- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2001

A little known case, involving 14 alleged Cuban spies charged with trying to infiltrate U.S. military bases and exile groups, has been described by U.S. officials as the largest Cuban espionage operation uncovered in the United States in decades. One of the defendants, Gerardo Hernandez, is charged also with conspiracy to commit murder. The evidence of the trial points to a cold-blooded plot by Cuban officials to infiltrate the Brothers to the Rescue group in order to shoot down and kill members involved in a Brothers' flight mission. The spies were tragically successful.

Radio messages from Havana, submitted as evidence in the trial, show that Cuba decided on Jan. 29, 1996, to use lethal retaliation against the Brothers' rafter missions. In February 1996, the Cuban regime repeatedly warned its agents to avoid flying with the Brothers, particularly from Feb. 24 to Feb. 27. On Feb. 24, the following conversation between a Cuban MiG pilot and his Cuban commander took place:

"Target lock-on, authorize us! … It's a Cessna 3-37 … That's the one! Authorize us, damn it."

"Fire."

"We got him, damn it! We got him! … The other one destroyed! Fatherland or death, damn it! The other one down, too!"

Cuban MiGs pursued and shot down two Cessnas, flown by Brothers to the Rescue members, who were flying in international air space, resulting in the death of Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena, Armando Alejandre and Pablo Morales. Thanks to their spies, the Cubans knew full well the Cessnas were unarmed and unthreatening.

Despite the Clinton administration's requisite rhetoric claiming outrage and a determination to seek justice, the White House failed to initiate criminal proceedings against the Cubans for this premeditated, murderous act. The on-going trial demonstrates that the Clinton administration had a preponderance of evidence to use against the Cuban regime, but failed to act. And a U.S. District Court found the Cuban government guilty and liable for damages. With a new American administration, perhaps justice for the victims and their families will finally be meted out. Attorney General John Ashcroft should review the case and determine whether a federal grand jury should be convened.

Messrs. Alejandre, de la Pena and Costa were all U.S. citizens. Mr. Morales was a lawful U.S. resident and Vietnam veteran. America should demand justice on their behalf.


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