Havana hotel blasts target tourists

Cuba is investigating whether disgruntled military officers, political dissidents or Miami-based infiltrators were behind the bombing of three Havana hotels on Thursday in which an Italian businessman was killed, as well as the later blast at a well-known tourist restaurant.

Fidel Castro's communist regime was expected to throw a tight security net around the island's tourist hotels in the wake of the clearly co- ordinated bombings. They were the latest in a series of bombs over the past five months in the capital and the Varadero resort, but the first to kill anyone.

The bombers' aim is obviously to frighten tourists from the island. Tourism has taken over from sugar exports as the number-one source of badly needed foreign currency in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Mr Castro's longtime provider.

Diplomats in Havana speculated that young military officers who are disillusioned with Mr Castro's failure to move away from Soviet-style one-party communist rule may be behind the bombings.

The authorities are likely to launch a further crackdown on political dissidents, though the dissidents have always said they want a peaceful transition to democracy. Diplomats said the bombings did not appear to be their style.

In Miami, an exile group known as Alpha 66, which holds paramilitary training sessions in the Florida Everglades, said it was not responsible for the bombings. But the group said it knew who was, and was in contact with "clandestine cells" on the island.

The group has claimed in the past to have fired at tourist beaches from small boats, but these claims appeared aimed at boosting the group's clout among anti-Castro Cuban Americans in Miami. No one on shore has reported being shot at.

The diplomats said the co-ordination of the latest bombs, which exploded within 45 minutes of one another along a seafront stretch of the once- elegant Miramar district, pointed to well-organised locals rather than infiltrators. After the bombs went off, apparently from packages left in the lobbies or off-lobby bars of the Copacabana, Triton and Chateau Miramar hotels, police and plainclothes security agents scrambled along the seafront with sniffer dogs. There were no official reports of arrests.

The bombers appeared to have scored a triple whammy in terms of discouraging visitors. The man killed in the Copacabana bar, Fabio di Celmo, 32, was an Italian businessman, based in Montreal, Canada, who had been trying to open a small business on the island. As it happens, Italy is Cuba's top source of tourists and Canada is the second. What is more, Mr Castro has been trying to encourage small foreign businesses to come to the island.

The death of Mr di Celmo may also discourage foreign tourists and businessmen from mixing with young Cuban women, known in Havana as jineteras (jockeys), who hang out in tourist hotel lobbies offering sex in return for as little as a ham and cheese sandwich. Ham and cheese are luxury items on an island where ration books are still in use.

The later explosion damaged tables at the Bodeguita del Medio in Havana's Old City, although no-one was injured. It is one of Havana's best-known tourist attractions. It was made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who used to drink rum cocktails there.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee