After carefully reflecting on the sequence of events that led to the downing by Cuban MiGs of two unarmed civilian airplanes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue, on february 24, 1996, I am convinced that Fidel castro planned the atack and stimated its outcome with callous premeditation. The following chronology serves, as evidence of Castro's intent and motives in committing cold-blooded murder outside Cuba's border.
October 10, 1995: Concilio Cubano, a coalition of over 160 opposition groups from throughout Cuba (compared by some experts to the Polish "Solidarity Movement") issued their mission statement with four specific purposes:
1. Work toward a non-violent transition to a democratic state.
2. Obtain unconditional amnesty for all political prisoners.
3. Recognition of human rights of all Cubans as well as their right to strive toward economic independence.
4. Equal terms and conditions applicable to all Cubans both within and outside the island.
November 23, 1995: Over 90 Cuban exile organizations, including Brothers to the Rescue, issue a public statement supporting "Concilio Cubano" and offer to disseminate their message and provide financial assistance. A support group is stablished to work toward that end.
December 07, 1995: "Concilio Cubano" announces its first national assembly to discuss the aformentioned points. The meeting is scheduled for Havana on February 24, 1996, a significant date in Cuban history when Cuba declares it's independence from Spain.
January, 1996: Seventy members of "Concilio Cubano" sign a letter to Fidel castro, wherein they explain the purpose of "Concilio Cubano" and officially request to be allowed to meet on the 24th of February.
January 9 and 13, 1996: What the Cuban government and Castro himself has described as "subversive propaganda" and is known to the rest of us as the International Declaration on Human Rights were dropped in international waters near Cuba by a Brothers to the Rescue plane. Favorable winds littered Havana with the leaflets. Ironically, Cuba was the author and one of the signatories of the Declaration.
February 13, 1996: Brotheres to the Rescue donated $2,000.00 to "Concilio Cubano". Sebastian Arcos Bernes a well-known dissident and the brother of Gustavo Arcos, an active member in Cuba of Concilio Cubano, publicly accepts the donation.
February 15, 1996: Cuban state security mounts one of the largest repressive operations in recent Cuban history against Concilio Cubano, detaining to date, 180 of its members. Among the detained and subsequently sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment is Leonel Morejon Almagro, one of the founders of Concilio Cubano.
February 18, 1996: Even though the Cuban government never issued a written response to the letter issued by "Concilio Cubano" members in January, a Cuban state security agent known as "Aristides" visits Gustavo Arcos at his home in Havana and informs him that the Cuban government will prohibit "Concilio Cubano" from meeting on February, 24.
February 19, 1996: During a visit of several retired American military officials to Havana to inspect the Juragua Nuclear Power Plant, a Cuban General asked the head of the delegation, Eugene Carroll, from the Center for Defense Information, what would happen if Cuba shot-down a U.S aircraft. Mr. Carroll, upon returning to the United States, informed the Pentagon of the strange question posed to him by the Cuban General.
February 20, 1996: Brothers to the Rescue contact the Bahamian authorities in Nassau to request authorization for their weekly visit to take supplies to the Cuban refugee camp on Saturday, February 24, 1996.
February 22, 1996: Juan Pablo Roque, Castro's double agent, visits me at my home to express that he is not in agreement with the financial assistance that Brothers to the Rescue gave "Concilio Cubano". He further stated that Sebastian Arcos Bernes and his family could not be trusted.
February 23, 1996: Juan Pablo Roque is spotted in the Bahamas by Cuban refugees at the camp. Mr. Roque, according to accounts from the refugees, attempted to incite a riot in the camp by encourageing them to try to scape. Undoubtedly, had Roque been successful in generating an uprising, Brothers to the Rescue, would be prohibited from visiting the camp that Saturday. It appears that as Roque's scheme did not work the Cuban government had to employ more direct means to redirect the flight plans of Brothers to the Rescue.
February 23, 1996 at 4:30p.m.: Carlos Costa, one of the pilots murdered on the 24th, received word from the Bahamian authorities informing him that the Cuban government had just contacted them to advise that a delegation of Cuban officials would be visiting the camp on Saturday, February 24th. As a result, the Bahamian government denied our request to visit the camp on the 24th.
February 24, 1996 at 9:00a.m.: Not able to travel to the Bahamas, a routine flight plan was filed for a search and rescue mission in the Florida Straits. Little did we know that the events that had transpired in the last 48 hours were intended by the Cuban government to guide us into their killing zone.
February 24, 1996 at 3:30p.m.: Two of our planes were shot down by two Cuban MiGs in international waters. The attack resulted in the death of Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena and Pablo Morales.
February 25, 1996: Upon the Cuban airforce's failure to shoot all three Brothers to the Rescue airplanes, Juan Pablo Roque appears in Havana and is used in a secondary role to accuse and discredit Brothers to the Rescue and the U.S. government by providing false public statements. If my plane had not returned, there is no doubt that Roque's accusations would have been all the more sensational.
This sequence of events illustrates three motives behind the calculated decision that Fidel castro made when fe ordered the attack:
1. Send a life-threatening message to the members of "Concilio Cubano". By attacking this planes in international waters, Castro complemented the repressive operation to muffle Concilio's Message of democracy for cuba on the historic date (February 24, 1996).
2. Divert international attention away from the fast-growing internal opposition movement on the island which has generated international support and recognition.
3. Try to discredit and destroy Brothers to the Rescue.
In his premeditated decision, Fidel Castro, once again demonstrates his brutality and intolerance. However, above all else he displayed that his profound fear is not U.S. foreign policy or lack of foreign investors or even international public opinion but fear of his very own people who have organized in a non-violent manner to oppose his violent regime with dignity.
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