Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

June 3, 1999.

THOUGHTS ABOUT 40 YEARS OF FIRING SQUADS By Odalys Curbelo and Juán Antonio Sánchez, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - In less than three months the Cuban government has sentenced 10 people to death and 12 more await the moment when they will face the firing squad.

These end-of-the-century data take us back to the 50's, during the early stages of the ascendancy of the revolution while it was still in "La Sierra Maestra" mountains. The firing-squad practice started there with well-known cases like those of Chicho Osorio and Eutimio Guerra, collaborators with then-dictator Fulgencia Batista

During the first weeks of January 1959, when Fidel Castro took over, the front pages of the most important newspapers and magazines published the death penalty sentences of those citizens closely associated with Batista's government.

In each province two "Revolutionary Tribunals" were established and labeled RT1 and RT2. The former handled political offenses and the latter common crimes.

Among the condemned the best known were Jesús Sosa Blanco, Casillas Lumpuy, Col. Cornelio Rojas and a paramilitary group also known as "Masferrer's Band." The thirst for vengeance during that first five years of the revolution allowed many to deal out their own justice.

Also put to death were some of Castro's government officers and civilians who were labeled as "traitors." Such were the cases of Commandants Humberto Sorí Marín and Plionio Prieto and Capt. Ricardo Olmedo of the National Revolutionary Police.

In 1961, "Hoy" the socialist newspaper would try to justify the wave of executions with an article from which we quote: "We do not like the death penalty. The revolution has had to resort to the death penalty in spite of its generosity…..All those who look for the death penalty because of their crimes and treason to the homeland will get the death penalty."

As the years went by, the fervor for the firing squad slowed down yet with absolute silence the putting to death continued.

A scandal burst forth in the summer of 1989 with the publicized executions of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, Amado Padrón Trujillo, Antonio de la Guardia and Jorge Martínez. Those four officers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry on the Interior were executed out of seven people sentenced.

Silence was again restored but grief continues. Sporadically since 1996 the provincial newspapers have mentioned executions in news briefs.

It is unusual to see reports of such outcomes in the national press. The short articles together with the focused investigations by this agency's journalists brought to light two cases in 1988 and at least 10 so far in 1999. The names of the two executed in 1988 were published in Santiago's newspaper: Emilio Betancourt Borre and Jorge Luis Sánchez Gilar.

Those executed so fae this year as common criminals are,from the government paper, "Granma," from Havana, Francisco Javier Chávez Palacios, Luis Carlos Velázquez Cabrera, Felix Joaquín Sánchez Ramos and José Luis Osorio Zamora. From Cienfuegos, Carlos García Bermúdez, Irobelio Hernández Inda, Reinaldo Daniel Ramos Ramírez, Roberto Rodríguez Galano and Carlos Mario Martínez Diaz.

Those on death row because of crimes against the Office of State Security (OSS) are Cuban citizen Humberto Real Suárez and Salvadorans Raúl Ernesto Cruz León and Otto René Rodriguez Llerena. In Havana awaiting execution for common crimes are Sergio Antonio Duarte Scull and Carlos Rafael Peláez Prieto; in Las Tunas, Borris Serrano Cañizares and Hermes Castro Pérez; in the provinces of Santiago, Granma and Cienfuegos, Francisco Medina Portuondo, Jorge L. Proenza Tornes, Jorge Rodríguez Hernández and Alberto Gregorio Sarría. The list ends with a citizen from Holguín sentenced at the end of March but whose name unfortunately can't be found.

The present criminal code describes about 112 criminal behaviors which bring the death, sentence. Thirty-three of these are for "common" causes. An article is missing which discusses the social problems which cause citizens to commit the crimes.

Odalys Curbelo and Juán Antonio Sánchez, Cuba Free Press.

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