Alain Castillo is a young Cuban American living in Texas. This is what he wrote today to remember the events of February 24, 1996. It’s great that a young man like Alain is writing about Cuba. It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Alain….
BROTHERS TO THE RESCUE ANNIVERSARY
BY ALAIN CASTILLO
Today marks the 19th anniversary of the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.
As we carry on this day and remember those brave heroes who risked their lives to save others, I reminisce on the impact that this caused in my life in Miami and the US.
At home, my dad would at times yell at the television set whenever a picture of Fidel or Raul Castro was shown. And although the news reports were critical, he took the time to scream obscenities to these monsters because of the pain that they caused him and our family.
Nonetheless, he had a right to do it without political retribution – not economic plight—because none of his neighbors would tell state police. We were in the decent part of Hialeah, Florida—no less.
One of the best things that I remember was how he taught me to know about Cuba’s history and politics and in essence, be part of the struggle. The first major event that I can say I was a part of was the debate between the communist dictatorship’s Ricardo Alarcon and Cuban American National Foundation’s Jorge Mas Canosa in 1994.
Yet, what impacted me the most in that time period was the shoot down of four civilian, unarmed planes from the Brothers to the Rescue.
To me, this was one of the most horrific and in-your-face atrocities that any government can do to Americans. This was an example of extreme terrorism pre-9/11 and it has never been officially condemned by the US government and prosecuted in International Court.
At the time I attended Ben Sheppard Annex, a public elementary school, which housed fifth graders from the area for that year. (Miami Dade Public School had zoning and budget issues back then.)
Within a few days of the shoot down, our school held a gathering where all the fifth grade students and teachers attended. The student and teacher population was predominantly Cuban-American, but we had students and teachers from different backgrounds, including many African-American, Mexican-American, Dominican-American and African-American, Jamaican-American and Anglo-American teachers as well.
Yet, for that time period, we were all Cuban Americans, standing next to each other in prayer and in silence remembering and honoring the four victims of a grave injustice: Armando Alejandre Jr., Mario de la Pena, Carlos Acosta and Pablo Morales.
We sat down, with a sunny-day over us, in memoriam of the lives taken over international waters. Although we never knew them, we were all saddened by the news and were taught how to show solidarity and union to support the fallen pilots.
In recent years, Telemundo 8 in Miami continued investigating the shoot down and found a Cuban MiG radio communication that broadcasted the celebratory reaction of these Cuban pilots who shot them down.
We know that General Raul Castro gave the order because at the time no one flies without his permission. In essence, no one shoots without his permission either.
Why has this not been officially condemned by the US government at the time and now?
In 1996, the Clinton Administration was involved in their own politics in Central and Southeastern Europe with another tyrannical egomaniac (Slobodan Milosevic—remember him?), genocide in Africa and a re-election campaign in the US.
To them, the Cuban problem, despite its proximity, would be another intolerant and turbulent black hole.
Instead, evidence and the courts condemned to lengthy prison terms the spies that infiltrated the Brothers to the Rescue organization who have – you guessed it—been released as part of the new “course” on Cuba.
Yet, given this new life-line given to the Cuban government for free, America can still act bold and take advantage of the situation. Although the key figures of the shoot down were trialed, jailed and now released, the US can use this in the bargaining table.
So given the mulligan, will the US take the ball and run with it and condemn Raul Castro, or will they fumble?
Will the real US please stand up?