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Castro Gang Murders: How Cuba Eliminated An Opposition

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Cuba revolution
A Havana memorial, for those who fought to defeat the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

By Tania Bhattacharya

[Dear Readers, Tania Bhattacharya’s final contribution for NewsGram is titled ‘SWORD OF DAMOCLES IN THE COLD WAR’. It will be hosted on the 6th of April ’20, and will feature in the ‘MORE FROM AUTHOR’ section, visible below this article. Thank You]

Revolutions Devour Their Own Children – Jacques Mallet du Pan

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They believe that the revolution was orchestrated by them, and, its salient features were devised by their – referring to Castro and Guevara’s – genius. Had the militant lawyer, and intrepid Argentine revolutionary not been at the helm of navigating the anti-Batista rebels of the Sierra Maestra, all would have been lost. Such individuals would be rather intrigued, had they heard none other than Castro himself, state in the opening decade of the twenty first century, how Cuba’s revolutionary war, was masterminded not by him and Che, but by two unlikely figures, who have remained less known to the wider public outside of Cuba. The two in question are; Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais. The Cuban dictator’s forthright admission had only come when his rule over his people was all but over, and a change of guard was in order.

It had been very different during the anti-Fulgencio Batista movement, when Fidel Castro was planning to attack the Moncada army barracks. Contrary to popular notions, the revolution was not the handiwork of two men, but many participants, with the other notable figures being: Frank Pais, Celia Sanchez, Huber Matos, Camilo Cienfuegos, and Haydee Santamaria

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When the movement was in full swing, one of the aforementioned, was brutally executed. After its success, two of the others, were quietly annihilated. The cover-ups have left generations of Cubans and those interested in the history of the country, confounded and pained. How and why, were such important figures of the Twenty Six July movement, removed? We shall examine below. 


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A dedication to Pais’ memory, at his home.

In the words of historian Pedro Alvarez Tabio, Fidel Castro had become a non-entity among those desiring an overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in the intervening years between 1953 and 1956. Instead, Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais, had sustained the anti-Batista movement through recruiting, funding, and training. Too embarrassed to admit that their musclemen had been defeated by a very young schoolteacher – Pais – and a woman – Sanchez – historians of post-revolution Cuba (for the most part funded by Batista supporters exiled to Miami, alongside the powerful Havana mafia, and the CIA); attempted to  fabricate a record, that showed the enemy to be a pair of macho men in the form of Che and Fidel. 

Frank Pais was a quiet and serious twenty-two year old instructor, who was essential in spearheading the Twenty Sixth of July Movement. So feared were Pais and his mentor Celia Sanchez, that Batista had unleashed the sinister murder syndicate MASFERRER TIGERS, at their heels, in the hopes of having them assassinated. Frank Pais underwent many sacrifices in his single-minded goal of having the dictator removed from power. His brother, then seventeen years of age, by the name of Josue Pais, was hunted down, tortured, and publicly executed by the regime’s secret police. Josue’s body was left on a Santiago de Cuba street in full public view, with the intention of serving as a warning to Frank, and others in the rebel fraternity. The name of the movement has been derived from the date, on which the older Castro brother – Fidel – and about one hundred and thirty trained rebels, had carried out their attack on the army barracks of Moncada. As a diversionary tactic, it had been left to Frank Pais, to simultaneously arrange for an assault on the adjoining city of Bayamo. The theatre of guerrilla activity now intensified through a two-pronged approach, had intimidated Batista’s men, bringing them heavy losses. Fidel Castro may have been captured after the ill-fated Moncada incident, but had it not been for Frank Pais, the military forces that met up with the band of a few dozen revolutionaries, would have been far greater, resulting in certain death for Fidel.

Author Jose Alvarez in his biography of Pais (available in English) named FRANK PAIS: ARCHITECT OF CUBA’S BETRAYED REVOLUTION takes the reader through neglected chapters of the Cuban Revolution’s history. What is relevant to the scope of this synopsis, are the ones on the last days of Pais’ life. He may have been a co-founder of the anti-Batista movement and played a leading role in its functioning along with the heroines Haydee Santamaria and Celia Sanchez, but Pais’ outlook on the future of Cuba had been vastly different from that of Fidel. This had resulted in bitter arguments between the two. Frank was a deeply religious man who took his Christianity very seriously. Had he survived, he may have wanted the Cubans to have a definite spiritual direction. This was quite unpalatable to his fellow revolutionary Fidel, who was a true Marxist. 

The events surrounding Frank Pais’ death, are the focus of this section. As mentioned previously, his efforts had been instrumental in galvanizing anti-Batista forces throughout the country on a massive scale, both in the cities and the interiors. The dictator was well-aware of the young man’s potential, and had placed a large bounty on the former’s head. 

Raul Pujol and Eugenia San Miguel were friends of Pais, whose homes were treated as safe abodes by Pais and his confidantes. He was hiding there on the 28th of July 1957, when law enforcement came looking for him. According to the official account, Frank was betrayed by a squealer whom he had known since his days at grade school. He was then shoved into a government vehicle idling nearby, for interrogation. Like his dead brother Josue, Frank was tortured, but the attempts were futile. The young school teacher bore his adversity with defiance, and plenty of resolve. This was later attested to by his interrogators. His angered captors then executed him publicly, on a by-lane of Santiago de Cuba. 

The only account we have of the events surrounding the death of Frank Pais, fellow revolutionary and arch rival of Fidel Castro within the July Twenty Sixth Movement, originates from a woman named Vilma Espin. She was a revered figure among the rebels, being an educated woman who came from a background of prestige and wealth. Her forefathers had been landlords in Batista’s Cuba, but she had fought against their wishes, joining the anti-Batista forces in order to end the island’s American-backed dictatorship. In the years following Pais’ assassination, her account changed several times, with new characters, locations and scenarios making their appearance, and sometimes an entire scrapping of a previous one, for an unheard-of setting. 

But what interest would a fellow revolutionary who was a member of the rebel forces, and therefore in agreement with Frank Pais over the removal of Fulgencio Batista, have in providing conflicting eyewitness accounts of Pais’ death? 

It so turns out, that Espin, despite being a comrade within the movement, was vying for the top spot in the organizational hierarchy of the revolutionary brigade, along with Pais. The two had shared an acrimonious rivalry. But Vilma Espin was not going to play second fiddle to Frank. She had the backing of Fidel Castro himself! Espin was the wife of Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, and her position of influence within the Castro family, helped her case. Once the Cuban Revolution was successfully over, her brother-in-law would assign her to high posts within the country. It would have suited Vilma and Fidel well, to have joined hands and ‘taken care’ of Frank Pais, who was increasingly posing as an ideological rival to the two. 

A number of unanswered questions remain pertaining to Pais’ assassination. Who was the squealer that ratted him out? Who had paid him to betray Frank? Is it possible that Frank Pais had been released post his interrogation, and been slayed by other shadowy interests? No subsequent findings have proven satisfactory enough. 


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A talented Fine Arts student, Cienfuegos (centre) became the most popular rebel before he disappeared.

