South Florida Sun Sentinel
April 3, 2003

Incident surprises family, friends

By Vanessa Bauzá
Havana Bureau

ISLE OF YOUTH, Cuba · Like so many others who have fled Cuba, Adelmis Wilson Gonzalez apparently gave his friends and family no clue that he planned a
brazen escape.

Those who knew Wilson Gonzalez, who surrendered to federal officials in Key West on Tuesday after hijacking a plane from this sleepy island, were stunned.

"This has taken us by surprise, the way it took all of Cuba by surprise," Yolanda Wilson Gonzalez, his older sister, said Wednesday. "We don't support what he did
or the way he did it. It's something that's had international repercussions, but he doesn't stop being our brother because of it."

The Cuban government has described Adelmis Wilson Gonzalez, 33, as a "sinister terrorist" with a criminal past. He is "very astute but of a low cultural level," a
government statement said.

Relatives and friends offered a different picture of the man who staged a 12-hour airport standoff, using fake grenades, with Cuban officials in Havana. They knew
him as a quiet, almost solitary man who spent his weekends playing dominoes, participating in activities of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution -- which
acts as the government's eyes and ears in every Cuban neighborhood -- and even doing volunteer work encouraged by the committee.

"He was very quiet, kept to himself. But he got along with everyone," said a neighbor, Enrique Batista, 38. "We may have expected this from someone else, but not

Wilson Gonzalez's sister said he spent five years in jail on vague charges after food supplies went missing at a hospital warehouse where he worked. Most recently
he worked at a state-owned roofing company, a job that required him to make frequent trips to Havana, friends said.

"I saw him less than 24 hours before he left and he was acting normal. He even asked about meeting up with me in Havana," said Wilson Gonzalez's friend, Carlos
Gonzalez, 48, who is not related to Wilson Gonzalez. "Maybe someone talked him into this or he was tired of living here."

Wilson Gonzalez lived with his wife, Leydis, 18, and her 2-year-old son, Andy, both of whom were on the Soviet-made AN-24 that he hijacked with 45 people

On Wednesday a police officer and an Interior Ministry official stood guard at Wilson Gonzalez's apartment, located in a neighborhood of modest concrete homes
and pothole-filled streets known as La Embajada, or The Embassy. Cuban officials said they found four homemade inert grenades in his apartment after the
hijacking occurred.

It was the second hijacking originating in the Isle of Youth, off Cuba's south coast, in less than two weeks. The Cuban government has blamed the hijackings on
preferential U.S. migration policies, which allow Cubans who make it to dry land to stay in the United States.

In the Isle of Youth's colonial capital, Nueva Gerona, residents could not explain why their town had suddenly become a staging ground for two airplane hijackings.

"It's like everyone has gone crazy," said one young man. "The whole world knows people leave here for economy reasons. It's not like they don't agree with the
system or that they have political problems."

Vanessa Bauzá can be reached at

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