July 31, 1996
TEXT OF PRESS CONFERENCE OF BROTHERS TO THE RESCUE IN WASHINGTON D.C. AND IN MIAMI, FLORIDA
Brothers to the Rescue, is a not-for-profit, humanitarian organization, founded in 1991 in response to the number of deaths of Cuban rafters trying to flee the island in search of freedom. It is a volunteer pilots group from 17 different nationalities, funded by voluntary contributions. To date, BTTR has conducted 1840 search and rescue missions over the Straits of Florida, resulting in over 4,000 lives saved before the refugee crisis of 1994.
On February 24th of this year, two Brothers to the Rescue's unarmed, civilian U.S. aircraft, conducting a humanitarian mission over international waters, were shot down with missiles fired by Castro's MIGs. This terrorist-like attack resulted in the death of three U.S. citizens and a U.S. resident. A third BTTR aircraft managed to escape the attack, AFTER BEING PURSUED BY THE CUBAN MIGs TO WITHIN THREE MINUTES FROM THE UNITED STATES TERRITORY
RECENT FINDINGS HAVE LED US TO BELIEVE THAT THIS ATTACK AND ASSASSINATION COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED.
The purpose of this press conference today is to elicit a Congressional investigation of the February 24th attack, by sharing with you some of the information we have obtained concerning the downing of civilian aircraft by Cuban MIGs.
We have reason to believe that Juan Pablo Roque, a Cuban intelligence agent doubling as a paid FBI informant, and occasional BTTR pilot, falsely informed the FBI that 'BTTR was,going to make a "political statement" (incursion into Cuba) on February 24th. It was subsequently confirmed that Roque left the Miami area and reappeared in Cuba the day of the shoot-down.
Since the early morning of February 24th, Cuban MIGS were in the air, already preparing to ambush the BTTR aircraft.
At 1:15 p.m., three BTTR aircraft departed for their humanitarian search and rescue mission. U.S. officials, fully aware of the potentially lethal situation and BTTR's flight plan for that day, did not attempt to advise BTTR of the imminent danger. In the past, BTTR has been warned when similar MIG activity has been monitored in the area.
At 3:00 p.m., U.S. radar detected two Cuban MIGs departing from their base in Cuba heading north toward the BTTR planes. U.S. radar screen-prints show that before the attack, Cuban MIGs were maneuvering and flying above BTTR aircraft. At 3:15 p.m., a U.S. Customs radar specialist at the March Air Force Base in California made the equivalent of a "911 call" to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. He was told, "we are handling it, don't worry."
The first aircraft piloted by Carlos Costa, a native Miamian, and Pablo Morales, a former rafter, was destroyed at 3:21 p.m. The U.S. radar stations monitored the attack and opted not to respond or to warn the other two BTTR aircraft. By 3:28 p.m. the second aircraft, piloted by Mario de la Pena, born in New Jersey, and Armando Alejandre, Jr., a Ex Marine Vietnam veteran, was shot down. According to the official radio transcripts, the third BTTR aircraft, N2506, with four U.S. citizens, Arnaldo Iglesias, Sylvia and Andrés Iriondo, and myself as pilot, was being actively pursued until 3:53 p.m. by two additional MIGs. Within three minutes from U.S. shores, Cuban ground controllers suspended the mission.
Fifty three minutes elapsed from the time that the Cuban MIGs were detected by U.S. radar stations heading north, to the moment when the Cuban MIGS were ordered by their ground control to abort the mission, close to the United States. No communication attempt was made by the U.S during this time to alert BTTR aircraft. These facts raise serious questions. Mainly, why was normal operating procedure not followed and national security jeopardized, which resulted in the death of American citizens?
In your press kits you will find all the relevant information to verify these facts. It is the hope of BTTR and all concerned American citizens that these findings are investigated and the truth be known. Thank you.
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Copyright © 1996 Brothers to the Rescue, Inc.