When a former Cuban Air Force major who had defected landed a small plane in Cuba and rescued his family

This month marks the 30th anniversary of former Cuban Air Force Major Orestes Lorenzo defying communist dictator Fidel Castro and landing a small plane in Cuba, rescuing his wife and two children. It was literally a flight to freedom and an amazing act of defiance and courage.

Via the Center for a FREE Cuba:

Revisiting the courageous flight by Orestes Lorenzo Pérez to save his wife and children

Thirty years ago, on December 19, 1992, Cuban Air Force Major Orestes Lorenzo Pérez flew back to Cuba and rescued his family. One year and nine months after defecting to the United States in a MiG-23 and months of petitioning the Cuban government to allow his family to leave the island without success, Orestes flew to Cuba in a civilian plane and picked up his wife and two sons.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost rejected by Castro left a deep impact on the Cuban military. Cuban General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, who had studied in the Soviet Union, and had close ties there was arrested on June 12, 1989, subjected to a political show trial and executed by firing squad on July 13, 1989. This was seen as sending a message to Cuban officials sympathetic to Glasnost and Perestroika.

Major Orestes Lorenzo Pérez, who had fought in Angola, then gone for further training in the Soviet Union, was also deeply affected by the glasnost of Mikhail Gorbachev. He realized that the history that he had been taught in Cuba was a lie, and that he was being manipulated.

This is why he defected on March 20, 1991.The Cuban Air Force Major would spend the next 22 months trying to get his family out of Cuba. Gigi Anders in her February 14, 1993 article published in The Washington Post, titled THE MOST ROMANTIC STORY IN THE WORLD highlighted some of the actions taken, and people successfully petitioned.

“People of great sensitivities responded positively and tried their best to help liberate my family,” he says. “Coretta Scott King, President Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, more than 50 senators and congressmen, the Valladares Foundation {a Virginia-based human rights organization} … they all wrote to Fidel Castro.” He pleaded his case before the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Diplomacy was failing. In the summer of 1992, Orestes participated in a week-long hunger strike in Madrid, where Castro was attending the Iberian-American Summit. There was plenty of publicity for seven days. And then the conference ended.

Raul Castro sent a challenging response to the request for family reunification: “If Lorenzo had the pants to leave with one of my MiGs,” he said, “maybe he has the pants to come and get his family.” Inside Cuba, Raul Castro’s assistant explained to Vicky Lorenzo that she and her children would never be reunited with her husband and their father. When she asked why, she was told, “Because you are scum.”

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