind their beloved Cuba and their small beachside home with all of their belongings.  But, as most people who were leaving, they thought the situation in Cuba would soon be resolved and they would be able to go back home.

In Miami, their daughter Delia Isabel was born and Pepe was hired to play jai alai.  Although in Cuba he had not been politically active, in exile he soon became involved in several political groups.  His concern for his country’s future grew as the Castro regime committed itself to a communist path.  Because he wanted his children to grow up in Cuba, when the 2506 Brigade was formed to invade the island and overthrow Castro,  Pepe convinced Myrna that he had to help free Cuba.  They both felt, as devoted Catholics, that it was their Christian duty.  Pepe had also long admired the United States for its role in freeing Europe during the First and Second World Wars.

Pepe left in January of 1961 to train with the Brigade. He was sent to the training camps in Guatemala, although all the families of Brigade members ignored the whereabouts of their loved ones.  Pepe trained in the Heavy Arms’ Batallion and obtained the rank of Mayor.  His letters to his wife speak about how he attended mass and took communion daily and how he felt entirely in the hands of God.

From the camps, the invaders went straight to Cuba.  Early on April 17th 1961, the invasion landed on the southern coast of Cuba, at the Bay of Pigs. That night, as the men headed to the beachhead, Myrna had a dream that Pepe had called her on the telephone.  When she asked if they had won, he responded: “We have neither lost nor won. But be calm. Whatever you hear, be calm, be calm.”

President Kennedy made last minute decisions to conceal U.S. involvement that crippled the invasion plan.  After three days of arduous fighting, it was clear the effort had failed. Pepe was in a small group attempting to reach the Escambray Mountains to the north, seeking to join the resistance there.  Exhausted and disheartened, on April 21st they were taken prisoners while gathering water at a nearby pond.  They were taken to small shacks that were part of a local tourist beach facility at Girón beach.  Castroite militias spit on them, hurled insults, threatened to execute them, and brutally attacked some of the prisoners. Pepe was beaten despite having visible battle injuries to the head.

A few fellow Brigade members were executed on the spot. Early on the following day, they were loaded with over a hundred other prisoners onto a forty-foot sealed trailer (“rastra”) used to transport frozen merchandise. Several dozen of the men were injured; most had not eaten or slept for days.  They were to be taken to a prison in the capital city of Havana, 250 miles to the northeast.  Despite the sweltering heat, the refrigeration system was not turned on. The men were lined up and those whose names were called were thrust into the trailer.

Commander Osmani Cienfuegos, Cuba’s Minister of Public Works, was in charge of transporting the prisoners.  To the protests that the trailer had no ventilation, he is reported to have responded:  «Why would we care if they all asphyxiate to death?  That would spare us of having to execute them. Bring me forty more pigs!”»  Once it was impossible to shove more men into the trailer, the doors were forced shut for the trip to Havana. It had already been three hours since the first men had been led into the trailer.

Inside the rolling prison, a terrifying version of hell unfolded.  In total darkness and blistering heat, air was soon lacking. A rising tide of sweat and urine covered the floor and condensed into a hideous mist over their heads. The stench was unbearable. Soon, men began to pass out on top of each other. Some prayed aloud, others became crazed.

The truck, moving at a grueling pace, stopped several times along the way, presumably for the guards to eat and rest.  Each time it stopped, the prisoners tried to turn the truck over by pushing against the sides.   But the guards ignored the knocks and screams coming from inside. Some believe the leisurely pace was premeditated, intended as a slow delivery of a death sentence.

With their belt buckles, some men managed to carve small holes that allowed for a minimal amount of air to seep in.  Some of those who were near death were passed from shoulder to shoulder to place them near the small cracks, in desperate attempts to revive them.  But, men began to die.

Pepe was next to fellow Brigader Emilio Valdés Calderón.  It took decades for him to muster the courage to face Pepe’s family and tell them what he witnessed.  He told them how Pepe had been praying the rosary. Suddenly, he jumped up and hit him on the face unintentionally. He then told him his name, said he had a wife and children in Miami, whom he loved dearly, and asked for him to tell them how he died.  Pepe told him he had Christ in front of him and knew he was about to die, but that they (presumably those next to him) would be saved.  Moments later, he fell dead.

Another Brigade member, Carlos Bravo, has recounted how Pepe was next to him, unable to stand due to the injuries he had from the beatings.  In the dark chaos and desperation inside the trailer, Pepe was praying the rosary and asked God to forgive their killers, as Christ had done on his cross.  Moments before his death,

Bravo heard him cry out smiling that he saw the cross. When his body was carried out from the truck, the guards could not yank from his hands the rosary he was still clutching.

Eight to nine hours after it left the Bay of Pigs, when the truck reached its final destination at Havana’s Palacio de los Deportes stadium, the doors were finally opened.   Pepe and eight others lay dead.  Shortly after their arrival, another man died.  The survivors could barely walk, many had to be carried out.

At the stadium, members of the Cuban military who witnessed the massacre did not hide their displeasure.  Survivors estimate that between one hundred and one hundred sixty men had been piled into the trailer.

Back home, the family was desperate for news, distraught by the failure of the expedition.  Pepe’s name had appeared on a list of survivors published in a Cuban newspaper on April 21st which had been brought from Cuba and delivered to the family in May. But, the initial relief turned to crushing sadness when they received a letter from a survivor in prison, learning not only of his death, but also of the horrific circumstances.

The young widow and their three children -ages four, three, and a few months old- were left in dire economic straits and emotional turmoil. Pepe’s parents were devastated and died just a few years afterwards in exile. The oldest daughter insisted on mailing her drawings to her dad, as she had done when he was in the training camps. The younger daughter kept asking why they couldn’t at least talk to him on the phone.  And, when the son who had been three when his father died was about seven, he said that what he wanted when he grew up was to go to heaven with his Daddy.

 

EIGHT OTHER VICTIMS OF THE TRAILER TRUCK MASSACRE

Alfredo José Cervantes Lago, José Daniel Vilarello Tabares, Hermilio Benjamín Quintana Pereda, Jose Ignacio Maciá del Monte, Santos Ramos Alvarez, Pedro Rojas Mir, René Silva Soublete and Moisés Santana González.

Alfredo “Cuco” José Cervantes Lago had been an executive at Standard Oil in Cuba. He had become an activist in the struggle against Batista, but turned against the Castro government soon after the Revolution came to power, realizing it was putting in place a Communist dictatorship.  At age 27 he married Rosa Maria (“Ia”) Fryere, who was only eighteen. They left Cuba in 1960, taking exile in Miami with their daughter “Rosita,” who was just a few months old. Like other Cubans who left, the government allowed them to take $150 and the jewelry they were wearing. Also like most other exiles, they thought they would be going back soon, believing the United States would not allow a Communist dictatorship just 90 miles from its shores.

In Miami Cuco and Rosa Maria’s brother “Tito,” who was only eighteen, decided to join the 2506 Brigade. Rosa Maria recounts how she believed it was heroic and beautiful and never thought things would turn out like they did.  Cuco, who suffered from asthma, died in the trailer truck. At first Rosa Maria thought it was a lie. But, his parents in Cuba identified the body. She had just turned twenty, had a small child, and was overwhelmed by sorrow. Her sister “Conchita” urged her to confront her pain with dignity, telling her “You have been given a cross and a hardship. Today you must choose between being admired or pitied. It is in your hands.” Those words stayed with Rosa Maria forever. Conchita died just a few years later of leukemia.

Hermilio Benjamín Quintana Pereda, 34 years old, was a graduate of Havana’s School of Journalism and worked for Cuba’s electric company.

Pedro Rojas Mir was from Victoria de las Tunas.

René Silva Soublete, 22 years old, was an engineering student.

José Ignacio Macía del Monte, 38 years old and a father of four, was a sugar cane grower.

