Terrorism Must Not Win In Brothers To The Rescue Shoot Down
Thursday, February 24, 2000 - Miami Herald - Editorial
*[See the Justice4JP Note that follows this article.]
Four years ago today, Cuban Air Force MiGs shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes over international waters in the Florida Straits, killing their four fliers in an act proven to have been premeditated murder. Since that day, the fliers' families have relentlessly worked to punish the killers using the only weapons they have: the law, the truth and determination.
The families expected fierce antagonism from the totalitarian Cuban regime. What has surprised them - and should infuriate American citizens - is the inexplicable conduct of the U.S. government. Not only has the Clinton administration not aided the families, but it repeatedly has blocked their quest.
Today there will be memorial masses and prayers for the four slain South Floridians: Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Pena and Pablo Morales. But nothing could honor their memory more than to call to account their murderers - from the MiG pilots who pulled the triggers, to those commanding officers who gave the orders and authorized the deed.
Four years of exhaustive investigation have proven that the fliers were in small, unarmed planes over international waters when they were destroyed - in contempt of law, international treaties and all humanity.
More than compensation, the families want the moral sting of a U.S. criminal prosecution in federal court. So far there is only one indictment: Gerardo Hernandez, alleged Cuban spy-ring leader, charged last year with conspiracy to murder in connection to the shoot down. Glaringly not indicted for the murder were two other accused spies who had ``infiltrated'' Brothers to the Rescue, nor Cuban intelligence chiefs or the ``Commander-in-Chief'' tied to the attack in court papers.
When the families brought a civil suit against the Cuban government under an anti-terrorism law signed by President Clinton in 1996, a federal court found in their favor, awarding them $186.7 million in damages. The point of this anti-terrorism act was to give Americans a legal way to make terrorist states pay for attacks on innocent victims. It also was touted by the Clinton administration as an example of its commitment to combating terrorism.
So far, however, this appears to be lip service alone. As more families have won court-ordered damages under the law, the U.S. government has impeded efforts to collect. In the case of the Miami families, the State Department argued in federal court on the side of
Cuba'sregime and against payments to the families.
Last week Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a congressional committee that the administration may help victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism find assets from which to collect court-ordered damages. This promise came amid proceedings in the high-profile civil lawsuit brought against Iran by Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press reporter held seven years in Lebanon as a hostage.
Secretary Albright is right to assist Mr. Anderson. But she will be guilty of rank hypocrisy if she also doesn't undertake the same steps on behalf of the American victims of Cuban-state terrorism.
Justice4JP NoteThe efforts of the Clinton administration to delay justice for the families of those Americans murdered in the
Brothers To the Rescueshoot-down, and its failure to legally pursue all those involved in the murders, stands in marked contrast to its zealous pursuit of every participant in the Pollard affair. Unlike the Cuban affair, the Pollard case involved neither murder, nor hostile espionage, yet every participant has been legally pursued to the full extent of the law. This is yet another instance of unequal justice applied by this administration.