This article appeared in the Miami Herald of Friday May 10,
US TURNS OVER TAPES OF BROTHERS DOWNING
Raul Castro may have spoken to Jet Pilots.
By: Pablo Alfonso-Herald Staff Writer
Two months after demanding at the United Nations a swift investigation
of the downing of two US registered planes by Cuban war planes,
the United States on Thursday turned over recordings of the communications
between the war planes and their controllers to the "International
Civil Aeronautics Organization (ICAO)" in Montreal.
Sources familiar with the investigation told The Herald that U.S. authorities
may have tried to conceal the direct participation of Defense
Minister Raul Castro in Cuba's Feb. 24 downing of the civilian
aircraft over the Florida Straits. Four pilots of the volunteer
group Brothers to the Rescue died in the incident.
The sources did not say what the U.S. motive was for trying to
conceal Castro's role.
"We have been told in confidence by U.S. intelligence sources that the voice of Raul Castro is heard on those tapes," said Jose Basulto President of Brothers
to the Rescue.
Basulto's allegation about Castro's participation in the shootdown
coincides with statements made to The Herald by a diplomatic source
close to the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to Herald sources one of the tapes contains a passage
where a voice joins the pilot- to-control dialogue and the orders
emphatically that the Cessnas be shot down. The voice appears
to be that of a high-ranking officer, the sources said.
A transcript of the tapes was made public in February by the State
The White House is unsure as to the identity of the officer who
gave the order, said a government official who declined to be
identified. That was one reason he said, why intelligent experts
clashed on the advisability of releasing the full, unedited tapes.
Representative Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said a member of the National
Security Council told him intelligence officials were not sure
whether the order came from the Cuban Defense Chief.
"They are not certain that the voice was that of Raul Castro",
U.S. intelligence sources said the delay in releasing the recordings
was caused by internal debate over whether the tapes would reveal
U.S. capabilities for electronic surveillance of Cuba's airways.
Ron Schleede, a member of the U.S. team that delivered the tapes,
declined to comment Thursday, saying he was "not empowered
to deal with any matter connected with the investigation."
On April 30, Fidel Castro told CBS news that he did not give a
specific order Feb. 24 to shoot down the planes and neither did
Raul Castro. But he said he had given general orders that violation
of Cuban airspace should be stopped.
Two former high ranking officials of Cuba's airforce, who defected
to the U.S., said it was likely that Raul Castro had a direct
role in the shoot-down.
"Even if an action plan had been approved in advance, it's
almost certain that Raul Castro was notified before [the shooting]
took place," said Maj. Orestes Lorenzo.
Gen. Rafael del Pino said Cuba's leadership is apparently trying to distance itself from any responsibility in the attack, which created a wave of international repudiation.
Copyright © 1996 The Miami Herald