[Ppnews] Cherry Blossoms - The Untold Story of the Cuban Five
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 7 11:42:49 EDT 2009
October 7, 2009
The Untold Story of the Cuban Five
By RICARDO ALARCÓN de QUESADA
Attracting foreign tourism was at that time mid
and late nineties one of the few possibilities
to earn much needed hard currency. Knowing that,
Washington reinforced its sanctions and threats
against foreign companies investing in Cuba or
having any transaction with the island.
Coincidentally the so-called Cuban American
National Foundation (CANF) and other anti-Cuba
terrorist groups openly declared such visitors
enemies and justified violent attacks against them.
As tourists were arriving to the island in larger
numbers a series of bombs exploded and others
were found at our hotels and beach resorts in 1997 and 1998.
From April to September 1997 such attacks had
the city of Havana as its main target. As a
result, four people were wounded on July 12 when
bombs exploded at the Nacional and Capri Hotels.
On September 4 explosions occurred almost
simultaneously in the Copacabana, Chateau and
Triton Hotels and at a Havana restaurant. In the
Copacabana, Fabio di Celmo, a 22-year-old Italian tourist was killed.
On August 11, 1997 in the middle of that
terrorist campaign CANF made public a statement
describing it as incidents of internal rebellion
which have been taking place in Cuba over the
last few weeks and stating that the Cuban
American National Foundation supports these
without hesitation or reservations.
These acts were not internal much less a
rebellion. Some Central-American mercenaries
arrested in Havana had admitted that they were
acting under instructions of Luis Posada
Carriles, a fugitive criminal who had escaped
from trial for masterminding in 1976 the first
midair destruction of a civil airplane ever.
Posada now enjoys total impunity in Miami. On
July 12, 1998 in a front-page interview with the
New York Times, Posada Carriles admitted full
responsibility for the new terrorist attacks,
recognized that he was financed by CANF and
cynically referred to Fabio di Celmo as a person
at the wrong place at the wrong time whose
death didnt disturb him. Posada said he was able
to sleep like a baby. He repeated similar words
in front of a TV camera on a programme broadcasted through the United States.
Between March and April 1998, Cuba was approached
several times by the State Department and their
representatives in Havana to share with us some
sensitive information they had gotten, the
gravest of all related to possible attacks on
civilian airplanes flying to the island. We spent
hours jointly examining intelligence that the
Americans considered so credible that the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a special warning to air companies.
In view of those positive exchanges Fidel took a
very important initiative. Gabriel García
Márquez, a well recognized friend of Cuba and of
the leader of its Revolution, was travelling soon
to attend a conference at Princeton and expected
to meet President Clinton, a reader and admirer,
like many millions, of the Nobel Laureate in Literature.
On April 18, Fidel personally drafted a message
to Clinton and gave it to the Colombian writer
who arrived to the US Capital on May 1st. García
Márquez waited for several days in my impersonal
room at the Washington hotel where I spent up to
10 hours a day writing. However, even if I
refused to admit it, the true reason for my
confinement was the custody of the message lying
in the safety box
I devoted myself to its
custody while I continued to write, to eat my
meals and to receive my visits in the hotel room.
Unable to receive Gabo personally, President
Clinton arranged for some of his closest
associates to meet him at the White House on May
6. According to Gabos report Fidels message was taken very seriously.
One after the other, they read it with keen
interest. Richard Clarke, a senior official at
National Security Council, said that they would
take immediate steps for a joint US-Cuba plan on
terrorism. James Dobbins, also a senior at NSC,
concluded that they would communicate with their
embassy (sic) in Cuba to implement the project.
Mack McLarty expressed his appreciation for the
great importance of the message, worthy of the
full attention of his Government, of which they would urgently take care.
In closing the White House meeting McLarty said,
Your mission was in fact of utmost importance,
and you have discharged it very well.
Both Fidels message and García Márquez's entire
and fascinating description of his mission were
published, unedited, by Fidel Castro in a special
public address on May 20, 2005
Having concluded such a delicate task, Gabo was
happy, almost completely happy:
"My only frustration on the way back to the hotel
was not having discovered and enjoyed till then
the miracle of the cherries in blossom during that superb spring season.
I barely had time to pack my bags and catch the
flight at five that afternoon. The plane that had
brought me from Mexico fourteen days earlier had
had to return to base with a broken turbine and
we waited for four hours at the airport till
there was another available flight. The one I
took back to Mexico, after the meeting at the
White House, was delayed in Washington for an
hour and a half while they repaired the radar with the passengers on board.
Before landing in Mexico, five hours later, the
plane had to hover over the city for almost two
hours due to an out of service runway. Ever since
I began flying fifty two years ago, I never had
gone through anything like this. But then, it
couldnt be any other way, for a peaceful
adventure that will forever hold a privileged place in my memories."
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada is president of the Cuban National Assembly.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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