The terrorist attack on the La Coubre: 50 years later, Washington remains silent


DESPITE Cuba’s repeated accusations of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) responsibility for the March 4, 1960 explosion of the French ship La Coubre in the port of Havana, the U.S. government, 50 years later, continues to hold the documents in its archives.

Your browser may not support display of this image. This was confirmed this past February 26, when in response to a request for information, officials with the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental academic research project of George Washington University, confirmed that they did not have a single document on the issue from U.S. intelligence agencies.

The only documents available, accessible through the Digital National Security Archive (DNSA) database for students and personnel of that university, are “two brief chronological references” and another which is also a chronology “with more information” than the other two, they admitted.

There are no references to the La Coubre in the institute’s non-published collections, curators said.

This confirms that the country whose propaganda apparatus is constantly generating bursts of slander against Cuba has not handed over, in a half a century, one single document about the tragedy that cost the lives of around 100 human beings, exactly 50 years ago, on March 4.


In order to understand the La Coubre tragedy in all of its magnitude, we have to look at the context of 1960, just 15 months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

The explosion of the French ship in the port of Havana as munitions were being unloaded was part of a systematic campaign of terror being waged against Cuba, with attacks carried out at a truly infernal pace.

The chronology of violent incidents can be clearly seen: from “the death of a worker in a fire in Matanzas caused by the bombing of incendiary materials,” in early January, to December 31, with “the large-scale firebombing of La Epoca (department) store in Havana, dozens and dozens of acts of terrorism were reported, all related in one way or another to the CIA.

Just two-and-a-half years ago, in July 2007, on the Miami radio call-in show, “La noche se mueve” (The Night is Moving), terrorist ringleader Antonio Veciana — who admits to having worked for the CIA for decades — gave a detailed account of how “incendiary devices” were brought into Havana by the CIA. He specified that they came in various models and color-coded, to indicate how long they took to explode.

Incredibly, Luis Posada Carriles himself, on whom the “anti-terrorist” prosecutors of the U.S. Justice Department say they have only scant evidence, confirmed the same fact, in his own words, in confessions that he wrote in the 1980s.

The terrorist who worked as a torturer in Caracas, Venezuela for a decade, paid by the CIA, and who ordered the sabotage of a Cuban airliner – among other despicable acts – literally said, “The Central Intelligence Agency sent [C-3] explosives, automatic timers, fuses, detonating cords, detonators, and everything needed for acts of sabotage. During that time [1960], these types of activities were known by the name ‘Action and Sabotage.’”

And this individual, who is currently at liberty in Miami with the FBI’s blessing, stated that he participated personally in those crimes:

“I was part of those groups. José Puente Blanco, former president of the University Student Federation, and his brother Roberto were in command of a movement. I went to the United States and there I met Alfredo Cepero, who belonged to the same movement; with him, we made plans to bring military material into Cuba and deliver it to our friends in Havana.”

He almost told how he knew, necessarily, about the La Coubre crime, with which his complicity with the agency is connected.

In reality, even today, dozens of witnesses remain from those times, when the CIA was waging its bloody anti-Cuba offensive: even agent Carlos Alberto Montaner, currently a prima donna of the U.S. anti-Cuba propaganda chorus, was captured red-handed at that time, while planting explosive devices in Havana’s stores and theaters.


As the worst terrorist attack of its time, the La Coubre explosion killed more than 100 people, injured more than 200, and left many missing. The material damages were later estimated at $17 million.

Regarding the events surround this barbaric aggression against the Revolution, Dr. José Luis Méndez Méndez, a well-known historian on anti-Cuba terrorism, gave a detailed analysis in October 2002, as part of an international conference.

He said at the time that it was obvious a court investigation of this crime should have been carried out in the United States. “It is not possible to have been unaware of the circumstances in which various individuals from the United States were involved,” he said.

He listed the following suspects, among many others:

– One lone passenger on that ship, Donald Lee Chapman, was going to Nebraska, but disembarked in Miami, thousands of miles from his destination; while another, Jack Lee Evans, abruptly left Cuba on March 5 and then declared in Miami that he knew the masterminds behind the sabotage, which turned out to be a move to obstruct the initial inquiries. “Were these individuals from the United States merely in the wrong place at the wrong time?” Méndez Méndez asked.

– Two congress members from the state of Nebraska interceded on behalf of Donald Lee Chapman; they sent petitions and demanded that the State Department pressure Cuba for his release.

– CIA Colonel J. C. King had made contact 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 the U.S. citizen Richard E. Brooks, who said he knew of the arrival of ships in Cuba with weapons, and the ports where they were to disembark. What relationship existed between J.C. King, Masferrer, Brooks and the La Coubre?

– The CIA station in Havana had prioritized obtaining information about the arrival of weapons. It was no coincidence that several U.S. individuals, including Chapman, were detained as they were taking photos at the site of the explosion on the same day that it happened. The U.S. embassy interceded on their behalf.


The La Coubre tragedy also had another characteristic that obliged the U.S. authorities to seriously investigate the impact of the crime: six French sailors perished in the gigantic explosion. First Lt. François Artola, Helmsman Jean Buron and sailors Lucien Aloi, André Picard, Jean Gendron and Alain Moura died in the destroyed ship.

One historic coincidence of that tragic event: it occurred at the same time that the writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were visiting Cuba on the invitation of Fidel and Che. The two emblematic authors of contemporary French literature participated in the commemoration ceremony for the victims, which took place in the Plaza de la Revolución.

Now, on March 4, 2010, at 3 p.m. in Havana, when the Cuban people once again mark the anniversary of this crime that took so many lives, dozens of French people will pay tribute to their compatriots who were killed.

For the first time in many years, in the French city of Nantes, sailors and dock workers will lay flowers at the historic Monument to Missing Sailors, with the participation of several CGT trade unions in solidarity with Cuba, along with representatives of various solidarity groups and Cuban diplomats in France.

There, as in Cuba, the fundamental question will be heard regarding the crime of the La Coubre, asked by the leader of the Cuban Revolution in his “Reflections” column of July 7, 2007:

“Why, in the name of freedom of information, is there not a single declassified document which tells us how the CIA, almost half a century ago, caused the explosion of the La Coubre steamer?” •


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