Rubén López Sabariego

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Person.png Rubén López Sabariego  Rdf-icon.png
(bus driver)
Born 1917-06-11
Felton village, near Cojímar town, municipality of, Guamá, Santiago de Cuba Province, Cuba
Died 1961-09-30 (Age 44)
Guantanamo Province
Nationality Cuban
Other names Ruben Lopez
Occupation bus driver
Known for killed under mysterious circumstances on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Victim of • murder
• torture
This 2004 picture shows the cliff just beyond the western boundary of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, where Captain Arthur J. Jackson initially tried to dispose of Ruben Lopez's body.

Rubén López Sabariego was a Cuban bus driver working on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, whose mysterious disappearance and death there became a cause celebre in Cuba.[1][2]

According to Marine Corps Captain Arthur J. Jackson, the officer who eventually admitted shooting Lopez, Naval Intelligence suspected Lopez was a Cuban agent, but had nevertheless continued to let him keep his job on the base.[3]

His body had been left to rot for over three weeks before it was returned to Cuba.[1][4][5] When his body was returned, Cuban pathologists noting how extensively his bones had been broken, concluded he had been tortured.

Family life

Lopez was orphaned at an early age, and was raised by his grandparents.[6] Lopez started his first stretch of working at the Guantanamo base in 1939, working there as a carpenter until 1945. He married Georgina González in 1940. The couple raised 9 children. He started working at Guantanamo again in 1949, working there until his death.

Employment at Guantanamo

Lopez began working on the base had worked on the USA's Guantanamo Base since 1948. The USA employed thousands of Cuban workers, prior to the Cuban Revolution. Although it was the height of the Cold War, Cubans who the USA employed prior to the revolution were allowed to commute to the base and were allowed to continue to work there.


Lopez's wife Georgina Gonzáles last saw him alive when he left for work on September 30, 1961.[1] When he didn't come home, she asked other commuters, who worked on the base, who told her they thought the Americans had arrested him. On October 4, 1961, Gonzáles had received permission from Cuban authorities to visit the US base to inquire after her husband. American officers noted that a shot had been heard, and suggested to her that Lopez had been shot by Cuban authorities.

On her final visit to the base, the base chaplain showed her Lopez's heavily decayed body lying in a ditch. It took an additional week for base officials to agree to release his body.[1]

William Szili's account

In 1963 Lieutenant William Szili offered his account of the shooting.[1][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] He was the executive officer of a Company of Marines guarding the western boundary of the base. According to Szili, he and his company commander, Captain Arthur J. Jackson, who had won a Congressional Medal of Honor during World War 2, had consumed approximately 6 martini cocktails at the base officer's club, on September 30, 1961. He said he left Jackson at the officer's club, went home to sleep, and was woken by a call from one of the base's provost officers, that Jackson had found Lopez in a "restricted area", and that Jackson needed his help.

The camp police had told Jackson to escort Lopez to the Northeast Gate, the only gate officially in use after the Cuban revolution.[8] But this wasn't possible, because doing so required taking a ferry ride to the eastern side of the bay, and the ferry only ran until midnight. Jackson decided to use a smaller gate that had been abandoned after the Cuban revolution.

When Jackson, Szili and Lopez arrived at the abandoned gate the lock was rusted shut, and Jackson directed Szili to go get a sledge hammer.[8] When Szili returned he found Jackson in a state of panic. Jackson told him: he had been able to open the gate after all; he had escorted Lopez to the Cuban side of the boundary; Lopez had attacked him, and he had shot him. Jackson told Lopez he had thrown Lopez's body over the cliff where the boundary between the base and Cuban territory met the seashore.

The two officers left Lopez's body lying on the beach below the cliff all day October 1, 1961.[8] The evening of October 1 they decided they would return to the beach on the Cuban side, and bury Lopez's body under rocks. But, after trying to cover the body with rocks on October 2, Jackson decided they should instead bring the body to the American side, and find a place to bury the body.

The next day the first attempt to retrieve Lopez's body failed, when the rope they were using broke.[8] They were eventually able to retrieve the body, with the help of three other officers and six enlisted men. Under Jackson's direction they tried to bury the body well inside the base, 800 feet from the boundary fence. After rumors circulated, a search was made for the shallow grave, which was found over two weeks later.

Szili had trouble finding work after leaving the service, felt that his reputation had been unfairly blackened, and tried to get his Congressional Representative to help him get a court martial to clear his name.[1]

Cuban reaction

Gonzalez, Lopez's widow, was profiled in Cuban publications for years after the event.[1] The Virgin Island Daily News cited the killing in 1966, as an example of the kind of incident that led to Cuba refusing to sign a treaty in 1966.[14][15][16]

Fidel Castro offered an account of Lopez's death, based on the conclusions of the Cuban pathologists at Lopez's autopsy, that Lopez's body showed the effects of weeks of beating and torture.[5]

On October 2011, Radioangulo listed injuries to his body that had led Cuban pathologists to conclude Lopez had been tortured.[17] It reported that:

Due to the persistence of her husband [sic], his remains were returned to her on October 21st with cranial, right cheek and left rib fractures, bayonet injuries to his abdomen, injuries to his leg and other lesions evident that he was submitted to severe tortures, according to the Cuban forensics.[17]