See short interview with daughter Cecile Macia de Sanchez in Multimedia section of this website and coverage in Spanish: “Una herida que no cicatriza, (“A wound that does not heal”), El Nuevo Herald, April 13, 2011.

http://www.elnuevoherald.com/2011/04/12/921373/daniel-shoer-roth-una-herida-que.html?story_link=email_msg

Sources
Cruz, Máximo. “La rastra de la muerte,” Girón, Órgano Oficial de la Asociación de Veteranos de Bahía de Cochinos Brigada de Asalto 2506, enero-abril 2008, p. 13.

De la Vega, Benjamín. «Yo iba en la rastra de la muerte: Narración del Brigadista Emilio Valdés Calderón,” Reportaje especial,  Revista Tridente (www.autentico.org).

García Negrín, Ricardo. “Historia de cuatro jovenes,” Manuscrito. Ponce, Puerto Rico, 28 de abril del 1989.

Fernández Veiga, Rolando.  “Pepe Millán,” Diario Las Américas, date unknown.

Lynch, Grayston L.  Decision for Distaster: Betrayal at Bay of Pigs, Washington: Breassey’s Inc. 1998.
Maciá Sánchez, Cecile. Photographs provided to Cuba Archive, February 20, 2007.

Pardo Millán, Myrna.  Telephone interviews, july 13, 2006.

Pardo Millán, Myrna. Written testimony, April 2005 and July 2006.

Triay, Victor Andres.  Bay of Pigs: An Oral History of Brigade 2506. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

 

Posted 12/29/2007

*Disponible solo en Inglés

Rosario López Gómez (de Marquez), Age 56

Died September 29, 1964, of medical negligence while imprisoned for a political cause

Rosario’s family was from the north of Camaguey province. The whole family was accused and tried for helping the rebels in the mountains tried (Docket No. 533 of 1964). The husband and one son served 12 years in prison, another son served 18 years. Rosario was sent with other women in similar circumstances to a mansion in Miramar, Havana, left by a family that had fled the island, that had been turned into a detention center. She was denied medical treatment for her high blood pressure and died of a heart attack.

Sources: Interviews, in person and by telephone with Amado Marquez, son, 2005- 2007. Cuban American National Foundation, Quilt of Fidel Castro’s Genocide, 1994. WAQI-Radio Mambí, List of victims, p. 41.

*Disponible solo en Inglés

Jaime Parera Perán, Age 27.

Assassinated May 12, 1965 at “El Castillito,” State Security headquarters in Santiago de Cuba. Resident of Holguin, Oriente Province, Cuba. Radio-TV operations’ specialist.

The year before his arrest, Parera had resigned from his post as head of the Radio and TV station for State Security in Holguín, refusing to collaborate any longer with the government. Although he and his family had been staunch revolutionaries in the struggle against the Batista regime, they had become disaffected with the Castro regime. Parera had been arrested and held incommunicado at State Security headquarters, accused of being a “counter-revolutionary.” Approximately three months later, a police car came to his family’s home to inform them he had died. That same night, an ambulance delivered the body. No explanation was given and a death certificate was not provided. The authorities said they would return with documents, but never did. A forensic specialist who was a family friend examined the body. Parera’s hands were burned and he had swallowed his tongue. His conclusion was that he had died of asphyxia after receiving electric shocks (torture).   He left a wife, a six-month old son, and a four-year old daughter.

Source: Written and telephone testimony (April 2006) of brother, resident of Miami, Florida, who left Cuba in 1994.

 

To download Case Profile click here   parera_pern_jaime

*Disponible solo en Inglés

Thomas Willard Ray, Age 30
March 15, 1931 – April 19, 1961

From an early age, Pete Ray had dreamed of being a pilot. As a small boy growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, he lived up the hill from the Air National Guard’s base and watched planes take off or land all day long.  The pilots took notice of his presence year and year, and when Pete became a teenager, they would bring him on certain flights.

Convinced that flying was what he wanted, Pete played football in school and was class officer. Though not the brightest student, he was dedicated and persistent about his work. When one of his teachers asked why he was so enthusiastic about his studies, he said he wanted to become a pilot.  On his last day of high school, Pete did not even wait to receive his diploma. He was already making his way to Texas for military training. Too young to join, he had lied about his age.

Back in Alabama after training, Pete married his high school sweetheart, Margaret Rebecca Hayden.  They soon had two children, Thomas and Janet Joy.  From 1950 to 1952, Pete served in the Air Force. In December of 1952, he started working as an inspector for an aircraft modification company, the Hayes International Corporation. Meanwhile, he kept up his piloting skills flying for the Alabama National Guard.

In 1960 he took leave from Hayes and was in active duty, transitioning from flying with the Alabama Air National Guard to training to fly helicopters for the Army.  He was approached by the CIA to train Cuban pilots for three months in secret Guatemalan and Nicaraguan bases and then fly bombing raids for the Bay of Pigs Invasion itself. He left without telling his family where he was going.

The invasion of Cuba by the exile Brigade 2506 started on April 17th 1961. Pete flew a B-26 World War II-era bomber and wore no uniform to satisfy the U.S. government’s illusion that Americans were not involved.  When President John F. Kennedy changed the plan at the last minute, the American fighter jets scheduled near Cuba to escort his fleet abandoned him. Pete and three other Alabamian pilots were left alone to carry out their part of the invasion. Without the expected U.S. air support, the situation was an obvious death trap. Whether Pete knew of the last minute orders to keep the Americans out is unknown. But, it is certain that the decision to fly or to stay in Nicaragua was his. And, he flew.

Back in Alabama, Pete’s family received word of his disappearance and presumed death. On that fateful day of April 1961, six-year old Janet was at recess at Tarrant Elementary, across the street from her maternal grandparents’ house, when a shiny dark car pulled up at their house and three men dressed in suits got out. She knew something was unsusual. When school was out that day, she rushed back home to find her grandfather there looking somber and as if had been crying.  Her mother looked distraught and was barely able to talk.  Janet recalled the events for the Palm Beach Post:  “And what I didn’t realize is that it was that day that my mother slowly started to die. The bright, beautiful woman that I knew that was rated ‘most poised’ in her high school yearbook slowly began to die.”

Her mother told her to stay close to home because she had something important to tell her.  Janet later that the men in suits, U.S. government operatives, had come to tell her the story would be released to the press the following day.  All they said was that Pete had died in the Caribbean Sea, providing no other details.  Finally, she and her brother were told that God had come to take Daddy, who was now their guardian angel. After sobbing all day, she and her brother slept in their mother’s bed, all crying and crying.

They had last sent Pete three weeks before the invasion, when he had come home for a visit. Now, their lives were forever changed. The family lived secretively, they would not answer the phone, and she and her brother were not allowed to play outside.  Janet felt marked and isolated at school, where the sight of the railing adjacent to the school courtyard looked to her like prison bars, reminding her she had heard Castro kept people in jail.

Forever marked by her father’s disappearance and the mystery surrounding his whereabouts,  Janet grew up unwilling to accept her father death unless she found substantiating evidence. She was determined to find the truth and, most importantly, justice.

The U.S. government denied any involvement in the invasion and declared that any American involved had been a mercenary. But, Pete’s wife knew the government was lying to the public. Before leaving, he had told her of his work for the CIA. The Ray Family was horrified that their beloved Pete had died in service for his country, a country that was now denying him rightful recognition for his honor. Worse yet, they grew increasingly frightened as strangers made threats when they tried to uncover the truth.

Pete’s mother contacted the General in charge of the Air Base to try to find out more about her son’s death. The following day, a man was hired at the JC Penney where she worked. He walked up to her in the lunchroom and told her she would be in trouble if she didn’t stop asking questions about the Bay of Pigs and what had happened to her son. Several months later, when she quit, he quit.

