While the largest store in Cuba, El Encanto, burned 60 years ago today, the author of the fire was waiting on a beach to leave the country and in the United States they were preparing an imminent invasion of the Island.
According to the press of the time and numerous specialists, terrorist acts like this one, fires, sabotage and other subversive actions promoted by Washington in the largest of the Antilles were frequent after the revolutionary triumph of 1959.
El Encanto store had 65 apartments and seven floors that the Cuban government had recently nationalized, making it the target of organizations run and financed by the US intelligence services, according to Prensa Latina.
This was confirmed by the historian Pedro Etcheverry, who also added that on April 6, 1961 an explosive device exploded on the façade of the emblematic place in the capital, a prelude to what would come next.
“On April 13, shortly after six o’clock in the afternoon, in the Tailoring Department located on the second floor, between the rolls of cloth two incendiary pouches of North American manufacture were placed, which a few minutes later reacted by causing a fire of large proportions”, he wrote.
Images and videos show how in a few hours the building was practically demolished by fire.
Fe del Valle Ramos, 43, an employee of the Children’s Department, died in that fire when she tried to rescue the collection of a delegation from the Cuban Women Federation that was kept there.
In addition, there were dozens of injured persons, the fire reached seven floors spread through the air conditioning ducts and the material damage caused was estimated at 20 million dollars.
The criminal investigation of the case confirmed that Carlos González, an employee of the store and a member of the so-called People’s Revolutionary Movement, carried out the sabotage.
“Shortly before the store closed, at six in the afternoon, Carlos took advantage of a moment when he was alone, activated one of the flasks and placed it between some rolls of cloth”, the national newspaper Granma reflected.
According to the article, on another floor he carried out the same operation, then left the building and got into a car waiting on the street to take him to Playa Baracoa (west).
48 hours after the event, González was still waiting for a boat that was supposed to take him out of the country and, hiding in a cabin, the militiamen who were guarding the place found him.
In Etcheverry’s opinion, the chain of attacks that the United States has sponsored on the island since 1960, mainly in Havana, sought to create an atmosphere of chaos prior to an imminent invasion.
Leyla Carrillo, a specialist at the International Policy Research Center, reported that between October 1960 and April 1961, the Central Intelligence Agency introduced 75 tons of explosives and 45 tons of weapons, carried out 110 dynamite attacks, detonated 200 bombs, derailed six trains and burned 150 factories and the same number of cane fields.
The undeclared war against the Caribbean country included the machine-gunning of coastal towns and the mercenary invasion by Playa Girón (west) three days after the sabotage of El Encanto.
This armed action was defeated in less than 72 hours by the Cuban troops and transcended as the first military defeat of US imperialism in America.