It was 3:15 p.m. on March 4, 1960, when an enormous explosion destroyed La Coubre ship and shook Havana. It was heard several miles away. Moments later, a high column of black smoke took over the docks of Havana’s bay.
Members of the Fire Brigade, the Red Cross, the Rebel Army, the Police, militia, men and women quickly moved to the disaster area to help the many victims.
The French ship La Coubre had exploded when grenades and ammunition were being unloaded to defend the Cuban Revolution and its people.
Thirty minutes later, at a time when hundreds of people were helping with the corpses and the injured, a second explosion in the same boat, even more devastating, once again shook the docks and their surroundings, causing a greater number of deaths.
Twisted and incandescent irons – along with legs, arms and other body parts – fell at great distances. There were 101 fatalities and 209 wounded, some with horrible mutilations. Among the human losses were six French seafarers, in addition to the material damage caused to workplaces and nearby houses.
Tons of anti-tank grenades and FAL rifles came from La Coubre with their ammunition, loaded in Antwerp, previously contracted in Belgium by the government of Fulgencio Batista.
Faced with the horrible genocide, a question became indispensable then and until today: who or who could be interested in the fact that the Island did not have those indispensable means for its protection?
La coubre, an accident?
During the investigations carried out by national and foreign experts, the possibility of an accident was ruled out, due to the type of cargo, the security measures adopted for unloading and the expertise and experience of the braceros. The results confirmed that the cause of the explosions was a sabotage prepared at some point of embarkation or crossing.
Everything points to the U.S., both for its conduct during inquiries and for the background prior to the ship’s departure. It was found that the Washington administration, then headed by President Dweigh Eisenhower, threatened its Belgian partner to prevent the delivery of the weapons.
On the steamboat a US journalist travelled without a logical explanation. He embarked in Le Havre and he was on his way to Omaha, in the United States. The ship also made a stopover in Miami without any known justification.
Despite the fact that France and Belgium, European allies of the White House, asked that country to collaborate in investigating the incident, they received little support and many questions remained unanswered. U.S. divers participated in the refloating of the ship, but nothing was reported. To date, no document has been declassified by the northern authorities.
On March 5th, the burial took place, the largest and most massive in the country. Commander in Chief Fidel Castro said goodbye to the mourning and stressed that there could be no other guilty of the crime than Yankee imperialism, and at the end of his burning words he conceived the unrenounceable slogan that, from then until today, heads the popular decision: Homeland or Death!