By Nora Gámez Torres
Two Florida Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, have asked President Donald Trump to consider an investigation into whether Cuba’s former ruler, Raúl Castro, should be indicted for the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes.
The shoot-down by Cuban military planes resulted in the deaths of three U.S. citizens — Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Peña — as well as the death of Pablo Morales, a U.S. permanent resident.
“We urge you to consider new, additional actions to hold the Castro regime accountable for its crimes. For that reason, within all applicable rules and regulations, we urge you to direct the Department of Justice to review whether Raúl Castro should be indicted for the illegal and heinous act” of shooting down the two civilian aircraft in international waters, Rubio and Díaz-Balart said in a letter they sent to the president on Monday.
Brothers to the Rescue made volunteer flights in the Straits of Florida to search for Cuban rafters who had fled the island by sea. The organization also made flights inside Cuban territory to drop pamphlets denouncing the government of the late Fidel Castro. At the time, Raúl Castro was the minister of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Cuban authorities asked the U.S. government to ground the flights, but they continued and on Feb. 24, 1996, two Cuban military planes shot down two of the Brothers to the Rescue planes.
In 2003, a U.S. federal court in Miami indicted three Cuban officials on charges of murder, but Raúl Castro was not among them. None of them were tried. Gerardo Hernández, leader of a Cuban spy ring known as the WASP network, was sentenced to life in prison in connection with the shoot-down but he was freed by the Obama administration as part of a prisoner exchange.
The legislators also asked Trump to direct appropriate agencies to assess whether Interpol “red notices” should be issued for the arrest and extradition to the United States “of all Cuban operatives responsible for the murders.”
Editor’s Note: “Operation Scorpion” was the codename Havana’s primary service used for their mission supporting the murder of Brothers to the Rescue members. Due to their central role in the shoot down, key members of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) should be included in any attempt to issue Interpol “red notices.”