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PEP COLUMN: The 1976 Cubana tragedy

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

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Yesterday, we commemorated the 35th anniversary of Barbados’ and Cuba’s version of 9/11 – the Cubana tragedy of 1976, when anti-Cuban terrorists exploded a bomb in a Cuban civilian airliner in Barbados airspace, causing the airplane to plunge into the sea just off Payne’s Bay and resulting in the deaths of all seventy-three passengers and crew members!
In the aftermath of the Cubana tragedy, the people of Barbados were faced with the horrendous task of retrieving the mangled and dismembered bodies of the victims – mostly young Cuban athletes and Guyanese medical students.
But the fundamental question we would like to pose today is, “Why have we neglected to inform our youth about this most important chapter in the contemporary history of Barbados?”
Why have we refused to inform our children that a full quarter of a century before the perpetrators of the attack on the World Trade Centre conceived of the evil idea of using an in-flight civilian airliner as an instrument of terror, a cabal of anti-Cuba terrorists with links to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) demonstrated the devilish horror of such a concept in the skies over Barbados?
Indeed what transpired in Barbados in 1976 set the evil precedent for September 11, 2001!
And so, we Barbadian people must have something to say about these major international human rights and security issues that continue to bedevil the world.
We must take an interest in these pressing questions of peace and war, because we know first-hand what it feels like to experience butchery and human destruction of the vilest type!
Our children also need to be informed about our response to the horrific criminal brutality of the Cubana tragedy. The instinctive response of Barbadian authorities was to resort to the principles and practices underpinning the due process of law!
We immediately collaborated with Trinidadian authorities to secure the arrest in Trinidad of the two Venezuelan men – Freddie Lugo and Ricardo Lozano – who had planted the bomb on the aircraft before escaping from Barbados to Trinidad.
Our police investigators, led by Orville Durant, interrogated Lugo and Lozano and helped unearth their links to the real masterminds – Luis Posada Carilles and Orlando Bosch – two Cuban-born terrorists with close attachments to the CIA.
We also set up a commission of inquiry and collaborated with Cuban, Trinidadian and Venezuelan authorities to put the four perpetrators on trial in a properly constituted court of law.
This is how civilized nations and people behave!
They do not respond to a terrorist outrage by highhandedly sending military personnel into a foreign country and putting a bullet through the suspect’s head without the benefit of any process of trial and conviction!
They do not succumb to the law of the jungle, nor to the evil philosophy that might makes right. Rather, they try to respect and observe the rule of law! It should be clear to us all that as small as our country is, we have something of importance to contribute to the world and must therefore let our voices be heard.