Sunday, June 20, 2021

#OTD troops drop grenades in paths of Cuban swimmers seeking refuge at GITMO and strafe water with machine-gun fire

We remember

Guantanamo Naval Base U.S. Navy photo by Chief Bill Mesta.

Nine years before the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp was established and there were no detainees from the war on terror being held on the base atrocities were being committed, and the world paid little notice.

 * On June 19, 1993 at 2 p.m., U.S. guards, startled by the sounds of detonations, saw Cuban troops aboard patrol boats dropping grenades in the paths of several swimmers headed for the U.S. base.

* On June 20, 1993 at 1:30 p.m., Cuban troops repeated the action, then strafed the water with machine-gun fire.

U.S. soldiers patrolling the perimeter of the Guantanamo Naval Base were horrified by what they observed. This led to a formal diplomatic note to the Cuban government by the Clinton Administration. This in turn led to a front page story in The Miami Herald on July 7, 1993 which described what had been witnessed:

Cuban marine patrols, determined to stop refugees from reaching the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, have repeatedly tossed grenades and shot at fleeing swimmers and recovered some bodies with gaff hooks, U.S. officials charged Tuesday. At least three Cubans have been killed in the past month as Cuban patrol boats attacked swimmers within sight of U.S. Navy personnel at Guantanamo.

Human rights defenders in Cuba who attempt to quantify the numbers of dead or missing refugees are targeted by state security and made a cautionary example. 

Francisco Chaviano González, a former mathematics teacher, and human rights defender was the president of the National Council for Civil Rights in Cuba (Consejo Nacional por los Derechos Civiles en Cuba - CNDCC), an organization whose work included "documenting the cases of Cubans who have been lost at sea trying to leave the country."

Chaviano was trying to investigate the cases of a number of Cubans who had gone missing. He was  warned by state security to stop his human rights work or he would be arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He refused to leave and was detained on May 7, 1994, drugged and subjected to a military trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison of which he served over 13 years in terrible conditions suffering numerous beatings and the denial of healthcare which led to a wholesale decline in his health. Amnesty International recognized Chaviano as a prisoner of conscience. Chaviano was released on August 10, 2007. He was forced into exile in 2012.

Francisco Chaviano: 13 years in prison for investigating missing Cubans

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