Among the Cuban rebels, the one who wore his beard the longest, was Camilo. He was the son of immigrant parents from Spain to Cuba. In the words of his friends, Camilo epitomized the typical Cuban spirit of joie de vivreHe was a good-looking, outgoing fellow; a man who enjoyed his drinks, the company of women, was a jokester, and could dance the merengue like it was nobody’s business. Born to parents in the tailoring profession, who ran a small shop from their home to provide for the family, Cienfuegos – meaning a hundred fires – was enrolled in Art school of his own choice at fourteen. Soon he had to drop out from a lack of funds. Subsequently, he worked many odd jobs, and once, travelled to the United States on a month-long work visa, seeking to make a future for himself in the new country, through struggle. Long after his visa had expired, Camilo and the friend who had come along with him, continued to stay back in the US, with Cienfuegos once employed as a dishwasher at the Waldorf Astoria. This is mentioned in the book ‘A Hundred Fires In Cuba’ by John Thorndike. He made a further attempt at American citizenship, by marrying a Salvadorian nurse Isabel Blandon, who had become a legalized resident of that country. Months later, the marriage was over and so was Cienfuegos’ dream of a prolonged stay in the US, when the authorities deported him to Mexico. While there he had a chance encounter with members of the July twenty six movement. With only ten dollars in his pocket and freshly exiled from Los Angeles, directionless, when the rebels offered him the promise of food and shelter in pursuance of his efforts, Camilo readily agreed. Among the eighty people who were able to safely land when their boat, the GRANMA was attacked and sunk off the Cuban coast by Fulgencio Batista’s maritime guards, was Cienfuegos. 

Unlike his Marxist comrades, Camilo was not ideologically groomed. He had lacked a formal education due to a blue-collar background, and was thus not inclined to textbook Communism as the other rebels may have liked. Despite the senior Cienfuegos’ being borderline Marxists, Camilo was more of a Libertarian Anarchist, who had wished to make a fortune for himself in the United States. He stood out among the revolutionaries precisely because of his lack of pedagogy. At first Fidel had refused him entry into the army, even though he had been informally recruited by some others. But after witnessing how adept Camilo could be with machine guns, he relented and allowed him to formally join the anti-Batista forces. 

Author and childhood friend Jose Duarte and Cienfuegos biographer Carlos Franqui, have drawn attention to certain ominous events in the life of Camilo. Following the ouster of Batista, there had been a battle for succession within the rebel army’s top brass. Fidel picked Cienfuegos to assume the post of Commander of the Cuban army, by overlooking Che and his own brother Raul Castro. Soon though, Castro senior was regretting his decision. Consecutive reports of the army Commander not falling into line with Communist beliefs, was pouring in. The Christ of the Rhumba/Ghetto as Cienfuegos was referred to, was already hugely popular, trumping the others among the top brass with his natural charisma. Coupled with his non-conformism towards Communist doctrine, it made for a vexing combination; one, which Castro would have wanted out of his hair as soon as he could afford. Franqui recounts many instances of Camilo getting into heated arguments with Che and Raul. He was always concerned about the human angle of a problem, while his Marxist compatriots could care less, if it suited their purpose. Once, unaware that their argument was audible to Franqui standing outside the room, Raul and Che had expressed, that the best way to deal with the problem of the Constitutional forces abandoned by Batista, was to leave them to their own devices. That way they were likely to conspire amongst themselves, giving the new Cuban order the excuse to murder them. Camilo was vehemently against the idea suggesting instead, that such people be given jobs in the public projects of Cuba. After exiting the room and having sighted Franqui standing outside, Camilo had proceeded to state how his relationship with the Castro brothers and Che, was becoming complex. It was a frustrating experience for him to have two juniors, Raul and Guevara, disobey him resulting in issues of insubordination. 

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It is notable that as revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra, Cienfuegos had opposed the murderous tactics of the Castro brothers and Che, who were in favour of executing political prisoners and deserters, without a fair trial. The trend had continued at the prison farms of La Cabana headed by Guevara, and Santiago De Cuba, overseen by the younger Castro. Humanism was a rare virtue among the bull-headed, blinkered rebel commanders. Camilo had been the exception. It was a quality, he would have to pay with his life for, in the end. 

Commander of the Sierra Maestra rebel army and a former political prisoner Roberto Gonzalez had elaborated during an interview for a documentary on the life of Cienfuegos, that a fellow commander Felix Torres, who had turned out to be a Communist, had been expelled by him. Camilo had inquired upon the reason for the act, and once Gonzalez informed him that Torres’ Communist views had earned him his own expulsion, Cienfuegos had approved of the move. 

So when it was reported by the state radio and television stations of Cuba on the 8th of October 1959, that the hugely popular Fidelista’s (a loyal follower of Fidel’s) Cessna 310 had gone missing, the news had been received by the wider public in disbelief. Camilo had been the youngest and the most charismatic among the revolutionaries. He was only twenty seven when the tragedy supposedly occurred. A search and rescue effort was promptly put into action which ensued for an entire week, before Castro the elder, had sadly declared to his people, that Cienfuegos was dead. Every year, since that day, children in Cuba commemorate Commandante Camilo, El Heroe de Yaguajay, by throwing flowers into the sea. Those still able to miss his presence, await for him to return. 

Skipping over the official account of the Fidelista’s disappearance, let us consider some unvisited elements of the tragedy, which have never tied in. Conspiracy theories about the Commandante having faked his own death so as to set up home in Miami can be refuted with ease due to a lack of evidence. However, some others cannot be brushed aside. 

The flight route of Cienfuegos was between the Cuban cities of Camaguey and Havana. It was a daytime flight of around five hundred kilometres over land. No swamps, or undrained marshes were present along the flight path. Within hours of informing his people that the popular Fidelista had gone missing along with a handful of his men, Castro had declared him dead. Search missions tasked with locating the debris, never found any vestiges of the lost plane, or human remains. Most intriguing is the fact, that Castro would henceforth describe Cienfuegos’ disappearance as being ‘lost at sea’ – the reason Cuban children dedicate their floral tributes to the waters flanking their country – when maps of the flight path taken by the Commandante’s Cessna 310, clearly depict a short detour over land. This leaves us with the doozy: Was there a flight at all? Did the Cuban Revolution’s youngest and most charismatic Commander, a darling of his people, whose popularity was envied by the Castros, and Che, indeed get on a plane that fateful night? 

Camilo’s older brother Osmany, who later came to hold many positions within Fidel Castro’s government, and the elderly Cienfuegos parents, were lied to by their dictator, when he promised to go and look for their son. Camilo had become a thorn to the first family of post-revolution Cuba, a long time ago. Weeks before his disappearance, he had been relieved of his post as the Army Commander, with the Defence Forces undergoing an overhaul, that eventually came to have Raul and Guevara, as their new leaders. Reporters Guillermo Cabrera and Jessy Fernandez, who were covering the investigation over the missing Cessna and its occupants, later said, that after involving himself with the rescue efforts, each evening Fidel would Go to Turiguano island nearby, and entertain himself by shooting stray cattle, which was then prepared for the evening’s dinner that he and his friends would share. This is pretty odd behaviour from someone supposedly mourning the disappearance of a close friend! The following day, Castro the Elder would make a television appearance wearing a sombre face which announced to the public; Camilo would never be found. 

