"Nobody is in agreement…It’s that, no one says it and no one takes the risk to say it, to speak the truth. That’s what is happening. In other words, one of the foundations, of what are the regimes in the entire world, in all of history, has been fear and lies. In other words, once you are in fear that's when you don’t take a risk, where you collect yourself and don’t unite…understood? To be in fear is not to offer help to anyone because that signifies risk." -Gorki Águila Carrasco, lead singer, guitarist of the music group Porno Para Ricardo and political prisoner
"Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." --Jose Marti

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Sunday, March 25, 2007


Benito Cortés Maldonado, Age 41.
Executed By Firing Squad on January 13, 1959, in Santiago de Cuba. U.S. citizen by birth. Born In Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Occupation: Policeman and pilot.
Place of residence: Reparto Aguero, Santiago de Cuba.

The Cortes family had gone to Cuba when Benito was a boy, to expand their businesses in Puerto Rico to Cuba. They were very successful. When Benito came of age, he loved the police force and decided to join. He married a Cuban woman and had five children.

When Batista fled and the revolutionaries came to power, on January 1, 1959, a fellow policeman had gone into hiding and asked him to join in. He had declined, saying he was well known and regarded, has always done his duty, never committed any crimes, and had nothing to fear. Raúl Castro, however, rounded up 165 men –police and military personnel under Batista- on January 12, 1959. After very brief summary trials, with total disregard for due process, had ordered them executed. They were taken at dawn to an old airfield and shot in front of ditches, their bodies buried there. A witness to the executions, who later defected from the government, told the Cortes family that Benito had survived the shooting and had fallen to the ground from a shot to the leg. A militiaman went over and shot him in the head.

The family did not recover his remains for burial. It is thought that he was buried in the ditch where he fell, with the rest of the firing squad victims.

Cuba Archive has testimony of a field with many ditches dug in sequence at San Juan Hill in Santiago de Cuba, to accomodate the serial executions taking place in the first months of the Castro regime.

Sources: Guillermo Cortes, son. Resident of Florida. Personal, written and telephone testimony, 2005 and 2006. Copies of birth and death certificates.

Notes from telephone conversations with son, Guillermo Cortes (resident of Florida), March 10 and 11, 2006. By María C. Werlau

Both Benito's mother and father were from Puerto Rico. The family was well off and his father wanted to extend his enterprises to Cuba. Benito left with his father for Cuba to establish businesses there. They did very well, owned three coffee plantations and even their own private plane.

Benito married a Cuban girl from a poor family. The family lived in Palma Soriano, Oriente province. Guillermo was the oldest of five children.

Benito was a pilot. Guillermo remembered how he would hear him circling the family home from above, he would know his father was coming to get him. His father was very dashing. He loved life in uniform and joined the police force, serving under Batista when he was in power, but he was a good a and respected man, who did harm to no one.

When Castro came to power, a friend in the police force urged Benito to leave the country with him. It would have been easy, as he was a pilot, but he said he had nothing to fear, as he had always done his duty and hurt no one or done anything wrong.

Benito was detained on January 11 or 12 and taken to Santiago, falsely accused of raping a woman. Raúl Castro decide to have scores of "batistianos" killed. They fabricated charges and executed him on January 13th, 1959 with 164 others.

They took them to an old airfield, dug trenches, stood them in front, and shot them. A witness, a man who participated but later turned against the government, told the family he had fallen down, shot in the leg. A lieutenant walked over and shot him on the head.

Guillermo was 14, an intern at the Escolapios de Guanabacoa school, when they notified of his father’s death. The family left Cuba in 1960 for New York.

Guillermo enlisted in the Army, served during the Cuban Missile Crisis, married, and is a Protestant Chaplain. He lived in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, for ten years, working for Abbot Laboratories. He adored his father and all his life he wanted to be like his father, becoming for example a pilot, like him (in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, when he lived there).

Guillermo is both Puerto Rican and Cuban. He married a woman from Puerto Rico and had her go to Puerto Rico to deliver their children so they would be born there. He cannot go to Cuba, is on a government black list. He often serves a Chaplain on cruise ships that circle Cuba. He stares at the island, with grief in his heart.

When he attended the Memorial Cubano 2004 in Miami (www.MemorialCubano.org) and saw the cross with his father's name, he broke down, sobbing. He had never had a chance to mourn his father at his tomb.

The long trail of blood begins in Oriente
January 12-13, 1959
The Revolution had triumphed barely 12 days earlier, after Batista left the country at dawn on New Years’ Day. It was the afternoon of January 12, 1959. On the west cost of the island, in Santiago, Raúl Castro irrupted in the room where over one hundred members Batista military, police, and civilian supporters were being judged by a Revolutionary Tribunal. A multitude of people filled the locale. Raúl –wearing the olive green uniform of the Rebel Army, a black cap on his head and a caliber 45 pistol under his belt- tightly held a machine gun with his left hand. Suddenly, he yelled irately, “Bring this comedy to an end. These despicable men don’t even deserve a trial, they are unworthy dogs.” With the crowd yelling insults at the prisoners, he ordered them into trucks in groups of 12 to 15 and had then taken to San Juan Hill. There, in the shooting range of Madrevieja, they were executed in groups. Many cried out “Long live Cuba,” or “Long live Christ the King” as the firing squad platoon did its deed. The killing went on all night, past dawn of the next day, January 13. The victims were buried in mass graves dug by bulldozers at San Juan Hill.
Source: Testimony attributed to a lawyer who witnessed the events. In Alberto Alonso, “El baño de sangre comenzó en Oriente,” Defensa Institucional Cubana, Enrique Pizzi de Porras, ed., Año XI, Nro. 124, México, D.F.

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