There has been a such a tremendous amount said about the downing of the Brothers To the Rescue planes that it is as impossible to present it all here. Our goal is to provide access to as much information on this issue as possible -- presenting facts and views that are largely ignored by the main stream press
First, a few editorial comments:
The loss of life is a terrible thing in any context. There are no "buts."
The purpose here is to understand what has occurred, and we must first note that the US media's 'face value' presentation of this tragic incident -- a presentation devoid of background and political context -- represents a great failure and dis-service. The legacy of tragedies surrounding the February 24th incident cannot be appreciated without first understanding certain facts.
No set of facts can make the loss of human life other than tragic. But as we reflect upon such a tragedy we have to direct our attention and energies toward stopping those who cause and seem to thrive from the perpetuation of such tragedies. Even to the casual observer, the United States' embargo against Cuba is a policy of cruelty -- a war of attrition. Recent actions against Cuba must be understood to be acts of election year political opportunism on the part of elected officials -- acts which have led the United States to be seen as a pathetic bully by people throughout the world. The facts lead to the conclusion that it is the policies of the United States government of indefensible hostility against the island of Cuba that sit at the heart of the matter.
Feb 27, 1996
It is ironic that the U.S. administration should describe Cuba's shooting down of two planes belonging to Cuban exiles as "uncivilized behaviour" just after confiscating 400 computers bound for the Cuban health service.
The Clinton administration would do better to turn its attention to the Rev. Lucius Walker and four of his colleagues who are fasting on the US-Mexican border for the release of the computers and the right of Cuba to order its own affairs."
(Rev Fr) Geoffrey Bottoms St. Thomas of Canterbury and
the English Martyrs
18 Garstang Road Preston, Lancs. PR1 1NA
Several things have become clearer about the downing of the planes piloted by members of the Cuban exile group from Miami. Similar incursions of Cuban airspace evoked warnings from the Cuban Government, which called them provocative acts, but they continued.
The Clinton administration in effect justifies the incursions by accusing Cuba of being "violent" and "scornful of international law" (front page, Feb. 27). This brushes aside several aspects of the past relations between the two countries.
The United States embargo on Cuba, imposed 35 years ago, has hurt the children and adults of Cuba. It has been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly as contrary to international law. Medical and educational personnel who chose to stay in Cuba under the Castro Government have had extraordinary success in providing health care, free, for everyone and schooling for all children. The Government has built new housing. By contrast, other Latin American countries with which we have cordial relations have been military dictatorships that have made no such efforts.
President Clinton is supporting the provocation of the Cuban-American group in Miami, which will win votes in the election. We are in no position to call Cuba violent or scornful of law.
Benjamin Spock, M.D.
March 1, 1996
By Dalia Acosta
HAVANA, Feb 26 (IPS) - The Cuban government said it had conclusive proof its airspace was violated by the two civilian planes shot down by its airforce Saturday.
''We have with us one of the pilots from this group of violators who have taken so much action against our country,'' read a communiqué from the Ministry of Foreign Relations, published Monday in Cuban official weekly ''Trabajadores.''
The second official declaration on the shooting-down of the two planes was published in answer to US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who labeled the act ''totally unjustified.''
Christopher said ''the attack took place in international waters,'' and not within Cuban jurisdiction Sunday.
''Cuba is, and always will be responsible for its action'' the nation knows how to defend its sovereignty and is not afraid of any multilateral action the United States and the UN Security Council might come up with, said the Foreign Ministry statement.
The US must take the responsibility, added the statement, as they have repeatedly allowed planes leaving the nation to change route, violating Cuban airspace.
Since the first reported case last July, the Cuban government warned ''there is a limit to our patience,'' adding the island had all the necessary means to put an end to this sort of occurrence.
''Any boat which forcibly enters territorial waters can be sunk and any plane shot down,'' warned the Cuban authorities last Jan. 15, when US planes distributed anti-government pamphlets in several parts of Havana.
''We are the champions of patience,'' said Cuban President Fidel Castro at the time, ''but our patience has come to an end,'' vowing to take whatever action necessary to end acts of this type.
Patience was out of the question Saturday when ''the Cuban government decided to interrupt the flights of aircraft which breached Cuban sovereignty and endangered the lives of Cuban citizens.''
An official message from the Foreign Ministry published Monday said the planes were shot down between 15:21 and 15:28 (20:21 and 20:28 GMT) Saturday, at between five and eight miles from Baracoa beach, west of Havana.
The information indicates that three Cessna aircraft penetrated Cuban airspace on Saturday, and that they made off when a Cuban air force plane went to investigate.
They approached each other again and when the pilots were informed that they were breaking the rules, one of them answered that ''he knew he could not fly in the area but that he would continue to do so,'' said the Foreign Ministry.
Saturday was also the celebration of the 101st anniversary of the second Cuban War of Independence against Spain, and a meeting of 130 opposition groups had been suspended for lack of official approval.
The Catholic Church in Cuba stressed its sadness at the loss of life and called for an end to blood-spilling and violence between Cubans.
In a press conference Cardinal Jaime Ortega called for good sense, moderation and restraint, to open the way for dialogue and harmony to help resolve disagreements without violence.
Evidence presented by the Cuban Foreign Ministry Monday, included the official admission of US coastguard units into its territorial waters to work with the frontier guards in the rescue operation.
Other exhibits included minute to minute radar maps, recordings of conversations with the pilots and objects found in the sea north of the capital.
''No self respecting nation could tolerate what has been happening to Cuba with ever more shameless and humiliating action,'' read the report from the Foreign Ministry, adding that ''the United States would not have admitted such behaviour even once.''
The document cited declarations from president of the Association of Cuban-American pilots, Jorge Dorrbecker, who said all the pilots were aware that if they crossed the 24th parallel, the Cuban government would not be responsible for their personal safety.
''Enough of opportunism, cowardice and attempts to mix Cuba up in the electoral politicking of the United States,'' said the document, ended with the statement: ''we are prepared to fight, no one must forget that.'' (END/IPS/tra-so/da/ag/sm/96)
[c] 1995, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) All rights reserved.
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Unofficial Translation 2/27/96 by Merri Ansara
Interviewer: In the last few hours the Cuban Foreign Ministry has reported on the violation of the island's air space by two pirate planes, which were struck by the Cuban Air Force.
Today I have the opportunity of interviewing pilot Juan Pablo Roque, a member of the counterrevolutionary organization Brothers to the Rescue, the organization to which the pilots who were shot down February 24th belong. To begin our conversation: Explain to me when the Brothers to the Rescue organization was created and by whom.
Roque: Brothers to the Rescue was founded in January 1991 in the offices of the Cuban-American National Foundation; specifically the idea was put forward by Martin Perez with former CIA agents Jose Basulto, Billy Shuss, Arnaldo Iglesias and with substantial financial support from the Foundation. They proposed creating an organization that is supposedly, in quotes, of a humanitarian character, to save the lives of the men who set out to sea to try to reach the coast of Florida.
Interviewer: The counterrevolutionary organization Brothers to the Rescue is always connected to the figure Jose Basulto. Who is this man?
Roque: Jose Basulto is the President of the organization Brothers to the Rescue, a man who participated actively with the CIA in infiltrating Cuban territory at the beginning of the 1960s. A man who has been connected to a series of terrorist actions against Cuban territory and in other parts of Central America.
Interviewer: Some people in the United States are questioning the humanitarian character of the Brothers to the Rescue organization because they say they had to prepay the organization to rescue family members who left Cuba illegally. What's the truth of this?
Roque: Yes that is true of the Brothers to the Rescue organization. I know specific cases where they received between two and four thousand dollars to locate family members who had left the country in the Straits of Florida and provide the information to the US Coast Guard.
Interviewer: Juan Pablo, on several occasions Jose Basulto has told the US press that the means he's using to overthrow the Cuban Revolution are absolutely peaceful means. What is the truth of this?
Roque: Peaceful means, that is the central idea and that is the message that Jose Basulto has wanted to send to the world about the Brothers to the Rescue organization. The soul of this organization is a counterrevolutionary organization. Among the counterrevolutionary activities that the organization has engaged in I can cite many. For example, In 1993, Jose Basulto asked me specifically for information on the highway system in the City of Cienfuegos. where he could land and unload cargoes of explosives to be placed in high tension towers that would be blown up to disrupt the national energy system. Around I Would say November 1994, April 1995, Basulto gave me Instructions on small shot antipersonnel weapons that Would be brought into the Country to make attacks on persons, above all on the life of the Commander in Chief; and that their distribution and Storage Would be as, a result of possibly winning over personnel from the Revolutionary Armed Forces and Ministry of the interior.
There is also the 1995 Meeting Plan, where Basulto says he wants to ensure stronger ties between the counterrevolutionary organizations of Miami and personnel who could help with national terrorist plans within Cuba.
Interviewer: And you have further knowledge of other missions of a subversive, terrorist character.
