In producing the trailer video for MOJITO! a number of videos were found and included that showed the brutality of the Castro / Che regime in the early days of the "Revolucion" One of the snippets showed the execution by firing squad of Colonel Cornelio Rojas Fernandez. I was alerted to this while doing a radio interview on Cubanarama Radio and was introduced to Barbara Rangel, Colonel Rojas' Granddaughter. Here is the story of this "enemy" of the Revolution.
Often when reporting on such violent and inhumane actions, writers fail to appreciate that the victims we write about were real people with real families. The murder of Colonel Rojas by Guevara left a loving wife without a husband and children without a father.
A man of courage: Col. Cornelio Rojas Fernandez 11/17/1900 - 01/07/1959 Descended from Generals that fought for Cuba's War of Independence from Spain Col. Rojas family's history of contributions to Cuba were thanked by a Che Guevara Firing Squad.
Col. Cornelio Rojas Fernandez was born in Holguin, Cuba on 11/17/1900
He moved to Havana at a very young age and when he became a young men his aspirations were to attend military school to become a military men like his ancestors. Shortly after his graduation, he began his military career in Cuba's National Police. he was a Captain, then Commander, General Inspector of Cuba's National Police and through his hard work and dedication became the Chief of Police for the Leoncio Vidal Regiment in Santa Clara. He was a beloved pillar of his community, very well known for his public service and philantropy, strongly anti-communist, a career officer way before Batista came into power. He was a very respected man with a great heart and strong human values.
In 1931, he was fighting for democracy against dictator Gerardo Machado as a group leader under Manuel Balan. He was a free-mason in the Logia Progreso in Santa Clara, Cuba whose members dedicated themselves, as all good freemason, to lofty ideal of fraternity and social democracy.
He came from a line of distinguised patriots (Mambises) that fought in Cuba's War on Independence against Spain. His father Lt. Col. Cornelio Rojas Escobar joined the war of 1895-1898 on May 12, 1895 and lead 2.3.1-IR2 that is the 2nd corps, 3rd Division 1st Brigade (Santiago de Cuba Province).
His grandfather, Brigadier Col. Cornelio Rojas Hurtado was a 3 Star General that fougt in the 3 wars: The Ten-Years War (1868-1878) The Small War (1879-1880) and the War of Independence against Spain (1895-1898). The war officially ended on 08/24/1898 in which he was promoted to Brigadier General, he died of natural causes at the age of 88.
Col. Cornelio Rojas Fernandez was a very respectful man, very proper, correct dedicated to his family and his military career, always conducted himself in an exemplary behavior and firmly believed in inculcating discipline, respect and good moral values. He was an excellent father who was always concerned about the well being of his family, he only married once, loved his wife dearly and had 4 sons and 1 daughter, their names are: Orlando Rojas, Raul Rojas, Rilde Rojas, Fello Rojas and Blanca Rojas. 3 of his sons were also military men.
In January 1959 when Fidel Castro imposed communism upon the Cuban people Col. Cornelio Rojas who was the Chief of Police in the Leoncio Vidal Regiment in Santa Clara, mysteriously disappeared. We later found out that the Argentinian Mercenary Che Guevara, had occupied Santa Clara and had arrested him simply for being a high ranking officer. In the meantime, the Rojas family receives a comunicado a "salvo conducto" from Che Guevara himself, explaining that nothing would happen to my grandfather Col. Cornelio Rojas. This was obviously a lie and a betrayal, because on January 7th 1959 only a few days after his capture while my family was watching television, the communist regime interrupts the regular programming to exhibit the live execution of Col. Cornelio Rojas. This was a horrific event which terrorized and forever traumatized the Rojas family and the people that were watching television that day. My mother Blanca Rojas was pregnant, and when she saw her father being executed on national television, began having contractions, by this time, the thugs, and the rebel army members had sorrounded our house, and prohibited her to go to the hospital so she could be treated properly, the people outside were not compassionate that a woman inside was having contractions because she just saw her father being executed on live tv. The rebels did not allow anyone to leave the house, a midwife had to be called to deliver the baby. My brother Silvio Gonzalez was delivered in the same bed that my grandfather use to sleep in. My mother Blanca had to deal with the vivid execution of her father and at the same time the birth of her son. Because of this incident, she has suffered panic attacks for many many years.
I will never forget or forgive the fact that Che Guevara and Fidel Castro did not allow a fair trial and the due process of the law, My grandfather's human rights were denied and violated.. Che Guevara acted as judge, juror and executioner. The live execution was very famous because my grandfather was executed without a trial, and when in front of the firing squad showed great courage, his last words were "There you have the revolution... take care of it" He then asked if he could give the firing orders, which were granted and immediately said "Aim, Fire" He died like a hero, but executed by cowards. I will never forgive that the communists desentegrated my family, at the age of 8 years old, I had to leave Cuba without my mom, I was not reunited with her until 20 years later. We will never forgive the fact my brother and I, had to live without her love and care as well as of our grandparents. We are glad however, that this great country embraced us with the freedom we could have never had in Cuba. Our mother's sacrifice was not in vain.
The Castrocommunists did not have the decency of giving the corps to the family so we could have an honorable and proper burial. To date, the Rojas family do not know where his body was burried, a mass grave we imagine. We never had the opportunity to place a flower on his grave. The way my grandfather was executed was very inhumane, this was the most horrific act of terrorism commited by the communists in 1959. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara showed the world that the terrorists were taking over and this is what would happen to anyone opposing their ideals and the communist revolution. After they televised the execution on national television, they communist realized this cowardly act backfired on them, and knew these acts would give the revolution a bad name, so they stopped televising these horrific events. The war guidelines/procedures were not applied to my grandfather, its my understandig that when a prisoner is sentenced to the firing squad, no explosive ammunition should be used, however in his case it was used, and was shot at close range, that is why part of his face was missing , this act is considered iliegal but above all, dishonorable.
His execution was known as a mistake of the revolution, It is believed that Fidel Castro wanted to copy the " Red Terror" and Che Guevara was hired as a mercenary to murder the cuban people. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara preempted Al-Quaida by 52 years. For this act or terrorism againts my family and other families, the legacy of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara is: Coward, Terrorist, Oppressor mass murderer, and enemies of mankind.
The legacy my ancestors have left me and my family is of:
Courage, Democracy, Dignity, Freedom, Honor, Respect and Pride
Granddaughter of Col. Cornelio Rojas
Brian Lloyd French
I am a great admirer of the strength and talents of Cuban people and will share some of my experiences here.