Forty years after the downing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455, family and friends of the victims have vowed to continue the campaign for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
All 73 people on board the Douglas DC-8 aircraft were killed when two bombs exploded 11 minutes after takeoff from the then Seawell Airport, now Grantley Adams International Airport.
Families reiterated their pledge to pursue justice at a wreath-laying ceremony this morning to mark the anniversary in Paynes Bay, St James, at a site of the monument erected in 1998 to honour the deceased.
Camilo Rojas, son of a flight crewmember, told the gathering that he was five-years-old when his father died. Speaking through an interpreter, he quoted Pablo Neruda’s poem The Enemies, in appealing for justice for the victims.
“For those who shed blood over the homeland, I seek punishment. For the executioner who ordered his death, I seek punishment. For the traitor promoted because of that crime, I seek punishment,” an emotional Rojas said.
Cuban Ambassador Francisco Fernandez told the gathering his country would not give up its quest for justice.
“We are commemorating this special event with the pain [of] having to recognize that justice has not come, but we will not give up,” Fernandez said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean also paid tribute to the dead and their families, saying the October 6, 1976 tragedy marked a critical point in relations between Bridgetown and Havana.
“Though some 40 years have passed . . . the memory of this tragedy remains etched in our minds. As such, it motivates our continuing calls for justice in relation to this matter.
“This tragedy represents a seminal event in the relations between Barbados and Cuba, and forever established a special bond and identity between our two people,” McClean told the gathering.
She said while Barbados remembered the victims of the disaster of four decades ago, the country must also remember the victims of terrorism all over the world.
“We witness the destruction caused by the many acts of terrorism against people everywhere. As citizens of the world and as peace loving people, we must continue to demonstrate our abhorrence of these events and strive for good and peace,” the Government spokeswoman said.
Her sentiments were echoed in a statement issued today by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in recognition of the anniversary.
In it, Stuart said all forms of terrorism should be denounced.
“Although 40 years have passed, the sadness and outrage caused by the event continue to pervade our consciousness and to make us determined to denounce terrorism in all its forms, by whomsoever perpetrated. For us, there is no small act of terrorism or large act of terrorism,” Stuart said.
The Prime Minister also recalled that the Cubana bombing had occurred some four years after Barbados and three other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries — namely Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago — had established formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba.
“This act of terrorism, though undoubtedly designed to create fear in us, in fact further strengthened our commitment to building lasting bilateral and regional relations with our sister country,” Stuart added.
He noted that the perpetrators had never been punished, but said “continuous calls for justice, voiced by the families of the victims and the countries from which they came, will not cease until all of the perpetrators have been brought to justice”.
United States actor and social activist Danny Glover was also present at today’s ceremony, and urged the audience to continue to seek justice in a peaceful manner.
“We have gained more than we have lost. We have triumphed in this particular moment of adversity,” he said.
The bombing of the Cubana Airlines was the first, and to date, only act of terrorism in Barbados.