Translation of ”Impune el Crimen Contra Hermanos al Rescate”, by Ariel Remos
DIARIO LAS AMERICAS   -   February 24, 2005



Unpunished Crime against Brothers to the Rescue


This 24th of February – glorious anniversary of the “Grito de Baire” which in 1895 gave way to Cuba’s independence – will be 8 years from the day that MIGs, belonging to Castro’s tyranny shot down, in international airspace, two of three Brothers to the Rescue (BR) airplanes, which caused the loss of life to Armando Alejandre, Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales, the first three of whom were US citizens and the last of whom was a legal resident of this country.  The immediate perpetrators of the shoot down have been correctly identified as the brother pilots Perez and Perez, of the Cuban Air Force, while the tyrant Fidel Castro publicly assumed direct responsibility for the shoot down, fulfilling the legal proverb that a confession takes the place of proof.  But when it comes to the tyrant, things are always different.


Castro violated the norms of coexistence and international law.  However, this horrible crime resulted in a very limited reaction, not only by the government of the United States but also by the international community, which angrily reacts when faced with a crime of much less magnitude.


After eight years, the crime remains unpunished. If there is any explanation for that impunity, it is that the one responsible is Fidel Castro, who has demonstrated his patented right to assault, insult, and destroy the patience of the world’s opinion.


The unjustifiable shoot down of the BTTR airplanes and certain circumstances that surround the shoot down, provoked a series of questions that today remain without answer.  Jose Basulto, President of BTTR, piloted the third plane, which flew within  sight of the Cuban MIGs and was followed, but not shot down, and fortunately documented a chronology of the events exactly as they occurred and in their concurrent circumstances. He addressed the pertinent questions to North American authorities, to which according to him, they gave evasive, inaccurate and false responses.


Basulto remains convinced that, at the time of the attack, the Clinton Administration had knowledge that the attack would be taking place, and that when it did take place, it had sufficient time to have avoided it.   BTTR could have been notified  when the MIGs took off, or the US interceptors could have been sent out  –as the current procedures called for – but the Clinton Administration did none of those things. In other words, it did not avoid the attack. Moreover, after both planes had been shot down, the third plane, piloted by Basulto with three people on board, crossed Parallel 24 heading North followed by Cuban MIGs during 53 minutes, with at least one of them coming within three minutes of distance from the coast of the United States, thus violating the US airspace, without having been intercepted.


For Basulto as he has said on previous occasions,  the shoot down was “a political attack that was coldly calculated”, to eliminate BTTR and its support of the internal opposition in Cuba, which constituted an obstacle in the reestablishment of relations between the US and Cuba, in which both governments had been working. For them, the plan was to use the spy that had infiltrated BTTR, Juan Pablo Roque, who appeared in Cuba on the day of the shoot down. Once the three planes had been shot down, Roque would be the “survivor” of one of the planes, who would "confess", not to the real humanitarian plans of BTTR, but to false aggressions against the regime.  This would justify the shoot down and would avoid the US having to retaliate. Unfortunately for the regime, the fact that only two planes were shot down, ruined their plan.


For Basulto, there was likewise a “calculated warning” from the government of Cuba when the general of the Cuban Air Force Arnaldo Tamayo, asked the US Coast Guard in the island, Eugene Carroll, what the US reaction would be should Cuba shoot down a BTTR plane. The question was posed to the corresponding authorities. The lack of response to such a compromising question to the Cuban authorities, translated into a green light.


But there were other relevant facts, to which we have referred to on other occasions:  on February 24, 1996  all pertinent agencies of the US were monitoring the activities of BTTR, and shortly before the shoot down, the US bases were on “Combat Alert”, wherein once the MIGs crossed the so-called “trigger line” (the 12 miles of Cuban territory), the North American interceptors, preventively, would take off quickly  from the Homestead Air Force Base to protect the integrity of this territory.  This was confirmed under sworn testimony in a federal court by Customs Official Jeffrey Houlihan. But that state of alert was cancelled.


How is this cancellation explained by General Brigadier of the US Air Force, Rodney P. Kelly? In an Investigation Report, the cancellation was attributed to a “communication failure”, not to have detected the take off of the Cuban MIGs, but at the same time, he minimizes the importance of this by saying that had the “failure” not occurred, it would not have altered the course of events. Basulto responded to this by claiming that according to the chronology of the shoot down and the reaction time of the interceptors, the shoot down of the second plane could have been avoided, because the mere action of the US interceptors lifting off would have caused Castro to immediately desist in his plan, being that they were monitoring the events by radar.


In addition, another fact that contribute to the substantiation of a possible cover-up theory, is the emergency call “911” made by US Customs Official Jeffrey Houlihan, to the US Tyndal Air Force Base in Florida, to inquire if they were aware of what was transpiring with the BTTR planes and that one was heading to the US. The response was “yes”, “…we are taking care of it, don’t worry”.


Once having knowledge of this call, BTTR has questioned frequently why was the “state of alert” cancelled before or after that call, and who made the decision to interfere with that regulatory military defense mechanism?


After the shoot down of February 24, 1996, during the month of July 1998, BTTR received an order from the Administration that upon being intercepted by Cuban MIGs, except in international air space, they should submit to their orders, including following them to Cuba. “Later they tried to justify these instructions with lies”, according to Basulto.


All of the aforementioned facts were documented by Basulto in 1999 in a voluminous file, and from his data, the following facts remain established:


-                     It was a premeditated assassination.

-                    The United States was alerted, but for some reason, the defense mechanisms that it was obligated to activate upon the Cuban MIGs lifting off, were intercepted.

-                     There was an accessory silence in an evident pattern of criminal negligence on behalf of the US and in collaboration with the government of Castro.

-                     The crime remains unpunished and unresolved, even though it involves US citizens and a legal resident.

-                     The cover-up of the truth impedes justice from being served and for the assassins, and those responsible for the crime, to be tried.


As we stated at the beginning of this article, Fidel Castro publicly assumed direct responsibility for the shoot down.  Why didn’t the US take action against Castro then and why no actions have been taken to this date?