Pluto Press (www.plutobooks.com), London, 2010
By W. T. Whitney Jr.
People's World, June 15, 2011
This is a shocking book. Keith Bolender's "Voices from the Other Side" offers testimony from Cuban victims of U. S. terror. It casts new light upon state sponsored terrorism by exposing readers directly to the suffering and anger of surviving family members and those who themselves were hurt. Cuba solidarity activists, even those reporting on Cuba, should realize that concentration on the big topics - Cuba's problems, struggles, achievements - may give short shrift to the criminal depths of terrorist assaults. Until Bolender's book came along, this reviewer, for instance, didn't understand.
Together with translator Heriberto Nicolas, Bolender conducted interviews throughout the island. One was with Edilfredo Sosa, whose eight year old ballerina daughter would be dancing in Germany: "That's all she talked about; she was so excited about the trip." Then in 1981 she and 100 other children died from imported hemorrhagic dengue. . "What fault did these children have, what political issue?" he asked. Those responsible "have a debt with me," said Ana Elba, whose six year old daughter died in the unnatural epidemic. She laments that North Americans don't know about "these acts of terrorism" against "a small country just trying to defend itself."
"I'm constantly thinking of this. Every step I take reminds me of that night." When she was 15, in 1971, a bullet destroyed Nancy Pavon's foot. Gunmen arriving in Boca de Sama by sea from Florida conducted a murderous shootout in her tiny village. "I miss my foot," she said, "but my hands are fine."
Maria Dolores Ascunce told about her 16 year old brother, tortured and killed because he joined the 1961 literacy campaign. Their father only reluctantly allowed him to volunteer. "At the funeral we saw the body.My parents were destroyed.[my father] never recovered."
Rosario Olegario Velasco confessed, "I refuse to speak [English], because I hate the Americans for what they did." In 1960, her shipyard worker husband Arturo and 100 others were killed in the explosion which destroyed the French ship Coubre, docked in Havana and laden with armaments. Severely burned, Arturo wanted to see his four year old son before he died. "It was terrible," Rosario said, "he started screaming, 'What happened to my father?'" "No one had the right to kill this person," she concluded.
Haymel Espinosa Gomez' father co-piloted the Cubana airliner that, bombed, plunged into the sea in 1976, killing 73 passengers and crewmembers. "What we have gone through" she likened "to the victims of September 11." That crime engineered by Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, who later found safe haven in Florida, led to the death of Jorge de La Nuez' father, a fisherman. "I was behaving badly [in school] waiting for my father to come home from his trip," Jorge said, "My father was my life, I used to see my life through his eyes.I thought, how could my father not come home, he's cheating me."
Bolender summarizes the history and operation of each mode of terrorism impinging upon those he interviewed. Some of these incidents like attacks on fishermen, department stores, and workers showing movies to country people, virtually unknown in the United States, are not forgotten in Cuba. He discusses the appalling Operation Peter Pan, that project of the Catholic Church, U.S. government, and frightened parents that caused 14,000 children to leave Cuba, unattended. .
The author traces the lineage of Cuban national identity, crucial to forging unity and dedication to independence. Both are essential antidotes to terror aimed at making Cuba ungovernable through fear and division. Cuba's enemy, suggests Bolender, tries to foment a siege mentality which in turn would promote governmental repression that nourishes discontent. His introductory chapter also touches upon U.S. annexationist yearnings in the 19 century, the U.S. nixing of Cuban independence in 1898, and U.S. domination of Cuban society from then until 1959. All these elements set the stage for terror.
Bolender's valuable and riveting book concludes with a plea for the Cuban Five, five men jailed in the United States for fighting terrorism. First hand testimony as to the nature and effects of terrorism demonstrates exactly why Cuba acted to defend itself. The government's main recourse was to send men to Florida to monitor and report on the plotters.
In his introduction, however, Noam Chomsky identifies the book's main virtue: it "permits us to hear the voices of the victims of [U.S.] terrorism... for the first time." For Chomsky, that's "a remarkable comment on the reigning culture of imperialism."