Roque: I can tell you that Basulto Personally arranged for the Purchase of a Delfin model plane L-29 plane of Czech manufacture to Instruct pilot personnel in taking off and landing on different runways and highway Stretches. The final objective of this jet plane was to try to make direct attacks on Cuban military bases and installations as Well as to kick Off the terrorist plan aimed at a national uprising, and also monitoring the Revolutionary Armed Forces and Ministry of the interior radio frequencies in order to create interference and false signals in the nations defense System.
Interviewer: And the funds for these terrorist activities? Where did they come from?
Roque: The funds for all these activities come essentially from the Cuban American National Foundation, and Cuban American businesses like Bacardi, and others also gave substantial Sums.
Interviewer: It is known that Brothers to the Rescue violated the island's airspace despite Warnings from the Cuban government,
Why then did Basulto insist on carrying out the action, knowing the risks that it could carry for the lives of the pilots involved?
Roque: I can tell You that the fundamental Purpose is to Provoke incidents that aggravated relations between Cuba and the United States which is What the Right, the extreme Right of the United States wants.
Interviewer: The government of the United States must know of the activities of Brothers to the Rescue in Cuba.
Roque: Yes, they know about it. I personally informed FBI agent Oscar Montoto under the Pseudonym of Slingman of all the operations carried out by Brothers to the Rescue violating Cuban air space. His beeper number is 734-5578. FBI Special Agent Oscar Montoto Is in charge of all violations of neutrality carried out by counterrevolutionary groups in Dade County.
Interviewer: When on July 13, 1995 Jose Basulto violated Cuban air Space and the government of the island presented proof of this to the United States, the US government announced that it would investigate the event and take measures. Do you know some of the measures that the Us government has taken?
Roque: The measures were taken quite coolly; Practically no attention Was paid whatsoever. There Was a report on the Possible consequences that continued violations Would bring and the possibility of a license suspension of one of the Brothers to the Rescue Who did this was evaluated Something Which had no effect because a two person plane can have one pilot sanctioned and the other doesn't have to be Sanctioned, Which means that the pilots are going to be able to keep flying.
Interviewer: The United States government has not recognized that Brothers to the Rescue has violated Cuban air space. What can you tell us about this?
Roque: Brothers to the Rescue has violated Cuban air space on several occasions. Pilots Jose Basulto. Miguel Molares. Billy Shuns on more than one occasion have entered Cuban territory violating all established regulations.
Interviewer: And you have also participated in these actions.
Roque: I personally have violated air space, specifically the last was on January 9, 1996. where I got a call the day before to participate in a flight to Havana where thousands of leaflets were going to be released from a height of morn than 9.500 feet at a distance of less than 10 miles from the coast. That is, from quite close in. The mission would be carried out In planes November 2306 and Limasierra November 108. With me was Captain Billy Shuss, the windows were opened In the pianos once the 9500-ft altitude was reached. they wore opened at practically a 45 degree angle. and the leaflets were released into national territory.
This violation was repeated on January 13,1996 when thousands of leaflets more were released; the intention was to try to boost the spirits of the counterrevolutionary organizations.
Interviewer: Brothers to the Rescue violated other norms of US international civil aeronautics regulations.
Roque: It constantly violated civil aeronautics regulations. I can cite some examples for you Brothers to the Rescue threw smoke bombs of different day time and night time types from the windows of the planes, including there were times when it struck the propeller. There are structural violations In the airplane like the windows the doors. low altitude flights of less than 50 feet when provisions were thrown out, etc.. false reports of location during flights when at a given moment they were trying to trick the Air controllers. Also alteration of flight plans with flight planned for specific points and detours to Cuban national territory which is the most frequent of these, that is, a flight was planned for the Bahamas with a specific route and the flight was totally altered to deceive the Boyeros Flight Tower.
Interviewer: Why Is Juan Pablo Roque in Cuba today?
Roque: I am In Cuba because I want to denounce the organization Brothers to the Rescue and show the world their true character.
(During the interview photographs of the principal leaders of Brothers to the Rescue were shown. of Roque with Basulto, purchase receipt for the plane, a video greeting Mas Canosa and photos of Roque with Ileana Ross and with Ninoska Perez. Also a report from Channel 23 in Miami from July 23, 1995, where a journalist reports that he traveled in Plane 2506 with Basulto and Roque, commenting that 4 Brothers to the Rescue planes were visible from the Malecon in perfect formation. and indicating that shortly thereafter Cuba responded: A Mig.23 that also flew near us during a period of 5 minutes. The final video is of Roque arriving in Havana on Cubana flight.)
Sun, 3 Mar 1996 From IFCO
On Ash Wednesday, five of us, citizens of the US and Canada, consecrated a "fast for life" as a call for a more humane U.S. policy toward our neighbors in Cuba. We plan to continue the fast until the 400 medical computers seized by the US Treasury Department are released. Cuban churches have requested these computers for use in an essential medical information network that will improve the quality of patient care in their family clinics and hospitals. As Cuban Rev. Clara Rodes said, "Our nation's emphasis on health care is something of value to people of faith: Jesus preached the Word, but He also healed the sick." We are here on the San Diego/Mexico border to give a prayerful testimony about a vengeful and brutal aspect of our nation's foreign policy. We understand that the events of February 24 make the context of our fast more complicated. But these events have only increased our desire to serve as a ray of calm and clarity in a sudden climate of hysteria and hostility. These are some of the ways in which we understand the events of last Saturday:
We are fasting today on their behalf. We are pleading with our nation to have a heart; we are praying for redemption of our nation's soul. We are asking for an end to this policy of death-in-the-name-of-democracy.
The events of last weekend do indeed make the context of our fast more complicated; but they also make our vigil more important than ever. We are proud to put forth a testimony of peace, calm, and reason in a storm of hostility and vitriolic overreaction. We like to think that our nation is big enough and rich enough and mature enough to tolerate differences in style and opinion. We feel sure that, when moral leadership is given, our nation can rise above its basest and most vengeful nature. We pray that our government will abandon its attempt to crush our neighbors, and will instead adopt the Biblical mandate (Mt. 25:35) to "give a cup of cold water" to "the least of these." Please call us about organizing vigils in your community.
Please call the White House and the Secretary of the Treasury and urge the release of the computers. Please do what you can to stop Helms-Burton from becoming law.
"The Cuban Shootdown" (New York Times, Feb. 27, 1996) cites unspecified "civil aviation conventions" as authorizing the penetration of Cuban airspace by low performance aircraft chartered by Cuban political activists.
But the Chicago Convention of 1944, Article 3, not only excludes "state aircraft" from its purview, but says that aircraft used in military services "shall be deemed to be state aircraft."
I know of no other international aviation convention that is even arguably pertinent. It is possible to argue that dropping political leaflets and supporting a foreign country's political dissidents is not "military," as the term might be strictly construed, but neither is it "civil," as that term might be equally construed.
The intent of the parties to the convention was to encourage air transportation by "general aviation": corporate executives, vacationers and so on.
If it were construed to allow political overflights, Cuban aircraft would presumably be free to drop electioneering material in, say, Wilmington, N.C., when Senator Jesse Helms is running for re-election.
There are many other legal factors to be weighed before taking as firm a position as you seem to encourage.
For example, if the United States knowingly allows its territory to be used as a base for "irregulars" to commit acts of armed force against Cuba, questions of "aggression" under a definition adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1974 would have to be discussed.
The "inherent right" of self-defense has often been argued by the United States to rest on international practices accepted as law since 1837, when a British anticipatory incursion into New York State provoked diplomatic correspondence.
The United Nations Charter's apparent limitation of that "inherent" right to cases of an "armed attack" might even be met in the Cuba case; and if not, questions of the authority of the United Nations Security Council would be raised.
An analogy to the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983 is not appropriate, since that aircraft was a clearly civil aircraft, while the Brothers to the Rescue flight was one in a series of political actions, and its flight plan was deliberately false. It is too early to condemn the Cuban action as illegal, just as it is too early to support it.
Alfred P. Rubin
Prof. of International Law Tufts University Medford, Mass.
Feb. 28, 1996
From: Lisa Pease
Date: 28 FEB 1996 06:35:24 GMT
Neither the Government nor the corporate press are giving you the truth about the planes the Cubans downed, and what their leader really represents. Here is some background on Brothers to the Rescue founder, Jose Basulto Leon.
Jose Basulto Leon has had a lifetime of aggravating U.S.-Cuban relations, dating back to his participation in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Operation. In August 1962 Jose Basulto Leon helped organize a raid on a de luxe Cuban hotel by members of the Cuban exile group DRE (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil). The DRE opened fire on the hotel from offshore; despite their intentions, no civilians were killed. (In their book, The Fish Is Red, p. 132, Warren Hinckle and William Turner wrote that "the raid had been carefully planned and approved" by the CIA.)
