About 100 Cuban exiles demonstrated in front of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington Friday, on the 16th anniversary of the shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes, while surviving members of the humanitarian group gathered once more at a memorial in Opa-Locka to mark the day.
Four Brothers to the Rescue pilots were killed in the ambush ordered by Fidel Castro on Feb. 24, 1996 – a day that will live forever in U.S.-Cuba relations. Their planes were taken down by a Cuban MiG-29 in international airspace.
“Every year it seems to be a little harder, especially since no justice has been rendered,” said Arnoldo Iglesia, one of those who gathered at the memorial at Opa-Locka Airport. “It is tough, hard to forget.”
From day one members of Brothers to the Rescue, which was best known for rescuing rafters and other humanitarian missions, wanted U.S. murder indictments for Castro, who freely admits he called the shot. Five Cuban spies were tried and convicted, one on murder charges involving the shoot down.
The Cuban pilots and military commanders were also indicted in U.S. courts, but not Castro.
In the nation’s capital Friday, exiles denounced continuing repression on the island in front of the Cuban Interests Section, the Cuban diplomatic headquarters in Washington. They also remembered the hunger strike death of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayor.
Meantime, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican who represents the 18th Congressional District in South Florida, has sent a letter to Interpol requesting a full investigation into the involvement of Fidel and Raul Castro in the shoot down.
The Brothers to the Rescue pilots are demanding arrests by Interpol.
“Everything unfolded. It was a terrible thing,” said Billy Schuss, one of the founding members of Brothers to the Rescue. “Since then we have been trying to get the truth, you know, justice. We have been asking for 16 years. We have nothing yet.”