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In December 1971, the freighters Leyla Express and Johnny Express were seized by Cuban gunboats. The Leyla Express was stopped in international waters off the Cuban coast on December 5; the Johnny Express was intercepted by gunboats near the island of Little Inagua in the Bahamas ten days later. Some of the crew of the Johnny Express, including the captain, were injured when the gunboats fired on their vessel. The freighters both carried Panamanian flags of convenience, but belonged to the Bahama Lines corporation, based in Miami. The company was run by four brothers, Cuban exiles who had previously been involved in activities directed against the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Cuba stated that both vessels were being used by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to transp

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  • In December 1971, the freighters Leyla Express and Johnny Express were seized by Cuban gunboats. The Leyla Express was stopped in international waters off the Cuban coast on December 5; the Johnny Express was intercepted by gunboats near the island of Little Inagua in the Bahamas ten days later. Some of the crew of the Johnny Express, including the captain, were injured when the gunboats fired on their vessel. The freighters both carried Panamanian flags of convenience, but belonged to the Bahama Lines corporation, based in Miami. The company was run by four brothers, Cuban exiles who had previously been involved in activities directed against the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Cuba stated that both vessels were being used by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to transport weapons, explosives, and personnel to Cuba, and described the vessels as being engaged in piracy. Cuba had suspected the involvement of one of Bahama Lines's ships in shelling the Cuban village of Samá, on the northern coast of Oriente Province, a few months previously; several civilians had died in the attack. The US government of Richard Nixon and the Bahama Lines denied the accusations. Cuba released the crew of both ships to Panamanian custody, but announced that José Villa, the captain of the Johnny Express, had confessed to being an agent of the CIA, and would face trial. The US asked the Panamanian government of Omar Torrijos to negotiate his release. Rómulo Escobar Bethancourt and Manuel Noriega traveled to Cuba, where they negotiated Villa's release into Panamanian custody, in return for which criminal charges were brought against Villa in Panama, though he was released without being convicted. The success of the negotiations undertaken by Noriega were later used by him to bargain with the US government. As a consequence of the incident, the US ordered all its naval and air forces in the region to go to the aid of any ships coming under attack from Cuban vessels. A Panamanian mission which investigated the incident concluded, based on the ships' logs, that the vessels had in fact brought insurgent forces to Cuban territory, and that the Cuban government's accusations on that count were accurate. (en)
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  • In December 1971, the freighters Leyla Express and Johnny Express were seized by Cuban gunboats. The Leyla Express was stopped in international waters off the Cuban coast on December 5; the Johnny Express was intercepted by gunboats near the island of Little Inagua in the Bahamas ten days later. Some of the crew of the Johnny Express, including the captain, were injured when the gunboats fired on their vessel. The freighters both carried Panamanian flags of convenience, but belonged to the Bahama Lines corporation, based in Miami. The company was run by four brothers, Cuban exiles who had previously been involved in activities directed against the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Cuba stated that both vessels were being used by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to transp (en)
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  • Leyla Express and Johnny Express incidents (en)
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