Eighteen months after the invasion, Castro began releasing some of the prisoners. One day, as Janet was on her way home from school, a strange man stopped her and asked her, “Is your daddy coming home today?”  When she heard this, she dropped her books and ran home apprehensively. As the prisoners were flown into Homestead Air Base in Miami, Florida, Janet watched the television coverage in hopes of coming across her father’s familiar face, a face she so dearly longed to see.  Her father was not among the men coming home…

Janet’s love of her father and her loyalty to him led her on an eighteen-year search to find him and to find out what had happened to him.  As she got older, she would leave her tape recorder around the house to catch the adults’ conversations.  The eavesdropping provided her the names of other pilots or some of her father’s friends. She carefully wrote them down in a spiral notebook so she could find them later on. She saved newspaper articles on any related subject matter. When she was older, she would go to the local library to look up more information.  She carried with her everything she collected on her father, including an impression of his teeth. She knew that if she lost that material, it would hinder her search.

Beginning at age 15, in 1970, Janet wrote monthly letters to Fidel Castro seeking information about her father’s body. She wrote over two hundred letters during nine years without receiving a response.  When she got her driver’s license, her investigation gained momentum.  She traveled to libraries or to people’s homes. She made calls to those whose names she had gathered.  But, she was only met with refusals, as government officials had also threatened them.

The need for security before the Bay of Pigs operation might have been understandable in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. But, once Robert Kennedy publicly conceded in 1963 the role of the United States and of the CIA in planning the invasion, it was hard to comprehend the continued cloaking of the story of the four Americans.

As a college student on Spring Break, Janet traveled to Miami with a few of her friends. While they went to the beach, she wanted her questions answered. She roamed the streets of Little Havana in hopes of finding someone who knew of her father. She gathered information piece by piece.  The one thing she was told consistently was that her father had been a good pilot.

During more trips to Miami and visits with Cubans in exile there, Janet found comfort in sharing the pain that engulfed her.  She felt an instant kinship with the children of Cuban pilots who had never returned from the invasion. She was finally with people who understood her. And she realized why her father had given his life in an attempt to liberate Cuba.

Her trips to Miami also provided a new wealth of information on her father. She heard there was a body as well as photographs taken after his death. There were also rumors that a morgue in Havana was housing an American’s body.

As her hunt continued, Janet met her future husband, Mike Weininger, a pilot-in-training with the Air Force. She immediately felt comfortable -the smell of fuel and the flight suit reminded her of her dad. Though she didn’t talk much about her father with Mike, he fully supported her dedicated pursuit.

With the help of her cousin Tom Bailey, a Birmingham News journalist, Janet began to persuade politicians to help her. While she sent telegrams to the presidential palace in Cuba, she held a local letter writing campaign. She met Senator John Sparkman, whom she persuaded to work on the case, helping her write letters to Washington and to other influential people. She told Sparkman that the families of the four Americans had been  promised medals by the CIA that were never awarded. Shortly afterwards, the family was presented the highest awarded medal, the CIA’s Distinguished Intelligence Cross, and the Exceptional Service Medallion. Finally, Pete’s government had honored his “devotion to duty and dedication to the national interests of the United States.” The family had been told to keep it in secrecy, but Janet had her cousin journalist snap pictures of the men who came to deliver the award.

Janet continued to push for answers from government officials. While living at the Hahn Air Base in Germany with her husband, on the 18th anniversary of her father’s death, she received an envelope from Peter Wyden, who was writing a book on the invasion and had interviewed her months earlier. During the interview, he had mentioned coming across a picture taken by the Cuban government of two dead American pilots. The envelope contained a picture of her dead father.

In the summer of 1979, the Cuban government finally caved in to the pressure. Confirming it had Pete Ray’s body, it agreed to return it. For eighteen years it had remained frozen, intact, at a Havana morgue. They sent the Ray family a bill of over $30,000 for storage charges. Janet refused to pay. The body was still shipped back.

Pregnant with her first child, Janet waited at Birmingham Municipal Airport for the plane carrying her father’s body. Coincidentally, this was the same runway her father had taken off from some eighteen years prior.  At the morgue at Cooper Green Hospital, Janet, her husband, her cousin Tom Bailey, her brother, and her father’s brother sat in front of Pete’s coffin. Before the autopsy was performed, Janet insisted on seeing the body. She had traveled to far in her quest, she wanted to see for herself. She needed closure.

Thomas (Pete) Willard Ray was buried on December 8, 1979 with full military honors. There was a twenty-one-gun salute and four jets flew overhead in his memory. Janet tucked a five-page letter she had written him into the pocket of her father’s uniform.  It spoke of her happiness over his return home and how proud she was of him.  In it, she wrote to him that at first she didn’t understand why he had risked his life to fight in someone else’s war.  But, after years of talking to Cuban veterans and their families, she knew he had done it for the sake of freedom.

On July 21, 1980, Janet gave birth to a baby boy whom Mike and Janet named Pete in memory of her father. Several years later, they had a daughter, Christina. Over time, the story of what happened to Pete Ray was pieced together.  On the second day of the invasion, his B-26 had been hit by fire from a Cuban T-33 fighter just as it had finished a run bombing Castro’s headquarters at the Australian sugar mill. In a forced landing, the copilot, flight engineer Francis Baker, was killed.  Pete had survived the crash landing and had disembarked the plane with his pistol in hand, firing.  He was hit by automatic gunfire in the abdomen and right hand. As Cuban medics tended to his wounds at a Cuban medical installation, one of Castro’s militiamen, following orders of the Castro brothers, shot him pointblank to the right temple. The body had been kept in a freezer at a morgue and exhibited as a war trophy, pulled out on occasion to kick and spit on it.

In 1998, Janet went to the remote mountains of northern Nicaragua with the families of two Brigade 2506 pilots who died during the Bay of Pigs invasion on the return flight to the base in Nicaragua.  Her quest to bring home the pilots to their loved ones, for a burial with honor and dignity, she had secured funds from the CIA for a mission led by the U.S. Army after another persuasion campaign, knocking on doors of government officials, politicians, and other influential people, and repeatedly traveling to Washington. She helped recover the remains near the village of San Jose de Bocay in the Department of Jinotega.

When the mission was completed, Janet’s heart was broken with grief. She had to say good-bye to the local people who had lived and fought a war and now were forgotten, living in extreme poverty in a remote and rough terrain. So, she founded Wings of Valor Inc. (wingsofvalor.org), a non-profit organization “dedicated to rebuilding lives torn apart by war, poverty, and disaster.”  Over several years, she has delivered tons of humanitarian assistance to Nicaragua and other Central American countries.

After Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, Janet persuaded Delta Airlines to provide an airplane for her to bring aid to a remote area where no other humanitarian organizations are helping even today. When the well-funded humanitarian organizations weren’t willing to help in the remote areas, Janet called for the Calvary. The USAF Reserve unit at Homestead answered the call and volunteers mobilized the youth of the community to participate in Operation Backpack, a school relief project where schools were asked to donate those items that would have been throw away.  Some of Wings of Valor other projects include Operation Tambourine, a music relief project; Operation Team Spirit, a sports relief project; Operation Medic, a medical relief project; and Operation Needle and Thread, a sewing relief project. In some cases, the Organization of American States (OAS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) have provided assistance and transportation. Once at the destination, teams travel by mule into areas where no roads exist to reach those in need.

In the Spring of 2003, as the Castro government cracked down on dozens of peaceful dissidents and writers, Janet decided she would present a wrongful death case against the Fidel Castro and the Cuban government to seek some justice for its deeds. As 75 Cuban dissidents were sentenced to an average of 20 years in prison, Janet knocked on doors again and found a legal team that would represent her.  In November of 2004, she was awarded nearly $87 million for the execution of her father and the desecration of his body. $65 million were in punitive damages and another $18 million as compensatory damages for pain and suffering. More than $3.5 million was awarded to her father’s estate, for which Janet is the representative.