The most explosive account about the fate of Cienfuegos comes in the form of a testimony from none other than Jaime Costa Chavez. Costa had been a rebel in the Sierra Maestra along with the anti-Batista guerrillas. In the confession of Jaime Costa, he and Juan Almeida (a Black Cuban commander who remained with Fidel Castro’s government beginning with its anti-Batista days) were summoned on the 28th of October 1959, by Castro to Camaguey, where an idling Cessna 310 met their eye. Costa then inquired of Almeida as to the nature of the events. Almeida responded by saying that an anti-Castro conspiracy had been discovered. As instructed they had arrived at the local headquarters of Fidel, adjacent to which was a field with the resting Cessna. Approaching the large house, the two men could hear a heated argument in progress inside. It was Camilo Cienfuegos denying that he was part of any anti-Castro movement. Fidel though refused to believe him, demanding the names of his fellow conspirators, and shortly after, left the building, Raul in tow. It seems it was at that moment, that Cienfuegos asked Pancho, one of the insiders of the Castro circle, to shoot him in the testicles. Four or five shots then rang out, achieving their result. While relating this account, Jaime Costa had expressed regret that he was unable to intervene and save his friend, Camilo. Costa later migrated to Spain where he spent the remainder of his life. 

Osmany Cienfuegos, the missed Commandante’s older brother, is still alive and well. It would be interesting to find out what he believes privately, on the question of Camilo’s disappearance. 


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Che Guevara in an image taken by Alberto Korda.

Ernesto Rafael ‘Che’ Guevara doesn’t require an introduction. He was an Argentine-born Marxist who had joined the July Twenty Six Movement in Mexico, and fought in the Sierra Maestra, alongside the anti-Batista rebels. With the success of the revolution, came the task of government formation, in which Guevara was given the post of Minister of Industries. It seems Che wasn’t very good at economic upliftment, because he tried to obtain a blueprint of the Soviet economy for Cubans and failed miserably after it was implemented. Sugar production fell victim to collectivization, and the offer of work-without-incentives was not very appealing to the common man and woman. Apart from being a trained doctor and holding a ministerial rank in Castro’s cabinet, Guevara is also well-known as an author. One of his books titled Guerrilla Warfare, has been an international bestseller. But life failed to imitate art in his case. Out of the three ambush campaigns he lead and participated in, in his short lifespan, he could triumph in only one; the Cuban one, and that too with the aid of the other rebel commanders who made sizeable contributions themselves. During his days as a fighter in the Belgian Congo, he was almost killed and had to exit the scene in a hurry. Two years later, his insurgency plan inside the sovereign state of Bolivia, would result in his capture and execution by CIA trained operatives. 

Before proceeding further, readers must be made aware of a woman who was among the Cuban insurgents fighting in Bolivia. She was Haydee Tamara Bunke Bider, better known by her nom de guerre Tania. Tania was a polyglot and a Marxist, who, after being smitten by the success of the Cuban Revolution and the cult of Che, decided to make the island nation her home. Once there, she was recognized for her many talents, and received training in armed combat from one of Guevara’s trusted companions, Colonel Dariel Alarcon Ramirez, otherwise referred to as ‘Benigno’. Upon completion of training, she was sent on many missions to Bolivia, where she had been tasked to gather intelligence as a spy. After Bolivian authorities discovered her true identity, she escaped her apartment and joined Che and his band of Cuban insurgents, deep in the forests of the country.

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Marxist Mata Hari: Tania The Guerrilla.

Benigno has recounted an incident in his memoir Vie Et Mort de la Revolution, in which he says that Guerrilla Tania wished to be looked upon as an equal of the male fighters, refusing any special treatment due to her gender. Thus when Benigno told her that she should inform him when she was on her menstrual cycle, so that he could give her such days off, she had quipped acerbically “Why? Will the enemy spare me if they found out I was on my period?” The last favour he did for her was when Che divided up his team of guerrillas in the Bolivian interior, and placed the teacher (Benigno) and his student (Tania), in two different groups. Concerned about the lack of facilities, Benigno had shred his vest into strips so she could use them for sanitary protection during her monthlies. Instead of eyeing this bit of information as something dishy, the reader must estimate it with the maturity it requires. A comrade was helping out another, who for him, was just ‘one of the boys’ he had trained. It must have entailed a good deal of compassion to shred one’s own belonging and offer it up for use in order to meet the bodily need of a natural phenomenon, whose remedy was not available in the hostile thickets. Benigno also mentions how conscious Tania could be of her appearance, even as an insurgent alongside Che. She’d spent considerable time brushing her hair and examining her features, before turning around to ask her fellow mates, how she looked. 

On the 31st of August in 1967, one and a half months before Che would be captured, Tania and her team of fighters, were ambushed in a river by Bolivian security personnel, and killed in the ensuing gun battle. 

There were several women who entered the life of Guevara. Each impacted his mind significantly enough, so as to bring about a change in his course of action. Ranging from his first formal girlfriend Maria del Carmen Ferreira, to his wife Aleida March, and his mistress Tania the Guerrilla, Che’s life had navigational imprints from the women who stayed with him long enough. Even though he had left behind Aleida and his children in Havana, he found no dichotomy in embracing Tania as his new lover. Benigno Alarcon Ramirez has testified that the two shared alone time in their tents in the jungle, and were often found conversing with each-other at length. 

Ramirez figures as an important source of Castro’s Cuba, where he held many high posts after his escape from Bolivia, following Che’s assassination. Having emigrated to Paris when he became disillusioned with the excesses of the Castros, he was to pen books about the Latin American island’s prison system, where 60,000 prisoners could be held without trial at any point. In an interview to The Independent a few years prior to his death, Benigno said that he had witnessed a guard force a hosepipe down a prisoner’s throat. The powerful jet of water had torn apart the victim’s stomach. His accounts are quite credible, given that he distanced himself from the rabidly Right Wing, Capitalist and oppressive Cuban exiles that call Miami, home. 

Jose Antonio Zapata’s book on the relationship between Che and Tania, ‘Tania: The Woman Che Guevara Loved’, had a lawsuit thrown at it from none other than members of Tania the Guerrilla’s family, beginning with her mother. The book however, is not some scurrilous tome without materiality. It is a blow by blow account of the camaraderie and love that grew between its two lead characters over time. Another source for the secret relationship could – if allowed – have been the diaries of Che. But his version of the events – he was a pretty forthright man about all that he encountered, experienced and witnessed – will never be available to us. Guevara’s Bolivian Diary, was trimmed of all its significant, deeply personal jottings, before being sent to the publishing houses. Aleida March – his widow – wanted to make sure that the public received only a sanitized and cookie cut version of the events, depriving us all, an intimate view into his personal relationship with Tania. 

