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Master of Arts (MA)
Latin American Studies (Arts and Sciences)
Date of Defense
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
The Cuban Military trial 1A from 1989 created one of the most historic landmarks for the Cuban government to date. Immediately following the capture of Reinaldo Ruiz in Panama, with extradition to the U.S. in February of 1988, the attention to narco-traffickers and the war on Drugs took a short, but implicit forefront within U.S. Congress and the media at large. The capture of a Cuban official on U.S. soil that was willing to openly admit that Cuban government officials were involved in sanctioned narco-trafficking across Cuban borders came as no surprise to the American government, but undoubtedly begged attention and address. The Cuban Government was forced to respond, and their response came to fruition in the form of Trial 1A, 1989. Not long after their return from stationing in Angola, General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez and Tony De La Guardia along with their 12 conspirators were prosecuted and tried in an Honor Trial, and Special Military Tribunal, for alleged narco-trafficking and treason. Following the trials, the two men along with their two other compatriots were executed by firing squad. Immediately following their execution, rumors ran rampant across the country that Ochoa and De La Guardia had been conspiring to oust the Castro brothers. While these allegations were never proven nor tried, the case and the executions of the four men created the biggest public controversy seen in Cuban history. The trial was aired publicly on short circuit television by the government, following a two-day delay for editing. While hundreds watched the trials, media coverage of the event flourished both domestically and abroad. The government claimed that by making the trials entirely public and clear it absolved itself from any involvement in the issue, thus defining the goals of this research: Was the claimed transparency of the case actually fact? The following study tests the validity of these claims to transparency, by conducting a qualitative media analysis of the major components of the trial. The study analyzes full-length video recordings (never before published) of the trial alongside the published transcripts as produced by the Government in order to identify any major discrepancies or omissions. The study finds that it is undoubtedly clear that the claimed transparency surrounding the case was not so. A different case was being made for the international sector than what was being produced for the people of Cuba. Such would not have posed any issue if the undocumented portions did not in essences both change the nature of the case, and play a crucial role in the delicate balance of complete discrepancy claimed by the regime.
Ochoa; 1989; Cuba military trial 1A; narco-trafficking; Ochoa trials; US Cuban relations
Atwell, Ariela M., "Smoke Screens or Transparency? The Analysis of Cuban Military Trial 1A from 1989" (2015). Open Access Theses. 579.
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