By Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Between March 13, 1957, the day the presidential palace was attacked, and April 20th, when Fructuoso Rodriguez, Juan Pedro Carbo, Jose Machado and Joe Westbrook were murdered by the police, these four young students from Havana University were hiding out in different places, until the night of April 19th, when Julio Garcia Oliveras brought them together at apartment 201 in a building marked 7 on Humboldt Street, in Vedado.
When they got there, they found that Joe Westbrook was accompanied by Marcos Rodriguez, who they didn’t get along with very well. Joe and Marcos left and the three young men who had just arrived were left alone.
Marcos Rodriguez thought that only Fructuoso, Juan Pedro and Machadito were hiding out in the apartment in Humboldt 7. He didn’t know that his friend Joe would also be there, or that he had planned a meeting for Saturday afternoon. He made a call to an acquaintance of his who was the lover of Esteban Ventura, one of the most feared police chiefs in Havana, and the betrayal was accomplished.
A little after 5 PM on Saturday April 20th, the four young men were talking quietly, unaware of what was going on out on the street. They didn’t even suspect that the whole block had been surrounded and that Ventura’s henchmen were secretly making their way up the building’s stairs, at the speed of hyenas looking for blood.
When they had reached the second floor, they headed directly for apartment 201 and began to kick down the door.
Joe Westbrook sought refuge in a lower ground floor apartment, where an old woman lived, who told the police that he was her nephew; however, the old lady’s pleas fell on deaf ears. At the foot of the flight of stairs, he was shot down by a round of a machine gun and died instantly.
Juan Pedro went down the building’s vent to the groung floor, and when he tried to take the elevator he was also gunned down in cold blood. His entire body was riddled with bullets.
Fructuoso and Machadito had also made their way down to the ground floor and they jumped from a window to a ground floor corridor, however it was closed with bars. Fructuoso received a strong blow which left him half-unconscious and Machadito fractured his ankles, both of them were unable to move. That’s how both of them, defenseless on the floor and unarmed, were gunned down and then finished off at point blank.
The four men were dragged by their hair, from the place where they had been murdered to the pavement in front of the building, and then, in the same way, to the corner, where they were thrown into a truck. All of this took place while neighbors were protesting and crying from balconies on the block, who were shut up with the firing of the police’s machine guns into the air as a warning.
This was the climate of fear that Cuba was living in during the time of Batista’s tyranny, which was supported and kept in power by the US government, just like the rest of Latin American tyrants were, responsible for so many thousands of deaths and disappearances of people, without anyone ever denouncing a single human rights violation.
The funeral of the victims of this horrendous crime turned into a great protest of popular mourning and the police didn’t dare intercept them. However, the blood that was shed wasn’t in vain, every action, every murder of an innocent young person was one step further along this difficult path towards the Revolution that triumphed on January 1st 1959. Other young people could leave Havana by other means and joined the guerrilla struggle in the mountains, where they returned triumphant in order to follow the Revolution.