Female combatants of the Cuban Revolution – which was before the time Che and Tania met – were relegated to the sidelines. They often complained of not being taken seriously and being given domestic tasks such as washing, cooking, and mending the uniforms of the rebels. By contrast, Tania was a full-fledged insurgent in the jungles of Bolivia, where she partook in guerrilla incursions wholeheartedly. 

During the Bolivian campaign, the code word for Havana was ‘Manila’. However, Che was unable to make contact with the Castros no matter how hard he tried, writes Cuban journalist Alberto Muller. But surely, his long-time friend and dear Commander Fidel, would have rushed aid to his side, and would have been keeping an eye out for Che’s safety? Both men had been comrades-in-arm in the Sierra Maestra, with Che leading a major military victory with his assault over Batista’s troops during the Battle of Santa Clara. Both were devoted to Classical Marxism, and had ganged up on their common opponents inside the rebel army post 1959. Che had been made Minister of Industries and had toured the globe to establish diplomatic ties on behalf of the busy Fidel.

The two men though differed in their personalities with Castro the Elder seeming more of a realist. During his trip to the Soviet Union Guevara had thundered that the planet’s rich North, was in a conspiracy to collectively oppress its South. Helen Yaffe, the author of Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, has elaborated on certain points that the Commandante had put into practice, that had alarmed his chief, Fidel. In favour of using technology that was bereft of capitalist venture, he had wanted to reject Soviet help in the economic development of Cuba. This was unthinkable to the Castros! Heavily dependent on Soviet donations for running their economy, they had no intention of alienating the leader of the Eastern Bloc. When Che returned from his trip to the USSR, he could barely face his chief. Video footage show the two men uncomfortably shaking each-other’s hand, without being able to make eye contact. Soon, Guevara was whisked off to a safe house in Havana, where he was kept in solitary confinement until Fidel had extracted a promise from him, that the former would henceforth refrain from attacking the Soviet Union in any manner. Had the Commandante had his way, it is plausible that a form of domestic and local Marxism would have emerged in the island nation. With the Castros around, this was not to be.

The Cuban President was quick to realize, that having Guevara around would result in more embarrassment for him and his country. It could even frighten away the Russians from aiding Cuba any further. So he devised a plan – interestingly with the support of Guevara – that would accomplish two tasks at once. Guevara would no longer be required to remain in his adopted homeland and bring bad luck to his friend; simultaneously, he would be able to indulge in guerrilla warfare elsewhere, something that was very close to his heart. In reality, all Fidel wanted, was to keep his troublesome, uber-idealistic amigo, as far away as possible from the theatre of Cuban politics. 

Following his defeat in the Belgian Congo, from where he barely escaped with his life, Che remained for about two months in Tanzania and then Prague, preparing for his incursions into Bolivia. It would be the fatal mistake of his life.

The group of Cuban Marxist rebels – including long time aide Benigno – who accompanied Guevara to the jungles of Bolivia, were meant to receive updated intelligence from back home. They were also promised full support from the Castros, who had packed them off with weapons, money, and food rations, aside from adequate training. 

Most historians place the blame on Che’s faulty handling of his Bolivian campaign, while summing up his capture and death. The truth of such assertions cannot be denied. When Tania the Guerrilla abandoned her car to join Che deep in the forests, Bolivian secret service agents following her, discovered her forgotten diary in the vehicle, which bore the names of her fellow conspirators. When the group of insurgents decided to conceal themselves higher up in the rugged terrain of the Bolivian landscape, they erroneously left behind photos they had taken at the base camp, which was to become the starting point of their undoing. By breaking up the group into divisions and sending each party away on a different mission, the Argentine-born Commandante further weakened his chances of combat. One of those divisions led by Tania, was ambushed and killed in the Rio Grande river on the 31st of August that year (1967). 

All given, where was the help that was meant to arrive from Havana at the hour of need? Why was every effort made at contacting Cuban officials fruitless? Why did Cuba’s secret service not inform Che and his team, that Bolivia had already undergone significant reforms in earlier years, which had redistributed land to its peasants? When the guerrillas tried to enrol the local campesinos in their plans for an internal uprising, none joined. They had already received their fair share of land from their rulers in recent years and were indifferent to the preaching of the Cuban mercenaries. On the contrary, some locals were angered enough to enlist in the security forces of Bolivia in order to help flush out the Cuban Communist insurgents on their sovereign land. Che’s foco theory had fallen flat on its face. 

But it was not till Che and his men made the discovery, that their walkie talkies, meant to be used for secret communication with their supreme commander in Havana, were not working; that they understood the conspiracy that was afoot. It was only then that they realized that they had been abandoned, and left to their fate, in a hostile nation. Fidel had played his cards right. He had known full well, that his friend and his team, stood no chance in a US controlled state, with its CIA trained agents, and content peasantry. Walkie Talkies that were redundant were all that were needed to seal the fate of the guerrillas. Now all he needed to do, was wait for news of his friend’s capture and execution. He had got his martyr.

Thus when Felix Rodriguez – who stole Che’s prized watches after his execution – the CIA trained operative and Che-hunter asked the bound and cornered Commandante what his message to Havana would be, Guevara had replied with a sardonic smile “Tell Fidel…that the struggle shall continue…with or without his support”.


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Matos being taken away for his incarceration.

Huber Matos decided to partake of the Cuban Revolution, when he witnessed Fulgencio Batista overthrow President Carlos Socarras, in a military coup. The rebels of the Sierra Maestra had enlisted him as a fellow compadre in their armed insurrection against the ruling dictator. One of the tasks Matos had to undertake, was to procure weapons for the rebel fighters, something which brought him to Costa Rica. According to a Los Angeles Times report published in 2014, Matos had stated that he was initially among Castro’s inner circle, which the latter had demonstrated, by placing him third in the pecking order, after himself and his younger brother, Raul. This had occurred, despite the many differences in outlook the two men had.

The same report revealed Matos as saying, that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, had been placed fifth in the line of succession, as drawn up by the future ruler. Black and White photography of the rebels making their triumphant entry into Havana, on the first of January 1959, has the presence of Huber Matos Benitez, either beside Fidel, or in the vicinity. He was made a local governor for his contribution to the struggle for democracy. Disappointment had filled the hopeful fighter later, when he realized that Castro was steering toward a one-man rule, and was in no mood to hold free and fair elections. 

A Marxist agenda was quite unpalatable to this particular Cuban rebel leader. But instead of keeping his ideas to himself, he openly expressed discontent over the Communization of his homeland. As expected, Prime Minister Castro accused him of sedition and had him arrested. 

Matos was one of the Cuban exiles living abroad, who had alleged that Celia Sanchez and Fidel Castro had been lovers. A BBC Radio 3 episode on Cuba, broadcast in the December of 2011 and available on the website of the news company, confirms this. There have been others who have corroborated Matos’ revelations about the two. One of them has been a researcher into Latin American Affairs at the University of Miami, Dr. Andy Gomez, who believes, that Sanchez was a Fidelista to a point, where she was unwilling to have any other man share power with him, or supersede him. 