But, the funds for compensation, Cuban government funds held frozen for over four decades in U.S. bank accounts since the U.S. embargo was imposed, were not made available by the U.S. government.  In November of 2006, a New York federal judge  ordered J.P. Morgan bank to turn over $23.9 million in the frozen funds to Janet and $66 million to the family of Howard Anderson, which had won damages in 2004 against the Cuban government.

The plaintiffs used a 1996 law that allows victims of designated terrorist states to sue for damages. The 101-page ruling marked the first time that a 2002 anti-terrorism statute was applied to allow the terrorism victims to recover damages from blocked assets of a designated terrorist state. And it marked only the second time that families who sued the Cuban government for wrongful death claims could collect from the country’s frozen U.S. bank accounts. The families of Brothers to the Rescue pilots murdered by Cuban Air Force MIGS in 1996 had won judgments and had been compensated with frozen Cuban funds released at the order of the Clinton Administration.

Janet says the award could never fill the void left by her father’s death and plans to set up a foundation to help the children of Castro’s victims, those whose parents and grandparents never came home. The Cuban government issued a statement in January 2007 calling the awards to the Anderson and Ray families illegitimate and contrary to international law and declaring the funds “stolen” by the U.S. government.

Today, Janet lives in Miami, Florida, where her husband Mike is a pilot flying out of Homestead Airport.  She has a son, Pete, a daughter, Christina, and a baby grandson.

Click here to download document doc peteray
Sources:

The Miami Herald, Sunday Magazine, June 21, 1987.

“CIA Widows,” Look magazine, June 30, 1964.

“Cuba slams payment for American Bay of Pigs dead,” Reuters (The Washington Post), Havana, January 10, 2007.

“Families get $91M in frozen Cuban assets,” Associated Press, The Miami Herald, November 18, 2006.

“La Habana denuncia el “robo” en EEUU de “fondos cubanos ilegalmente congelados en bancos norteamericanos,”  Europa Press,  La Habana, 10 enero 2007.

“Putting the pinch on tyrants’ finances,” Editorial, The Miami Herald, October 3, 2006.
Perez, Evan. “OfficeMax Thwarts Families’ Attempts To Tap Cuba Funds,” The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2006, Page A1.

Ray Weininger, Janet.  Telephone and personal interviews, July and August 2006.
Liz Balmaseda, “U.S. women battle Cuba over dads’ executions,” Palm Beach Post, January 15, 2007.

*Disponible solo en Inglés

EXECUTED ONE INFAMOUS NIGHT WITH DOZENS MORE

Benito Cortés Maldonado, Age 41

Executed by Firing Squad on January 13, 1959 in  Santiago de Cuba. U.S. citizen by birth born In Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Policeman and pilot. Resident of Reparto Aguero, Santiago de Cuba.

Both Benito’s mother and father were from Puerto Rico.  The family was well off and his father wanted to extend his enterprises to Cuba.  Benito left with his father for Cuba to establish businesses there. They did very well, owned three coffee plantations and even their own private plane.  Benito loved the police force and when he came of age, decided to join. He married a Cuban woman and had five children. The family lived in Palma Soriano, Oriente province.

Benito was a pilot. Guillermo, his oldest child, remembered how hearing him circling the family home from above. He would get so excited knowing his father was coming to get him.  Benito was very dashing and loved the life of uniform. He joined the police force and served under Batista, the man who happened to be in power, but his family says he was a good and respected man who did harm to no one.

When Batista fled and the revolutionaries came to power, on January 1, 1959, a fellow policeman had gone into hiding and asked him to join in. He had declined, saying he was well known and regarded, has always done his duty, never committed any crimes, and had nothing to fear.  But, he was detained and on January 11 or 12 and taken to Santiago, falsely accused of raping a woman. Raúl Castro decided to have scores of “Batistianos” killed. They fabricated charges and on the night of January 12th and until the next morning, executed dozens –some say up to 164 men.

They took them to an old airfield, dug trenches, stood them in front, and shot them. A witness , someone who participated but later turned against the government, told the family he had fallen down, shot in the leg. A lieutenant walked over and shot him on the head.

Guillermo was 14, an intern at the Escolapios de Guanabacoa school, when they notified of his father’s death.  The family left Cuba in 1960 for New York.  Guillermo enlisted in the Army, served during the Cuban Missile Crisis, married, had children, and is a Protestant Chaplain.  He adored his father and all his life he wanted to be like his father, becoming for example a pilot, like him and living Puerto Rico for ten years. He often serves a Chaplain on cruise ships that circle Cuba. He stares at the island, with grief in his heart. He cannot go to Cuba, is on a government black list.

When he attended the Memorial Cubano 2004 in Miami and saw the cross with his father’s name, he broke down, sobbing. He had never had a chance to mourn his father at his tomb.

Source: Personal and telephone interviews with Reverend Guillermo Cortes, son, living in Miami, 2006 and 2007. Copies of birth and death certificates.

Click here to download Case Profile doc cortes_maldonado_benito

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THE CUBEÑAS FAMILY

Ramón Cubeñas Ibern, Age 56
Resident of Manzanillo, Oriente province, Cuba. Executed March 3, 1966 in Bayamo, Oriente. Landowner / Businessman. Longtime member and former President of the Manzanillo Rotary Club.

Cubeñas Ibern had filed a complaint at INRA (Instituto de Reforma Agraria, the government entity managing the Castro government’s agrarian reform) for having confiscated his land despite not meeting the plot size that called for confiscation. A known anti-Communist, he was given a citation in Santiago, told his case would be reviewed.  When he arrived, he was arrested at taken to “El Castillito” prison in Santiago. (This was in 1965.)  A few days later, government forces searched and ransacked his house and arrested his wife, Maria del Carmen Conde, and accused her of being his co-conspirator. She served two years in prison.

Cubeñas Ibern was tried at a theater in his hometown of Manzanillo, with speakers blasting the proceedings, and was not allowed a defense.  He was sentenced to death, accused of conspiring against the government, committing arson against a sugar mill, and spying. During the trial, his demeanor is reported to have been serene, composed, and firm.

He was survived by his wife and his daughter Rosa Maria. His son, Ramón Cubeñas Conde, had been killed at age 23 in 1961 in an anti-Castro infiltration mission from overseas.

Ramón Cubeñas Conde, Age 23
Killed in action on October 26, 1964    Former student of Business Administration at the University in Santiago de Cuba

After Castro came to power and imposed a socialist regime, Ramón went into exile and took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion that failed to topple Castro. He became a member of U.S governmen-sponsored infiltration teams to Cuba in opposition of the Communist regime. On October 26, 1964, the boat loaded with explosives in which he was traveling to the island exploded, presumably by accident. He and three other team members died.

Ramón Cubeñas Labrada (No Photo Available)
Father of Ramón Cubeñas Ibern and grandfather of Ramón Cubeñas Conde.
In 1961, told that his land was being confiscated by the Castro government, he committed suicide by firing a pistol to his head.

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A young man killed whose family paid dearly

José Adonis Peña Calzada, Age 17

Anti-Castro rebel killed in combat on January 6, 1961 during the Escambray uprising. Resident of Trinidad, Las Villas (near the Circuito Sur highway).

Enrique Encinosa’s book Unvanquished: Cuba’s Resistance to Fidel Castro (Los Angeles: Pureplay Press, 2004) offers a superb account of the rural uprising in the early 1960’s, in which thousands of Cubans lost their lives and entire families were sent to concentration camps. Eventually resettled, they were never allowed to return home. Most of the rebels were small farmers opposed to the Communist government’s confiscation of their land. Many were also former members of the Rebel Army against Batista who felt that Castro had betrayed the ideals of the Revolution.

