On February 24, 1998, the second anniversary of the murder of Armando, Carlos, Mario and Pablo in international airspace in front of Havana by Castro’s MiGs, we call on our beloved brothers to reflect. Let us focus our thoughts first on the conditions that made it possible for the Cuban government to execute such an action, and later let us analyze what has since changed, so that we can then proceed to pursue a legitimately Cuban future.

Toward the end of 1995, Concilio Cubano formulated an internal and genuinely Cuban political proposal, national and independent in nature. It gained the backing of numerous organizations in exile and motivated support from Brothers to the Rescue, among others. This proposal created the conditions for a new and threatening nonviolent political struggle, focused on bringing democracy to Cuba, and for which the Cuban government did not have an adequate answer.

The new binomial, composed by the internal opposition and members of the independent Cuban exile, posed an extreme threat to both the Cuban government and the United States’ long standing position and control of the situation. The opposition on the island and the Cuban exiles audaciously placed in jeopardy the "status quo" of the relations between the United States and the manageable Cubans of the previous 36 years. The situation had to be stopped. The question was: by whom and how?

The only response known by a regime of is violence, and Cuba responded quickly. Concilio was denied its right hatred to exist and its creators were imprisoned. United States the situation was somewhat more difficult. Cuba In the attempted by all means available to stop the acts defiance represented by the Democracia Flotilla and the of civic Brothers to the Rescue flights through requests from States. The United States, though eager to stop those the United activities by exiles which it did not control, was acting by its own laws and left it up to Castro to resolve impeded from their common problem.

Castro did not hesitate and murdered Armando, Carlos, Mario and Pablo, but he committed an error: he left four real witnesses alive: Andrés and Silvia Iriondo, Iglesias and Basulto, who invalidated his plan of a sole "survivor" and bogus witness, the triple agent and traitor Juan Pablo Roque.

Conveniently, the United States washed its hands and imposed the Helms Burton Act as the only sanction for the crime, neglecting to respond to the many unanswered questions regarding its own failure to take any measures to prevent the downing of the airplanes. In essence, the crime remains unpunished and unresolved.

Brothers to the Rescue confirmed on that 24th of February of 1996 that the only safe rear guard for democracy in Cuba is in the hearts of Cubans and publicly reaffirmed at the Orange Bowl, to the dismay of some, its conviction that THIS STRUGGLE IS OURS, that our dignity can only be redeemed with our sacrifice and our own blood.

Today, forced by the economic situation in Cuba, again Castro appeals to the naiveté of some, the interests of others, and the malice of many, and makes a new attempt to establish closer relations with the United States and the international community. He allows the Pope to visit Cuba and again blames the United States and the embargo for the problems that afflict Cuba, without accepting his own responsibility for them. Castro’s most recent "makeup", intended for the United States, now also has international components. Will it succeed?

Up to now the only fact is that the control of the population during the papal visit lived up to Castro’s plans. But the Pope’s visit to Cuba planted the seed for the new patterns of behavior necessary for the development of a civil society capable of effectively defying the regime. It opened the road to freedom which is now irreversible.

The Pope targeted the evil poisoning the heart of some-hatred. He planted love in the hearts of many; brought hope to all; combated institutionalized fear, the major obstacle to the necessary change, and reminded us all that the most important element to bring about the eagerly hoped for change is the recognition that we, the Cuban people, are solely responsible for forging our own future. He clearly delineated the role of the Cuban people. This message, if well understood, includes both Cubans in exile and on the island.

In summary, the Pope left in Cuba a new yardstick for measuring our civic behavior. Let’s put it to use!

Last year two very valuable documents which fill us with pride were published. First, "The Fatherland Belongs to Us All", by members of the opposition inside Cuba attests to the remarkable courage of its creators and clearly clarifies to the world the true history of Cuba, its suffering and immense problems, and those to blame for causing them. Soon thereafter the exile, inspired by an initiative of its youngest generation, formulated, in easily understandable terms, the "Accord for Democracy in Cuba", which established the foundation for the necessary cooperation to bring about a sound political agenda for the new Cuba.

As a people, we have the decision in our hands. Escapism has only brought pain and mourning to Cuban mothers and has not contributed to recovering the dignity and happiness of our brothers. The moment to undertake the task of forging our own future, without relegating it to others as has happened in the past, is now. If we wish to continue being Cuban and transcend this period in our history at the lowest cost possible, we have to look at ourselves on the mirror and assert: I AM THE CHANGE.

Jose J. Basulto, President
Brothers to the Rescue