Free Cuba Now
2005-02-25 23:02:41 UTC
By Les Kjos
UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
Published February 25, 2005
MIAMI -- Rewards have been announced for the Cuban military pilots who
shot down four Cuban-Americans nine years ago while they were looking
for refugees in the Florida Straits.
Friends and relatives of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots who
were killed offered $100,000 for each of the Cuban MiG pilots who
opened fire on the men.
"We have not lost hope that we will get justice," said Maggie
Alejandre Khuly at a news conference Thursday.
Her brother, Armando Alejandre Jr., 45, was a passenger on one of
the two planes that were shot down over international waters Feb. 24,
A third plane, piloted by Brothers' co-founder Jose Basulto, ducked
into a cloud and escaped.
The two MiG pilots have been identified as Francisco Perez Perez
and his brother Lorenzo Perez Perez. Also targeted is their commander,
Air Force Gen. Ruben Martinez Puente.
All three were indicted on murder charges in 2003 by a federal
grand jury in Miami.
The families are offering additional rewards of $50,000 for any
others who may be involved.
The families also asked again for the U.S. government to indict
Cuban President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro for the
Three of the fliers' families received $93 million in frozen Cuban
assets in 2001 after they won wrongful-death suits against Cuba.
The money was part of a $187 million judgment against Cuba for
shooting down the two light planes. In 2001 President Clinton released
the $93 million in frozen Cuban funds to the families just before his
second term ended.
Despite his escape, Basulto won an award of $1.75 million last
month. He has not yet received the money. He had sought $122 million.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra allowed the claim against the
Cuban government but dismissed allegations against the other
He ruled that Basulto "justifiably continues to fear for his life.
In his words, I have a MiG on my tail for the rest of my life."
He had asked in the suit filed in 2002 for $76 million in
compensatory damages and $46 million in punitive damages, planning to
use any money he received to help dissidents in Cuba.
Although he said the award fell short of the objective of financing
an anti-Castro movement in Cuba, he called the ruling "another victory"
over the Cuban government.
Lawyers for the family said the case against President Fidel Castro
and his brother Raul was dismissed because they could not be physically
served with the legal papers.
They said the government was served properly through diplomatic
In most cases a legal doctrine known as "sovereign immunity"
prevents such suits. It is based on the legal concept that a sovereign
can do no wrong. When governments are sued they almost always raise the
doctrine as a defense.
The acts of the Cuban government would usually fall within the
doctrine and be protected against private lawsuits.
But in Cuba's case the United States has passed a series of special
laws that allow cases against foreign governments.
The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 allows
U.S. victims of seven designated states including Cuba to sue for
Included are claims for "personal injury or death that was caused
by an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage
taking, or the provision of material support of resources."
That provision has been interpreted to include the 1996 MiG attack.
The other nations classified as "rogues" and covered in the act are
Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq and North Korea. Iraq is assumed to be
no longer eligible.
The offer of rewards Thursday was the latest signal that the
majority of Miami's Cuban-American community intends to take the fight
against the Castro government into the foreseeable future.
In a news conference at Florida International University, Khuly
said the families will distribute thousands of wanted posters reading,
"Murder over International Waters," complete with photos of the pilots
and their commander and a drawing of the incident.
The fliers will be given to merchants in south Florida and in Los
Angeles and New York, The Miami Herald reported.
Full-page advertisements in The Herald and the South Florida
Sun-Sentinel were rejected.
"They said they don't run bounty-style ads," Khuly said.
Family members acknowledge the four men died nine years ago, but
they think there are still ways to bring the men to justice after all
"We know someone knows something, and we're hoping they'll come
forward," said Mirta Costa, who lost her son Carlos Costa at the age of
"Money has a way of making people remember things," said Mario de
la Peña, whose 24-year-old son Mario Manuel was killed in the attacks.
The other victim was Pablo Morales, 29.