Monday, July 16, 2007

To those who were innocent...

This past Friday marked a day painfully etched in the collective memory of some Cuban-Americans: The Massacre of the 13th of March Tugboat.

For those who wish to know more about this horrible event can check two very thorough reports by:

- Amnesty International: The Sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994.

- (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Victims of the Tugboat "13 de Marzo" vs. Cuba.

Approximately thirteen years ago, on July 13, 1994, 72 Cubans emigrating their island nation, on a dilapidated tugboat named "13 de Marzo", were confronted at sea by Cuban authorities who proceeded to ram the stranded tugboat and use water cannons. 41 lives were lost.

According to Amnesty International:

"While acknowledging that those on board the '13 de Marzo' had committed a crime by stealing the tugboat, there is no evidence to suggest that they were armed or that they were in a position to offer any serious resistance to the pursuing vessels. Indeed, from many of the survivors’ accounts, it appears that their pleas to surrender and to be rescued may have been deliberately ignored. Amnesty International has therefore concluded that at the very least the force employed by the pursuing vessels to prevent the departure of the '13 de Marzo' was disproportionate to the nature of the crime, especially taking into account the risk to the lives of those on board the '13 de Marzo' who included women and children. The Cuban authorities have argued that those on board the pursuing vessels were dock workers acting on their own initiative and not government or law enforcement officials. However, several of the survivors have doubted this assertion and have alleged that the whole operation appeared to be coordinated and directed by radio from a coast guard vessel. The Cuban coast guard service falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior. Amnesty International believes that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that it was an official operation and that, if events occurred in the way described by several of the survivors, those who died as a result of the incident were victims of extrajudicial execution."

The Cuban government has stood firm in denying any responsibility for this event, and has also failed to conduct an impartial investigation in the face of international condemnation.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this event is the how the Cuban government and its information sources reported the incident:

"On 14 July 1994, the day after the tragedy, Granma, the official Communist Party newspaper, in an article entitled 'Capsized Tugboat robbed by Anti-Social Elements' described what happened as an 'irresponsible act of piracy promoted and stimulated by counter-revolutionary radio stations, the most reactionary elements of the [Cuban exile] nest of maggots in Miami, and by the well-known failure of the United States to abide by migration agreements.'"

This is language more suited for Saturday nights on Radio Mambi.

There are few words to say about such horrendous events, especially when there are powerful obstacles to find the truth.

"Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts. Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be seduced by blitz. To speak to you [...] I must not claim false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say-no words stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you have become."

"The Dead of September 11"
By Toni Morrison
Written September 13, 2001


July also happens to mark another great tragedy.

On July 3, 1988, a US Navy warship Vincennes in the Persian Gulf shot down an Iranian civilian passenger jet (Iran Air 655) after apparently mistaking it for an F-14 fighter.

Of the 290 passengers and crew killed, most were pilgrims heading toward Mecca. Iran said that the radio signals of the aircraft could not be mistaken for a fighter jet, and that "[t]he tragic downing of the passenger aircraft was only an example of the many crimes committed by the American Government against the Iranian people."

More facts here and here.

This post is dedicated to all innocent men, women and children who have died mercilessly and whose relatives have not yet seen justice.


Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Well, I am now convinced. Despite all your protestations to the contrary, it is impossible for you to show any real sympathy for Castro's victims even if they are children and babies.

This post is literally dripping with insincerity from the first word to the last. So "some Cuban-Americans" � not all � mourn the Massacre of the 13th of March Tugboat? What do the other do? They don't mourn it? Has any Cuban-American ever spoken one word of support for the Massacre? The Cuban regime and its apologists have spoken millions.

You also seem to believe that Granma is an honest purveyer of information, and when its mendacious report on the Tugboat Massacre does not quite live-up to your expectations, you accuse it of exhibiting conduct more reminiscent of Radio Mamb�.

The difference, of course, is that you have the choice to listen to Radio Mamb� or no. Cubans on the island have no choice. Granma is the only national newspaper and the organ of the Cuban Communist Party. Radio Mamb�s talk shows present opinion which is labelled as opinion. Granma also presents opinion but calls it news. Can you even understand the difference?

Amnesty International is not much better than you. It "acknowledges" in its Report on the Massacre "that those on board the '13 de Marzo' had committed a crime by stealing the tugboat." Really? The children and babies, too? They were "criminals?" From whom was the tugboat stolen? The tugboat belonged to the Cuban people. The thief is the Castro regime which confiscated the property of the Cuban people and exploits their blood and sweat to finance the criminal enterprise otherwise known as the "Castro government."

I also find it highly offensive that you should quote the words of an apologist for the Castro regime, Toni Morrison, to honor the victims of Castro's Massacre.

Finally, your attempt to link an incident of war to a premeditated act of terrorism committed by the Castro regime against its own people is the ne plus ultra of cynicism and disingenuousness, which have always been the hallmarks of your writings on Cuba.

Mambi_Watch said...

Excellent points Mr. Tellechea, but let's be clear:

I said "painfully etched in the collective memory of some Cuban-Americans." Not all Cuban-Americans have embraced this traumatic event as an integral ingredient to the Cuban exile identity.

Neither did I say that they don't mourn. The facts alone describe a cause to mourn.

Second, I don't think Granma is "an honest purveyer of information." On my blog I have never (as far as I can recall) used Granma as a source. If I have, please point it out because I would like to rectify the source.

I make every attempt to avoid Granma as a source because in my opinion they are as biased as some Cuban exiles in the US.