To squash the uprising, the Castro regime sent waves of thousands of men to comb the countryside area in what it called “limpias” (“clearings”). The small groups of rebels would end up trapped, many deliberately burnt alive in the fields. Insurgents and peasant families in the combat areas endured other horrible atrocities. Scores of those captured were executed, often after summary trials or no trial at all. Among the victims, Cuba Archive has documented 14 minors executed for taking part in the anti-Castro uprising, and more than a dozen under age 18 are documented to have died in combat. Often, all the men in the family joined the uprising. Many men on the side of the Castro militia and army also died in combat.

José Adonis, age 17, left to join the Escambray rebels in July of 1960. His brother, 15, left a month later. His father also joined. They all opposed Castro’s rule and Communism. They were all in separate groups of insurgents.  Fellow rebels related the story of his death to his family. José Adonis had a Remington rifle that was malfunctioning. To recharge, he had to hit the cartridge against something. In a combat situation on January 6, 1961, the order to retreat was given. Because of his rifle’s malfunction, he was left essentially disarmed.As he tried to retreat, he was shot from the side.  The government confirmed his death to the family, but his body was not returned for burial, which was customary in the case of rebels. They were buried elsewhere, in locations unknown to their loved ones.

His brother, Juan Antonio Peña Calzada, was captured February 6, 1961 and was sent to several different prisons. After serving one and a half years, he was released conditionally because he was a minor. On December 15, 1971, most former insurgents from the area (about 3,000) were rounded up and taken to Pinar del Rio, where they were put to work building houses and paid very low wages. A few months later, over 200 of them were sent to Miraflores, Camaguey, to work in a concentration camp setting.  After they built the houses, their families were forcibly relocated there. They could not leave the premises without authorization and were given very little and awful food. He spent 24 years there. Both his father and mother died there. He left for exile in 1999. The Escambray uprising was finally extinguished in 1964. It was mostly composed of small farmers and peasants whose lands had been confiscated by the government.

Sources: Encinosa, 1989, p. 156. Ruiz, 1972, p. 56. Circuito Sur, July 2002, p. 64. Testimony of cousin, Rafael Catoni, in person, Miami, February 22, 2004. Written testimony of brother, Juan Antonio Peña Calzada, March 6, 2005 input form to Cuba Archive and telephone conversation of April 3. 2006.

To download this document click here  doc pea_calzada_jos_adonis

La familia Martin 

Armando Martín Vázquez, 34 años, Mercedes Romero Vargas, 32 años, y el hijo del matrimonio, Yuriel Martín Romero, 11 años.

Residentes de Mariel, Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Se ahogaron el 7 de agosto del 1994 en el Estrecho de la Florida intentando huir de Cuba.

La familia salió en un pequeño bote de Mariel, provincia de Pinar del Rio Province, junto a otra familia de apellido Busot. En otro bote iba otor grupo de cinco o seis familiares, también de Mariel.

El 7 de agosto les sorprendió una tormenta y se ahogaron junto al matrimonio Busot. De otro de los botes pudieron rescatar al hijo.

Fuentes: Testimonio del tío de Amando Martín, marzo del 2006. Los sobrevivientes llegaron a la Florida, donde dieron testimonio de lo acontecido en la prensa local, incluyendo al Canal 23 de Miami.

Juan Owen Delgado Temprana. Asesinado el 3 de marzo del 1981.En Villa Marista, Seguridad de Estado, La Habana.

Juan Owen, de 15 años, era estudiante de secundaria. Su padre, Rómulo, había sido jefe de seguridad marítima en Pinar del Río y era capitán del Ministerio del Interior (MININT). Se dio cuenta de que no estaba de acuerdo con el gobierno y que se sentía traicionado.  Pero él y sus cuatro hermanos tenían una larga historia de servicio a la revolución.  Habían sido miembros del movimiento 26 de julio, que dirigía Fidel Castro en oposición a Batista y, al triunfo de la revolución, cuatro fueron a trabajar a Seguridad de Estado, para el Ministerio del Interior. El quinto se unió a las Fuerzas Armadas, peleó en Argelia y tenía el grado de teniente.  Pascual Ovidio peleó en Argelia en los años sesenta y obtuvo el grado de teniente. Domingo Jorge y Rafael pelearon en Angola. Rafael, con grado de capitán, fue a Portugal a desempeñarse como oficial de inteligencia.  Domingo, con grado de teniente, pasó a ser juez. Jesús peleó en Yemen en los años sesenta y estaba a cargo de ideología para las Fuerzas Armadas. Rómulo y Pascual Ovidio fueron los primeros en desencantarse y se integraron a la oposición.

Fueron traicionados por un allegado, el Dr. Otto Hernández Cosío y les avisaron que los iban a detener. Decidieron que la única opción que tenían era la de pedir asilo político y lo hicieron en la embajada de Ecuador con sus familias.  Rómulo, su esposa y tres hijos, Juan Owen, de 15, Germán de 12 y Reylán, de 11, junto con nueve otros familiares (catorce personas en total -tres mujeres y cuatro menores de edad) penetraron la embajada de Ecuador con un revolver viejo y una pistola. Tan pronto entraron a la embajada, entregaron las armas. El embajador, Jorge Pérez Concha, les dio asilo enseguida y empezaron las negociaciones para sacarlos del país.

Una semana más tarde, salió a buscarles comida. Casi de inmediato, tropas cubanas tomaron la embajada, sin autorización del gobierno de Ecuador.  Todos fueron detenidos, los menores separados de los padres. Nueve días más tarde los padres fueron informados que su hijo Juan Owen había muerto. Los llevaron al cementerio sólo unos minutos para enterrarlo. Luego supieron que el cadáver había sido desenterrado y llevado a otro lugar.  Como el caso estaba recibiendo atención internacional, el gobierno cubano dio dos versiones de muertes accidentales. Según testigos de la familia, Juan Owen había sido devuelto a casa luego de sufrir una salvaje golpiza a mano de sus captores en la sede de Seguridad de Estado de la Habana, en el antiguo colegio de Villa Marista. Una de las orejas le colgaba de la cabeza. Su rostro estaba lleno de moretones y los ojos hinchados.  A los pocos días entró en coma y murió.

A pesar de las protestas de Ecuador, los padres y tíos de Owen fueron sentenciados a prisión, la madre por quince años, el padre por 42 años y medio. Los demás, salvo los menores, también.  Domingo, el hermano juez que no había participado del intento de asilo, abandonó su cargo y los representó en el juicio. Por esto, fue puesto en prisión por ocho años. Gracias a las gestiones del gobierno ecuatoriano y cierto apoyo internacional, se acortaron algunas sentencias. Rómulo salió de prisión a los quince años.

Fuentes: Testimonio del tío, Pascual Delgado, al Archivo Cuba, 18/2/2007 y 1/3/2007.  La familia conserva amplia documentación de las gestiones del gobierno de Ecuador a partir del pedido de asilo. Mirta Ojito, “A Heartfelt Campaign for Cuban Hostages,” The Miami Herald, Sunday, October 25, 1992, p. 1J.

Miguel Guerra with his son

Miguel Mariano Guerra Mora, 36 años.
Técnico de topografía, asesor en dragado, desaparecido, presuntamente asesinado, el 19 de mayo del 1991.

Dejó una esposa, un niño de doce años (con quien sale en la foto) y una niña de un año.

Escribe su madre, María Teresa: “Era un joven estudioso y alegre. En su vida privada fue muy cariñoso y responsable de sus deberes con su familia. ¿Cuál era su mayor defecto según la ética del castrismo?  A pesar de ser un buen trabajador y eficiente técnico, no le perdonaron sus ideas progresistas y secretamente lo espiaban y acosaban.”  Así, Miguel y dos compañeros, Daniel Cosme Ramos y Federico Martí Jiménez, desaparecieron luego de intentar salir del país en una lancha plástica que estaba al servicio de la draga donde trabajaban en el puerto de Palo Alto, provincia de Ciego de Ávila.

