NEW YORK/HAVANA, May 24, 2011 (IPS) - The death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan earlier this month was hailed by people across the United States and around the world as a fitting end for a self-confessed mass murderer.
But few may be aware that after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the second worst act of air terrorism in the Americas was the bombing of Cubana Airlines in 1976, in which all 73 passengers on board were killed.
Unlike bin Laden, who managed to elude capture for more than a decade, the mastermind of the Cubana bombing has been living openly in the United States.
Trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Luis Posada Carriles admitted his involvement in terrorist activities against Cuba during an interview with the New York Times in July 1998.
Despite the evidence linking Carriles to the Cubana Airlines incident and his personal statements to the press, he was recently acquitted of perjury related to his immigration status and currently lives in Miami.
"The Republic of Cuba and its citizens have suffered more than four decades of terrorism acts organised and funded by the United States," Pedro Nunez Masquer, Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations, complained in a statement addressed to the U.N. Security Council last week.
The Cuban government has documented more than 700 incidents of terrorism, resulting in the deaths of 3,500 and thousands of injured, mostly committed by anti-revolutionary groups based in the United States, according to a new book, "Voices From the Other Side".
"It is particularly important in the era of the United States war on terror to bring a different perspective and to let the reader understand that there are two sides to terrorism," said author Keith Bolender, a long-time reporter at the Toronto Star and lecturer at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies on U.S. foreign policy and the Cuban Revolution.
"The terrorism they do against us is well known. The terrorism we do against them is unknown, unrecognised and most often denied," he said at a recent U.N. appearance to promote his book.
From hotel bombings, the murders of literacy teachers and biological attacks to the "Peter Pan" operation in which 14,000 Cuban children were separated from their parents and sent to the United States, "Voices from the Other Side" is based on interviews with dozens of Cubans who have suffered directly from these acts or have had friends or relatives killed.
According to Bolender, the United States launched its covert war on Cuba due to fears that other Latin American countries could become inspired by the revolution and challenge U.S. supremacy in the region.
"If Cuba succeeds, we can expect most of Latin America to fall," stated a CIA document written during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Many regional specialists say that the CIA, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups and dictatorships in Latin America cooperated closely in carrying out these covert activities.
"Practically the only way for the entire truth to be known about the macabre connection between the dictatorships of Latin America, anti- Castro Cuban exile groups and the U.S. intelligence services would be the declassification – without the usual redaction – of secret files of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence bodies, which were the main architects of that connection." Luis Suárez, a doctor in sociology and professor at the University of Havana, told IPS.
He cited Operation Condor, a coordinated U.S.-backed plan among the military governments that ruled Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay in the 1970s and 1980s, aimed at tracking down, capturing and eliminating left-wing opponents and other dissidents.
The full extent of CIA involvement in that repressive era remains unknown, Suárez pointed out.
"And when it was not those services that committed or organised the crimes, as supposedly was the case in South America's Operation Condor after the assassination of Letelier, they were always kept informed of the plans and the criminal activities carried out by their members through their different 'sources', both in the terrorist groups made up of Cuban-born mercenaries and in the repressive and political- military structures of the Latin American dictatorships," he added, referring to the 1976 car bomb assassination of Orlando Letelier, a minister in Chile's democratic government that was overthrown in 1973 by a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet.
Although there is evidence that such criminal activities and repressive regimes in South America have taken thousands of lives, Suárez believes it is unlikely those responsible will ever be prosecuted.
"Even when all of the information is available on these connections and the criminal actions by terrorist groups made up of Cuban mercenaries, trained and in many cases financed by the U.S. special services or by Latin American military dictatorships, the possibility of the intellectual and material authors being tried and, especially, punished will always depend on the will of the political and military representatives of the dominant classes of the countries where those responsible live or are captured," he said.
For Alexander Nixon, the organisational development coordinator at the Center for Cuban Studies in New York, "Voices" is a unique opportunity to tell the other side of a story that has so far been dominated by the hard-right Cuban-American community in Florida.
"When Americans hear about Cuba they think Fidel Castro and communism. Keith Bolender's book… which consists of testimonials by ordinary Cubans, gives Cuba a human face and shows the tragic impact of terrorism by fringe Miami exile groups against the Cuban people. Most Americans are unaware of these acts of terrorism and I hope that Bolender's book changes that," he concluded.
*Patricia Grogg reported from Cuba.