The FBI busted up a Cuban spy network that infiltrated U.S. military installations, obtained home addresses of U.S. military officers, and successfully conspired to murder three US citizens and one resident in an act of state terrorism. Ten Cuban agents arrested by the FBI had infiltrated and filed detailed reports on the U.S. Southern Command and the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. Not to mention the case of Ana Belen Montes, the high-ranking Defense Intelligence Agency analyst arrested shortly after 9/11 who pleaded guilty to spying against America for Castro.
The four murder victims were members of Brothers to the Rescue (BTTR) founded in 1991 to spot rafters in the Florida Straits and save their lives. Amnesty International's Holly Ackerman co-authored a monograph on Cuban rafters indicating that thousands have died trying to flee Castro's Cuba. On July 13, 1994, four Cuban government boats equipped with high-pressure water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people aboard.
The massacre took place seven miles off the Cuban coast. They attacked the runaway tug with their prows while at the same time spraying everyone, including women and children, with pressurized water. The old boat sank, with a toll of 37 dead, including 10 children and a further 18 youths.
This was not an isolated event. The regime has a history of committing atrocities against fleeing Cubans. One year later on July 13, 1995 a memorial flotilla for the victims was forced to turn back. At the moment that the hull of the lead boat was partially crushed, BTTR planes flew over Havana dropping bumper stickers that read, "Comrades No. Brothers." July 13, 1995, not February 24, 1996 was when Brothers to the Rescue planes flew into and out of Cuban airspace.
Fidel Castro was humiliated and began to plot his revenge using his spies led by Gerardo Hernández to gather information, attempt to discredit and develop a conspiracy that eight months later on the afternoon of February 24, 1996 ended in a premeditated attack with Cuban MiGs blowing to bits two BTTR planes, murdering Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, and Pablo Morales. Castro personally took responsibility for the destruction of the planes.
The goal was to destroy all three planes on that mission, and then have Juan Pablo Roque appear as the lone survivor to offer his "testimony." But with one plane's survival and recordings of routine communications with Cuban government air-traffic controllers, as well as the fact that the two destroyed planes' flight paths were outside Cuban national airspace, the conspiracy unraveled and Roque's story changed.
Morality quiz: Cuban agents murder four Americans in an act of state terrorism. Fidel Castro admits prior knowledge and takes responsibility for the attack. U.S government authorities respond by tightening economic sanction; two years later uncovering an espionage network involved in the murder conspiracy; and seven years later charging Cuban military officials in absentia for the extrajudicial killings. The Cuban dictatorship launches an international campaign to release these agents. This attack planned out by Cuban officials and the early release of the agents involved in the conspiracy would be:
E) something that would lead terrorists to think it is open season on U.S. citizens
*A version of this essay was originally published in The Miami New Times on February 13, 2003