Press Advisory: Carlos Casanova, former Cuban political prisoner, dies.

Press Advisory

Carlos Casanova, former Cuban political prisoner, dies.

Contacts: John Suarez  (612)-367-6845 and Janisset Rivero (786)-208-6056 

Center for a Free Cuba. February 16, 2024. Washington DC. Carlos Casanova, a former political prisoner, died on February 15, 2024 at 1:00 p.m. at the age of 90 in a hospital in Virginia, United States. Casanova, a pilot in the Cuban Air Force during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, was one of the pilots charged in early 1959 with alleged war crimes.

The trial in a revolutionary tribunal – in fact, there were two – against the 43 pilots, mechanics, and gunners concluded with the acquittal of all accused due to lack of evidence. But, after the first trial ended, Fidel Castro burst into the courtroom and ordered a second trial, which resulted in long prison sentences imposed without new evidence being presented.

In the first trial (February 13 to March 2, 1959), presided over by the Commander of the rebel army, Félix Pena Díaz, 19 pilots, 19 gunners, and 5 aircraft mechanics were accused. Charges included genocide and murder. The court found no solid evidence of the charges presented, and Peña Díaz ordered their immediate release.

On March 3, Fidel Castro, now serving as Prime Minister, declared the sentence invalid. He described it as a “serious mistake that should not be allowed… to absolve these criminal members of the Air Force.” The second trial began on March 5 with Fidel Castro reiterating the theme of guilt of the accused, saying on national television that the Air Force personnel deserved, if not the death penalty, at least long prison sentences and forced labor. On March 7, 20 defendants were each sentenced to 30 years – including Casanova – nine to 20 years, and twelve to 2 years.

According to his friend Frank Calzón, former executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, Casanova’s last words were these: “Do not lose hope: Cuba will inevitably free itself from communism.” On behalf of the Center, our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Carlos Casanova. May he rest in peace. Carlos Casanova, former Cuban political prisoner, dies.

Carlos Casanova, a former political prisoner, died today at 1:00 p.m. at the age of 90 in a hospital in Virginia, United States. Casanova, a pilot in the Cuban Air Force during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, was one of the aviators charged in early 1959 with alleged war crimes.

The trial of a revolutionary tribunal – in fact, there were two – against the 43 pilots, mechanics, and gunners concluded with the acquittal of all accused due to lack of evidence. But, after the first trial ended, Fidel Castro burst into the courtroom and ordered a second trial, which resulted in long prison sentences imposed without new evidence being presented.

In the first trial (February 13 to March 2, 1959), presided over by the Commander of the rebel army, Félix Pena Díaz, 19 pilots, 19 gunners, and 5 aircraft mechanics were accused. Charges included genocide and murder. The court found no solid evidence of the charges presented, and Peña Díaz ordered their immediate release.

On March 3, Fidel Castro, now serving as Prime Minister, declared the sentence invalid. He described it as a “serious mistake that should not be allowed… to absolve these criminal members of the Air Force.” The second trial began on March 5 with Fidel Castro reiterating the theme of the guilt of the accused, saying on national television that Air Force personnel deserved, if not the death penalty, at least long prison sentences and forced labor. On March 7, 20 defendants were each sentenced to 30 years – including Casanova – nine to 20 years, and twelve to 2 years.
According to his friend Frank Calzón, former executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, Casanova’s last words were these: “Do not lose hope: Cuba will inevitably free itself from communism.” On behalf of the Center, our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Carlos Casanova. May he rest in peace.