At least two members of this group (Carlos "Batea" Hernandez and John Koch Gene) were arrested a year later in Louisiana, when the FBI raided an illegal DRE dynamite cache on Lake Pontchartrain. The FBI heard that a Basulto had also been present at the DRE arms cache, but Jose Basulto denied that he had been present. (Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics, 305).
Felix Rodriguez told the Kerry Committee that he met Contra leaders Enrique Bermudez and Adolfo Calero in Miami at Jose Basulto's home (4 Kerry Hearings, 340-41). He later wrote in his book Shadow Warrior that he and Basulto "have been like brothers" since their training together in Guatemala for the Bay of Pigs. He added that Basulto had "been to contra camps in Central America, helping to dispense humanitarian aid" (p. 109).
Basulto and Felix Rodriguez together appear to have been part of a plan for treating wounded Contras in Miami, worked out under the direction of Oliver North. A note in North's diary reads "22-Jan-85 Medical Support System for wounded FDN [Contras] in Miami -- HMO in Miami as oked to help all WIA [wounded in action]... Felix Rodriguez." This HMO was International Medical Centers (IMC), whose head (Cuban-American Miguel Recarey) fled the U.S. after being indicted in what Mother Jones called "the largest HMO Medicare fraud in U.S. history." Jose Basulto told the Wall Street Journal in 1987 that he had attended meetings at IMC with Felix Rodriguez and Adolfo Calero. A former agent of the Department of Health and Human Services told Stephen Pizzo of Mother Jones that Recarey used part of the $30 million a month he received to treat Medicare patients "to set up field hospitals for the contras" (Mother Jones, Sept./Oct. 1992, 31-33).
Most contra aid came from one of three sources: the CIA, Oliver North's illicit operation, or drug-trafficking. The New York Times reported on January 20, 1987, that the DEA in Guatemala "had compiled convincing evidence" that the contra supply operation at Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador, where Felix Rodriguez was in charge, "was smuggling cocaine and marijuana." Celerino Castillo, the DEA Agent who compiled this evidence, later wrote that "Hundreds of flights each week [through Ilopango] delivered cocaine to the buyers and returned with money headed for...Panama....From Panama, the money was wired to a Costa Rican bank account held by the Contras" (Celerino Castillo, Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras, and the Drug War [Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 1994], 138-39). Adolfo Calero's brother Mario became part owner of a drug-trafficking airline, Hondu Carib, with one of the pilots flying for the Contras (Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics, 57-58; cf. Celerino Castillo, 175).
Jose Basulto Leon has admitted his role in dropping leaflets over Havana in January 1996 (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/25/96). This imitated the October 1959 leafleting raid of the late Frank Sturgis alias Fiorini, who helped set up the Lake Pontchartrain training camp where Basulto was suspected by the FBI of being present (Scott, Deep Politics, 88-89).
The United States Government has claimed that the two planes accompanying Basulto's were shot down while over international waters. One has to be wary of this claim. The U.S. Government also claimed that the U.S. destroyer Maddox was on "a routine patrol in international waters," when attacked by North Vietnam in the first Tonkin Gulf Incident of 1964. A Congressional investigation subsequently revealed that the Maddox had frequently violated the North Vietnamese twelve-mile limit. There were similar U.S. claims in response to the North Korean capture in 1968 of the spyship Pueblo; and these too dissolved when examined more closely (Peter Dale Scott, War Conspiracy, 52-53, 132-35).
Posted by Lisa Pease
Date: 28 FEB 1996 06:35:24 GMT Lisa Pease
Havana, February 26 (RHC)-- The Cuban Foreign Ministry has issued a note on the statements made by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher Sunday, in which he described as "totally unjustifiable" the shooting down of two U.S. Cessna planes by Cuba. Christopher said that according to the details available to the U.S. administration, the downing took place over international waters and not over Cuban territorial waters, as the Cuban government maintains.
Using a threatening tone, adds the communiqué, Secretary Christopher said that President Clinton's actions would be "prompt and appropriate" and that they would not be limited to multilateral actions but would feel free to take unilateral actions against Cuba.
In its reply, the Cuban Foreign Ministry expresses that the head of U.S. diplomacy cynically lied and used hostile language similar to that of successive U.S. administrations against Havana over the last 35 years.
The first element to illustrate this, continues the statement, is the fact that U.S. authorities requested permission Saturday to jointly conduct search and rescue operations with Cuban vessels in Cuban territorial waters. This request gives ample evidence of the fact that Cuba acted in legitimate defense and not in an `unjustifiable manner' as Secretary Christopher put it.
The declaration continues by stating that the real issue is the hundreds of provocations and violations, including pirate incursions over territorial airspace and on Havana itself, that have occurred over the past 35 years.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry says the United States is free to make all decisions and measures it considers appropriate, but should be aware that those measure could inevitably also have negative consequences for them.
Cuba is and will always be responsible for its actions and has proven that it knows how to defend its sovereignty. Cuba does not fear any threats which, under the present circumstances, could come from the U.N. Security Council.
In conclusion, the communique says that the island has ample evidence to show that the U.S. Secretary of State lied to the international community. Cuba demands an end to the opportunism, cowardice and attempts to involve Cuba in U.S. electoral, political maneuvering.
New York, February 26 (RHC)-- Cuba's Mission to the United Nations in New York City said it is receiving bomb threats as well as personal threats against Cuban diplomats. Acting Cuban Ambassador Pedro Nunez said that the threats took place over the weekend and throughout the day Monday. He referred to the presence of anti-Cuban demonstrators outside the Cuban Mission in New York. Early Monday morning, a Cuban diplomat was violently attacked by right-wing forces, suffering considerable injuries, as he left the Cuban Mission on his way to the United Nations.
Mexico City, February 26 (RHC)-- The Mexican daily "Excelsior" called the attitude of the United States "dangerous" -- referring to unilateral actions by the U.S. against Cuba in response to Saturday's shoot-down of two planes that violated Cuban territorial airspace. In one of its main editorials this morning, the Mexican newspaper said that U.S. interventionist actions against Cuba could have serious repercussions throughout Latin America. "Excelsior" noted that pilots from the organization "Brothers to the Rescue" admitted to having received terrorist training by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, and that they take off and land in Florida without any restrictions from the U.S. government.
In statements to the newspaper "El Nacional," the Cuban Ambassador to Mexico, Abelardo Curbelo, accused Washington of acting "in a provocative and irresponsible manner, creating a conflict that no one wants." The Cuban ambassador in Mexico City recalled that U.S. authorities granted clearance to these planes which violated international law and the sovereignty of Cuba -- and must take responsibility for its actions.
Miami, February 26 (RHC)-- Cuban-American organizations in the United States say Washington is to blame for the downing of two planes belonging to the anti-Cuban group "Brothers to the Rescue" on Saturday. In statements to the media in Florida, the Alliance of Cuban Workers, the Antonio Maceo Brigade and Afro Cuban Cultural Committee also condemned the White House's anti-Cuba policy.
The three Cuban-American groups, based in Miami, especially blamed the anti-Cuban group "Brothers to the Rescue" for the deaths of the four that violated Cuban territory. The group adds that this anti-Cuban organization has been provoking a confrontation between the U.S. and Cuba, continuously violating Cuban territory. The Cuban-American organizations urged the Clinton Administration to carefully look at the arguments and proof that Cuban authorities will present regarding the violation of its airspace.
In Saturday's edition (February 24), the daily noted that the U.S. government gave $500,000 to the ultra-Right wing organization Freedom House to acquire computers and send them to individuals who agree with U.S. anti-Cuba policies. At the same time, U.S. authorities have spent nearly one million dollars to prevent the delivery of important humanitarian aid in the form of computers, which will be used to link Cuban hospitals and clinics, giving doctors and medical personnel life-saving, up-to- the-minute information.
Granma said it is easy to see the reasoning of the U.S. government in this more than apparent "double standard." The computers earmarked for the Cuban health care system by Pastors for Peace and prevented from reaching the island will bring healing -- while those Washington encourages are designed to undermine and destroy the Cuban Revolution.
By Arthur Heitzer
March 1, 1996
"Remember the Maine?" Americans should, as this suspicious explosion of a U.S. ship in the Havana harbor was sensationalized by the U.S. press in 1898, providing an excuse for the U.S. to intervene near the end of a lengthy war of independence by Cuba against Spain. We picked up Puerto Rico and the Philippines as formal colonies, and allowed Cuba to go "free" so long as it agreed to the Platt amendment as part of its constitution, allowing the U.S. to intervene militarily whenever we wanted.
It did not matter that an estimated 200,000 Cubans and 80,000 Spaniards had died in that war. Cuba was even excluded from the peace conference which determined its fate. Most of your readers will recall the "Gulf of Tonkin" incident, in which a faulty or fabricated report of an second attack by Vietnamese forces on a U.S. ship resulted in a hasty rubber stamp by Congress of a tragic war in Asia from which millions of Americans are still suffering.
