Friday, February 23, 2018

Juan Manuel Fangio Kidnapped In Cuba - February 23, 1958

February 23, 1958
Five-time Formula One champion, Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina, is kidnapped in Cuba by a group of Fidel Castro's rebels.

Fangio won the 1957 event, and had set fastest times during practice for the 1958 race. Two unmasked gunmen of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement entered the Hotel Lincoln in Havana and kidnapped Fangio at gunpoint. Local police set up roadblocks at intersections, and guards were assigned to private and commercial airports and to all competing drivers.

Fangio was taken to three separate houses. His captors allowed him to listen to the race via radio, bringing a television for him to witness reports of a disastrous crash after the race concluded. In the third house, Fangio was allowed his own bedroom but became convinced that a guard was standing outside of the bedroom door at all hours. The captors talked about their revolutionary programme which Fangio had not wished to speak about as he did not have an interest in politics. Fangio was released after 29 hours.

The captors motives were to force the cancellation of the race in an attempt to embarrass the Batista regime. After Fangio was released, many Cubans were convinced that Batista was losing his power because he failed to track the captors down. The Cuban Revolution concluded in January 1959, canceling the 1959 Cuban Grand Prix. The Fangio kidnapping was dramatized in a 1999 Argentine film directed by Alberto Lecchi, Operación Fangio.

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