So what happened to Huber Matos Benitez? How indeed, did he escape Castro’s wrath, when his other compadres – Pais, Cienfuegos, and Guevara – had been made to bite the dust in the most undeserving manner? 

“Divide And Rule” had been a much favoured idiom by the Castro clan’s powerful members. In their minds, potential rivals were best dealt with by finagling. Bringing forth false charges against them, and driving them against each-other, were the preferred methods. 

It needs to be mentioned, that Huber Matos was quite close to Camilo Cienfuegos. The two had remained good friends even after the success of the revolution, and the allocating of ministries and duties to the top brass among the rebels. The elder Castro was experiencing dissent from both these men in his new government. He was aware that both were strangers to Marxism and quite hostile to its mode of implementation. Huber Matos was even more so, as he was educated, and had been a school-teacher before he joined the revolution against Batista. Now, this former instructor, was openly expressing his unhappiness with the way Fidel was governing Cuba. Something needed to be done. Killing two birds with a single stone must have seemed befitting, given the circumstances. 

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In various interviews down the years, Commander Matos has related how he had handed over his resignation to Castro the Elder, and how the latter had inferred it to be an act of treason against him, the ruler of the island state. But it is here, that the reader discovers the proverbial ‘twist in the tale’. If Matos was required to be arrested for betraying Fidel, why was not Raul sent instead? Or for that matter, Guevara, or even Juan Almeida Bosque? Why involve Camilo Cienfuegos, who Fidel had come to be suspicious of? Was there a larger plan?

Castro knew, that Matos was guarded by a band of faithful soldiers whose circle needed to be penetrated before one could reach their target. It was an open secret, that whoever succeeded in reaching Commander Huber Matos in order to arrest him, would face certain death, due to the safety net he was ensconced in. There could not have been a better opportunity for disposing off two political opponents simultaneously. Cienfuegos would most certainly have been murdered by the bodyguards and loyalists of Huber Matos; while the events would give the Castros a chance to indict Matos over murder charges, declaring him to be an enemy of the state. 

Fortunately, the affable relationship shared by the two men – Castro’s targets of Cienfuegos and Matos – prevented any calamity from resulting on the scene. Cienfuegos went in to have a word with his friend and informed him that he had been instructed to arrest him. It was perhaps the most difficult thing Cienfuegos was forced to undertake, as a government servant. The matter was sorted out, amicably. On his part, Matos assured Camilo that he would ease his dilemma, by surrendering on his own. Fidel Castro’s plan had bombed. He would have to find a new way of taking care of Camilo Cienfuegos. Unsurprisingly enough, Cienfuegos ‘disappeared’ a month later. 

After his farcical trial, Commander Huber Matos was sentenced to solitary confinement, a state in which he remained for the next 20 years, while Human Rights Organizations rallied for his release. Eventually, the Castro regime relented and he was allowed to leave Cuba. As a political asylum seeker living abroad, Huber Matos teamed up with the former spy Dr. J Anthony D’Marmol, for forming their own organization – CID – with the intention of returning true democracy to Cuba. 

Over the decades, few other anti-Castro political activists such as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, have managed to escape Cuba and live elsewhere, where they highlight the muzzling of democratic norms that have been a regular feature of life back home. 

One cannot help but wonder, what shape and form, post-Batista politics in Cuba, would have assumed, had Frank Pais, Camilo Cienfuegos and Huber Matos, survived and thrived on the island. Conversely, it excites the imagination to think of Cuban Leftist politics, removed from the totalitarianism of the Castro Gang of Three: Fidel, Raul, and Vilma Espin, to be driven by the more nationalistic idealism of Che. 

Whatever the lost alternatives may have produced, it remains a hard fact, that within a few decades, Fidel Castro had become Cuba’s most powerful individual; amassing a fortune on the side which has often been objected upon. While we must applaud that the world’s top crime organization, the CIA, attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro 638 times, more or less, and made a fool of themselves in the process; we must not turn away from the uncomfortable truths of Cuban internal matters. Any impartial analysis of that is hampered by the general goodwill the two countries of India and Cuba share. Tons of Indian bread had been shipped to Havana in the early nineties, to mitigate the hunger of that island nation, after an economic embargo had caused its people to starve. Of late, a post-Castro Cuba, has been willingly outsourcing to us; inviting Indian construction outfits to help its tourism industry, through varied projects. Indian workers are admired for their professionalism and tend to earn more than their Cuban counterparts in this matter. 

Initially the anti-Batista movement had followed the ideals epitomized by the country’s national poet, Jose Marti. But power play and inveigling by members of one family, was to derail the goal of a true people’s movement, as Marti had envisioned. 

Also Read- Occidental Heroes, Oriental Lands. (Part Two).

All said and done, the question still remains: How different would a Cuba influenced by the enlightened democratic blueprints of Pais, Cienfuegos, and Matos, have turned up to be?

[ Disclaimer: The pictures used in the article are supplied by the author, NewsGram has no intention of infringing copyrights. ]



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Some Interesting Facts About The Language Of Gods: Sanskrit

Read some interesting facts about the oldest language, the language of gods: Sanskrit

Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI. Pixabay


Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages known to mankind It is also believed to be the most systematic and technical language of all. It is also referred to as the mother of all languages and is the only language that is used in holy functions and ceremonies of the Hindus, as it has always been regarded as the sacred language of the religion and gods. Sanskrit mantras, when recited in combination with the sound vibrations, have a specific effect on the mind and the psyche of the individual.

Sanskrit is the vehicle through which we have been fortunate to be gifted with the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita, and the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is the only language that is used in holy functions and ceremonies of the Hindus, as it has always been regarded as the sacred language of the religion. Sanskrit mantras, when recited in combination with the sound vibrations, have a specific effect on the mind and the psyche of the individual.

10 Interesting Facts About the Sanskrit Language


Sanskrit language when recited is no less than a beautiful melody is a mystery in itself. Here are 10 interesting facts about the Sanskrit Language.

1. The Language of the Gods

Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI’, the Language of the Gods by ancient Indians. The script is called DEVNAGARI which means used in the cities of the Gods. It was believed to have been generated by the god Brahma who passed it to the Rishis (sages) living in celestial abodes, who then communicated the same to their earthly disciples from where it spread on earth.

The Sanskrit language is the oldest language and many other languages are taken from it. Vedicfeed

2. The oldest language in the world

Sanskrit is believed to be one of the oldest languages in the world. The Vedas, the oldest extant texts in any language, were written in Sanskrit.  The earliest form of Sanskrit language was Vedic Sanskrit that came approximately around 1500B.C, a period when knowledge was imparted orally through generations.

3. An innovative language

An old, yet, a highly technical, systematic language of the world. Following research, a report given by the NASA scientist, Rick Briggs, Sanskrit is one of the most suitable languages for computers. It is considered to be very efficient in making algorithms.

