(a) FindingsThe Congress makes the following findings:
Brothers to the Rescue is a Miami-based humanitarian organization engaged in searching for and aiding Cuban refugees in the Straits of Florida, and was engaged in such a mission on Saturday, February 24, 1996.
The members of Brothers to the Rescue were flying unarmed and defenseless planes in a mission identical to hundreds they have flown since 1991 and posed no threat whatsoever to the Cuban Government, the Cuban military, or the Cuban people.
Statements by the Cuban Government that Brothers to the Rescue has engaged in covert operations, bombing campaigns, and commando operations against the Government of Cuba have no basis in fact.
The Brothers to the Rescue aircraft notified air traffic controllers as to their flight plans, which would take them south of the 24th parallel and close to Cuban airspace.
The response of Fidel Castro’s dictatorship to Saturday’s afternoon flight was to scramble 2 fighter jets from a Havana airfield.
At approximately 3:24 p.m., the pilot of one of the Cuban MiGs received permission and proceeded to shoot down one Brothers to the Rescue airplane more than 6 miles north of the Cuban exclusion zone, or 18 miles from the Cuban coast.
Approximately 7 minutes later, the pilot of the Cuban fighter jet received permission and proceeded to shoot down the second Brothers to the Rescue airplane almost 18.5 miles north of the Cuban exclusion zone, or 30.5 miles from the Cuban coast.
The Cuban dictatorship, if it truly felt threatened by the flight of these unarmed aircraft, could have and should have pursued other peaceful options as required by international law.
The response chosen by Fidel Castro, the use of lethal force, was completely inappropriate to the situation presented to the Cuban Government, making such actions a blatant and barbaric violation of international law and tantamount to cold-blooded murder.
There were no survivors of the attack on these aircraft, and the crew of a third aircraft managed to escape this criminal attack by Castro’s Air Force.
The crew members of the destroyed planes, Pablo Morales, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena, and Armando Alejandre, were United States citizens from Miami flying with Brothers to the Rescue on a voluntary basis.
It is incumbent upon the United States Government to protect the lives and livelihoods of United States citizens as well as the rights of free passage and humanitarian missions.
This premeditated act took place after a week-long wave of repression by the Cuban Government against Concilio Cubano, an umbrella organization of human rights activists, dissidents, independent economists, and independent journalists, among others.
(b) Statements by Congress
The Congress strongly condemns the act of terrorism by the Castro regime in shooting down the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft on February 24, 1996.
The Congress extends its condolences to the families of Pablo Morales, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena, and Armando Alejandre, the victims of the attack.