CubaBrief: Vigil and Mass for Brothers to the Rescue. Ukraine marks two years of war.

Families of Armando Alejandre Jr, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales hold vigil at FIU on 2/23

Earlier today on X, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart explained in a post the significance of both the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down that murdered four U.S. residents in international airspace, and the expansion of hostilities against Ukraine by Vladimir Putin on February 24, 1996. The implications of abandoning democrats has global consequences.

“Today, on the anniversary of the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown, and the anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we are reminded of the dangerousness of appeasing tyrants. The U.S. must stand in strong solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and all those struggling for freedom against brutality, by denying all legitimacy and support to their oppressors. If not stopped in Ukraine, Putin will continue his march further into Europe. Not only he, but his allies in Cuba, Venezuela, the PRC, and Iran would be further emboldened as a result.”

This is why hundreds of Cubans and Cuban organizations on and off the island signed a letter on January 18, 2024 calling on the United States not to abandon Ukraine. In the letter they mentioned how Cuban fighters were abandoned in the field during the Bay of Pigs,. Sadly, this was not the only such episode experienced by free Cubans.

Tonight at Saint Agatha Church, located across the street from Florida International University, families of the four Cuban martyrs requested and attended a special mass for their loved ones.

Mass at St. Agatha Church on February 24, 2024.

This morning at the Brothers to the Rescue memorial at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport members of the humanitarian organization, and family members of Armando Alejandre Jr, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales gathered to remember, and demand truth and justice for their loved ones murdered by the dictatorship 28 years ago.

Brothers to the Rescue founder Jose Basulto (seated) with his sons, and daughter on February 24, 2024.

At 3:21 and 3:27 PM on February 24, 1996, Lorenzo Alberto Peréz Peréz’s MiG-29 fired heat-seeking air-to-air missiles, destroying the two planes. Mario de la Peña, 24, Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, 30, and Armando Alejandre Jr., 45 were in the two shot down planes, and killed. Mario, Carlos, Pablo, and Armando belonged to Brothers to the Rescue, a humanitarian group, that saved the lives of thousands of rafters in the 1990s in the Florida Straits.

Mario de la Peña’s mother and aunt (center) today at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport.

Havana’s murderous conspiracy

Cuban spies learned the flight schedules of Brothers to the Rescue and were instructed not to fly on February 24, 1996 and, if they had to, to alert the MiGs with a motion while in flight to save them from suffering the same fate as the other planes.

Ana Belen Montes, a Cuban spy working in the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, carried out an influence operation to shift responsibility from the Cuban dictatorship, to its victims in Brothers the Rescue. 

Twenty eight years later, and we are just learning that Ambassador Manuel Roche, a high level spy for Havana, who in 1996 was the principal deputy of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and may have played a role in assisting the Cuban dictatorship minimize its accountability in this act of terrorism it committed against U.S. civilians in international airspace.

Members of the Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, and Pablo Morales present today at the memorial.

This was a premeditated killing over international airspace. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concluded that the two planes “were shot down miles away from Cuba’s boundary having never entered or touched it on that day and the planes had been in contact with the Cuban tower throughout the flight.”

Family members held a silent vigil for their loved ones on February 23rd, gathering at 3:15 pm at Florida International University, the vigil started at 3:21pm and ended at 3:27pm. These were the times when the first and second plane were shot down.

On February 22nd a vigil was held in Washington DC outside of the Embassy of Cuba demanding justice for the four Brothers to the Rescue martyrs, and for Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who was killed by prison officials while on a huinger strike on February 23, 2010..

Babalu Blog, February 24, 2024

February 24, 1996: When the Cuban dictatorship shot down and murdered four Brothers to the Rescue pilots

February 24, 2024 by Alberto de la Cruz

It was 28 years ago today when three American civilian planes from Brothers to the Rescue were flying in international airspace over the Florida Straits on a humanitarian mission. Back then, thousands of Cubans were throwing themselves into the shark-infested waters of the Florida Straits on rickety rafts in a desperate attempt to escape the misery of socialism and reach freedom in the U.S. The Brothers to the Rescue planes were there to spot and provide aid to Cubans who had managed to escape their island prison on those rafts or inner tubes.

On that fateful day, however, Cuba’s murderous Castro dictatorship decided to send a deadly message. Acting on intelligence provided by its Wasp Network of spies in the U.S., Fidel and Raul Castro scrambled MiGs to intercept the unarmed civilian aircraft and commit one of the most heinous acts of cowardly terrorism in modern history, It was Raul Castro himself, Cuba’s current communist dictator, who gave the order to shoot down the defenseless airplanes and murder four Americans.

The video below is a recording of the disturbing, gut-wrenching, and infuriating radio calls made by the cowardly Cuban MiG pilots who screamed and cursed with glee over shooting down defenseless airplanes and murdering the pilots:

The Cuban spies who provided the Castro regime with the intelligence to carry out this act of international terrorism and were later captured, convicted, and sentenced to long prison terms for their acts of espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. But to add insult to injury, President Obama released them and handed them back to the Castro dictatorship in exchange for absolutely nothing on December 17, 2014.

Requiescat in pace, Armando, Mario, Carlos, and Pablo. Your courage and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Read more about this abominable act of terrorism at Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter.

Babalu Blog, February 24, 2024

Vigil held outside Cuban embassy in Washington demands justice for Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Brothers to the Rescue

February 24, 2024 by Alberto de la Cruz

Human rights activists gathered outside the Cuban embassy in Washington on February 22 to hold a vigil for justice for Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots murdered by the Castro dictatorship. February 23 marks the 14th anniversary of Zapata Tamayo’s death at the hands of the Cuban regime, and February 24 marks the 28th anniversary of the Castro dictatorship’s shoot-down of two unarmed civilian planes on a humanitarian mission over international waters. The communist Castro dictatorship has yet to answer or be held accountable for the murder of these innocent martyrs.

Via the Center for a FREE Cuba:

Vigil for justice for Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Brothers to the Rescue members martyred by Communist Cuba for defending human rights

On February 22, 2024 at 5:30pm at the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC activists gathered to hold a silent vigil in memory of Orlando Zapata Tamayo killed by prison guards on February 23, 2010 and Armando Alejandre Jr, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales the four murdered by Castro on February 24,1996 when two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down. This event was co-hosted by Center for a Free Cuba, Cuba Decide, and the Patmos Institute.

Fourteen years ago on February 23, 2010 Cuban human rights defender and prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo was killed while on hunger strike, after being denied water by prison authorities for 18 days causing his kidneys to shut down.

Currently, there are over 1,000 political prisoners in Cuba, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been able to see any of them. The last time the ICRC was able to visit Cuban prisons, and meet political prisoners was in 1989.

Orlando Zapata had worked on human rights campaigns with Medal of Freedom laureate Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and gathered signatures with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas for the Varela Project petition. Oswaldo Payá, together with youth leader Harold Cepero, were killed extrajudicially on July 22, 2012 by agents of Cuba’s Communist government, revealed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in their June 2023 report on the merits.

Twenty eight years ago, on February 24, 1996 Armando Alejandre Jr. (45 years old), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29) were in two planes engaged in a search and rescue flight for rafters when they were blown out of the sky by missiles launched from a Cuban MiG following Raul Castro’s orders. International investigations concluded that the civilian planes were shot down in international airspace in violation of international norms.This was a premeditated act of state terrorism by the Cuban regime.

The vigil ended at 6:30pm with Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart praying for the martyrs demanding justice for them and for a free Cuba to emerge after decades of dictatorship.

Continue reading HERE.