Inicialmente las autoridades le dijeron a la familia que habían sido sorprendidos por una tormenta y los habían buscado sin éxito.  A la semana siguiente el jefe de Miguel viajó a ver a la familia en Camagüey y les informó que había pruebas de que habían huido del país, traicionando a la revolución. Pero insistió que se habían escapado a otro país. Oficialmente los declararon desaparecidos.

La madre cuenta: “Sufrimos años de angustia buscando cualquier pista. Hicimos gestiones hasta con INTERPOL sin resultado y cuando queríamos investigar con las autoridades cubanas nos decían que nos conformáramos con que estaban en otro país o habían zozobrado en el mar. Cinco años después de buscarlos desesperadamente, un guardafronteras pariente lejano se compadeció y nos hizo saber muy confidencialmente lo que había sucedido. Habían estado vigilados y que el día del intento de fuga habían sigo perseguidos. Al no entregarse, habían sido ametrallados y hundidos, sin dejar vestigio de ellos o la lancha. ¿Qué hacer ante tanta canallada y mentiras? Aún no sabemos si esa sea toda la verdad o si mi hijo fue capturado, torturado y sepultado en uno de esos cementerios donde sepultan en Cuba en secreto a los que atrapan intentando abandonar el país.  Algún día nosotros o sus descendientes descifraremos la verdad en una Cuba libre. Mientras tanto, cada 19 de mayo depositaremos la flores del recuerdo en las aguas del mar, mezcladas con su sangre bravía.”

Fuentes: Testimonios de la madre, María Teresa, al Archivo Cuba, copias del carné de identidad, copia de documento declarando a Miguel Guerra Mora desaparecido por el gobierno cubano (17 de septiembre 1993) y copia de respuesta a pesquisa a INTERPOL, Stockholm 930422.

 

Presione aquí para bajar este documento doc guerra_mora_mariano

The 1962 Barlovento Massacre: 29 civilians killed trying to flee.

Click on file to see article by Agustin Blazquez and Jaums Sutton, 2003.

Juan Pérez Cabrera

Juan Pérez Cabrera, 36 años.
Asesinado antes de su fusilamiento programado para el 15 de abril del 1963.
En la prisión de Boniato, Santiago.

Era opositor del gobierno procedente de Camagüey. Se había escondido en casa del hermano con un compañero activista y estuvo allí oculto durante ocho meses, pues temía por su vida. Cuando supieron que una vecina los iba a delatar, el hermano los llevó para Guantánamo, a intentar entrar en la base naval de Estados Unidos.  Allí lo capturaron y el amigo murió baleado. Le restregaron la cara en la sangre del amigo, cuyo caso no está documentado aún por falta de información. Su nombre de guerra era Andrés y su apellido Rodríguez. Era de Bayamo y tenía sólo 18 años.

El hermano logró escapar, pero le tomaron la chapa y lo capturaron en Bayamo. Sentenciado a prisión, fue torturado, casi pierde la vista y terminó sirviendo 5 años.

Juan fue torturado durante los tres meses que estuvo cautivo antes que lo mataran.  Cuando la familia lo visitó, estaba en terribles condiciones. Luego, lo asesinaron de un tiro en la frente cuando se rehusó a que le sacaran la sangre antes de llevarlo a fusilar. Cuba acostumbraba extraer la sangre a los condenados a muerte antes de fusilarlos y la vendía a otros países por moneda dura. Luego, eran llevados al paredón prácticamente desvanecidos.

Dejó una esposa y cuatro hijos.

Fuentes: Testimonio escrito y telefónico de la cuñada, Mirtha Pérez, 2005 y 2006. Testimonio a la familia del médico que estaba presente al sacarle la sangre.  La familia revisó la osamenta años más tarde.

Fuentes sobre extracción de sangre a condenados a fusilamiento: Comisión Interamericana Derechos Humanos, OEA/Ser. L/V/II.17, Doc. 4, 7 de abril de 1967. Informe sobre la situación de los Derechos Humanos en Cuba. http://www.cidh.org/countryrep/Cuba67sp/indice.htm.  Juan Clark, Cuba: Mito y Realidad, 2da edición. Miami-Caracas: Saeta Ediciones, 1992. Numerosos testimonios directos de testigos presenciales, mayormente presos políticos, y familiares de los fusilados.  

Evelio Otero Montano, 23 años.Fusilado el 10 de febrero del 1959 en Pinar del Río.

Era de Pinar del Río, de una familia de militares -tanto su abuelo como su padre habían sido militares. Se había graduado de Teniente del Ejército hacía apenas tres meses cuando triunfó la Revolución.  En el clima de persecución masiva a militares y civiles asociados con el gobierno de Batista, lo implicaron falsamente en la muerte de dos activistas del 26 de julio.  Su hijo recuerda que todos sabían que era inocente.  Aún así, reafirmó su valor dirigiendo el pelotón de fusilamiento.

Dejó a la esposa embarazada de siete meses y a su hijo por nacer.  La familia fue víctima de múltiples vejaciones por parte de la dictadura y tuvo que salir al exilio.

Fuentes:  Testimonio del hijo, Evelio Otero, residente de la Florida.  Fotos Diario de la Marina, 22 de enero del 1959, La Habana.  Leovigildo Ruiz, 1965, p. 242. Beruvides, 1993, p. 153. Cuban American National Foundation, Quilt of Fidel Castro’s Genocide, 1994. United States Information Agency, 1993, Year 1959. WAQI-Radio Mambi, p. 14. Circuito Sur, July 2002, p. 62.

Raúl Clausell Gato

Raúl Clausell Gato, 33 años
Sargento de la Policía Nacional.
Fusilado el 15 de marzo del 1959.
La Fortaleza de la Cabaña, La Habana.

Varios miembros de la familia Clausell, incluso de la generación anterior, eran policías de carrera.  Dos primos de Raúl, Ángel María Clausell y Demetrio, también fueron fusilados.

Escribe la hermana de Raúl: “Según mi hermana y mi cuñada, que estuvieron en el juicio y en la apelación (que fue la noche anterior), tenían en un cuarto separado a personas a quienes por supuesto habían comprado, diciéndoles lo que tenían que decir. Cuando les preguntaron quién era Clausell, señalaron a otra persona. Como quiera lo fusilaron.”

Continúa, “A nosotros todos nos afectó mucho, sobre todo a mis padres, a quienes les destrozaron la vida para siempre. Yo siempre digo que mis lágrimas no importan, yo era joven y podía superarlo mejor. Pero las lágrimas de mis padres no las podré perdonar jamás. Podría decir muchas cosas que pasamos, pero no tendría fin.”

Fuentes: Testimonio de la hermana, Miriam Clausell, quien hoy reside en Texas.

Testimonio de una hija: “Mi padre vivió para sus creencias y murió por ellas”.
Por Maria C. Werlau

Armando Cañizares Gamboa, 28 años. Oriundo de Camagüey, Cuba. Desaparecido en combate, miembro de la Brigada 2506. Presuntamente muerto el 21 de abril de 1961 en Playa Girón, Cuba.

Mi padre, Armando Cañizares, había combatido en la Sierra Maestra a las órdenes del Che Guevara. Él y sus dos hermanos, Francisco y Julio, se unieron al Ejército Rebelde para ayudar a liberar a Cuba de la dictadura de Fulgencio Batista. Aunque sólo tenían poco más de 20 años de edad, su compromiso de restaurar la democracia y el Estado de derecho era muy profundo. Mi padre era especialmente anticomunista y así se lo dijo a Guevara en el curso de una conversación que sostuvieron en las montañas. Posteriormente, en sus memorias de la lucha contra Batista, el Che escribió que los hermanos Cañizares habían regresado “a luchar como traidores en la invasión” [1].