4. A language without a default script

Sanskrit did not have a “default” script (like Devanagari- Hindi) until very recently, i.e. less than 200 years back. It was written by everyone in the regional script of their region, in over two dozen scripts. This may make it the language that has been written in the most number of scripts.

Sanskrit culture had a great reluctance towards writing, and this continued for at least a millennium before the first texts were penned. Yet there are as many as 30 million Sanskrit manuscripts with around 7 million manuscripts preserved in India itself. This precisely means that the magnitude of work in Sanskrit surpasses that of Greek and Latin put together!

5. Sanskrit Newspapers and Radios

Sanskrit daily news and newspapers exist even today. It is the language of more than 90 weeklies, fortnightlies, and quarterlies published across India. Gujarat started publishing Vartman Patram and Vishwasya Vrittantam five years back and an all India Radio has been broadcasting daily news in Sanskrit once a day since the year 1974. ‘Sudharma’, the newspaper is published out of Mysore, a historic city in Karnataka, India. It has been running since 1970 and is now available online as an e-paper.

Even though Sanskrit is old, yet, it is highly technical and systematic. Pixabay

6. Sanskrit speaking hamlets

There are still many villages in India where Sanskrit is still the primary language of communication. The villagers also insist the visitors converse in Sanskrit with them. Banter, greetings, quarrels on the streets, teaching – it’s all in Sanskrit here.

7. A Spiritual Language

The word “Sanskrit’ is a combination of two words – “Sanskar’ and “Krit’; “Krit’ meaning “Inculcating’ and “Sanskar’ meaning “Essence of Moral Values’. Thus Sanskrit means a language that has the capacity to indoctrinate higher values in an individual, the self.

8. A highly versatile language

Sanskrit has the power to say something using the minimum amount of words. There are numerous synonyms for each word each with specific meaning in the language of Sanskrit. For instance, a simple word like the elephant has about a hundred synonyms. English has only one word for love, Sanskrit has 96.

Sanskrit has an amazing wealth of words and synonyms to give great versatility. It has in fact over 70 words for water where English has just got one. Amazingly the Sanskrit language has over 122 words for the action to go each with the specific meaning.

9. The master of Phonetics

Sanskrit is perhaps one of the most accurate languages in pronunciation. It makes use of 49 types of sounds that make pronunciations of different kinds of words very distinct. The attention devoted to the grammar, phonetics, and linguistics in Sanskrit is believed to have been unprecedented until the 20th century.

10. Increases brain power

Sanskrit has also been proven to help in speech therapy. Research suggests that learning the language improves brain functioning and students improve academically; they get better marks in subjects like Mathematics and Science which some people find difficult. It is because Sanskrit enhances memory power and concentration.

Also Read: Revival Of Indian Economy: PM Modi Is Doing His Job, What About Others ?

James Junior School in London has made Sanskrit compulsory. Students of this school are among the toppers in various fields and worldwide exams year after year. Some schools in Ireland also have made Sanskrit compulsory. (VedicFeed)

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Here’s The Full History Of Mass Shooters From U.S.A

Who commits public mass shootings? What motivates them to kill?

Since 1966, there have been 167 mass shootings in the United States, defined by the Congressional Research Service. Pixabay

On the morning of Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a former Marine, stepped out on the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower and aimed his Remington bolt-action rifle at his first victims on the campus below. More than an hour after the shooting began, 15 people were dead and 31 injured. Among those was Claire Wilson, the first target, who was shot in the stomach. Wilson, who was eight months pregnant at the time, lost her unborn child and spent several months recovering in the hospital.

The massacre at the University of Texas at Austin wasn’t the first mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But at the time, it was the deadliest, and marked a turning point in public awareness of mass shootings and shooters in the era of mass media.

On the night of Oct. 1, 2017, businessman Stephen Paddock smashed the windows of his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and fired his semiautomatic rifle on thousands of people attending an outdoors country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Fifty-eight people were killed and 887 were injured after a massacre that took only 10 minutes.

Mass Shooting
Here’s a Graph explaining the cases of mass shootings in U.S. from 1966 – 2019. VOA

Despite a few similarities in Whitman’s and Paddock’s personal backgrounds and modus operandi, the men were as different as night and day.

Whitman was a former altar boy and Eagle Scout in a difficult but devoted marriage. Paddock had no religious or political affiliations, and had married and divorced twice.

But their attacks helped frame a new database of mass shooters that hopes to inform future research and policy decisions about how to effectively prevent and respond to mass shootings.

Researchers Jillian Peterson and James Densley. (Amanda Jensen | The Violence Project). VOA

The Researchers

Jillian Peterson, Ph.D., and James Densley, Ph.D., built the groundbreaking database on mass shooters.

Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, told VOA the idea for the database came about after he and Peterson grew increasingly frustrated with television analyses in the aftermath of mass shootings that offered the simplified theory that the violence was caused either by guns or mental illness. The researchers advocated for more data-driven conversations about the phenomenon.

About the data

All shooters have either been charged, convicted, or killed at the scene.

Densley and Peterson, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul, began initial data collection in 2017, prior to the mass shootings in Las Vegas. Following that massacre, they, along with undergraduate volunteers, spent two years collecting more than 100 pieces of information on each of 171 mass shooters, resulting in The Violence Project Database of Mass Shootings in the United States, 1966-2019.

VOA’s report is based upon that research.

The database, the most comprehensive to date, is available at The Violence Project, defined on its website as a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to reducing violence in society and improving related policy and practice through research and analysis.

Mass Shooters (1966 – 2019)

Since 1966, there have been 167 mass shootings in the United States, defined by the Congressional Research Service as “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms — not including the offender(s) — within one event, and at least some of the murders occurred in a public location or locations in close geographical proximity (e.g., a workplace, school, restaurant, or other public settings), and the murders are not attributable to any other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle).”

Put in perspective, mass shootings are statistically rare, accounting for fewer than 1% of all firearm homicides in the United States. But they are occurring regularly in a growing number of venues, leaving a trail of mass destruction that emotionally outweighs their numbers.

According to The Violence Project, nearly all mass shooters have four things in common:

  • Early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age
  • An identifiable grievance or crisis point
  • Have studied the actions of past shooters and seek validation for their methods and motives
  • The means to carry out an attack

The average age for a mass shooter was 34 years old. The youngest was 11 years old, and the oldest was 70.

Mass Shooter
The average age for a mass shooter was 34 years old. The youngest was 11 years old, and the oldest was 70. VOA

Where mass shooters killed

The past decade has seen an increase in mass shootings in a variety of settings. This troubling trend has prompted a debate among proprietors, school administrators and religious leaders about the need to balance openness and inclusiveness with physical security measures.

Current or former workplaces of perpetrators were the most common sites for mass shootings. Most of the shooters had been fired. Densley said a prevention strategy for businesses could include ways for managers to intervene with employees before a tragedy occurs.

