“Voices From the Other Side” examines the history of the more than 1,000 acts of terrorism committed against Cuba since the earliest days of the Revolution and is told through the personal testimonials of dozens of Cubans either directly victimized by the acts or who have lost loved ones.

It is estimated that 3,000 Cubans have died, with thousands more injured, in many of these unknown acts of terrorism. The most infamous took place October 6, 1976, with the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455. All 73 on board were killed, including members of the Cuban fencing team coming back from a tournament in Venezuela.

Cuban-born Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch have long been recognized as the masterminds of the bombing.

Interviews include that of Haymel Espinosa Gomez, daughter of the Cubana Flight 455 co-pilot Miguel, whose last words from the flight recorder have been heard thousands of times in Cuba. Also interviewed is Jorge De La Nuez, who was five-years-old when he lost this father in the flight. Now 40, he still remembers vividly the sense of betrayal when his mother told him he’d never see his father again — that somehow he did something wrong and that his dad was punishing him by not coming back.

Other chapters cover the bombing campaign against tourist facilities in 1997 that injured dozens and killed Italian tourist Fabio de Celmo. Others were luckier. Nicolas Rodriguez Valdes was the barman at Cuba’s most famous café, Bodegita del Medio, when a bomb blew out the top floor of the Havana restaurant in September 1997. While no one was killed, dozens, including Nicolas, were severely injured. Remarkably, and as told in the Bolender book, just moments before the explosion, Rodriguez agreed to have his picture taken with a tourist who turned out to be Ernesto Cruz Leon, the Salvadorian later arrested and convicted with planting the Bodegita bomb.

Also covered in the book is the fact that Cuba suffered a variety of biological terrorism over two decades, including the introduction of Dengue 2 that killed more than 100 children in 1981. One such case is that of Ana Elba Caminero, who was living in a neighborhood near the Havana airport when she was faced with the horror of seeing her two daughters, Janet and Isnaviz, come down with headache, fever, and aching bones. Both soon started vomiting blood. One day later Janet, six-years-old at the time, died. The same afternoon Janet was buried the mother had to visit the hospital to comfort Isnaviz, who was aware her younger sister had just died of the same disease she had. Fortunately, a few days later the 12-year-old recovered and Cuban authorities were able to identify the infection, unknown previously in the country.

In the early 1960s close to a dozen young Cubans were tortured and killed for teaching farmers to read and write under the government’s Literacy Campaign. Manuel Ascunce was 16-years-old on November 15, 1961. He was instructing Pedro Lantigua, 30 years his senior, when counter-revolutionaries broke into the home during one of the sessions. Ascunce and Lantigua were taken into a near-by forest, where the teenager was beaten, stabbed more than 14 times and hung from a tree while still alive. Lantigua suffered a similar fate.

There was also the case where an entire village was terrorized in late 1971 when Boca de Sama came under assault. Two residents were killed, eight others wounded. The Pavon family survived, but during the attack a number of 50-caliber bullets smashed through their house, one hitting 15-year-old Nancy. The projectile shattered her right foot, leaving it hanging by the tendons. Desperate, the family stumbled into the darkness, and after hours of terror evading the bandits, was finally able to make it to the safety of a neighbor.

The vast majority of these terrorist acts have allegedly been committed by anti-revolutionary persons and organizations located in South Florida, some with the knowledge and support of various American agencies.

The Bolender book also examines the war’s impact on the Cuban government’s development of a siege mentality that has affected its national security policies and foreign relations, particularly with the United States. Policies including the infiltration of the suspected terrorist groups in Florida with counter-intelligence agents, which has been accomplished successfully in the past, led to the imprisonment of the Cuban Five, currently serving long jail terms in the United States.

“Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba” by Keith Bolender is available at www.plutobooks.com or through Amazon.com. Introduction by Noam Chomsky.


June 2, 2010