Los tres hermanos dejaron las montañas con un numeroso grupo de rebeldes que abandonaron la guerrilla en protesta por la manera en que se había tratado el asesinato a sangre fría de un joven miembro del Ejército Rebelde. Un oficial protegido del Che, Lalo Sardiñas, mató al joven recluta, de origen humilde, porque éste había desobedecido la orden a toda la tropa de tener siempre las botas puestas, incluso para dormir. Fidel y el Che habían intervenido para saltarse el reglamento del Ejército Rebelde y el crimen había quedado impune. Tras pasar varios meses escondidos en las montañas, mi padre, sus hermanos y un amigo lograron abandonar la isla y marchar al exilio, en Estados Unidos.

En La Habana, mi padre había conocido a mi madre. Ella militaba en el “26 de julio” y colaboraba en la lucha contra la dictadura de Batista en el marco del movimiento opositor clandestino de resistencia urbana. Mis padres se casaron en Miami el 17 de noviembre de 1958.

En la madrugada del 1 de enero de 1959, Batista huyó del país y las fuerzas revolucionarias tomaron el poder. Mis padres regresaron a Cuba en uno de los primeros aviones que llegó a la isla, junto con los dirigentes del movimiento 26 de julio que estaban en el exilio. Mi madre, embarazada de varias semanas, me llevaba en su vientre. Mi padre asumió un alto cargo en el Instituto Cubano de Estabilización del Azúcar (ICEA), un organismo gubernamental de gran importancia económica. Pero mis padres pronto concibieron una gran preocupación por el giro de los acontecimientos y se sintieron especialmente horrorizados por los juicios sumarios y los fusilamientos que puso en marcha el nuevo gobierno de Fidel Castro.

Al darse cuenta de que Castro no tenía intención alguna de restaurar la democracia, mi padre se incorporó a la oposición anticastrista clandestina, en cuyas filas pronto militaron numerosos ex combatientes de la lucha contra Batista. Poco tiempo después, un antiguo compañero de armas de la Sierra Maestra le informó a mi padre de que estaban preparando una causa para arrestarlo. En esa época, el gobierno fusilaba rápidamente a los conspiradores que detenía. De modo que en mayo de 1960 salimos del país precipitadamente y llegamos a Miami. Yo era apenas un bebé de ocho meses y mi madre tenía seis meses de embarazo, del que nacería mi hermano.

En el otoño de ese mismo año, Estados Unidos organizó y comenzó a entrenar secretamente a un grupo de exiliados cubanos con el propósito de invadir a Cuba y derrocar a Castro. Mi madre le rogó a mi padre que no se incorporara a esa fuerza. La familia tenía ahora dos bebés, acababa de llegar al exilio y disponía de muy pocos recursos. Pero mi padre insistió en que, habiendo ayudado a Castro a alcanzar el poder, tenía la obligación moral –hacia sus hijos y hacia Cuba- de contribuir a derrocarlo.

Mis tíos Julio y Francisco, y el marido de mi tía, José, también se incorporaron a la Brigada 2506. Cuatro esposas y siete niños pequeños quedaron en Estados Unidos, rezando y esperando. Mi padre partió hacia los campamentos de Guatemala el 18 de enero de 1961. Nunca volvimos a verlo. Por suerte, mis tíos sí regresaron.

La invasión se inició el 17 de abril de 1961. En Playa Girón, mi padre y su hermano Julio formaban parte de un reducido grupo que luchó intensamente y durante cuatro días evitaron que los capturaran. Consternados por la falta del apoyo aéreo prometido, largamente superados en número, los invasores fueron machacados por los aviones de la fuerza aérea gubernamental que, supuestamente, debían de haber sido suprimidos. Convencidos de que la invasión había fracasado, los supervivientes trataron de romper el cerco de las fuerzas castristas y marchar a las montañas del Escambray, para unirse a las guerrillas que operaban allí. Fatigados y hambrientos, se quedaron dormidos. Un grupo de milicianos los descubrió, empezó a dispararles y se produjo un tiroteo. Mi padre y su amigo, Manuel Rionda, estaban malheridos por los disparos y las esquirlas de una granada. Los milicianos que los capturaron se negaron a prestarles atención médica y obligaron al resto del grupo a separarse de ellos. Nunca volvió a saberse nada de Manuel ni de mi padre.

Desde el inicio de la invasión, el gobierno emprendió una redada masiva de civiles. Mis abuelos, que vivían en Camagüey, fueron arrestados junto con miles de otros cubanos sospechosos de albergar sentimientos contrarrevolucionarios. Cuando por fin fueron puestos en libertad, mi abuela se enteró de que probablemente mi padre había muerto y de que mi tío estaba en prisión, y, destrozada por el dolor, sufrió infarto cardiaco. Por suerte, logró sobrevivir. La muerte de mi padre –real o supuesta- había ocurrido el día del cumpleaños de mi abuela.

Nuestros parientes que vivían en Cuba buscaron desesperadamente a Manuel y a mi padre. El gobierno cubano se negó a dar información alguna o a confirmar el fallecimiento de ambos hombres, pese a las reiteradas súplicas de sus familiares, e hizo caso omiso de las peticiones que se formularon por conducto de la Cruz Roja Internacional. A la madre de Manuel le estafaron una considerable suma de dinero, que era difícil de obtener en Cuba en esos días. La promesa de devolverle los cadáveres para que pudiera darles sepultura fue sólo una treta montada por un miliciano a fin de extorsionar a la afligida madre.

Mientras mi tío Julio estuvo en la cárcel con el resto de los brigadistas presos, los sufrimientos se acumularon para las familias de los prisioneros. Las visitas de los parientes que aún vivían en la isla fueron otras tantas ocasiones para que el gobierno de Castro los humillara y atropellara. Mi abuela nos contaría después que a las mujeres las desnudaban, las cacheaban de manera irrespetuosa y se burlaban de ellas. Entre las experiencias deplorables que presenció recordaba cómo una guardiana del penal tiraba por el aire la prótesis de seno de una señora mayor que había ido a visitar a su hijo.

Mientras tanto, en Miami, nuestras vidas continuaban en medio de una gran conmoción. Mi madre y mis abuelos, que apenas disponían de ingresos, tenían a su cargo a dos bebés y varios adolescentes traumatizados. Varios primos habían venido de Cuba sin sus padres, para escapar del comunismo, en el marco de un programa auspiciado por la Iglesia Católica y conocido como “Pedro Pan”. Muchas de las mejores amigas de mi madre atravesaban una situación similar, con los maridos en prisión, heridos o fallecidos, y niños pequeños. Muchos de esos hombres ni siquiera murieron en combate. Simplemente, los soldados del régimen les dieron caza cuando la munición se les había agotado o fueron asesinados en el momento mismo de la captura. Nueve miembros de la Brigada 2506 murieron asfixiados cuando sus verdugos hacinaron a un centenar de prisioneros en un camión-rastra herméticamente cerrado. Ese horno mortal sobre ruedas tardó ocho horas en llegar a La Habana, mientras los hombres gritaban desesperadamente pidiendo clemencia.

Algunas semanas después de la invasión, mi madre fue a la consulta de un médico en Miami, buscando tratamiento para migraña, causada por el estrés. Allí vio un ejemplar de la revista Life que contenía un reportaje sobre la invasión. En su interior, encontró una foto en la que reconoció a mi padre, al parecer muerto. Cuando años después mi tío recuperó la libertad, le confirmó que una bala le había arrancado a mi padre la placa de identificación y que él la había atado a sus pantalones, tal como apareció en la fotografía. Yo me enteré de la existencia de la foto cuando cumplí 17 años. Mi madre se negó a enseñármela. Ni siquiera la guardaba en casa. Fui a la biblioteca de la universidad y la encontré, pero no se lo dije.

