President David Granger reiterated calls for the Caribbean to become a peace zone as he took time out to honour the lives of 73 people—among them 11 Guyanese who were killed when terrorists bombed a Cubana aircraft on October 6, 1976.
Yesterday, through a simple but very significant wreath laying ceremony held at the Cubana Air Disaster Monument, University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen Campus, President Granger said that the Caribbean cannot afford to be a theatre of warfare and terrorism, but instead must focus on being a peace zone.
However, he noted that this can only be realised if international laws and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of small Caribbean states are respected.
“Guyana rejects, totally, the use of force to settle controversies between states. Guyana abhors the crime of international terrorism whenever and wherever it occurs. Guyana reassures the world of its commitment to making the Caribbean a zone of peace. Guyana remembers the victims of the Cubana terrorist attack. We assemble annually before this monument to memorialise the human cost of terrorism and warfare.”
Cuba’s Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Julio Cesar Gonzalez Marchante, said that the commemoration serves to reiterate his country’s unwavering will to fight against terrorism.
He said that Cuba rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism, methods and practices in all its forms and manifestations, regardless of their motivations, including those in which there are States directly or indirectly involved.
“The Cuban Government has never allowed, nor ever will, the use of its national territory to carry out, plan, encourage, cover up or finance acts of terrorism against any other State, without exception of any kind.”
According to Marchante, Cuba, in compliance with the 18 international conventions related to terrorism of which it is a State Party, has implemented relevant legal measures, such as the Law 93 against acts of terrorism.
“Cuba strongly supports the collective efforts of the United Nations against terrorism and reaffirms multilateral and bilateral cooperation to that end. ”
The Cuban Ambassador reminded that terrorism affects international efforts in favour of Disarmament and a world of peace.
He stated that while Cuba recognises that there is still much to be done in the fight against terrorism, “We must face the causes and conditions that can boost it, such as poverty, inequality, insularity, illiteracy, discrimination, the hegemonic appetite for domination, and other factors.”
Ambassador Marchante stressed that Cuba insists on putting an end to the impunity still enjoyed by the terrorists responsible for the mid-flight explosion. According to Marchante, the terrorists continue to enjoy protection in the United States territory, despite their proven links with the Central Intelligence Agency of that country.
Forty one years ago Guyanese Sabrina Harrypaul, Eric Norton, Ann Nelson, Raymond Persaud, Margaret Bradshaw, Gordon M Sobha, Rawle Thomas, Rita Thomas, Violet Thomas, Jacqueline Williams and Seshnarine Kumar were among 73 who perished when Cubana flight CU-455 was bombed and crashed off the shore of Barbados.
Of the 11 Guyanese, six were going to Cuba to study medicine and engineering.
There were 57 Cubans and five Koreans on board.
Among the Cubans who died were all 24 members of the 1975 Cuban national fencing team, including many teenagers who had just won gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship games as well as several Cuban sport officials.
The young athletes proudly wore their gold medals on board the aircraft.
The North Koreans were making a trip of friendship around Latin America.
A Cuban DC 8 passenger aircraft flight number CU-455 left Guyana for Trinidad, then on to Seawell International Airport in Barbados which was renamed the Sir Grantley Adams International Airport that same year. From Barbados, the plane was scheduled to fly to Jamaica and then to its final destination in Havana, Cuba.
Minutes after the plane took-off from Barbados, a bomb located in the aircraft’s rear lavatories exploded. Captain Wilfredo Perez radioed the control tower in Barbados of an emergency and requested immediate landing.
As smoke covered the rear of the plane, the pilot tried to manoeuvre it towards Seawell International airport, but it quickly went into a tail spin and descended rapidly as another bomb exploded.
Realising that a successful landing was not possible, the captain steered the aircraft away from the Paradise Beach and towards the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Barbados where the plane crashed, thus saving the lives of many tourists.
It was the worst aircraft crash in the region.
Four men who had joined the plane in Trinidad and disembarked the aircraft in Barbados were subsequently arrested in connection with the bombing and murder of 73 persons. They were arrested and tried in Venezuela. Two were sentenced to 20 years in prison, one was acquitted and moved to Miami, Florida and another escaped from Venezuela and fled to the United States where he was held on charges of illegally entering the US but was later released without being charged.
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