Now we have the Maine II. Two and a half weeks before the Florida primary, and right before planned the conference committee on the Helms-Burton bill, a Bay of Pigs veteran led a small flotilla of 3 plans into Cuban airspace, the second time that very day according to Cuba. The Cubans say two of these planes defiantly entered Cuban airspace again while Jose Basulto remained outside; the U.S. claims that his plane entered Cuban airspace and implies that the other two did not. Every one should know that the planes were unarmed, proclaims the U.S., although repeated armed boats have been leaving Florida for Cuba, and even when they are intercepted, the U.S. declines to prosecute (see Miami Herald, 1/25/96).
From the deadly flash that resulted, Pres. Clinton has caved in to support one of the most extreme attempts ever by congress to dictate a permanent foreign policy to _any_ administration, to likely violate GATT and NAFTA, and to supposedly grant the president the power to turn on and off again the right to sue in the judiciary. But most of all, this rush to judgment would assert a remarkably colonial regime: dictating to Cuba how it must organize a multi-party system, telling it what committees must be abandoned, apparently even dictating who can and cannot run for office.
If Cuba does not go along, its children and others will continue to be denied life-saving medicine, as we attempt to enforce an even broader world wide embargo on a small island that dared to organize its society independent of our dictates. Have we learned anything in the last century?
606 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203
February 27, 1996
Today, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has called upon President Clinton to exercise restraint in responding to recent events in Cuba and upon Attorney General Janet Reno to de-escalate the Justice Department's response to humanitarian efforts by concerned citizens to alleviate suffering and deprivation in Cuba. We join other peace-loving individuals in mourning the deaths of the four men whose plane was shot down on Saturday.
WILPF calls upon the Attorney General to step back from a Grand Jury fishing expedition to smear and intimidate IFCO/Pastors For Peace and deter their efforts to transport urgently needed computer medical equipment to Cuba.
Further WILPF urges President Clinton to refrain from a rush to bellicose action in response to recent events in Cuba. We believe that a thorough investigation of the Brothers to the Rescue plane and the response from the Cuban military is warranted in light of the past actions of the Brothers to the Rescue and the history of U.S. involvement in private actions against the sovereign government of Cuba.
It is WILPF's position that the U.S. government and the United Nations acted precipitously before all the facts of the situation were known. We do know from CNN tapes that the Brothers To The Rescue plane was warned several times by the Cuban military that it was over Cuban territory before action was taken to bring down the plane. We know that the Brothers To The Rescue has flown over Cuba before and dropped propaganda over Havana. The intentions of the Brothers To The Rescue plane and its intended course in this flight must be uncovered, before passing judgment.
WILPF questions the role of U.S. secret intelligence agencies in this incident. We suspect knowledge and possible involvement by some government operative(s) in planning the action taken by the Brother To The Rescue. In the light of prior embarrassments, like the Bay of Pigs fiasco, this possibility must be given serious consideration.
Furthermore, WILPF condemns the action taken by the United States and the Security Council of the U.N. without even waiting until Foreign Minister Robaina to arrive in New York from Cuba to be present for the deliberations.
It seems unduly convenient for this convergence of events ( the provocation of the flyover by the Brothers To The Rescue and the issuing of Grand Jury Subpoenas to IFCO/Pastor for Peace members) to have accidentally occurred on the eve of Congress' consideration of the Helms/Burton bills to increase the U.S.' illegal economic stranglehold of Cuba. Were these events orchestrated to ensure a passage of the Helms/Burton bill and to have a chilling effect on those proposing a more rational relationship between the U.S. and Cuba? These and many other questions need to be addressed by a thorough and impartial investigation.
WILPF has long been a proponent of citizen diplomacy, to build bridges of peace and friendship between the peoples of nations in conflict. As such, WILPF has maintained a long-standing relationship with the Federation Of Cuban Women. The Federation has requested that we help circulate their statement on the recent incident. Since there has so far been no investigation into the events, and since the United Nations issued its statement without allowing for Cuba to present its position. WILPF feels it is in the interest of fairness and for the sake of a long-term resolution of the U.S.- Cuban conflict to air as much information as possible, including positions that are not necessarily the same as those of WILPF. To this end we are including their statement, as well as our letter to President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno.
February 27, 1996
One more time our small country has been a victim of terrorism, the overbearing and interfering actions of counterrevolutionary groups located in the territory of the United States, and with the tolerance and permissive attitude of that government, have violated our national sovereignty.
We Cuban women know very well the grief and pain that these assassin acts have signified. Throughout these many years these criminal actions have been repeated, often against the helpless population of our coasts, against our most important economic objectives.
We are conscious of the efforts that our government has made to avoid conflict that involves the loss of human life and the increase in tension. Sufficient evidence has been demonstrated by the government's capacity to alert and to patiently dissuade. The government of the United States has been repeatedly warned and threatened to stop the practices of the groups that arm and train themselves.
the patience of the citizens of our country has a limit.
This past February 24, a day of special significance, when the 101st anniversary of the beginning of our War for Independence was being commemorated, our air space was grossly and repeatedly violated, even after receiving warnings of the danger involved, that we would not tolerate a new aggression, and that we were prepared to repel them.
After 3:00 on this same day, two CESSNA planes proceeding from the United States repeated the penetration of our air space, being intercepted and shot down within at least eight miles of our coastline.
We very much regret that such an irresponsible and dangerous act has made necessary the immediate action by the faithful guardians of our territorial integrity, of the rights of our people to defend the lives of the hardworking Cuban families who give their lives in their daily toils.
The first declarations that the President of the United States offered in the name
of his government were calm and rational, as well as his solicitude of cooperation with the Cuban government in the search for the remains in Cuban waters, and with that action showing evidence of his awareness of the reality of the events that occurred.
Unexpectedly, at a later hour, the insolent words of the Secretary of State of the U.S. Warren Christopher, openly exposed the contrast with the previous language. His words against the Cuban people were threatening and arrogant.
Cynically, the Security Council of the United Nations has been convened to make a pronouncement against the rights of the people: to defend its territorial integrity and to safeguard the lives of the Cuban people.
What country of the world permits illegal violations of its national spaces: air, sea or land? Neither would the United States permit this. What are, then, the reasons for this dirty farce?
We Cuban women want peace, the relaxation of tensions, peaceful solutions to the conflicts, but more than anything, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom we want our national sovereignty and we reaffirm the right of our government to exercise it.
The Cuban Women's Federation calls on our friends in the world to rapidly take actions of solidarity and support to our country, our people, our women and our children, as an endorsement of the elementary right that we have to guarantee our integrity and national security.
Cuban Women's Federation
Thanks to Marliese Diaz for rapid translation from Spanish to English
Dear President Clinton,
The U.S. section of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is gravely concerned about the shooting down of the two planes off the coast of Havana on February 24, and the potential for further escalation of tension and violent conflict. We urge you to resist calls for a bellicose response and instead to pursue diplomatic means to address the situation as you have done so admirably in other situations such as North Korea and Northern Ireland.
This incident clearly illustrates the need to stop allowing Cuban exiles to determine U.S. policy toward Cuba and for direct negotiations to take place between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Lifting the embargo against Cuba and normalizing relations are necessary steps to resolving differences in accord with democratic process and international law. Therefore, we urge you to oppose the Helms/Burton bills tightening the embargo, and veto it should it reach your desk.
We feel it was precipitous of the U.S. and the United Nations to issues its statement without investigation and without allowing time for the Cuban Foreign Minister to arrive at the U.N. to represent his government's actions before the Security Council.
Finally, we ask that your administration conduct a thorough investigation of Brothers To The Rescue and any other Cuban exiles who use the United States as a base for advocating violence towards another sovereign nation and launching repeated acts of provocation. As this war-weary century draws to a close, you have the opportunity to set another course, toward a foreign policy based on reason and enlightened self-interest rather than habits of force and intimidation.
Marilyn Clement, Executive Director
Jean Gore, President
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section
February 26, 1996
From: Juan Carlos Rios-Perez
1ro. de marzo de 1996.
COMUNICADO DE PRENSA
La Coordinadora de Solidaridad con Cuba y el Congreso Nacional Hostosiano, coinciden en denunciar las recientes acciones delictivas internacionales de los sectores extremistas del exilio cubano y del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.
Todo pais tiene derecho, tanto bajo la Carta de la Naciones Unidas, como por los distintos convenios internacionales relativos a la aviacion civil (Paris 1919, Chicago 1944), a ejercer su soberania sobre su territorio - incluyendo su espacio aereo- garantizando asi el disfrute de la vida de sus habitantes. En esa misma medida los Estados estan obligados a no permitir que desde su territorio se ejerzan acciones hostiles o de espionaje contra la soberania de los demas paises.