The language exhibited by Granma that I quoted is very reminiscent of the language used by Radio Mambi shows that appear on the air on SATURDAY NIGHTS. Give a listen sometimes. They aren't afraid to use "maggot", "scum", and other such degrading words.

The boat was stolen by definition of being taken surreptitiously and without permission (regardless of ownership). A relevant point nonetheless to measure the act of unlawful force.

Finally, of course YOU would find it very offensive to see a quote by Toni Morrison (first African American female to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993) being used in this context. I'm sure YOU would most likely be offended if she said anything about Cuba.

I used her words to capture the feelings of loss for innocent lives, to respect their death. Irrelevant to the personal politics of Toni Morrison.

Funny, how you haven't even mentioned the Tugboat massacre on your blog.

[And about the 1988 shootdown of the Iran Air civilian aircraft which killed 290 innocent people, I have posted additional links so you can check the FACTS of the case. It would serve you well.]

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


By implication you are saying that the Holocaust is "painfully etched" on the minds of some Jews, not all Jews. Anyone who would suggest this is trying to deny or downplay the significance of the Holocaust to Jews just as you are trying to suggest that many Cuban-Americans couldn't care less about what happens in Castro's Cuba even something so horrific as the Massacre of the "13th of March" Tugboat.

You continue to compare Granma to Radio Mambí, which shows that I was right: you just don't get it and never will.

As for Toni Morrison, she is analogous to Harry Belafonte: always on the side of Fidel, never on the side of the Cuban people. Never has the Nobel Laureate signed one petition calling for the release of Cuban political prisoners, not even fellow authors or journalists. But she has signed the petition calling for the release of the 5 Cuban spies. It shows insensitibity at best to use her words to honor the victims of the Massacre. She herself would never have used them in that context.

As for blogging about the Massacre, I was looking for an idiot to take down. And I found him.

Mambi_Watch said...

Mr. Tellechea,

Its your personal opinion that the Tugboat massacre merits a symbolic gesture equal to the Jewish Holocaust.

The pain of trauma is a personal matter that every individual deals with differently and through varying degrees of suffering.

The facts of the case alone are horrendous enough to label it an atrocity, but I cannot say that ALL persons of a group suffer equally.

Neither can I say that such traumas have the same affects on all members of an ethnic group.

The Cuban-American community is currently a complex group of changing attitudes and beliefs that I cannot say for certain what historical events form its collective identity.

But, I'm pretty sure I can say that SOME are deeply saddened and angered by the Tugboat massacre. Such as yourself.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Do I honestly have to furnish you with evidence that you are a Costa Rican?

You know, I hope, that proportionally more Cubans have been killed by Castro than Jews were killed by Hitler?

This is why I don't believe you are on the right side of history and will have cause to regret your support of the Castro regime just as the supporters of every other sanguinary tyrant have regretted it after the killing fields were dug up and the people whose bondage they had sanctioned could finally speak freely. Of course, by then, you, too, will have the blood of thousands on your hands.

The pity is that you are not really an idiot. On the contrary, you are a smart if gullible man. But a fool who can see the whole picture (I'm thinking of Val Prieto in particular) is still more surefooted and clearheaded than a pseudo-academic who can't see beyond his nose.

Mambi_Watch said...

You're the one that called me an idiot, so please show me the evidence you have that reveals I am Costa Rican.

The facts and new discoveries will reveal the "truth" to those who wish to see it.

You support men who have engaged in violence and have blood of innocents on their hands themselves.

It is my opinion that everyone wants peace, but people must decide how they are willing to achieve it. Our peers will decide who played which role in history.

leftside said...

This was a tragic accident, not a "massacre." If one has to assess blame, could one really blame Castro and the Cuban State more than those who hijacked a boat during a dangerous night storm, without life-jackets??

The simple marina watchmen were trying to protect valuable property. These men may have errored, but to claim they were obeying secret "official" commmands from Havana to murder is simply ridiculous - and Amnesty Intl. should be ashamed.

leftside said...

The IACHR report found Cuba "guilty" only because they interpreted the Marina watchmen as "under Centralized State control" because (like nearly every Cuban) they were employees of the State.

So both the AI and IACHR reports tells us that any accident in Cuba, irregardless of the instigation or cirumstance, can be blamed on something called the Cuban state. Even though when the Cuban state arrived (Coast Guard), they heroically saved many lives, and ZERO proof connects ANY wrongdoing to Cuban authorities, Cuba is subjected to this sad theatre.

But any accident in say, Los Angeles, where dozens are killed by the police, hundreds die of corporate negligence, thousands have been harmed by the Church, the State jails and hospitals allow people to die every day, etc. etc. - is just an accident. When a Mexican dies every day on the border of the United States, or a Dominican at sea, it is not that the US Government has killed them. The same standards do not apply in Cuba.

Mambi_Watch said...

These are good points to consider. No doubt that a full investigation is still necessary to fully understand the case.

The AI report is cautious to say that IF the eyewitness reports (and other evidence) are correct then we can label the incident as "extrajudicial execution".

But, this is not certain about the truth.

In such horrific incidents like this, it is usually a mixture of accident added upon great errors of judgment (or some kind of madness).

Just like with the Vincennes and Iran Air 655.

Agustin Farinas said...

"The simple marina watchmen were trying to protect valuable property"
That comment says it all. Of course, and in order to protect this so called state valuable property, one can dispose of dozens of women and children and rown them lest they escape with the state valuable property. That will teach them, they better not mess with our valuable property or we will hose them down and drown them. Ah, funny how the twisted minds of the apologists can excuse any crime coming from the Cuban regime.