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Pilot’s son calls for justice

Gercine Carter

Pilot’s son calls for justice

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The son of Wilfredo Perez Perez, pilot of the Cubana Airlines blown up off Barbados in a terrorist act 35 years ago, has made yet another impassioned call for the perpetrators to face justice.
In quiet tones, Wilfredo Perez Jr., yesterday declared “there can be no good terrorism and bad terrorism when it kills innocent human beings”.
He was speaking at the commemorative wreath-laying service at the Paynes Bay monument erected near where his father perished.
Perez said he harboured no hatred.
The doleful strains of the last post from the Royal Barbados Police Force Band wafting across the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea was a painful reminder of October 6, 1976, when 73 passengers and five crew died in the crash of a Cubana aircraft just off Barbados’ West  Coast.
Diplomats, friends in solidarity with Cuba and others remembering the moment gathered at the Cubana memorial monument for the wreath-laying ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the downing of the aircraft which had exploded at an altitude of 18 000 feet 11 minutes after takeoff from Seawell Airport. The incident was later determined to have been an act of terrorism.
People stood at attention as the national anthems of Barbados and Cuba were played, overriding the sound of waves gently rolling ashore which belied the turbulence of the horrific incident more than three decades ago.
A soft-spoken Perez, the only person to address the audience, said his trip here had been “hard and difficult” but “necessary” and he expressed love and gratitude to the people of Barbados for the assistance given in the wake of the tragedy.
“Thirty five years ago, I heard the name of this country, unfortunately associated with the terrible news of the death of my father,” he said, adding his father’s “chilling voice” in its final contact with the Seawell Control Tower “is at the heart of my dreams and hopes”.
Perez chided the United States for failing to extradite alleged Cubana bomber Luis Posada Carriles, and for the “terrorism, blockade and distortion of the reality of Cuba” which he said had been “tested against Cuba for more than ten US administrations”.
Many years after the tragedy, the mood was still sombre with the tears of Perez concealed behind dark sunglasses, while Cuban ambassador Lissette Perez Perez followed the proceedings stoically with tear-filled eyes.
Others were visibly moved as Perez laid his wreath assisted by the Cuban ambassador, and followed by Venezuelan ambassador Jose Gomez Febres, Chinese ambassador Wei Quiang, Barbados’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean, Cuban university graduate Dr Jonothon McComie and Carlisle Carter, dean of the local Honorary Consular Corps.