  1. a b c d e f g Jana K. Lipman (2009). Guantánamo: A Working-class History Between Empire and Revolution. University of California Press. pp. 173–174. ISBN 9780520942370. Retrieved 2013-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Jane Franklin (1997). "Cuba and the United States: a chronological history". Ocean Press. p. 45. ISBN 9781875284924. Retrieved 2013-05-27. October 15, 1963 — Ruben Lopez Sabariego, a Cuban worker at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo who was arrested on September 30, dies. Cuba says the cause is torture. In 1963, U.S. columnist Jack Anderson reports that U.S. Marine Captain Arthur J. Jackson was secretly dismissed because of the killing. The United States maintains that Jackson acted in self-defense and that his dismissal was kept secret to avoid international repercussions.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Tim Woodward (2013-05-26). "Tim Woodward: WWII hero breaks long silence over shooting at Guantanamo". Idaho Statesman. Archived from the original on 2013-05-27. Retrieved 2013-05-27. Lopez died instantly. And Jackson was about to make a decision that would change his life, putting him at odds with the highest levels of President John F. Kennedy's administration. He hid the body. "I hoped no one would find out," he said. "The world found out."<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "It is unjustifiable that a costly military base, kept at the expense of the United States budget and taxpayers even though it is of absolutely no interest in regard to U.S. national security, should occupy a valuable part of our territory just to humiliate, harass and attack the Cuban people, its sole mission in the past decades". Granma Internacional Digital. Retrieved 2013-05-27. In September 30, 1961, Marine Captain Arthur J. Jackson arrested another Cuban — Rubén López Sabariego — who was working there as a freight truck driver. Fifteen days after his arrest, the chargé d'affaires of the Swiss embassy in Cuba reported that a dead body had been found in a ditch inside the military facility. The autopsy showed that the man had been dead for several days and had broken bones and bruises caused by torture.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. a b Fidel Castro, Olga Miranda, Roger Ricardo (2011). "Guantanamo: Why the illegal US base should be returned to Cuba" (PDF). Ocean Books. p. 11,42,72. ISBN 978-0-0804292-5-1 Check |isbn= value: checksum (help). Retrieved 2013-05-27. On September 30 of that same year, Rubén López Sabariego, a worker at the base, was arrested by the Military Intelligence Corps. Eighteen days later, a US official notified López Sabariego’s wife that his body had been found in a ditch on the base. Medical examination of his body showed that he had been beaten to death. Former Lieutenant William A. Szili of the US navy, one of the accessories to the crime, told a Philadelphia Bulletin reporter that Captain Arthur J. Jackson had finished off the Cuban worker with some shots.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "OceanBooks2011" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Raul Quintana Suarez, Bernardo Martín Herrera (2012). "Sabariego Lopez, Ruben" (in Spanish). Eumed. Retrieved 2013-05-27. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Jack Anderson (1963-04-25). "Merry-Go Round: Shooting At Guantanamo Costly to Officers". Washington: Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 82. Retrieved 2013-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. a b c d e "Ex-Marine Officer Details Slaying of Castro Spy At Guantanamo". Philadelphia: Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 1963-04-28. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2013-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Jim Dan Hill (1963-05-07). "Let's look at the record: Marine discipline". Gettysburg Times. p. 4. Retrieved 2013-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Ex-Marine Tells Story Of Guantanamo Slaying". Free Lance Star. 1963-04-27. p. 1,3. Retrieved 2013-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Cuban 'Spy' Burial Revealed: Ouster Resulted Is Claim; Probe May Be Asked". San Mateo Times. 1963-04-27. p. 1. Retrieved 2013-05-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Lewis Hawkins (1963-04-26). "Cuban Spy Slaying Disclosed". Lewiston Daily Sun. p. 14. Retrieved 2013-05-27. Unknown parameter |+william-szili&hl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Claim Spy Shot, Marines Hid Story". Press-Courier. 1963-04-26. Retrieved 2013-05-01. Unknown parameter |+william-szili&hl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Mary Louise Wilkinson (1966-06-08). "Slaying Of Cuban Causes Fidel To Renew Demands". Virgin Island Daily News. p. 3. Retrieved 2013-05-27. Unknown parameter |+william-szili&hl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Paul Soroa (2007-01-10). "Horror y misterio desde hace muchos años" (in Spanish). Red Voltaire. Archived from the original on 2013-05-27. Retrieved 2013-05-27. También ultimaron, después de apresarlo, a otro de sus obreros cubanos, Rubén López Sabariego. Si el agua no hubiera erosionado la tierra de la zanja donde habían ocultado su cadáver, hoy se mantendría desaparecido. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Denis Marta Valle. "Historia y memoria de la base de Guantánamo" (in Spanish). Prensa Latina. Archived from the original on 2013-05-27. Retrieved 2013-05-27. De las víctimas fueron bárbaramente torturados y asesinados por militares estadounidenses los obreros Manuel Prieto Gómez y Rubén López Sabariego, ambos en 1961, y el pescador Rodolfo Rosell Salas en 1962. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. a b Pablo Soroa Fernandez (2011-10-19). "Anothr Horrendous Crime of the Empire". Radioangulo. Archived from the original on 2013-05-28. The truth is that Ruben Lopez Sabariego was detained in the rest area at 10:40 pm on September 30th by Captain Johnson of the US Marine Corps according to Julio Montalvo, witness to the detention of Ruben.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>