Mass Shooting
The past decade has seen an increase in mass shootings in a variety of settings. VOA

Almost all of mass shooters at restaurants, bars and retail establishments were strangers to those businesses, while perpetrators in workplaces, houses of worship, and schools and colleges tended to be current or former students and insiders known to the victims.

Densley believes shielding students with bulletproof backpacks and guiding them through lockdown drills, though useful, could also prove ineffectual when nearly all K-12, and college and university shooters are insiders, and likely familiar with the layout of a building and current safety policy.

Multiple profiles

A one-size-fits-all profile of a mass shooter is nonexistent.

Mass shooters have several profiles, unique to where a shooting occurred.

In houses of worship, the perpetrator most often was a white male in his 40s motivated by domestic issues or hate. He had a criminal record and a history of violence, and used handguns or assault rifles he legally owned.

In schools K-12, the mass shooter was a suicidal white male student of the school with a history of trauma. He leaked his premeditated plan before the shooting, and most often used multiple guns stolen from a family member.

By contrast, the typical shooter at a college or university was a suicidal, non-white male student of the institution with a history of childhood trauma. He used handguns legally obtained, and left a video or manifesto detailing his intent.

Densley suggests prevention plans for all of these types of shooters should include domestic violence programs, the disruption of online hate groups and Extreme Risk Protection Orders, also known as red flag laws. Under these laws, police and family members can petition courts to temporarily remove weapons from people who may present a danger to themselves and others.

Female shooters

Of the 171 mass shooters studied, only three were women. In one case, the woman acted in partnership with a man.

While the difference in numbers between female and male mass shooters is stark, it was represented in all U.S. homicides in which 80% to 90% of offenders in a given year were men.

There are few statistics on female perpetrators of homicide, but those that are available help to explain why women tend not to commit mass shootings.

According to a U.S. Justice Department report that looked at U.S. homicide trends from 1980 to 2008, women who committed murder almost always killed someone they know, and 58% of the time, they killed a significant other or immediate family member, compared to only 18% for male killers. Women committed just 6% of all murders with multiple victims.

The circumstances and means of killing also differed between men and women. Drug- and gang-related killings tended to be committed by men. When women killed, they were less likely to use firearms and more likely to use other means, such as poison or arson, the report said.

Childhood trauma

Thirty-nine percent of mass shooters experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. This includes at least one of the following: physical or sexual abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence in the household, having a parent who committed suicide or being the victim of bullying.

Multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2018 found a link between childhood trauma and social, mental and physical problems in adults. Those who have experienced trauma as children were more likely to face a host of difficulties as adults, including having violent relationships, becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, having a psychiatric disorder and becoming depressed or suicidal.

Research also shows that the more incidents of trauma a child experiences, the greater the possibility for mental or physical problems to arise in adulthood.

Peterson, who began her career as a special investigator in New York City researching the psychosocial life of death row inmates for their sentencing hearings, discovered that many of the inmates had experienced trauma. She developed a saying in the office: “The worse the crime, the worse the story.”

Mental illness

Two-thirds of mass shooters had a history of mental health concerns, which is higher than the 50% of people in the general population who will satisfy criteria for a mental illness at some point in their lives.

Twenty-three percent had a mood disorder, which includes depression or bipolar disorder. This number was also consistent with lifetime prevalence rates among the general population.

Twenty-six percent had a thought disorder, which includes schizophrenia and psychosis, and was significantly higher than the general population.

Twenty-one percent of mass shooters were on psychiatric medication.

The commonality of mental illness between mass shooters is striking, leading some people, including President Donald Trump, to argue that mental illness should be targeted as the main cause of mass shootings.

Densley urged caution in drawing such conclusions.

“Even if you have a mental illness, it doesn’t mean that the mental illness is driving the behavior,” he said. “People with mental illness may also experience living in poverty. They may also experience discrimination. They may also have a whole host of other things going on in their lives, which step-by-step may be contributing to whatever outcome comes next.”

Signs of crisis

Before they carried out their crimes, more than 80% of mass shooters were in crisis, described by The Violence Project as a marked change in behavior that is noticeable to others. Such behavior includes exaggerated emotional responses, an increased interest in violence and signs of hopelessness.

Densley said in many cases, several people had concerns about a mass shooter’s behavior, but those pieces of information were often not connected.

“You have a school teacher that notices something. You have a friend that notices something, a family member, a law enforcement member. But if those individuals are not talking to each other, that information will never get passed on, and no one will ever know,” he said.

Sixty-eight percent of mass shooters were suicidal either before or at the time of the shooting.

Densley said a shooter’s anger is channeled inward and outward.

“Outward is where the homicide comes into play, because they are angry at a certain group of people or they are wanting to put on a show as their last act. But there is also a lot of inward hatred and frustration and confusion, and that is where the suicide comes into play,” he said.

He suggested adressing elements of a mass shooting similarly to how society addresses suicide. In terms of prevention, “it changes the way in which we see these events,” he said.


Fifteen percent of mass shooters were immigrants. But immigrant shooters were more frequent on college and university campuses, where 5% of mass shootings took place.

The Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007, so far the third-deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, was carried out by a Korean American immigrant suffering from severe depression.

Densely noted possible underlying grievances and motivations in carrying out such a crime at one’s own school.

“It may well be that non-white immigrants feel very disconnected from university life. They may be suffering from racism or exclusion, may feel alienated. And these, we know, are risk factors for these types of shootings. Beyond it is just the race,” he said.

‘Unusual, irrational thoughts’

Charles Whitman, 25, was an ex-engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert sharpshooter from his tour in the U.S. Marines. The UT Tower — at one time the tallest building in Austin — offered him a strategic vantage point.

“A person could stand off an army from atop of it before they got him,” he once remarked to a college friend.

Whitman was the eldest of three sons born to an abusive, domineering father and a God-fearing Catholic mother, whom Whitman adored. Hours before the massacre, he stabbed her in the heart and confessed to the murder in a handwritten note.

To Whom It May Concern: I have just taken my mother’s life. I am very upset over having done it. However, I feel that if there is a heaven she is definitely there now. And if there is no life after, I have relieved her of her suffering here on Earth.”

Two hours later, for reasons Whitman admitted he couldn’t “rationally pinpoint,” he killed his wife.

“She has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have,” he confessed in a note he left next to her body. … “I don’t know whether it is selfishness, or if I don’t want her to have to face the embarrassment my actions would surely cause her.”

The shootings at UT ended with Whitman’s death, not by the army he envisioned, but by two of three police officers who stormed the tower. Fifty-seven percent of mass shooters die at the scene.

In the suicide note he wrote the day before the shootings, Whitman offered a glimpse of his state of mind.

“I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. … I talked to a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt come (sic) overwhelming violent impulses. … After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder. I have had some tremendous headaches in the past and have consumed two large bottles of Excedrin in the past three months.”

An autopsy conducted the day after the shootings revealed an aggressive, malignant tumor the size of a pecan on Whitman’s brain. The pathologist who performed the initial examination determined the mass had no bearing on the killings.

But a subsequent autopsy ordered by a state task force found the link between the tumor and Whitman’s actions could “not be established with clarity.”

Mass Shoot
a subsequent autopsy ordered by a state task force found the link between the tumor and Whitman’s actions could “not be established with clarity”. VOA

Mystery unsolved

Whatever motive Stephen Paddock had to kill and injure hundreds of concertgoers in Las Vegas, he took it to his grave.

The 64-year-old loner did not leave a suicide note, video or manifesto, as 23% of mass shooters do. He killed himself with a gunshot in the mouth as police, security guards and a SWAT team charged into his room. Thirty-eight percent of mass shooters die by their own hand.

Paddock was the eldest of four sons. His father, self-described as a “third-time loser,” was a cunning thief, con man and fugitive who spent eight years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Paddock’s mother was a secretary.

In high school, Paddock was considered a “brainy” student. He graduated college with a degree in business administration.

He was a licensed pilot, savvy real estate investor and a high-stakes gambler, spending more time playing video poker in casinos than in the houses he owned, one of which he paid for in cash. Before the Las Vegas shootings, a minor traffic citation was his only known run-in with the law.

The last known communications Paddock had with his family was a text message to his brother Eric inquiring about their 90-year-old mother in Orlando. Hurricane Irma had ripped through her neighborhood, knocking out the power. Paddock followed up with a phone call to her. Two weeks later, he was dead.

Though Paddock was reported to have suffered with bouts of depression linked to financial losses, toxicology reports and a complete autopsy showed anti-anxiety medication in his system, evidence of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and no indication of dementia. None of the findings solved the mystery of his motive.

In its final report after a nearly 16-month investigation, the FBI concluded that Paddock’s attack was premeditated, that he had acted alone, and was “influenced by the memory of his father” to “attain a certain degree of infamy.”

“Throughout his life, Paddock went to great lengths to keep his thoughts private, and that extended to his final thinking about this mass murder,” the report said.

Comparing the shooter data

Determining why people became mass shooters required a new set of research and data that went beyond basic trends, descriptors and demographics, and broad definitions of what constitutes a mass shooting.

To compile the database for The Violence Project, Peterson and Densley narrowed the definition and broadened the focus on mass shootings and shooters. Where past studies relied on data collected in five-year intervals or only in high-profile cases, their research covered a 53-year span, closely examining variables including age, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, education, relationship status, number of children, employment type and status, military service and branch, criminal, violence and abuse history, gang and terrorist affiliation, bullying, home environment and trauma.

What emerged were fleshed-out profiles and motivations of individual shooters, whose crimes can potentially influence current and future policy and prevention.

How mass shooters got their guns

Almost half of all mass shooters acquired at least some of their guns legally through a licensed dealer, unregulated private sale or other legal means.

Charles Whitman and Stephen Paddock amassed their arsenals legally. For his rampage, Whitman, a firearms enthusiast, had seven weapons and 700 rounds of ammunition, including three rifles and a sawed-off shotgun. His purchases were made at a hardware store, a gun shop and at Sears.

How mass shooters got their guns. VOA

Paddock had 23 weapons in his Mandalay Bay suite and nearly 1,400 rounds of ammunition. At least 12 of his guns were equipped with bump stocks, which enabled him to shoot more people in minutes than Whitman had in an hour.

Types of guns used

Handguns are present in over three-fourths of all mass shootings.

Records show Paddock made purchases in Nevada, California, Texas and Utah. A month before the shootings, he bought tracer ammunition — designed to illuminate a bullet’s trajectory — from a private seller at a gun show in Phoenix.

Densley, the researcher, questions whether legally purchased weapons used in some mass shootings should have been allowed, despite laws that permit access. He points to cracks in the background check process.

Handguns are present in over three-fourths of all mass shootings. VOA

“We’ve got some individuals who had histories of violence, histories of domestic violence, who somehow got around the background check,” he explained. “We also had examples where the background check process kind of failed. For whatever reason, the data wasn’t inputted into the FBI’s database, and so, it was never flagged. … There are still a lot of gray areas, things that we need to be looking at.”

Mass Shooting
Total mass shooting fatalities and injuries per year. VOA

Global perspective

Comparison rates of mass shootings committed in the United States and in other countries are difficult to determine because the definition of mass shootings, as well as how homicide data is collected, varies from country to country.

An exception is deaths by firearms.

The United States had the 28th highest rate of deaths from gun violence, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evolution, which tracks deaths in every country by all possible causes. Gun violence killed four people per 100,000 in the United States in 2017, greater than most other industrialized countries.

The lowest rates of gun deaths were in Asia. Singapore, Japan and Indonesia reported 2-4 violent gun deaths per 10 million. Several European countries, including Britain and Iceland, were not far behind with 6-7 violent gun deaths per 10 million.

ALSO READ: White House in America Echoes With Recitation of Hindu Vedic “Shanti Paath”

Countries where death by gun violence was worse than the United States included those in Central America and the Caribbean. El Salvador had 43 violent gun deaths per 100,000, according to the data. (VOA)

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Find Out How Solar Power Can Improve Healthcare System in Rural India

Solar power can improve healthcare in rural India, say leaders

solar power healthcare
In a letter to the government of India, leaders called for action, making the case for solarising all unelectrified sub-centres in rural India. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Nearly 20 leaders from think tanks, research groups, renewable energy companies, sustainable development organisations and industry associations on Thursday said India’s weak healthcare infrastructure in rural areas are being exposed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the government of India, they called for action, making the case for solarising all unelectrified sub-centres in rural India. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has highlighted several existing systemic gaps in services, especially to the rural poor.

Inadequate healthcare infrastructure is one of them. Over 39,000 sub-centres, the first point of contact between primary healthcare system and the community, serving 230 million people in rural India lack electricity. This severely impacts their capacity to offer optimal healthcare to patients.

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Decentralised renewable energy (DRE) can play a significant role in solving this problem quickly and affordably, for less than Rs 30 per person in initial capital expenditure. The letter outlines four key interventions that the government can undertake in order to help alleviate the situation.

solar power healthcare
India’s weak healthcare infrastructure in rural areas are being exposed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pixabay

They are:

First, expanding the programme to solarise clinics, drawing from the example of Chhattisgarh which has successfully done this. Second, allocating dedicated funding towards this initiative, which would amount to just 0.6 per cent of the current 2020-21 energy and healthcare budget.

Third, ensuring long-term operations and sustainability by working through existing structures. And fourth, promoting innovation in order to develop more financially viable and energy-efficient medical equipment.

Also Read- Irrfan Khan Not Just an Artist but a Legend: Fanboy Priyanshu Chatterjee

The letter is being sent to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the National Centre for Disease Control, the National Health Systems Resource Centre, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Ministry of Power, and Niti Aayog.

“Sustainable health infrastructure that leverages innovative, decentralised and energy efficient solutions will bring huge dividends for health in rural India,” Centre for Environmental Health Deputy Director Poornima Prabhakaran said. “Transitioning to renewable energies across healthcare operations will ensure efficient service delivery and improved health outcomes.” (IANS)