CIA attack on La Coubre files restricted for 150 years

News from Cuba | Thursday, 10 March 2011

by Jean-Guy Allard for Granma International

The complete file of the investigation of the French CGT shipping company into the sabotage of the La Coubre vessel, responsibility for which is attributed to the CIA, is being held in the strongbox of a French maritime foundation, with a 150-year restriction on its release set by the legal counsel of the vessel’s last owners.

The file, whose existence was unknown until recently, lay for close to 50 years in the enormous collection of records belonging to the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT), also known as French Line, the owner of La Coubre when the tragedy struck in Havana on March 4, 1960.

In 1973, the CGT joined the Compagnie Générale Maritime, a state enterprise which was later privatized and handed over to a consortium currently known as CMA CGM. In 1995, the legal ownership and management of CGT’s archives was entrusted to a foundation whose 16-member executive included two CMA CGM representatives.

With the aim of conserving French maritime resources, this foundation, the Association French Lines, manages a historical research service for a number of shipping enterprises, in its headquarters located on Lucien Corbeaux Street in the port city of Le Havre.

Of the 30,000-plus files in the foundation’s archives, 79 contain references to La Coubre. One, numbered 22091, placed in the collection in 1997, has the following description: "La Coubre. Explosion in Havana, repairs, photographs, press articles, list of the missing persons, report to the executive committee, insurance terms, correspondence."

The content of this file would seem to be of greatest interest, given its information on details of the act of terrorism in Havana that have never been made public. It came from the Legal Office of the defunct CGT and is marked "Classified," with the surprising prohibition "PUBLICATION RESTRICTED 150 YEARS."

The existence of such a dossier of information about La Coubre crime certainly constitutes one more mysterious element in the web of enigmas surrounding the most significant act of terrorism of the century in the Americas.

Dating back 51 years, on March 4, 1960, the sabotage of La Coubre to 100 deaths, among them six French members of the ship’s crew, more than 200 injured and many victims whose bodies were never found. The material damage was estimated then at approximately $17 million.

On many occasions, Cuba has charged the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with responsibility for the explosion aboard La Coubre in the port of Havana.

In the hours following the explosion, the Cuban leader Fidel Castro presided over a historic event in Plaza de la Revolución, in which he stated his conviction that the hand of the CIA, which had already shown itself highly aggressive toward Cuba, was behind the crime.

Named April 16, 1948 by the Canadian Vickers Ltd of Montreal, Canada shipyard, from October 11, 1951, La Coubre had been navigating between France, the French West Indies, Central America and the United States.

On August 22, 1960, La Coubre was towed from the port of by the Dutch ship Ooostzee to Rouen, France, where Chantiers de Normandie rebuilt the destroyed section. The ship went back into service April 1, 1961. La Coubre was successively renamed Barbara, Notios Hellas, and Agia Marina before finally being sold for scrap at the end of 1979 to a Spanish enterprise in Gandia (Valencia), which demolished it.

More than 50 years later, the U.S. government is still refusing to turn over documents related to La Coubre from its secret archives.

"It is not possible to have ignored circumstances in which a number of U.S. nationals were involved," affirms Dr. José Luis Méndez Méndez, an eminent historian of terrorism against Cuba, citing a long list of suspicious elements linking the United States to the events.

"This crime had to have been officially investigated," he stated.

The 22 French survivors of La Coubre were later repatriated by ship. Six French seamen lost their lives in the criminal explosion. First Lieutenant François Artola, pilot Jean Buron and sailors Lucien Aloi, André Picard, Jean Gendron and Alain Moura died, victims of this cynical act of aggression. ?

Translated by Granma International

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