Los hechos demuestran que Estados Unidos ha permitido que civiles sujetos a su jurisdiccion, como lo son los grupos extremistas con base en la Florida alentados por los sectores afines dentro del gobierno, realicen acciones hostiles contra el Pueblo Cubano. Las aeronaves abatidas por la Fuerza Area Cubana estaban violando sin duda la soberania de la hermana isla, al irrumpir en su espacio aereo; habiendo desviado su curso de vuelo; negandose a seguir las instrucciones de las autoridades de aviacion cubanas; asumiendo una actitud hostil; creando una situacion de peligrosidad para la seguridad del pueblo de Cuba. Si esto lo sumamos a las continuas denuncias diplomaticas de Cuba sobre tales actos delictivos, la respuesta, aunque lamentable por la perdida de vidas, fue una razonable dentro de las circunstancias.
La responsabilidad internacional debe recaer sobre los autores directos e indirectos que han puesto en peligro la seguridad de Cuba. Nos preguntamos que hubiera sucedido si tales aeronaves hubieran penetrado a la ciudad y hubiesen causados danos personales y materiales. @O es que el avance de la tecnica no puede permitir que un simple avin transporte material peligroso como explosivos o quimicos? La respuesta cubana fue una defensiva a la luz de los hechos, y en armonia con el Derecho Internacional.
La difusion distorsionada de la realidad de estos hechos, intenta validar el recrudecimiento de las medidas de bloqueo, las cuales tendran el efecto de agravar las ya duras condiciones de vida de la poblacion Cubana.
Las organizaciones aqui comparecientes, emiten su muestra de solidaridad al derecho del pueblo cubano a vivir en paz y libre de interferencias, y rechazan todo intento por parte de los Estados Unidos de incrementar el sufrimiento de nuestros hermanos caribeos mediante el ilegal e injusto bloqueo que ya dura mas de 30 anos.
Por ello, en solidaridad con el Pueblo Cubano y por el Respeto a su Soberania realizaremos una manifestacion masiva en denuncia de tales acciones ilegales contra Cuba y en contra del bloqueo este proximo martes cinco de marzo a las dieciseis horas gmt frente al edificio que alberga las oficinas del gobierno de Estados Unidos en Puerto Rico.
En San Juan Puerto Rico a 1ro. de marzo de 1996.
Alejandro Torres Rivera
Congreso Nacional Hostosiano
Juan Carlos Rios Perez
Coordinadora de Solidaridad Con Cuba
Nuevo Movimiento Independentista
Causa Comun Independentista
Pro Independencia (FUPI)
Comite Unitario Contra La Represion (CUCRE)
Gran Oriente Interamericano de Puerto Rico
Union Patriotica Nacional
Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores
Puertorriquenos (PRTP)- Macheteros
Juventud Latinoamericana Por la Democracia
Gran Oriente Nacional de Puerto Rico
Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores
Comite de Solidaridad con Cuba
Comit Amigos de Cuba
Casa Las Americas
Partido Nacionalista de
Proyecto Afirmacion Puertorriquena
Proyecto Caribeno de Justicia y Paz
The Honorable Janet Reno
U.S. Attorney General of the U.S.
Department of Justice
Tenth and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Ms. Reno,
Over the eight decades that the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has worked for justice, we have witnessed and protested specific instances of severe government retribution against those who exercise their rights to free speech and non-violent political action. We have taken up the cause of those who challenge injustice as embodied in particular statutes or legislation. When citizens of El Salvador were robbed of the right to assembly, we rallied in solidarity. When the Blacks of South Africa were denied the right to vote, we supported their efforts to build a democratic nation. When Black children in America were denied the right to an equal education, we supported the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education.
Our nation recently took action which, although justified by statute, cannot logically or morally be consistent with the legal tenets of our nation. Certainly you are familiar with the Grand Jury subpoena issued to the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizing to appear before a federal Grand Jury on March 22, 1996. This subpoena is the first step in a federal investigation and prosecution of American religious leaders who are challenging the U.S. embargo of the tiny nation of Cuba. A cross-section of clergy members arranged for a shipment of used computers to be sent for use in hospitals throughout the island.
Does this arguably illegal act warrant such a harsh federal response? Under international law, the U.S. stance is illegal as such law stipulates the legality of humanitarian shipments and the unjustifiable breadth of the U.S. embargo. How would you justify the expense of such action to U.S. taxpayers? There is undoubtedly more fear in our communities of widespread violence than there is concern about Cuba. How would you explain to those who worked for twenty years with one company who at the age of 65 find themselves without pensions due to the rampant use of Chapter 11 and Chapter 7? Could it be more important to investigate this shipment of antiquated computers for health care than it is to stop the corporate windfall process of pension looting? How would you support your own argument that challenges to this embargo present a threat to national security? We think too highly of you to believe that you subscribe to such a pitiful and paranoid notion.
We understand that when the law is broken a response is required. However, the empanelment of a grand jury grossly exaggerates the nature of the civil disobedience. It shows that you have stooped to accept the Hooveresque perspective of those who think that Cuba could possibly present a threat to our nation. Moreover, the prosecution of individuals who are renowned for being humanitarian in both their efforts to support the poor of Cuba, and their work for the impoverished in their own communities, seems like using a sledge hammer to flatten a pea.
Our members across the nation will be vocal opponents to this action. We will, without question, ensure that thousands know of this wasteful and repugnant action. We will mobilize our communities to protest. We urge you to consider a more rational response: stop the Grand Jury, cease all investigations of those who practice their first amendment rights in solidarity with Cuba, end the interrogation of those who travel to and from Cuba, and permit the computers to be sent to hospitals that care for the sick children, new mothers and aged of Cuba. We look forward to your response.
President, U.S. Section WILPF
February 27, 1996
Dear President Clinton:
For many reasons, I urge you not to be influenced by the recent tragic shooting down of two planes over Cuba. There is much more to this matter than meets the eye. As indicated by the material I am enclosing, there is little doubt that this entire incident was in reality a provocation which was planned and engineered by persons hostile to the Cuban government, and was meant to influence US policy against any change in the bitter atmosphere now prevailing between the two countries.
The listing of prior violations into the air space of Cuba, as enclosed, indicated that these violations were going on for a considerable length of time. There are also strong indications that the Cuban government protested and brought this matter to the attention of our government. There was, therefore, considerable warning that the tragedy which took place would actually occur.
It would therefore seem to me that our government bears part of the responsibility for this occurrence since apparently no effort was made to prohibit the planes in question from proceeding over Cuba.
The shooting down of the planes is, of course, the responsibility of the Cuban government, but it was also the responsibility of our government to see to it that those planes did not go into areas which violated the air space of Cuba. I am certain that if the roles had been reversed and if Cuba, Mexico, or any other country were to send planes into US air space without permission, and with hostile intent, our actions would have been the same as those performed by the Cubans.
While I do not believe that from a strictly moral point of view, such action was justified, there is no doubt that it was not directed against the safety of the US and there is no doubt in my mind that this should in any way influence American policy toward Cuba. The steps already taken under the embargo are certainly hostile, and I believe that there is no reason why relations should not now be improved rather than further deteriorated. There seems to be no plausible reason why travel to Cuba should be limited and even further restricted as provided under the terms of the Helms-Burton Bill.
I believe that the action which has occurred is no justification for the existing campaign to further damage the relations between the US and Cuba. I hope you will recognize this and will make every effort to resume what should be a cooperative relationship between the two countries.
The following is a U.S. State Department notice dated August 9, 1995. It is an interesting document in that it establishes that the U.S. government was specifically aware not only that violations of Cuban waters and airspace had been taking place, but that the Cuban government had issued specific warning through official channels of its intentions toward any future such violations.
This document tends to fly in the face of recent State Department depictions of Cuba having acted "without warning," or "without provocation."
SUBJECT COUNTRY(IES): CUBA
POST OF ORIGIN: STATE
SERIES: INTERNATIONAL MARKET INSIGHTS (IMI)
ITA INDUSTRY CODE(S): ZSV
DATE OF REPORT (YYMMDD): 950809 (AUGUST 9, 1995)
NUMBER OF PAGES: 2
SUBJECT: PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT - CUBA
THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE WARNS THAT ENTERING CUBAN TERRITORY, TERRITORIAL WATERS OR AIRSPACE WITHOUT PRIOR AUTHORIZATION FROM THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT MAY CAUSE ONE TO BE SUBJECT TO ARREST OR OTHER ENFORCEMENT ACTION BY CUBAN AUTHORITIES FOR VIOLATION OF CUBAN LAW.
GENERALLY SPEAKING, UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW EACH COASTAL STATE MAY CLAIM A 12 MILE TERRITORIAL SEA. A COUNTRY'S SOVEREIGNTY EXTENDS TO THE AIRSPACE OVER ITS TERRITORIAL SEA. CUBA CLAIMS A 12 MILE TERRITORIAL SEA. HENCE, ANY VESSEL OR AIRCRAFT THAT GOES INSIDE THE 12-MILE LIMIT OFF CUBA WOULD BE INSIDE CUBAN TERRITORIAL WATERS OR AIRSPACE AND THUS SUBJECT TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT.
