News and Facts about Cuba

Tape suggests Raul Castro ordered Brothers shootdown

Posted on Mon, Aug. 21, 2006

SHOOTDOWN
Tape suggests Raúl Castro ordered Brothers shootdown

A recording purportedly of Raúl Castro suggests he gave direct orders
for the shootdown of Brothers to the Rescue planes.
By WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
wcancio@elnuevo.com

Cuban Defense Minister Raúl Castro discussed plans for the 1996
shootdowns of two Brothers to the Rescue airplanes during a meeting with
official journalists just weeks after the event, according to an audio
tape obtained by El Nuevo Herald.

In the tape, a voice identified as Raúl’s details the planning carried
out during a meeting of military officers around Jan. 13, 1996, the day
Brothers aircraft allegedly had overflown Havana to drop anti-government
leaflets.

”I made it clear that [the decision to shoot] had to be decentralized
if we wanted it to be effective, so we gave the power to five
generals,” the voice says. The Brothers airplanes “were going to
escalate this, and we had no other recourse but to make this decision.

”I told them [MiG pilots] to try to knock them down over [Cuban]
territory, but they [the Brothers aircraft] would enter Havana and go
away . . . Of course, with one of those missiles, air-to-air, what comes
down is a ball of fire that will fall on the city,” the voice says.
“Well, knock them down into the sea when they reappear. If not, consult
with the people in authority.”

The two Brothers Cessna C-337 were shot down by MiGs Feb. 24, killing
Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales.
Brothers to the Rescue has denied any violations of Cuban airspace.

The 11-minute recording was taped during a June 21, 1996, conversation
at a Cuban Communist Party office in the eastern city of Holguín between
Castro, government officials and journalists from the government’s Radio
Rebelde network.

The authenticity of the recording could not be independently confirmed.
A telephone call Sunday to the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington
went unanswered.

RECORDING’S SOURCE

The recording was obtained by a Havana who requested
anonymity for his own security. Cubans in Miami who listened to it say
they believe it is indeed Raúl’s voice. The Holguín newspaper carried a
report on Raúl’s presence there the day after the meeting. The recording
was delivered to El Nuevo Herald through Nueva Prensa Cubana, a Miami
agency that represents several journalists in Cuba.

On two occasions, the voice on the recording is heard warning the
government journalists to “publish nothing about this.”

Cuban leader told CBS News anchor Dan Rather in April of
1996 that he had given general orders that violations of Cuban airspace
should be stopped, but that neither he nor Raúl had given the specific
order for the Feb. 24 shootdown.

Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother three weeks
ago after undergoing ”complicated” intestinal surgery. He is reported
to be recovering but has not been seen in public since although photos
and a video have been released.

Cuba has long maintained that the Brothers’ Cessna 337 planes were shot
down within its territorial waters. But an investigation by the United
Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization concluded they were
well outside Cuban waters.

The tape does not specify the names of the five generals empowered to
order the shootdowns. In August 2003, federal prosecutors in Miami
indicted three Cuban officers for the attacks: Gen. Rubén Martínez
Puente, then head of the anti-aircraft command, and MiG pilot-brothers
Alberto Lorenzo and Francisco Pérez Pérez.

ON FULL ALERT

In the recording, the voice says that Cuban military forces were put on
full alert after Brothers airplanes allegedly violated Cuban airspace on
July 13, 1995.

‘One MiG-23 got behind them . . . `I have him, I have him,’ he said.
‘Let him go,’ he was ordered,” says the voice, adding later that the
order to stop the incursions remained in force as of the Holguín
meeting. “The order stays.”

In the tape, the voice also says that just before the Holguín meeting
the speaker ordered the emergency landing of a plane carrying Fidel
Castro from central Cuba to Havana because air force radars had detected
”several” suspicious marks in Havana province.

”I ordered that the plane land in Varadero,” the voice says. ‘It was
necessary to say that the order was mine. `Make it land in Varadero!’
and [Fidel] told them to obey it.”

José Basulto, of Brothers to the Rescue, and relatives of the
dead pilots have long insisted on bringing Raúl Castro before U.S.
justice for the shootdowns.

”This is the type of proof we have been seeking from day one as
confirmation that the murder was premeditated,” said Maggie Alejandre
Khuly, sister of pilot Armando Alejandre.

Basulto, who was in another plane during the attacks, said the tape
“points to Raúl Castro as the direct source of the decision to down the
airplanes . . . This is a record of the plans for the crime.”

Audio:
http://www.miami.com/multimedia/miami/elnuevo/archive/audio/0820raulcastro.html

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/special_packages/fidel_castro/15322216.htm

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