Caribbean diplomats, ministers flay US
Bert Wilkinson | 10/10/2013, 10:45 a.m.
Thirty-seven years ago, a bomb exploded aboard a Cuban state airline aircraft shortly after it had taken off from Barbados’ Grantley Adams Airport, killing all 73 people on board, including 11 Caribbean nationals, in one of the worst ever terrorist attacks in the region.
The governments of Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados, where Cubana Airlines Flight 455 had transited on its way to its Havana base, immediately blamed Miami-based anti-Castro groups for the attack, and 37 years later, they are still bitter with the U.S. for not actively pursuing the known terrorists who committed the attack.
Of the 73 who were killed, 11 were students on their way to Cuba to accept free medical scholarships from the Caribbean trade bloc headquarters in Guyana.
The others comprised the Cuban junior national fencing team returning from an overseas tournament in North Korea.
The attack sent shock waves throughout the region, as nothing of this magnitude had ever occurred in the group of mostly small island nations. The islands had little capacity to investigate such incidents or to pursue the perpetrators, who were immediately identified by Venezuelan authorities as Cuban exiles.
Last weekend, Cuban diplomats, Bajan and Guyanese government officials, as well as relatives and other survivors of the 73 who died at Paynes Bay off Barbados’ scenic West Coast, gathered near the offshore site to recall the events that occurred on that fateful day on Oct. 6, 1976, again denouncing federal authorities in Washington for their double standards in the way they define and treat terrorist attacks that do not necessarily involve Americans.
Cuban Ambassador Lisette Perez Perez argued that the attack was part of the sustained but unrelenting U.S. acts of aggression against the communist island and criticized the feds for never really pursuing the bombers largely because the terrorists had attacked a country with which the U.S. has serious ideological differences since the Cuban Revolution more than 50 years ago.
She pointed to the main suspects in the bombing, exiled Cubans Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, saying they were allowed to walk free despite overwhelming evidence of complicity and action against the aircraft and its passengers.
“Bosch passed away peacefully in Miami, where he lived in complete freedom and impunity, after being granted a presidential pardon by George Bush, which was negotiated by the Cuban far-right wing. A similar treatment was given to the other perpetrator of this abominable crime. Carriles was neither charged nor prosecuted in the United States,” she said. “There is a history of injustice in the waters of Paradise Beach in Barbados. The cold–blooded murder of the people onboard that passenger plane was a crime against them, their families and their countries. It was also a crime against Barbados and its people.
Barbados Cabinet Minister Esther Byer-Suckoo said that the incident remains etched in the memory of local people and all those who were involved in or affected by the bombing of a passenger aircraft.
“We continue to remember those who were lost, and we continue to call for justice. I reaffirm that the government of Barbados stands in solidarity with all of you and against acts of terrorism and injustice whenever and wherever they occur. The monument remains a telling symbol that we who were touched by this tragedy will never forget it, as we remember those who we mourn today,” she said.