Años después, en 1981, recibí información de un hombre que vivía en Las Vegas y que insistía en que mi padre y su primo estaban vivos en una cárcel de Cuba. Me habló de los ojos color verde de mi padre, sabía que era oriundo de Camagüey y se refería a sus dos hermanos por sus nombres de pila. Esta noticia me produjo una gran conmoción y rápidamente traté de confirmarla. Como no quería que mi madre tuviera que pasar por nuevos trastornos emocionales, les pedí ayuda a mis tíos. Tras indagar sobre el asunto, se enteraron de que ese hombre era probablemente un espía de Castro residente en Estados Unidos. Supusimos que su objetivo era aprovecharse de cualquiera, probablemente en cumplimiento de órdenes superiores. El cruel engaño no pudo llegar en peor momento; pocos meses antes, mi familia había sufrido una pérdida atroz: mi querido y único hermano, Armando Cañizares III, había muerto en un accidente de tráfico causado por un conductor ebrio. Mi madre no supo de este incidente hasta muchos años después.

Mi hermano sólo tenía 19 años cuando murió. Mi pena fue muy profunda en múltiples dimensiones, pero uno de los aspectos que más me afectó fue saber que él había sufrido más que yo por la carencia de un padre –y yo la había padecido mucho-. La pérdida de mi padre también marcó para siempre a mis abuelos y al resto de sus hermanos. En cuanto a mi madre, apenas alcanzo a hablar de cuánto le afectó, pues me resulta demasiado doloroso. Pero parientes menos cercanos y amigos también se apenaron mucho. En muchas ocasiones he visto cómo una pérdida así repercute en la vida de mucha gente; es como una piedra que cae en un lago y genera ondas concéntricas que van causando dolor a numerosas personas en distintos grados de intensidad, según su cercanía a la persona desaparecida. Esto se refleja en la labor que realizo en Archivo Cuba. Si bien la persona fallecida o desaparecida paga sin duda el precio más elevado, también hay muchas otras víctimas en diferentes niveles de sufrimiento.

Mis abuelos paternos lograron salir de Cuba y llegaron a Estados Unidos en 1965. La suerte de la isla estaba echada: un sistema basado en el odio y dirigido con un puño de hierro que parecía ya irreversible. Mis abuelos habían padecido la pérdida de un hijo, la separación de todos sus hijos y nietos, la derrota de los mejores empeños de liberar a Cuba en Girón y mediante la insurrección del Escambray. Habían perdido sus tierras, confiscadas por el Estado comunista, como casi toda la propiedad privada del país. Al no disponer de otro lugar donde vivir, tuvieron que permanecer en la casa de su antigua finca, afrontando humillaciones diarias y contemplando cómo los ineptos funcionarios del Estado destruían el trabajo de toda una vida.

Recuerdo nítidamente la llegada de mis abuelos al aeropuerto de Miami. Yo tenía entonces seis años de edad. Era un gran día, mi hermano, mis primos y yo estábamos muy emocionados, porque no los conocíamos. ¡Hasta dejamos de ir a clase ese día! Mi abuela tenía la reputación de ser una persona de carácter muy fuerte y la idea de estar en su presencia me infundía temor. Pero, desde el primer momento en que nos vimos, el vínculo emocional fue inmediato. Luego, a menudo me diría que mirarme era como estar viendo a mi padre. Mi abuela era una persona muy fuerte, pero cada vez que se mencionaba el nombre de mi padre, sus ojos se llenaban de lágrimas.

Sé que mi tío Julio, que desembarcó con mi padre en Girón, nunca superó el trauma de su muerte y del fracaso de los esfuerzos que ambos realizaron en pro de la libertad de Cuba… y ni siquiera lo ha superado hoy, después de tantos años. Los dos hermanos se adoraban y siempre estaban juntos. Uno de mis recuerdos más antiguos es el de mi tío sentado en el umbral de su casa de Miami, con una camisa a cuadros de mangas cortas, supongo que fue estaría recién salido de las prisiones cubanas. Nos miraba a su hija pequeña, a mi hermano y a mí mientras jugamos. Yo tendría entonces unos tres años de edad, pero fui capaz de comprender que él estaba muy, pero que muy triste. Mi otro tío, Francisco, murió en 2005. Tras el fracaso de la invasión, se había jugado la vida en reiteradas ocasiones como miembro de los equipos de infiltración organizados y financiados por el gobierno del presidente Kennedy para prestar apoyo a la resistencia dentro de la isla. Mi madre guardaba como un tesoro un hermoso caracol que le había traído de una de aquellas expediciones, recuerdo de su añorada Cuba.

Mis cuatro abuelos fallecieron hace ya algún tiempo, sin volver a ver de nuevo su patria. Mi abuela materna, que murió en 1998, tenía la personalidad más optimista que uno pueda imaginar. Padeció en privado muchas penas, nunca se quejó de nada y fue una mujer alegre y divertida hasta el último día de sus 91 años. Sin embargo, sus últimas palabras antes de morir fueron de añoranza por la ciudad de Santiago de Cuba, donde había nacido, que no había vuelto a ver en los últimos 37 años: “Ah, las calles de Santiago…” En la mano sostenía apretadamente una estatua de plata en miniatura de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patrona de Cuba, una de las pocas cosas que había logrado sacar de la isla cuando marchó al exilio.

Mi tío, el único hermano de mi madre que fue como un padre para mí, tampoco volvió nunca a Cuba y por desgracia murió de cáncer, todavía joven, en 1999. Siempre hablábamos de Cuba. Era ingeniero, tenía un carácter muy noble y un gran amor por su patria. Entre sus muchos proyectos concibió un plan para reconstruir la infraestructura de la isla.

Mi madre nunca volvió a casarse. El amor mutuo que ella y mi padre se habían profesado fue muy intenso. Mi madre sentía un compromiso apasionado con la libertad de Cuba y trabajó incansablemente en asuntos relativos a los derechos humanos, como directora del grupo Madres Contra la Represión (MAR, por sus siglas en inglés) y el Free Society Project, para el cual ayudó a crear el proyecto Archivo Cuba. Mi madre murió de cáncer en julio de 2008. Fue una pérdida devastadora para mí, pero dejó un profundo amor que siempre está conmigo. Y su amor por la patria y la libertad, su empeño de promover la armonía y la justicia en el mundo, su honda fe religiosa y su estoicismo ante las dificultades y los sufrimientos son mi fuente de constante inspiración. Sin embargo, siempre me apena pensar en la frustración y la profunda tristeza que padeció durante casi toda su vida por la prolongación del totalitarismo en Cuba y el largo sufrimiento de su pueblo.

Todas estas magníficas personas, a las que tanto he querido, se marcharon de este mundo con la pesadumbre de no haber visto la libertad restaurada en su patria y no haber podido volver a verla. Su historia resume la de tantos cubanos que han padecido esta honda aflicción. Aun así, como solía decir mi madre, en más de un sentido nuestra familia tuvo la suerte de poder escapar de la isla y vivimos en libertad, mientras que los que han quedado allí deben pasarlo mucho peor. El peso de todo este dolor compartido se hace mayor porque esta larga pesadilla todavía no ha concluido.

Creo que algún día Cuba será libre y el pueblo cubano logrará por fin forjar su destino en paz, con esperanza en el futuro. Mientras eso no ocurra, el sueño sigue vivo. Es nuestro deber hacerlo realidad.

—-

[1] Ernesto Che Guevara, Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria (Serie Popular Era), México: Ediciones Era, 1969, p. 147.

–Originalmente publicado abril de 2006, en New Jersey, actualizado 17 de abril 2017.

Maria Werlau es Directora Ejecutiva y co-fundadora de Archivo Cuba.

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