Brothers to the Rescue, Inc., was founded in May 1991 after several pilots were touched by the death of a fifteen year old adolescent named Gregorio Perez Ricardo, who fleeing Castro's Cuba on a raft, perished of severe dehydration in the hands of U.S. Coast Guard officers who were attempting to save his life. The organization, a small non-profit corporation, conducts it's humanitarian missions of searching for rafters in the Florida Straits, through the efforts of a core group of 70 pilots, observers and volunteers from numerous countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, England, France, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, the United States, Venezuela and even former Cuban rafters themselves.
Located 90 miles south of the United States, Cuba is one of the World's last three communist dictatorships where political rights and freedoms have been crushed for the last 37 years under the tyranny of Fidel Castro. Thousands, reacting to the stark oppression they face have taken to the seas in home made rafts, risking attacks by sharks, the burning sun and the ocean waves. For most, the journey ends in death.
Yet the threat of the sun and ocean is not all the rafters must face. The Cuban regime aggresively hunts those trying to escape using their military tools. During search and rescue flights, Brothers to the Rescue pilots and spotters have seen Cuban attack helicopters hunting the waves and during a mission even filmed the dramatic images of two rafts being captured, and the ramming of a raft by Cuban military vessels. This film was subsequently requested by the United Nations and appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, and FOX network news.The rafters themselves tell stories of patrol boats firing at them, and for those not killed when captured, prison sentences up to five years.
Since its inception, the United States Coast Guard has been one of the biggest supporters of Brothers to the Rescue's program which has conducted over 1,800 aerial search missions. These rescue operations have resulted in the assistance of more than 4,200 men, women, and children ranging from a five day old infant to a man 79 years of age, and the rescue of thousands of others during the refugee crisis of 1994. Upon the sighting of a raft, Brothers to the Rescue pilots would notify the Coast Guard who would dispatch a ship or helicopter to pick up the refugees. Nevertheless, the Coast Guard stimates that for every Cuban rescued, one drowned in the sea. Those rescued were processed through U.S. immigration laws and approved cases have been supported by a variety of private voluntary organizations.
To date, it is estimated that the efforts of Brothers to the Rescue, has saved one life for every 5 hours of flight time. this is considered a record rate among professional search and rescue organizations such as the Civil Air Patrol and the United States Air Force. Additionally, there have been flights to drop food and water supplies to stranded rafters in deserted Bahamian islands, as well as, weekly emergency food, medicine and clothing deliveries to a Cuban refugee detention camp in Nassau, Bahamas. The organization has also conducted search missions for survivors of shipwrecks of U.S. citizens, Bahamians, Haitians,and missing divers.
Brothers to the Rescue has received over 100,000 financial contributions from individuals and corporations and averages over 1,800 volunteer man hours of assistance each month. Given such extensive volunteer commitment, administrative costs are extraordinarily low, assuring that donations go directly to saving lives. The organization undertakes missions four times a week. On many days, three to four aircraft fly, while on the weekend, when there are more volunteer aircraft available, up to six may depart from South Florida to execute a more complete search of the seas. This growing organization plans to maintain an active program which addresses the most basic human needs of those struggling for freedom.
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