Granma International
May 31, 2001

The white-suited hired assassin

                   PEDRO A. GARCIA (Granma daily staff writer)

                   DURING the Batista dictatorship he used to appear on the front page
                   of newspapers dressed in a white suit, somewhat resembling a bad
                   actor in a B crime movie, and an affected sardonic smile, sometimes
                   cradling a weapon. In the background there was always a group of
                   detained youths, whose life he had spared for the sake of publicity,
                   and some confiscated weapons.

                   At the time his name inspired horror and repugnance: Esteban
                   Ventura Novo, the killer from Havana’s Fifth Precinct (later he moved
                   his barracks of torture and iniquity to Zapata’s Ninth Precinct), was
                   infamous for his massacres. He was a police agent who gained his
                   promotion by means of murder, torture and disappearances,
                   eventually becoming a lieutenant colonel.

                   In the morning of January 1, 1959 he fled along with his chief,
                   General Batista. His name was constantly mentioned during the war
                   crimes trials in Cuba throughout 1959. On various occasions, the
                   Cuban government petitioned the U.S. government for his
                   extradition, but Washington always refused.

                   As time passed, Esteban Ventura ceased to be news in Cuba until
                   recently, when a news agency reported his death from a heart attack
                   at age 87 in Miami.


                   Esteban Ventura was born in 1913 and became a police officer in the
                   mid ’30s. According to the testimony of former police lieutenant
                   Miguel Angel Pérez Catá (deceased), he had strong links with the
                   Partido Auténtico governments, characterized by corruption, and
                   particularly that of Carlos Prío, deposed by Batista in a coup on
                   March 10, 1952.

                   Venture immediately changed sides, quickly demonstrating loyalty to
                   his new master by uncovering conspiracies against the régime and
                   expropriating arms consignments from his former colleagues. Like
                   any traitor he never felt secure and resorted to crime to climb the
                   ranks. He directed his aggression at young people, whatever their
                   academic level, social class, faith or ideology. They were all guilty:
                   simply for being patriots.

                   He turned the Fifth Precinct (located in Belascoaín Street) into the
                   worst den of torturers and murderers in the capital. It was there that
                   the order was given to literally dismember young revolutionary
                   Emiliano José Corrales; and that women were tortured, as was the
                   fate of Lidia Doce and Clodomira Acosta, whom he later dumped into
                   the sea with the aid of a Naval Intelligence officer. Dozens of victims
                   were chopped up and never found, while others were mutilated or
                   left with the indelible scars of his cruelty.

                   In his Memorias (Memoirs), published in the ’60s, which combine
                   calumny with arrogance, he affirmed that he used to stroll the
                   streets of Havana elegantly dressed in an expensive white linen or
                   English muslin suit. This was a total lie. He used to tour the streets of
                   Havana in heavily armored cars and no one ever knew in which one
                   he was riding. He organized the arrest of youths and prepared their
                   bloody torture from the safety of his car. He never personally
                   detained a revolutionary, but always sent his team of henchmen on

                   MURDER MASTERMINDER

                   He organized the largest massacres of young persons ever known in
                   Havana. For example, on April 20, 1957, he sent his assassins to find
                   Fructuoso Rodríguez, then president of the Federation of University
                   Students (FEU), and students Juan Pedro Carbó Servía, Joe
                   Westbrook and José Machado, who had participated in heroic actions
                   on March 13. Ventura ordered that they be killed in cold blood.

                   His list of crimes continued. On September 12, 1958, his men forced
                   entry into an apartment in the Juanelo district of Regla and arrested
                   four revolutionaries (Reinaldo Cruz, Alberto Alvarez, Onelio Dampier
                   and Leonardo Valdés), and two women, the above-mentioned Lidia
                   and Clodomira. The "great defender of bourgeois democracy," as
                   Ventura later described himself, had no time for the law or for
                   citizens’ rights.

                   There, in the apartment where they were arrested, he gave the order
                   to kill the men without trial. Everybody in the building heard the

                   The killings continued. Another example is that of Goicuría and
                   O’Farril Streets (November 8, 1958): after being taking prisoners
                   there, Angel Ameijeiras (Machaco), Pedro Gutiérrez and Rogelio
                   Perea were all murdered. Their corpses, showing evident signs of
                   torture and brutality, were dumped at a First Aid post.

                   Sometime Ventura’s hyenas liked to hunt down victims in the
                   streets. In Párraga, they fired 65 bullets into the body of Fernando
                   Alfonso (Morúa). Marcelo Salado suffered the same fate in Vedado.
                   Andrés Torres in the Víbora district tried to defend himself and they
                   continued firing even after he was dead.

                   The story goes that the white-suited assassin rarely stained his
                   clothes or his hands with the blood of his victims of torture. He
                   supervised the work of his aides, veritable experts in beatings,
                   removing nails and other horrific methods of torture. At most he
                   would intervene to try and break his victims psychologically or induce
                   them to betrayal.

                   THE BEST REFUGE

                   Ventura escaped justice. His extradition was consistently negated by
                   various U.S. administrations despite the evidence and witnesses to
                   his many crimes provided by the Cuban authorities. Just like Nazis
                   wanted for trial in Europe he found the United States his best refuge.
                   Ironically, he created a private security agency, Preventative Security
                   Services and Investigation in that country, using the techniques
                   employed against Cuban revolutionaries to protect entrepreneurs.

                   Naturally Ventura was not unique. Other assassins serving the Batista
                   dictatorship like him were Pilar García and Lutgardo Martín Pérez, to
                   name but two, who also found shelter in our neighboring nation.
                   They were followed by other batches of counterrevolutionary
                   terrorists of the caliber of Luis Posada Carriles, Guillermo Novo
                   Sampol and Félix Rodríguez, who are being protected by a country
                   which proclaims itself a champion in the fight against terrorism and
                   the defense of human rights.

                   The white-suited assassin’s career is over, but the country that
                   offered him a refuge continues to protect criminals like him.