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SHOW: NEWS 9:25 am ET
February 25, 1996
Transcript # 47-22
SECTION: News; International
LENGTH: 821 words
HEADLINE: Cubans Warned They Might Shoot Down Exile Planes
GUESTS. EUGENE CARROLL, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral (Ret) (LIVE);
Cuban officials gave explicit warning that they might shoot down aircraft overflying Cuban territory, says a retired U.S. admiral who recently met with high-level Cuban military officials.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, Anchor: A recent U.S. visitor to Cuba says the Fidel Castro government gave clear warnings that it was considering taking action against the Brothers to the Rescue flights. We're on the phone now with retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll. He now works for the Center for Defense Information and recently traveled to Cuba to speak to senior Cuban military officers. He's speaking to us this morning from his home in northern Virginia. Thanks for joining us this morning.
EUGENE CARROLL, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral (Ret.): Good to be aboard.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: Admiral, can you tell me what happened on your trip to Cuba, who you spoke with and what you were told?
EUGENE CARROLL: We were hosted by the Ministry of Defense. General Rozales del Toro [sp], the chief of staff of the Cuban military gave us carte blanche. We traveled around, inspected Cuban bases, Cuban schools, their partially completed nuclear power plant, and so on. In long discussions with General Rozales del Toro and his staff, the question came up about these overflights from U.S. aircraft not government aircraft, but private airplanes operating out of Miami. They asked us, "What would happen if we shot one of these down? We can, you know." And my response was it would be a public relations disaster. Every hard liner in the United States, particularly in a presidential election year, will shout and screarn that this is proof of the violent regime in Cuba and that we have to get tougher with them. I-
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: You consider this a clear warning, so when you returned who did you relay this information to?
EUGENE CARROLL: As soon as we could make appointments, we discussed the situation, and a lot of other things besides just this issue, with members of the State Department and members of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: What was their reaction to what you had to tell them?
EUGENE CARROLL: More of the same. You know, as long ago as last July, the Cubans were threatening to shoot down these airplanes. They actually put some anti-aircraft in position to do it. So this was just one more indication to the people here in Washington of the resentment in Havana at the U.S. policies which are very harsh, with respect to Cuba. They're much more put out and resentful of the economic embargo than they are of these overflights, but the overflights are just one more stick on the camel's back.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, And, Admiral, the State Department had issued other warnings to the Brothers of Rescue [sic] about this, haven't they?
EUGENE CARROLL: Not effective ones. You could hear that echoed in the statement of the presidential spokesman McCurry yesterday, He said, 'We do not accept flight plans indicating Cuba as a destination.' What a weak statement that is. They know that these people have been filing flight plans that were false and then going to Cuba and this was part of the Cuban resentment was that the government wasn't enforcing its own regulations.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: But what about the position that these were unarmed civilian planes?
EUGENE CARROLL: That is a very sensitive question. Where were they? What were they doing? I'll give you an analogy. Suppose we had the planes flying over San Diego from Mexico, dropping leaflets and inciting against Governor Wilson. How long would we tolerate these overflights after we had warned them against it?
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: Now, you had told Cuban officials that if this were to happen you would do certain things, What are you doing now, your organization?
EUGENE CARROLL: Oh, our organization is continuing its efforts to bring about an improvement in the confrontational U.S.- Cuban relationship, This particular incident is going to be a setback. You can imagine what Senator Helms or Representative Torricelli are saying about this proof that we have to get tougher, hit Cuba harder. And it makes it very difficult to be sensible about the fact that the Cold War is over and we're still imposing Cold War restrictions on Cuba.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: Before we leave, Admiral, tell us what you think the U.S. will do now.
EUGENE CARROLL: Oh, I think there'll be a tremendous furor with the opposition criticizing President Clinton for being ineffective in his relations with Cuba and then it will simmer down and I hope someplace behind the scenes there will be an opening of a dialogue that would prevent subsequent events like this.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY: Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll, thank you for joining us this morning.
The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it may not have been proofread against tape.
LOAD-DATE: February 25,1996