Rubén López Sabariego
| Rubén López Sabariego |
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
|Died||1961-09-30 (Age 44)|
|Other names||Ruben Lopez|
|Known for||killed under mysterious circumstances on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base|
|Victim of|| • murder|
Cuban bus driver tortured and killed at US naval base Guantanamo
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.
His body had been left to rot for over three weeks before it was returned to Cuba. When his body was returned, Cuban pathologists noting how extensively his bones had been broken, concluded he had been tortured.
Lopez was orphaned at an early age, and was raised by his grandparents. 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. 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.
William Szili's account
In 1963 Lieutenant William Szili offered his account of the shooting. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Gonzalez, Lopez's widow, was profiled in Cuban publications for years after the event. 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.
- Cuba and the United States: a chronological history quote = 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.
- http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.idahostatesman.com%2F2013%2F05%2F26%2F2591117%2Fwwii-hero-breaks-long-silence.html&date=2013-05-2 quote = 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."
- http://www.granma.cu/documento/ingles/024-i4.html title = 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 quote = 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.
- http://www.oceanbooks.com.au/static/pdfs/guantanamo.pdf quote = 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.
- http://www.oceanbooks.com.au/static/pdfs/guantanamo.pdf%7C quote = 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.