FURTHER PROOF OF DECEPETION AND A CHALLENGE TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT
On August 2, as is widely known, a ferrocement fishing boat was treacherously hijacked in Boca de Calafre, Pinar del Río. The skipper of the boat put sleeping pills in the snack for the other four crewmembers to disorient them and put them to sleep. This had an almost immediate effect on two of them but the other two, on whom the drug was less effective, were sent by the skipper in a small boat to the near-by shore under false pretenses. There, a group of his co-conspirators was waiting; they overpowered the two fishermen and boarded the fishing boat taking them along. Once on the bigger boat, the four fishermen were firmly tied hand and foot, thrown to the floor and forced to travel like that for several days up to the U.S. Coast.
Later, upon their return to Cuba, the hijacked fishermen helped in the reconstruction of the event to the last detail. The U.S. Government was thoroughly informed in a diplomatic note dated August 14 urging that the law and the Migration Agreements be applied.
The reply from the Department of State read: "The Attorney General’s Office in the South Florida district court has declined to bring charges in this case as it has failed to find sufficient evidence of violation of the laws of the United States .
"Until it ran aground, the captain of the boat was in complete control at all times. Given the circumstances in this case, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office did not find that the evidence warranted a trial on charges of assault, aliens’ smuggling or hijacking".
This was the nth time that such a reply was received: in hundreds of similar or worse cases, and without a single exception, they have all been along those lines.
Hardly six days had passed after this flagrant hijacking when a speedboat from the United States was ate the center of a sinister episode the first news of which we learned from wire service reports out of Miami:
"The authorities recovered today the decomposing body of an Hispanic male in the Atlantic and said that another body was dragged down by a shark in an area commonly used by Cubans trying to escape the island for the United States in rafts.
"Several fishermen informed the Coastguard that they had seen the bodies about 18 miles off the Florida Keys, said Vicki Neblock of the Coastguard Service.
"One of them was attacked by a shark which dragged it down under the sea, said Becky Herrin, police spokesperson for Monroe County.
"The witness saw a shark grab one of the bodies and drag it under water’, said Herrin.
"There were no immediate guesses as to how the bodies came to be in the water.
"We found no traces whatsoever of a vessel in the area’, Herrin concluded."
On August 11 another wire announced: "The U.S. Coastguard service has called off the search and rescue operation for two bodies allegedly seen off the Key West coast, after it had recovered the remains of what might be two Cuban rafters.
"The case has been closed", said a Coastguard spokesperson, who did not discount the possibility that the two bodies found Thursday about 20 miles off Key West were those of Cubans trying to reach the Florida coast illegally.
"One of the bodies, which was mutilated, was that of an Hispanic male who was wearing a brand of snickers made in China and sold in Cuba, according to Coastguard reports to the local press."
Then, four days of absolute and total silence followed.
On August 15 more wire service news.
"The human remains found floating off Key West (Florida) are those of two Cuban brothers who were trying to reach the Florida coast illegally, the police has confirmed today.
"It has been confirmed that the two bodies found last week in the Florida Keys were those of two Cuban brothers who were trying to reach the United States in a small boat.
"The body of Juan Carlos Rodríguez Bueno, aged 23, which had been gnawed on by sharks was identified by relatives from the Miami area, said the police.
"The Coastguard Service could not recover the other body because it was dragged under water by a shark. However, it is thought to be that of Alex Rodríguez Buenos, aged 20.
"The Monroe County sheriff announced this after Carlos Rodríguez, the father of the two young men identified a photograph of the body of his son Juan Carlos Rodríguez Bueno, aged 23."
On August 18, under the headline ‘Another Dark and Shadowy Tale’, Granma stated this among other things:
Now, a week later, when more details are available concerning the macabre and shadowy tale of the two Rodríguez Bueno brothers, the Cuban government is presenting a diplomatic note to the U.S. Government requesting that it surrenders certain information useful to clarify the case.
"Regarding the tragic case of the Rodríguez Bueno brothers, we offer our deepest sympathy to the Rodríguez family for the deaths at sea of Juan Carlos and Alexander on August 10. We have no information to suggest that they were the victims of an immigrant smuggling operation.
"Your note requested that the U.S. Government supply the names of all the Cubans who reach the United States. The United States does not usually release the name of any person of any nationality who tries to immigrate to the United States through regular or irregular ways."
