The sister of a victim of Cuba’s shoot-down of Brothers to the Rescue pilots is unimpressed by Juan Pablo Roque’s recent interview.
By Maggie Alejandre Khuly
Why after more than 16 years of silence is Juan Pablo Roque now talking about the Feb. 24 shoot-down? Roque spoke to journalist Tracey Eaton from his home in Havana; they talked about the four years that Roque spent in the United States and his present life in Cuba. They also discussed the shoot-down by Cuban MiGs of two American civilian aircraft in 1996. Roque, a former Cuban MiG pilot, had defected to the United States in 1992. He adapted well to life within Miami’s Cuban-American community and became a member of Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) as a civilian pilot volunteer in the group’s search-and-rescue missions for Cuban rafters.
But the reality was another; Roque was a double-agent working for the Cuban government. On Feb. 23, 1996, Roque fled the United States to make his way back to the island. The following day two small, unarmed BTTR planes were shot down over international waters while looking for Cuban rafters. Three Americans and one U.S. resident were murdered when their planes were downed without previous warning, in egregious violation of international law.
Carlos A. Costa, Armando Alejandre Jr., Mario M. de la Peña and Pablo Morales were killed. On Feb. 26, Roque went before Cuban television and gave his version of the shoot-down. He detailed his disenchantment with the United States and what he described as the anti-Cuban government nature of the Miami Cuban-American community. The interview confirmed suspicions that Roque’s disappearance was related to the downing, later verified with his indictment as a member of the Wasp Network (Red Avispa), a Cuban espionage ring working in the United States and exposed in 1998.
Why did Roque agree to this interview? Does he want to reclaim the “persona’’ that was lost when, as an exposed spy, he was out of a job? Is he still resentful because the Cuban government apparently would never trust him to again fly an airplane? Is he, unconvincingly, trying to mend fences with a community he betrayed?
Story Continues: The Cuban Spy Who Betrayed His Brothers