Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A Revolution Breaks Out And Nobody Notices

First of all, I do not believe that there was any attempt on the part of those who briefly seized the Cuban Boeing 737 to hijack it to the United States, or any other country. What sense would that have made? If caught in Cuba, it would be the death penalty for the hijackers. If they made it across the Florida Straits, it would mean a 30-year prison sentence or even the death penalty as well if there were casualties (whether the hijackers were responsible for the deaths or those shooting at them). What possible sense, again, would it make to hijack a plane from Cuba to the U.S.? Even under the best of circumstances, it isn't a trip to freedom and it could possibly be your last trip period. The Castro Air Force will follow and shoot you down just as surely as the Castro Coast Guard will blow you out of the water if you hijacked, say, a tugboat. And only if you think the Bush administration is going to show the mercy to the hijackers that it denies to the rafters could you suppose for a minute that there was a conspiracy in Cuba to hijack a place to Leavenworth. What, then, happened at the airport? There was a pitched battle between Castro's own military cadres over an airplane. At the very least this signifies a mutiny, of which this may just have been the first open manifestation, and at most it may have been the first stirrings of a failed revolution (and there must be a lot of those before one succeeds).

It seems likely to me that the lieutenant-colonel was the leader of the group rather than its hostage, and that his mysterious arrival in a tourist convoy was intentional. As he was killed in the assault, it is possible to assign him any role at all in the hostilities. Rather than admit that this was no mere desertion by recent conscripts but a plot that was led by a higher-echelon officer and whose roots went even deeper, Raúl Castro decided to "elevate" (actually, denigrade) the rebel leader to the pantheon of loyal henchmen of the regime. This is known as the "Rommel treatment" and consists of glorifying traitors as heroes to maintain the spirit de corps of the troops and avoid creating new martyrs for the opposition. The alacrity with which Raúl announced the posthumous award of the "Antonio Maceo Medal" to the fallen Lt. Col. Victor Ivo Acuña Velasquez shows that there were already doubts about his involvement that needed to be squelched immediately, which they were.

The gravity of this incident and its future implications for the regime aroused even Fidel Castro from his vegetative state to declare that "The impunity and the material benefits that for nearly a half-century have been the reward for any violent action against Cuba have stimulated these kinds of acts." Castro blamed the attack on the "stunning liberation of that terrorist monster (i.e. Posada) and "the lure of a consumer society in the U.S." If these remarks attributed to Castro don't raise the alarm about the real motives of the the hijackers, then nothing will.

The next question that must be answered is why were they trying to commandeer the plane if not to desert to the United States? The only other viable reason is that the rebels were going to use the plane as a weapon, and that the weapon was going to be aimed at Cuba's center of power (the location of which was better known to them than us). For what we had here, on a smaller scale and in a more concentrated effort, was an attempt to duplicate the impact of Sept. 11 but not the casualties, by disposing of Cuba's nomenklatura in a surgical strike. Perhaps a better comparison, given its limited resources and haphazard planning, would be to a kamikaze mission.

This was certainly not the first such incident that has transpired through the years. There have probably been hundreds and all confined to silence and their authors to anonymous graves. Perhaps this was the reason that Alain Forbus (19), Leandro Cerezo (19) and Yoan Torres (20) chose not to act within the confines of a military base, where detection would have been immediate and failure inevitable. They probably decided that they might have a better chance if the element of surprise was on their side and so removed the scene of their conspiracy to the airport. Given the alarm and general confusion which it did cause at the airport their decision was a sound one. Where the conspirators went wrong was in assuming that a hasty improvised reaction, with the enemy's overwhelming numbers, would not be conclusive. Of course, they were wrong. It will take more than three or four men, however dedicated and heroic, to topple the regime. Their noble resistance shows, however, that even after 48 years — or especially after 48 years — nothing is settled in Cuba and everything is fluid. Next time, the plan will be perfected further and more recruits will join the conspiracy. Eventually the tide of change which they represent is irrepressible and will prevail in the end. Some day we will have heroes to celebrate, not just martyrs to mourn.


Charlie Bravo said...

Very good analysis Manuel....

Tomás Estrada-Palma said...

Interesting analysis. It makes sense. I added your link to my blog.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Tomás Estrada Palma:

Thanks, Tomás. I have added you to my Fraternal Links also.


A very interesting analysis indeed. Alas, we may never know the truth.

-Anatasio Blanco