The cynical content of this note cannot be overlooked.
It must also be indicated that the replies to the Cuban notes of August 14 and 25 concerning the hijacking of the fishing boat and the death of the Rodríguez Bueno brothers were received September 13, that is, 20 and 30 days respectively after the Cuban notes were presented to the State Department. Likewise, the replies were extremely brief and neglectful. It was equally impossible to ignore the arrogance and contempt of the empire’s bureaucrats in responding to the diplomatic notes of a country whose people are the falling victims of such atrocities.
The logical outcome of the U.S. government’s shameful and criminal policy in implementing a criminal law that has been in effect for 34 years is that, six days later, a Cuban agricultural plane was the target of an act of piracy resulting in its crashing into the Gulf stream with 10 people on board, including 3 women and 3 children, aged 6, 7 and 13 who survived only miraculously. One man lost his life and others, travelling in the plane, suffered serious injuries. Of course, according to the U.S. authorities this is not a crime.
The theft and misappropriation of a work machinery used in food production with the intent of illegally travelling to the United States --thus breaking the laws of both countries and in violation of international flight regulations-- an irresponsible and criminal action which caused the loss of one life and serious injuries to others while fatally threatening the lives of innocent Cuban children are trivial matters for the rotten code of morality which rules in our all-powerful hegemonic neighbor.
Nevertheless, this last act of air piracy against Cuba is an issue currently under discussion and tomorrow it will be the subject of a strong and heated protest at the "José Martí" anti-imperialist Public Forum.
The previous case, that is, the sinister and shadowy death of the Rodríguez Buenos brothers, a mix of extreme hypocrisy and cynicism by the U.S. authorities, although partially discussed in Thursday and Friday’s round tables, is not closed yet. Our law enforcement agencies have proceeded with the investigation into that episode, since in the rude and deceptive reply from the Department of State it literally read: "We have no information to suggest that they were the victims of an immigrant smuggling operation." Well, we can offer them the information and a way to prove it.
It was a common case of emigrant smuggling operation.
The means used was a white Scorpion speedboat with blue stripes along the waterline. It had two outboard motors and a capacity for approximately 6 or 8 people. It approached our coastline to the east of Cojimar on August 8 at 4.30 p.m. The number of people it took to the United States --we still have not been able to determine the exact number-- was between 14 and 18 people. Our law enforcement agencies have now identified the names and surnames of 13 of them:
(The last four are considered dangerous people)
All the people travelling in the same speedboat, except for the brothers who died and were eaten by sharks, reached U.S. territory. The U.S. law enforcement agencies and many other people there are well aware of this.
Why did the FBI not interrogate boatman Josué Soto Hernández who captained the vessel? Or if they did, why have they not released their side of the story? Why did they not interrogate the adults who were on the boat? Why has nobody explained if the deaths were the result of a fight on board or if the brothers were thrown from the boat by a wave washing over the bow of the overcrowded vessel? These are some contradictory versions given by some of those travelling on the same boat. If it is or is not true that when one brother fell into the sea the other dived in to help him, why were they abandoned to their fate and whose responsibility it was that they were? Why does someone not ask Omar Rodríguez Figueroa --this is Juan Carlos and Alexei Rodríguez Bueno’s half brother-- who he gave the 12 thousand dollars to for the trip and how his brothers died? Why do they not question the father who was on a visit to Miami and knows perfectly well what happened? Why do they not try to find out who were the people who threaten to kill all those who witnessed the events? Why does the government not throw some light on a disgusting crime in which two young men aged 20 and 23 died and about 15 Cubans went to the United States illegally including innocent children of 4 and 5 could have lost their lives, and all because of money? Why do they not put an end to deception, complicity and impunity?
Enough of brazen excuses!
Our people and the international public opinion demand serious, clear and precise answers. They are sick and tired of shameless lies.
Cuba will not relent until it has proved to the world all the disgrace that results from a hostile and aggressive policy based on the deception, illegality, tolerance, weakness and complicity of the American authorities with all the crimes committed against our country by their mercenary, terrorist and mobster allies. It is clear that incompetence, chaos and anarchy also prevail in the implementation of this murky policy.
If the U.S. Government cannot give an answer to the questions we have posed, we ask the decent press in that country to delve into this issue and tell the American people the whole truth. An honest, objective piece of reporting could save many lives.
EDITORIAL published in Granma, September 24, 2000