FURTHERMORE, UNDER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT, CUBA PROVIDES AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SERVICES UP TO THE 25TH PARALLEL, AN AREA WELL BEYOND ITS TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION. AS REQUIRED UNDER THE CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION, TO WHICH THE UNITED STATES IS A SIGNATORY, AIRCRAFT TRANSITING ANOTHER COUNTRY'S CONTROLLED AIRSPACE MUST FOLLOW ESTABLISHED INTERNATIONAL RULES OF THE AIR INCLUDING POSITIVE COMMUNICATION WITH THE PROVIDING AIR TRAFFIC SERVICE AND SUBMISSION OF A FLIGHT PLAN.
IN A PUBLIC STATEMENT ISSUED ON JULY 14, THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT ASSERTED ITS "FIRM DETERMINATION" TO TAKE ACTIONS NECESSARY TO DEFEND CUBAN TERRITORIAL SOVEREIGNTY AND TO PREVENT UNAUTHORIZED INCURSIONS INTO CUBAN TERRITORIAL WATERS AND AIRSPACE. THE STATEMENT CONTINUED, "ONCE MORE (THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT) WARNS THAT ANY BOAT FROM ABROAD CAN BE SUNK AND ANY AIRPLANE DOWNED." THE DEPARTMENT TAKES THIS STATEMENT SERIOUSLY.
THE FREEDOM TO TRAVEL, RECOGNIZED BY INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT, DOES NOT GIVE ANYONE THE RIGHT TO ENTER A PARTICULAR COUNTRY, INCLUDING CUBA, WITHOUT PRIOR AUTHORIZATION. ALL TRAVELERS MUST COMPLY WITH THE IMMIGRATION, CUSTOMS AND OTHER APPLICABLE LAWS OF THE COUNTRY CONCERNED.
IF PERSONS ENTER CUBAN TERRITORIAL WATERS OR AIRSPACE WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION, THEY MAY PLACE THEMSELVES AND OTHERS AT SERIOUS PERSONAL RISK. IF THEY ARE DETAINED, THE ABILITY OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT TO ASSIST THEM WOULD BE VERY LIMITED. THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CANNOT OBTAIN THE RELEASE OF U.S. CITIZENS ARRESTED ABROAD. CUBAN AUTHORITIES SOMETIMES DENY CONSULAR ACCESS BY U.S. OFFICIALS TO AMERICAN CITIZENS OF CUBAN BIRTH. IN ADDITION, THERE WOULD BE VERY LITTLE, IF ANYTHING, THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT COULD DO TO ASSIST PERSONS ARRESTED IN CUBA WHO ARE NOT AMERICAN CITIZENS.
THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE URGES ALL PERSONS WHO WISH TO TRAVEL TO CUBA OR TO ENTER CUBAN TERRITORIAL WATERS OR AIRSPACE TO DO SO USING SAFE, ORDERLY AND LEGAL MEANS, AND TO AVOID UNNECESSARY RISKS TO THEMSELVES AND OTHERS.
By Juan Antonio Blanco, Ph.D.
February 27, 1996
The author is a former diplomat and well known Cuban analyst of US foreign policy, who currently leads a non governmental organization in his country
"Two American civilian aircrafts shot down in international waters by the Castro regime. Major set back in Cuba/US relations" Great newslead for Miami three weeks from primary elections day in Florida.
If we want to avoid the possibility that the four bodies of the crew members multiply into forty thousand body bags, then we should all try to remain in control of our emotions -- wherever they lie -- and analyze what made this tragedy possible.
There were three basic actors involved in this incident: the US and Cuban governments and a Cuban American organization with right wing political connections.
The US government had declared that it will not use military force against Cuba and that violent change in that country is not in its interest. A "peaceful transition to democracy" is the clearly stated position -- even if, in contradiction with what is, in the view of many, a policy of economic warfare and political destabilization. On the other hand, the Cuban American National Foundation, main sponsor and founder of these group of pilots, has also clearly expressed its frustration with what they perceive as a "chicken" policy. They are not for a peaceful transition toward democracy because they are persuaded that the Cuban government will not allow it to happen. So, accordingly, they stand for doing everything possible -- and they do mean everything -- to bring it down now. The media, Human Rights Watch and respectable members of the Cuban American community have testified in the past on the hate industry and terrorist mentality that the Cuban American National Foundation fosters.
The notion that Uncle Sam refuses to take advantage of the new international order to militarily push the Cuban government out of existence is unbearable, incomprehensible and distasteful for the Cuban American National Foundation and its associates. For them, more than a mistake, it is tantamount to treason.
So they have decided to do something about it. If they don't have the resources and massive support in Miami of Havana to launch a successful uprising in the Island, they believe they do have enough money, political connections and "true believers" among their ranks to engineer incidents that could place the US and Cuba on a collision course. They cannot afford to organize a full fledged military force but they have discovered their skills and capacities to exploit the stress and fragilities in the US/Cuba relation with paramilitary actions. They have finally acknowledged they are not the fire required to burn out the Cuban government, but they see themselves as the spark that can start the necessary American fire to do the job. Too bad if tens of thousands American GI's have to die. It is a good cause and God is on their side.
The third player has been fighting the other two for more than 35 years. If the US government and these exiles don't trust the Cuban authorities, nothing could be more reciprocal. And for good reason. The wording of their initial statements that recognize a certain degree of autonomy of these exile groups in relation to the US federal government was not the one that they would have used three decades ago. After getting the US government feedback on this incident, Cuban officials now sound, besides being offended, genuinely perplexed.
What make a flight military of civilian, they may ask themselves? What makes a person military of civilian? The type of aircraft, perhaps? The clothes he of she wears? The definition is clearly not one of shape but one of content. Paramilitary groups are made of civilians who carry out military related activities. To rescue rafters in international waters is one thing. To spark a military confrontation between Cuba and the US is another. The pilots should have noticed the difference and told their sponsors.
If, dressed in jeans and wearing a "Guns and Roses" T-shirt, you use a water pistol to intimidate another citizen, it will be likely that you will run into trouble if a cop shows up. Even if you are not instantly shot -- the officer might decide not to inspect your toy gun before using his -- you will have a hard time in court persuading the jury that it was all but an innocent joke. Your effort will also prove totally useless if, in addition to your latest action, you have a record of mugging with real guns in the past.
Why, after all, should anybody expect Cuban officials to trust "Brothers to the Rescue" or any other group that has a membership that might include individuals with a record of violent political activities and extend them the world wide unseen privilege of freely cruising Cuba's national territory? Why should they believe -- or guess -- that every time a pilot lies to American air controllers about its planned route and flies to Havana it will only be dropping "peaceful leaflets" (calling, by the way, for an uprising against the government) in their, by now regular, "charter flights" over the capital of the country? Why should residents in the city of Havana (of the rest of Cuba) have to be at the mercy of a free flow of aircrafts and boats carrying people who have always believed that God is on their side, no matter what they do? Maybe someone would still say, "yes, fine. But, for Christ's sake, why in an election year?" Well, you see, that's the problem with world affairs and foreign policy issues. They are not like frozen pizzas that you can put away in the freezer and defrost a year later. The world doesn't stand still in US election years.
It keeps spinning. Palestinians, Bosnians, Chechenyans, Cubans.
They all have a life of their own and their issues respond to a logic that is independent from US elections.
If ultra radical Palestinians and Cuban Americans would now believe - as it seems to be the case - that there is an "open season" on their adversaries during the US electoral year, the world will become a much more dangerous place in the months ahead.
Based on this incident there is not enough reason to play to the drums of war and confrontation. A tragedy, it is.
Relatives and friends of four individuals are mourning them today in Miami. Sympathy for their understandable pain is not betraying any ideal on the Cuban side. Arresting and placing Mr. Orlando Bosch back in jail (either in the US of in the Venezuelan cell from which he escaped) will also be welcome as a signal of sympathy by US authorities for relatives and friends of those he murdered in cold blood back in 1976 when he bombed a civilian Cuban airplane with almost eighty passengers aboard.
Avoidable, it was.
Acknowledgement by the US government that timely and effective enforcement of American laws in previous occasions could have prevented this tragedy is not tantamount to betraying American foreign policy of the Cuban American community, as some pretend to argue.
What common citizens on both sides would like to see from now on is not a senseless escalation in rhetoric that will play into the hands of all sorts of fundamentalists and warmongers, but the calmed, responsible and immediate review of the current state of US/Cuban relations. Unfreezing the "Cuban pizza" does not mean to transform it into an electoral "standing tall"game but to start, once and for all, the serious review of the current dangerous implications of an already obsolete policy.
