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Maintaining vigilance against terrorism

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October 6, 2012 will be the 36th anniversary of one of the most murderous acts of terrorism perpetrated in the Caribbean, the blowing up of a Cubana Airlines plane just off Barbados, killing all 73 persons aboard. Eleven innocent Caribbean citizens, of Guyanese nationality, perished in that incident, along with 57 Cubans and five citizens of North Korea.{{more}}

That deadly attack was the latest in a series of terrorist actions carried out by Cuban exile mercenaries, backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA and aimed at intimidating Caribbean governments and people from developing and strengthening relations with Cuba. Four years before, in 1972, the Governments of Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago, had exercised their sovereign right and defied the US-inspired hemispheric blockade of Cuba by opening up diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Cuba.

Greater people-to-people contact soon followed, including the introduction of a weekly flight from — and to — Havana operated by Cubana Airlines. This seemed to infuriate those who wanted to keep the Caribbean people away from Cuba and during the turbulent year of 1976, that fury took violent expression. That was a crucial year in the struggle to rid Africa of the scourge of apartheid, the year of the Soweto uprising in Johannesburg and of Cuban sacrificial support for the liberation of Angola.

The strong support of those four Caribbean nations, side by side with openings to Cuba, did not sit well with those determined to dominate the world. Their minions struck at all four Caribbean nations. A Cuban exile group called the United Revolutionary Organisation, headed by one Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles, went into action. The Barbados office of the Trinidadian airline BWIA, the agent for Cubana airlines, was bombed earlier in 1976, followed by a failed attempt to blow up a Cubana plane in Jamaica and the Guyanese Embassy in Port of Spain was also damaged by a bomb. The URO proudly claimed responsibility for these acts of international terrorism. It ensured death and destruction off Barbados in October.

Carriles is an international terrorist of murderous repute, sometimes called “the godfather of Cuban exile violence” and described by the US National Security Archive as “one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history”. He had participated in the ill-fated invasion of Cuba in 1961, failed assassination attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, bombings of Cuban hotels in 1997, and was one of the key figures in the notorious Iran-Contra affair.

In spite of all these and incontrovertible evidence of guilt, Carriles has never been made to pay for his numerous crimes. He was sheltered in the USA, even though that country campaigns against international terrorism. Legal attempts to have him extradited were resisted and when finally international pressure forced his arrest in the US, it was for a minor immigration offence, not murder and terrorism.

The “Crime off Barbados,” however, did not pass without strong Vincentian reaction. The newly-formed Friendship Society described the bombing as “criminal” which “must be condemned by all honest and peace-loving people”. It called on Caribbean governments to take the necessary steps to protect the life and property of Cuban people and demanded that the US Government “expel and disband” the terrorist organisations sheltering on its territory and to give assurances not to so shelter such organisations.

The Teachers Union was outspoken too against the crime. It said in a statement that Cuba has “the inalienable right,” as any other country, “to enjoy full and uncompromising sovereignty, … and to pursue policies to the benefit of its people”. The Vincentian teachers termed the series of terrorist attacks against Cuban/Caribbean ties as attempts “to undermine and curb this fundamental and inalienable right” which must be condemned. Significantly, the Union urged our Government, all trade unions and political organisations, churches and civic organisations to go further and “break the unnatural barriers set up by foreign elements between the Vincentian and Cuban people”.

Three and a half decades later, the dastardly crime off Barbados remains unpunished. Those who speak loudest of international terrorism, but remain silent in the face of such acts are not only hypocritical, they do a great disservice to humankind. The bombing of Cubana 455 off Barbados is on par with the crimes of 9/11: they are all heinous acts which must be condemned and punished.

What a pity and tragic irony that those alleged to have contributed to the 9/11 murders were kidnapped and taken on Cuban soil to be tortured and tried, while the Carriles wolf pack got away scot-free! Terrorism is terrorism and must be roundly fought.

Let us let it firm us up in our resolve to express solidarity with the Cuban people.

(NOTE: Our columnist, Renwick Rose is also Chairman of the SVG/CUBA Friendship Society and one of its founder-members in 1976).

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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