Sunday, July 29, 2007

Cuba's official history disputed

Posted on Sat, Jul. 28, 2007

Cuba's official history disputed
A new book about the start of Fidel Castro's revolution raises questions
about famous events and how they have been portrayed in Cuba.

The death of revolutionary combatant Abel Santamaría appears as a
particularly grim chapter of official Cuban history, but a new book that
took 31 years to research and write challenges the Cuban government's
version of events.

Captured during the raid on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de
Cuba on July 26, 1953, Santamaría reportedly was tortured by the
soldiers, who plucked out his eyes and showed them to his sister,
Haydée, who also was captured during the failed attack.

In his book, The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution,
Cuban-American Professor Antonio de la Cova challenges the versions of
torture that have proliferated until today, including the bloody episode
of Abel's eyes.

''The torture of the captured rebels is one of the myths of Moncada,''
de la Cova told El Nuevo Herald.


``The first 35 prisoners were executed at once, between 8 and 11 o'clock
that morning, and the doctors and funeral home attendants I interviewed
said that no bodies showed signs of mutilation.''

The researcher said he interviewed doctors Eric Juan Pita and Rolando
Pérez Sáinz de la Peña, who were at the military hospital in Santiago de
Cuba, and Manuel Bartolomé, owner of the funeral home that picked up the
rebels' bodies. All agreed that the corpses showed no signs of torture.

This is the first study about the events at Moncada -- the only attack
on an army barracks in Cuba -- that includes the testimony of people who
fought on both sides. Both sides in the conflict were guilty of
''excesses and malice,'' he said.

According to de la Cova's research, Cuba's military intelligence service
photographed all the slain rebels, a rifle by the side of each.

When the revolutionary forces seized power in 1959 and took over the
intelligence service's archives, they must have obtained Santamaría's
photograph, de la Cova believes. Santamaría was Castro's second-in-command.

''A photograph of the dead Abel has never been published,'' de la Cova
said. ``I challenge the Cuban government to publish that photo and all
the death certificates written by the forensic doctors.''

The circumstances and protagonists of the historic event are studied in
the 400-page book, published by the University of South Carolina Press.

De la Cova, who emigrated to the United States in 1961, backed his
research with 115 interviews with people who participated in the event:
14 raiders, 47 soldiers and policemen and 54 civilians, politicians,
defense lawyers and others. The bibliography includes 132 books and
documents published in Cuba.


''By comparing the versions of the rebels, I found the truth of what
happened there,'' said the 56-year-old professor of Latin American
studies at the University of Indiana.

De la Cova will be at several activities today and Monday discussing his

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