The Terrorist Attack on La Coubre: Washington Still Silent 50 Years Later

Posted on March 5, 2010



It was at the memorial service for the victims of the La Coubre explosion that photographer Alberto Korda took this well-known picture of Che.


Guerrillero HeroicoAlberto Korda’s famous photograph of Che Guevara


The Terrorist Attack on La Coubre: Washington still Silent 50 Years Later

In spite of Cuba’s repeated denunciations about the responsibility of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the blowing up, on March 4, 1960, of the French ship La Coubre in Havana harbour, the government of the United States, fifty years later, continues to conceal the documents in its archives.

This fact was confirmed on Friday (February 26), when, in response to an information request, officials from the National Security Archives, a non-governmental project of academic investigation of the George Washington University, confirmed that they do not have any documents on the matter from the US intelligence organs.

The only available documents, which can be accessed through the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) and that are destined for the students and staff of the aforementioned university, are “two brief chronological references” and a document that is also a chronology “with more information” than the previous two, they admitted.

There are no references to La Coubre in the group of unpublished collections of the institution, the curators stated.

This confirms how the country, the propaganda apparatus of which constantly generates bombardments of defamation against Cuba, didn’t manage to present a single document in half a century, not even a distorted one, on the tragedy that resulted in the death of nearly one hundred people, exactly 50 years ago this March 4.


For a better understanding of the La Coubre tragedy, in all its scale, we have to place ourselves in the context of 1960, scarcely 15 months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

The explosion on the French steamship in Havana’s port, at the moment when ammunition was being unloaded, is set in the middle of a systematic terrorist campaign against Cuba, when attacks occurred with really infernal frequency.

The chronology of violent incidents shows this clearly: from “the death of a worker as a consequence of a fire in Matanzas province, caused by the bombing of incendiary substances”, in early January, to December 31 with “the incendiary sabotage of large sections of Havana’s La Época store”, there are dozens and dozens of terrorist acts reported, all of then related to the CIA in one way or another.

Barely two and a half years ago, in July, 2007, in the Miami radio program “La Noche se Mueve” (Night Moves), terrorist leader Antonio Veciana –who admits having worked with the CIA for decades- told, in detail, how “incendiary flasks” arrived to Havana at the time through the CIA. He specified they came in various models, each one with a color code, indicating the period in which they should explode.

Incredibly, even Luis Posada Carriles, against whom US “antiterrorist” prosecuting attorneys of the Department of Justice allege having nothing but limited evidence, also confirmed it, in his own hand, in the confessions he wrote in the 1980’s.

The man who admitted torturing in Caracas for a decade on the CIA’s behalf and ordered the destruction of a Cuban civil aircraft among other despicable acts, said: “The Central Intelligence Agency, sent explosives (C3), time pens, fuses, explosive cords, detonators, and everything necessary for acts of sabotage.”

And, the man who now walks around Miami with the blessing of the FBI specified that he personally participated in such crimes:

“I was part of these groups. José Puente Blanco, former president of the University Students Federation, and his brother Roberto, commanded a Movement. I travelled to the United States, where I met Alfredo Cepero, who belonged to the same organization; with him, we devised plans to introduce war material into Cuba and give it to our friends in Havana.”

He said very little about what knew, necessarily, about the La Coubre crime, to which he’s linked due to his complicity with the Agency.

Actually, even today, there are dozens of witnesses of those days, when the CIA triggered its bloodthirsty anti-Cuban offensive: agent Carlos Alberto Montaner himself, currently the prima donna of the chorus of US propaganda against the island, was then captured red-handed, while he was planting bombs in shops and movie theatres in the capital.


The greatest terrorist attack of its time, the blowing up of La Coubre, also resulted in the death of about one hundred people, while over 200 were injured and many others disappeared. The cost of the material damage was estimated at some 17 million dollars.

Dr. José Luis Méndez Méndez, a renowned specialist on the issue of terrorism against Cuba, made a detailed analysis of the events surrounding this savage aggression against the Revolution in October 2002, in the context of an international conference.

Then, he pointed out how it was evident that in the United States this crime “must have been investigated on its own initiative.” “It was impossible to have ignored the circumstances in which several US citizens found themselves involved”, he affirmed.

He listed, among many other suspicious elements, the following:

-Only one passenger of that steamboat, Donald Lee Chapman, was travelling to Nebraska, although he would disembark in Miami, thousands of miles away from his destination, while another, Jack Lee Evans, left Cuba in a rush on March 5 to declare in Miami to having met the authors of the sabotage, which proved to be a measure to obstruct the initial investigations. “Were these US citizens only in the wrong place at the wrong time?” asked the expert.

-Two members of Congress for the state of Nebraska interceded on behalf of Donald Lee Chapman; they sent documents of petition and demanded the State Department put pressure on Cuba for his release.

– CIA Colonel J. C. King had had contacts in Miami with Rolando Masferrer Rojas, a criminal of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, who had led paramilitary groups in Cuba.

-Masferrer had met in that city with american Richard E. Brooks, who said he knew about the arrival of ships to Cuba with weapons and the ports where they would be unloaded. What was the connection that existed between J.C. King, Masferrer, Brooks and La Coubre?

-The CIA station in Havana had prioritized the obtaining of information on the arrival of weapons. It wasn’t by chance that several US citizens, Chapman among them, were arrested when they were taking pictures of the scene of the explosion the same day of the event. The US embassy interceded on their behalf.


The La Coubre tragedy has another characteristic that compelled US authorities to seriously investigate the repercussions of the crime committed by its terrorist agency: six French sailors, workers of the French sea transport, died in the giant explosion.

First Lieutenant François Artola, helmsman Jean Buron, and sailors Lucien Aloi, André Picard, Jean Gendron and Alain Moura, died in the destroyed vessel.

There’s a historic coincidence of these sad events: they took place at the time when writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were visiting Cuba at the invitation of Fidel Castro and Ernesto (Che) Guevara. These two emblematic authors of contemporary French literature participated in the farewell ceremony for the victims held at Revolution Square.

On Thursday, March 4, 2010, at 3:00 p.m., while in Havana the Cuban people will be marking another anniversary of this crime that cost so many lives, dozens of French citizens will pay a tribute to their assassinated fellow compatriots.

For the first time, in many years, in the French city of Nantes, fellow sailors and workers of the port will place wreaths by the historic Monument to Disappeared Sailors, a ceremony in which several solidarity-with-Cuba trade unions, as well as other members of the associations of solidarity and diplomats representing Cuba in France, will participate.

There, as in Cuba, the essential question on the La Coubre crime, formulated by the leader of the Cuban Revolution in his Reflections of July 7, 2007, will resound:

Why, in the name of freedom of information, do they not declassify a single document that will tell us how the CIA, almost half a century ago, blew up the steamship La Coubre?

Taken from Granma Daily

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