Incident surprises family, friends
By Vanessa Bauzá
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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