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The Bite of the Mongoose

By Pastor Guzmán Castro

Murderous gangs sheltered by the empire seized the lives of six young people, members of a crew of topographical studies that was setting conditions for the forthcoming construction of Zaza reservoir.

Early morning of a day, earlier September of 1962, a cowboy from one of the farms settled on the riversides of Zaza River, to the south of Sancti Spíritus, stared at a dog urgently digging in a place where a flock of scavEngers flew over since a long while.

 

Overcurious, the man came closer and felt the odor on air, then, he watched as the dog took a shoe out and he was no longer doubtfull about it. Shortly after he sent for the authorities to investigate his bloodcurdling discovery.

 

A THRILLING VISION

 

Lieutenant Colonel (r) Jorge Delgado Martínez was then an auxiliary of the recently- created State Security with headquarters in the Yayabo village: “At office we received a dispatch that one of our comrades working near the Chorrera area had found a presumed burial. I was part of the mission in charge of digging up the corpses.

 

“I recall that Jorge Sánchez Jiménez and Reinerio Garrido Domínguez, along with forensic doctor Jiménez Galiano and the “Cojo” (the lame man) were also part of the crew to investigate the crime.

 

“We proceeded using picks and shovels to excavate and take out the rubbles entirely, which were in complete state of decay. They were buried in a common grave in four blended bodies, one placed above the other.”

 

PRECISIONS AND CERTAINTIES

 

Three months before this barbarity occurred, a group of Cartographers that worked in this area had vanished – it was known shortly after by two other members of this crew that could escape – they had been kidnapped by bandits supported by their collaborators in that district .

 

The so-called Commission of Study was devoted to seek and to contribute to the necessary data to make the maps for the building of the Zaza reservoir and the main water channel.

 

Such a special crew of specialists was headed by Villa Clara-born Luis Ruiz Salvador, surveyor, teacher and topographer, and also integrated by Bienvenido Pardillo Quintero, Rodrigo Quintero Castro, José Luis Abreu, Nedel Turiño, Osmundo León, Venancio Pérez Martin and Antonio Díaz Febles (Curruco) who drove the squad’s jeep.

 

On June 11, 1962, these eight unarmed specialists were captured by bandit boss Tomás San Gil, in Honorio Castañeda’s property known as The Chelito. Two days later Curruco and Venancio could evade their murderers, so no news on the conditions of the other rest came to be known up to the moment of the macabre finding.

 

BOUNDLESS PAIN

 

40 years ago, the deep pain of the relatives of these martyrs still hurts inside, and it will accompany them until the end of their days. Ada Quintero Castro, cites:

 

“I was a 17 year-old. My brother Rodrigo was 19. The day before his disappearance on June 10, we were both at home, celebrating our sister Clara’s 18th birthday – he had few drinks at night and took ourselves some pictures; it was him who took them, but he didn’t want to be pictured”. Ada sobbing interrupted herself as her eyes got clouded over and barely can go on with the story.

 

“At night he complained of a headache, because he was not used to drink and my mom gave him bicarbonate shaken with lemon. We thought that he wouldn’t be able to work the next day, but at dawn, just like always, he left on the jeep with his fellow partners. That was the last time we saw him alive.”

 

Carlota Pardillo Quintero, sister of Bienvenido, points out that he was the youngest of 11 brothers and that he had studied in a private school in rural community of Guasimal. Then he turned to be a Conrado Benítez brigade member, teaching basic reading and writing across the Escambray Mountains. Shortly after he became a topographer until his kidnapping.

“When months later the authorities found them, they warned us and took us all to the mortuary, where four bodies shrank inside sealed metallic coffins. My mom immediatedly suffered from a brain collapse, losing her consciousness. Parts of her body left paralyzed and three months later she finally died”. Carlota burst into tears – she just cannot retell the story of such a barbarity that took the lives of two of her loved ones.

 

TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE

 

For Oda Martínez Zúñiga, the pain of an advanced widowhood and the taugh works over the past years while raising her three children alone caused an indelible harm. She testifies:

 

“I am from Sancti Spíritus. I met Bienvenido by the year of 1957. He had recently come for a job here at a bakery across the Central Highway. By the year 1958, we both began our relationship. I was 10 years older than him and mother of a little girl, Isabel Calderón.

 

“The day that they got disappeared I knew it from my brother Raúl, who was then a militia officer. That night I couldn’t sleep. Early the next day, a countless number of trucks filled with militiamen passed before my house in Pino neighborhood. It was said that they were committed to search for the lost ones, but they didn’t find them.

“When their corpses appeared, it was my brother Raúl, who told me the unpleasant news, and then he drove me for the cemetery.

 

“Frankly, I was not ready yet for what I saw: the remains laid on the floor. Their bone remains mixed in a place somewhere, the air was filled by a terrible odor of decay, blood and rottenness. Their clothing was fanned out all over the place.  I glanced at it vaguely. The authorities showed me my husband’s teeth, then, I lost my consciousness.”

 

APPROXIMATED REMAKING OF THE FACTS

June 11, 1962, Tomás San Gil’s banned squad surprisingly showed up before the members of the Commission of Study and kidnapped them at the The Chelito farm property, near Peralejo. The bandits thefted their prisoners’ clothes and followed it by tying them into pairs, messing their clothing all over the wildness.

 

Later, they moved the prisoners till the Chorrera farm property, in Key Yero, and there the kidnappers killed Bienvenido Pardillo, Rodrigo Quintero, Luis Ruiz Salvador and José Luis Abreu, an eastern Cuba-born negrito whose family could not be located.

 

The night of June12 or 13 Antonio Díaz Febles (Curruco) and Venancio Pérez Martin were able to flee and then, rescued in different locations by the Zaza River the next morning. The former one was assisted at the hospital for nearly two months due to sharp wounds and injures on his legs and feet made during the running away.

 

According to statements of Rafael Rangel, subdelegate of Hydraulic Resources in this central province, years later over the initial stage of the construction of the Zaza dam, in a surrounding area of the Zaza riversides , waters flowing down the concrete curtain, the remains of two human beings were spotted. The Cuban State Security invited Curruco to accompany them to the finding place.

 

The forensic experts determined that such remains matched to the other two missing members of the Topography crew; Nedel Turiño and Osmundo León.

 

From 1959 to 1965 operated nationwide 299 banned paramilitary bands rallying 3 995 mercenaries. They were responsible for the death of 549 people and of oodles of wounded, of which many wound up disabled for a lifetime. On November  1961, and influenced by the recently defeat of Bay of Pigs, the White House and the CIA both orchestrated the so-called Operation Mongoose, consisting in trying to politically destabilize the country and to ruin the Revolution by increasing murders and sabotages to the country’s economy. Anti-Cuban bandits caused, particularly in  our province 49 murders and countless casualties.

 

 



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