The "Cuban pizza" has to be defrosted right now precisely because we are living in a US election year and it's not in the Cuban or American interest that miscalculation, misperception, electoral rhetoric, lack of communication or manipulation by third parties will throw all of us into a greater tragedy.
Montreal, March 7 (RHC)-- The International Civil Aviation Organization has rejected the initial proposal made by the United States, requesting that the international body consider only the events of February 24th, when two U.S.-registered aircraft were shot down by Cuba after violating the island's territorial airspace.
The Cuban delegation is headed by Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon. In statements from Canada to the Cuban media today, Alarcon said repeated attempts by Washington to force sanctions against Cuba have not found support from most members of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The Cuban leader stated that at yesterday's session of the organization's council, a U.S. proposal was defeated. That proposal, he said, was aimed at condemning Cuba from the outset, prior to any investigation. It also sought to limit the investigation to only technical aspects of the February 24th incident. Alarcon noted that those intentions failed, as most countries favored a comprehensive investigation into all aspects leading up to the incident.
Alarcon said that an investigating commission will travel to Cuba and hold talks with authorities. The commission will also visit the United States and talk with U.S. officials. In Miami, the investigating team will meet with airport authorities.
The Cuban parliamentary president asserted that Cuba will continue to watch for further U.S. attempts to manipulate the situation to their advantage. "We will have to be on the alert, prepared for a process that will continue to be a struggle against those who refuse to face the truth," stated Alarcon.
Alarcon said Cuba is ready to provide all necessary information on the repeated and intentional violations of its territorial airspace. The International Civil Aviation Organization announced that it would release its findings in sixty (60) days.
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 1996 17:44:34 -0800 (PST)
"We mourn the loss of life by Brothers to the Rescue. We ourselves are committed to peaceful, non-violent methods of achieving change. We think Brothers to the Rescue should reflect on their methods, which continue a long tradition of invasion and violence launched on Cuba from Florida. We ask all people to understand that the Cuban people have been suffering loss of life for 35 years due to the U.S. embargo.
We are distressed that President Clinton has responded to this tragedy by further tightening the U.S. embargo of Cuba, especially after every major church in the U.S. and Cuba has called for its end. The U. S, must recognize its own complicity in creating a climate of aggression toward Cuba.
Until U.S. Cuba relations are normalized, tragedies such as this will continue to fuel hatred and intolerance." These are the words of the Reverend Lucius Walker, a leader of the Fast for Life as he and his companions continue their fast at the border of San Ysidro, California and Tijuana, Mexico. Reverend Walker concludes his remarks by saying, "We realize that these tragic events will make our objective more difficult, but we are firmly committed to continue our fast until the 400 medical computers are released."(The computers were seized by U.S. Customs when the Pastors for Peace Caravan reached this border). What are the mitigating circumstances to Cuba's action? How were the Cubans to know these planes were not armed? Armed attacks have been forthcoming from Florida for 35 years.
Yes, the U.S. has been complicit in these decades of harassment, invasion, assassinations, disinformation, sabotage and disruption.
Consider the analogy of a woman who finally shoots her abusive husband after 35 years of mistreatment. We do not cheer her act of violence, but we understand it in the context of years of abuse and so does the court. Brothers to the Rescue have made over 1,700 such flights.
Last summer they dropped leaflets on Havana encouraging Cuban to rise against Fidel Castro.
The Cuban people are not simply expecting attacks, they have had an endless series of attacks. It was only a few weeks ago that Cubans in Los Angeles were arrested for amassing arms and planning attacks on Cuba.
In Florida, the Federal Aviation Administration had begun an investigation of Brothers to the Rescue and its founder, Jose Basulto, who is a Bay of Pigs veteran. U.S.
Intelligence officials said that at least one of the planes, the lead plane which returned safely to Florida, and perhaps all three had violated Cuban airspace. U.S. Intelligence also said that the air traffic control tower in Havana had warned the pilots that they were in danger.
Last month when the Cuban government protested the actions of Brothers to the Rescue as a violation of U.S. and International Law, it put Washington on notice that it would take all necessary measures to halt the invading aircraft.
At the time they were shot down the Cuban government said the planes were between five and eight miles off Baracoa, a western suburb of Havana. The pilot's refusal to heed Cuba's warning amounted to a provocation. There is but one reasonable solution to this crisis, we must renew diplomatic relations with Cuba so that such matters can be dealt with by the rule of law.
Cuba may not be a wife of the United States, but the level of unilateral and violent abuse from our country toward that island nation has led to this lashing out.
President John F. Kennedy said it well, "Those who make non-violent change impossible, make violent change inevitable".
The Helms-Burton Bill will alienate our closest friends in Europe and Canada. It is a classically irrational piece of legislation. We must oppose it.
The United States' embargo against Cuba is increasingly unpopular with the vast majority of member states in the United Nations who votes against U.S. sanctions by a larger margin each year. It is within our power to resume normal relations with Cuba and to stop our callous complicity in the abuse of the Cuban people. Bill Clinton can demonstrate the presidential strength that millions of citizens are longing to witness in him by ending this long act of war against a small and poor nation.
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D.
Office of the Americas
8124 West Third Street, Suite 202
Los Angeles, California 90048
By Steve Eckardt
On my last night in Havana six weeks ago I heard a story I heard a story I couldn't believe.
Of course I was in the hotel bar. My informant--a well-educated Afro-Cuban artist--told me a plane from the United States flew over the capital dropping anti-government leaflets just the weekend before.
"Yeah right," I said. "As if any country would let hostile aircraft to fly over its capital unmolested. Especially Cuba--it's only had 37 years of U.S. .-sponsored invasions, assassination squad , germ warfare, bombings and blockade."
"Es verdad ," she assured me. "And they did it last summer, too."
Internally I groaned; now I was supposed to believe it happened twice. Instead I diplomatically said I was a journalist specializing in Cuba and Mexico--and myself I'd heard nothing about it.
She shrugged. "You don't believe me. Ask someone else--they'll tell you the same thing." So I did--and they did.
E "Damn language barrier," I thought, cursing my inadequate Spanish. Well, this was one unbelievable story I wasn't going to humiliate myself by trying t o report. Hell, there's people who'll tell you they've been kidnapped by aliens.
Only one thing gave me pause as I took an early leave: "You know," she s aid with a touch of petulance, "the government did tell them that if they ever do it again, the Air Force will shoot the down." At least that part's credible, I thought, but . . . nah.
Who's right? Of course now it's common knowledge that the woman's story was true: Cuba did allow hostile aircraft to fly over Havana both in July and January, and it did issue repeated warnings of what would happen the next time.
Now, we are all expected to believe a far more incredible tale, in fact one that appears demonstrably false: murderous Cubans shot down "clearly unarmed" civilian airplanes.
Leave aside one wag's remark: the only thing that's clearly unarmed is a naked man--and not if he's carrying a lunch box.
Leave aside too Cuba's forced existence in a virtual state of war with Washington for over 35 years: the uncountable CIA operations against it and the onerous U.S. embargo (unsupported by a single other country in the world).
Truth is that the "Brothers to the Rescue" (the organization responsible for penetrations of Cuban airspace) is about a humanitarian as Pat Buchanan, and its aircraft about as civilian as Schwazkopf in his retirement business suit. It is an organization of Cuban exiles devoted to the overthrow of Cuba's government; its leader is distinguished by having participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequently firing a cannon at a Havana hotel.
Moreover, the real activities of the "Brothers" were exposed at a news conference (poorly reported in the mainstream press) held Tuesday in Havana by a major in the Cuban Air Force who defected to the United States, joined "Brothers" and became the darling of the Cuban exile community in Florida. Juan Roque told a national television audience that "I'm in Cuba to denounce to the world the real character of Brothers to the Rescue. They carried out terrorist plans." Roque went on to detail CIA involvement in the organization as well as their regular illegal landings on Cuban soil and their plans for introducing weapons and terror squads to the island.
Indeed, it is Washington that has to answer for the actions of the "Brothers"--and the lives of the downed pilots. After all, it was the U.S. government that allowed--and apparently even aided -the exiles' violations of both U.S. and international law.
Contrast its treatment of Harlem-based Rev. Lucius Walker (now on a protest hunger strike). His open effort to send medical aid to Cuban hospitals by way of Cuban churches was met by U.S. police and Customs agents in full riot gear in early February as he and 300 supporters attempted to cross the border into Mexico.
Who's against Democracy? Perhaps most telling of all was the U.S. response to the downing of the aircraft: it moved swiftly to restrict Cuban spokespeople from traveling to speak to Americans, while simultaneously terminating flights for those wishing to travel to Cuba. Both these actions were clear efforts to prevent the U.S. populace from getting the other side of the story.
These attempts to stifle free communication and free travel are of a piece with the recent hue and cry raised against (far from a communist) Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for daring to express his own opinions--and listen to others--outside the borders of the United States.
