Take This Bus To Cuba

Back in the late 60s and well into the 70s, when all the airplanes were being hijacked to Cuba, the joke of the day was “Did you hear the one about the guy that tried to hijack a bus to Cuba?” 

 In January 1969 alone, eight airliners were hijacked to Cuba, and the annual average jumped to 41 between 1968  and 1977.

There was a Monte Python episode where John Cleese, after being pushed from an airplane his character had just hijacked, and landing in a haystack, he thumbs a ride on a bus.  The bus stops and picks him up.  He brandishes a gun and says “Take this bus to Cuba.”  It was just a very common occurrence. 

Last night a guy on a Greyhound bus from Richmond VA to Raleigh NC, hijacked it at gunpoint.  The joke immediately came to mind.  I have no idea where he was going, other than Raleigh, or why he needed a bus with 35 people in it to get there, but he did hijack the bus.  The hijacker was later tasered, and all ended well without the bus going to Cuba.

You might wonder (maybe not) why it was so popular to hijack planes to Cuba, 30 of them in 1968 alone.  Usually the planes were hijacked  to make political statements during the Cold War tensions with Fidel Castro and the closing of the borders to the U.S.  Some did it to seek political asylum or to get ransom payments from the U.S. government.  Some did it to visit their ailing father, as did Luis Armando Pena-Soltren, 69.

He was just sentenced in January 2011 to 15 years in prison for his role in the hijacking of a Pan American airliner in 1968.  Luis spent over 40 years hiding in Cuba to avoid prosecution, and had the distinction of being on the  FBI’s most wanted list the longest.  He faced life in prison when he turned himself in to the FBI at Kennedy International Airport, the same airport where he and two accomplices hijacked the Pan Am 707 back in ’68.

  In 1973 the Nixon Administration ordered the CIA to discontinue the use of hijacking as a covert action weapon against the Castro government.  WTF  The Cuban intelligence service did the same.  I was just hoping that it had gone out of style, but no, it was a “covert action weapon”.  Seems that the U.S. and Cuba also reached an agreement for the return of the aircrafts and hijackers to each other as well, but Pena-Soltren wasn’t among them.  His partners in crime were. 


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