Of course Cuba itself is eminently more guilty of thinking globally; for instance "internationalist Cuba," according to Nelson Mandela, "has done so much for the peoples of Africa." The hostile aircraft provocations against Cuba, the subsequent restriction on free communication and travel, and the threats against Farrakhan add up t o one thing: U.S. government action again t those bold enough to make alliances across international borders. Taken together with Malcolm X's injunction to "look upon the struggle on the world [not the national] stage," doesn't it speak volumes about what should be done? Perhaps a good place to start (beginning with yours truly, Mr. Egg-on-the -face) is believing what folks overseas have to tell us.
Steve Eckardt (E-mail: email@example.com) is a Chicago-based freelance journalist who covered the "Solidarity with the Third World" international meeting held in Havana this past January.
The Washington Post in its edition of last March 16, published an article that, with the apparent objective to reveal new information on the incident of the violation of the Cuba airspace last February 24th, is rather aimed at creating greater confusion and disorientation on the event and on the performance of Cuba
Quoting anonymous administration sources, the daily refers to a meeting between Cuban and American experts which allegedly made Cuba to retreat on its denunciation of the violation of its national jurisdiction. Regardless the fact that each sentence of the article deserved to be cleared out to adjust them to the truth, it is necessary, nevertheless, to do so in respect to three particular assertions made in it: First: There was, in fact, a meeting between Cuban and American experts in New York, on the early morning of Friday March 1st and March 2nd, which began precisely at 12:15 am. This meeting was the result of an initiative and an invitation of the United States government for Cuban experts to travel to that country, with the purpose to show additional evidences on the events, to which Cuba agreed. the Cuban government is aware that such invitation was made following instructions of the highest levels of the united states government
In no way it was a Cuban initiative, nor was it any request made by the Cuban side in this respect. what Cuba did was to maintain a discretion mutually agreed
Second: the exchange held showed the Cuban experts that the U.S. authorities did not have any solid evidence at all that the events had taken place in international airspace. it confirmed what was already an unquestionable fact, that the downing of the aircraft took place within the 12 miles of the Cuban territorial waters and airspace. the U.S. experts did not provide any significant evidence at all
Third: It is totally false that the ministry of foreign affairs of Cuba or the revolutionary government, had backed down to insist, after the meeting of march 1st, on the fact that the downing occurred in Cuban waters
Whoever had the opportunity to listen or read the statement of the Cuban foreign minister at the general assembly on March 6th, five days after the referred meeting between experts, or the presentation of the head of the Cuban delegation to the council of the international civil aviation organization that very same day, got acquainted with the fact that in both occasions Cuba reiterated its unquestionable conviction that the events happened in Cuban waters and that Cuba acted in legitimate defense of its territory and national security
Other press releases were made after that date which were received by different international public media in Havana, New York and Montreal, in which both the minister of foreign affairs and other Cuban officials insisted on this issue
It was the U.S. administration which since Monday February 26 began to retreat and doubt about their own assertion, that the incident had taken place in international waters. this is reflected on the statements by ambassador Madeline Albright and the head of the U.S. delegation to the ICAO Council, Federico Pena, who expressed more than once that it did not matter where the incident had taken place, whether in Cuban or international waters
In addition, last March 12, the U.S. President himself, referring to the incident on February 24, during the signing ceremony of the Helms-Burton bill, refused to specify whether the event had taken place in the international airspace or in Cuban sky. it is the U.S. government which has been unable, because they lack the evidence, to support a consistent position since this episode began
At the same time, because of the pressure being exerted by several congressmen on the white house, it is already known that the U.S. administration uses its rich and powerful resources, with very precise instructions, to convince an important number of governments that the event occurred somewhere different from the real place
It would be useful to know which material evidence is shown by the U.S. administration for their proselytizing work. it would be interesting to know, also, how it explains to its interlocutors that the first diplomatic contacts of that government with the Cuban government, after the incident took place, were precisely aimed at requesting permission from the Cuban authorities to enter Cuban territorial waters with the desire of participating in the search and rescue operations
Cuba has maintained a coherent and sustained position in its statements, on the basis of the facts and of the only material evidence which has been so far shown. From the beginning, it said, ratified later and keeps on asserting today, that this is an act of legitimate defense which occurred in the territorial airspace on which Cuba exercises its sovereignty. and that right, as the territorial integrity and national security of the country are sacred and we will never renounce to defend them
Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Havana, March 18, 1996
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Hauk) Subject: U.S. FAA Revokes License Of Cuban Rightist Date: 24 May 1996 18:57:18 GMT Organization: All Systems Go from the Militant, vol.60/no.22 June 3, 1996 BY ARGIRIS MALAPANIS NEW YORK - On May 16 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked the pilot's license of Jose' Basulto, head of Brothers to the Rescue. Members of the group, which is led by Cuban-American counterrevolutionaries, piloted three Cessna aircraft that violated Cuba's airspace February 24. Two of the three planes were shot down by the Cuban air force after refusing to heed unambiguous warnings by Cuban air traffic controllers and air force jets. According to the Cuban government's account, the invasion of Cuban airspace on the afternoon of February 24, was the second hostile incursion that day by the same kind of aircraft, and the 10th such violation of Cuban territory over the past 20 months, involving some 30 planes. Throughout this period, Washington has refused to take any action to stop these escalating provocations organized from U.S. soil. Basulto, who was piloting the third plane that afternoon, flew away from Cuban airspace and returned to Florida. The FAA said in a statement the ruling against Basulto was effective immediately. "The order is based upon evidence of unauthorized operation into Cuban airspace by Basulto on July 13, 1995, and Feb. 24, 1996," it said. "The order also indicates that Basulto ignored numerous warnings concerning his actions from the FAA and the State Department." Basulto said he will pursue legal action to get his license back. Immediately following the downing of the two Cessnas, Basulto insisted that the claim that even one of the aircraft had entered Cuban airspace "is a lie." Later that day, however, he told CNN, "There's always a possibility, although remote, that something like this might have taken place." The U.S. government has maintained that the Cuban air force shot down the two Brothers to the Rescue planes outside Cuban airspace, even though it has acknowledged that Basulto briefly violated Cuban territory. Washington has used this claim to justify passage of the so-called Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act escalating the U.S. economic war on Cuba as well as new travel restrictions to the island, including a ban on direct flights from Miami to Havana. Brothers to the Rescue has publicly acknowledged that on three occasions over the past six months - in July 1995, and twice in January of this year - it has organized flights directly over Havana, scattering leaflets from the air. "One day they drop leaflets, another day maybe they try to introduce weapons into our country," said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly, during a televised interview February 26. In fact, murderous assaults organized by U.S.-based "civilians," using "civilian" planes, boats, and small weapons, have taken the lives of many Cubans ever since workers and farmers there overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Basulto seeks to portray Brothers to the Rescue as a "humanitarian" organization. But in 1961 he trained with the Central Intelligence Agency and participated in the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs that was quickly crushed by Cuba's revolutionary armed forces. Escaping death or capture, he made his way to the Guantanamo naval base - Cuban territory forcibly occupied by the U.S. government. Basulto's own Cessna has a large "2506" painted in gold on its side, vaunting his involvement in the Bay of Pigs Brigade 2506. In 1962, Basulto commanded a high-speed boat mounted with a small cannon from Miami into the Havana harbor and fired on a Cuban hotel. And in the 1980s, Basulto aided the U.S.-organized contras seeking to overthrow the revolutionary government in Nicaragua. Referring to the FAA decision to revoke Basulto's license, Cuban president Fidel Castro told Prensa Latina on May 18, "It was correct. It should have been done earlier; this could have avoided the incident." "We must carefully consider," Castro added, "how much of this is good intentions, how much reflects seriousness, and how much of this is a maneuver." Speaking to activists who were attending a meeting of the National Network on Cuba here on May 19, Bruno Rodriguez, ambassador of the Cuban mission to the United Nations, made the same point. He also pointed to the investigation of the February 24 incident by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Cuban government has offered material evidence that the two planes were shot down over Cuban waters, including personal items from the four pilots and spotters on the planes and debris from the wreckage. But Washington has been working hard to hamper the investigation, Rodriguez said. The ICAO is supposed to issue its findings before the end of June. "We hope that common sense will prevail in the ICAO and the UN Security Council," he stated. He pointed out, however, that U.S. politicians like Republican presidential front-runner Robert Dole have pushed for criminal charges against Cuban officials who were involved in the decision to down the intruder planes. Rodriguez noted that the date when the ICAO issues its findings, and July 15, the deadline for president William Clinton to decide whether to postpone implementation of certain provisions of the new embargo-tightening legislation, could become flashpoints in relations between the two countries. "This is one of the worst moments in U.S.-Cuba relations," he said. To get an introductory 12-week subscription to the Militant in the U.S., send $10 US to: The Militant, 410 West Street, New York, NY 10014. For subscription rates to other countries, send e-mail to email@example.com or write to the above address. ** End of text from cdp:militant.news **
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