Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The "13 de Marzo" tugboat sinking, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, and the Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killings: The importance of remembering Castroism's crimes

The importance of remembering.

Wednesday, July 13, 1994 at three in the morning three extended Cuban families set out for a better life aboard the "13 de Marzo" tugboat from Havana, Cuba and were massacred by Cuban government agents.

The most extensive international report on what took place is by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and is available on-line. Fifteen years later human rights defender Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, reflected on what had happened:
Behind the Christ of Havana, about seven miles from the coast, "volunteers" of the Communist regime committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba. In the morning, a group of seventy people in all, fled on a tugboat, led by the ship's own crew; none was kidnapped, or there against their will. They came out of the mouth of the Bay of Havana. They were pursued by other similar ships. When the runaway ship and its occupants stopped to surrender, the ships that had been chasing them started ramming to sink it. Meanwhile, on the deck, women with children in their arms begging for mercy, but the answer of their captors was to project high pressure water cannons against them. Some saw their children fall overboard under the murderous jets of water amid shrieks of horror. They behaved brutally until their perverse mission was fulfilled: Sink the fleeing ship and annihilate many of its occupants.
The man who denounced the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre would himself become a martyr of the same dictatorship along with Harold Cepero, a youth leader from the Christian Liberation Movement.
Nine years ago on July 22, 2012 on a stretch of road in Eastern Cuba, State Security agents rammed the car Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were traveling in. Both bodies appeared later that same day.

July 13th will mark 27 years since 37 Cubans were killed for wanting to live in freedom. Eleven of them were children, and nine days later we will remember two men killed nine years ago for non-violently advocating for freedom in Cuba.

One year after the massacre on July 13, 1995, Cuban exiles gathered together and set out in a flotilla that peacefully invaded Cuban national territory to travel to the spot where the "13 de Marzo" tugboat sank and where the human remains of the 37 victims still reside never returned to their families to this day to hold religious services for them. Ramón Saúl Sánchez organized and led the flotilla aboard the boat christened "Democracia". Upon entering Cuban waters the Castro regime sent their patrol boats, helicopters, and MiGs to surround and intimidate the flotilla, but it continued until the lead boat's hull was crushed by two patrol boats, and people onboard were hurt. Responding to the attack, Brothers to the Rescue planes overflew Havana dropping leaflets that read "Comrades No. Brothers" in Spanish.  It was on that day that the Democracy Movement came into existence. It was also on that day that the Castro regime began planning its reprisal against Brothers to the Rescue, enlisting members of the WASP spy network to provide intelligence that led to the deaths of four innocents. 
This is how it was outlined in a legal document presented to the United States Department of Justice in Falls Church, Virginia.

On July 13, 1995, two BTTR aircraft over flew Havana. The Cuban government charged that Basulto publicly, openly and patently endeavored to provoke air incidents and violate Cuban territorial sovereignty. On that flight, Hank Tester, a news reporter from Miami, flew aboard Basulto's plane filming as "fighters were in the area." Basulto claimed his intrusion was an act of civil disobedience. (App. Exh.60) The purpose of the July 13 over-flight was to create a diversion for Cuban fighters that were at the time threatening a freedom flotilla off the territorial waters of Cuba. The flotilla in turn was lawfully commemorating the sinking of the tugboat "13 de Marzo" and the tragic loss of forty lives caused by Cuban gunboats ramming the defenseless vessel. (App. Exh.8 and 60) On July 14, 1995, the day after the over flight, the Cuban government first declared its intention to shoot down even peaceful intruders. Cuba would not govern itself by international standards of engagement when dealing with non-military intrusions.

 25 years ago on February 24, 1996 a Cuban MiG-29UB Fulcrum and a MiG-23ML intercepted three US civilian registered Cessna 337s (N2456S, N5485S and N2506), operated by the Brothers to the Rescue while they were engaged on a humanitarian search and rescue mission over the Florida Straits for Cuban rafters in international airspace.

At 3:21 pm EST the Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N2456S) was destroyed by an air-to-air missile fired by the Cuban MiG-29 military aircraft.

At 3:27 pm EST the Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N5485S) was destroyed by an air-to-air missile fired by a Cuban MiG-29 military aircraft.

Immediately killed were Armando Alejandre Jr.,45 years old, Carlos Alberto Costa, age 29, Mario Manuel de la Peña, age 24, and Pablo Morales, age 29. This was a premeditated act of state terrorism carried out by Havana on the orders of both Fidel and Raul Castro.

The third Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N2506) was able to escape and the survivors Jose Basulto, Arnaldo Iglesias, Silvia Iriondo and Andres Iriondo were able to set the record straight on the propaganda offensive already underway from Havana to misrepresent what had happened.

On Sunday, July 11th at 7:00pm free Cubans, and friends of freedom, will gather outside the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC [ 2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009] for a silent vigil to remember the victims of the "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre, those murdered outside of Cuba for peacefully protesting this crime, and the martyred leader who denounced the crime inside Cuba.

On Tuesday, July 13th at  4:00pm at the Cuban Memorial located at Tamiami Park in Miami, FL [11201 SW 24 Street, Miami, FL] the community is invited to remember the "13 de marzo" tugboat sinking with survivors, relatives of the victims, and with Ramón Saúl Sánchez of the Democracy Movement. This gathering will be presided over by Kiele Alessandra, the young woman whose protest in the baseball game between Cuba and Venezuela in West Palm Beach drew international attention.  

The Castro regime has spent much in the way of resources on misinformation campaigns to cover up this history. The facts, when known, have led some who had a hard left upbringing to break with the regime.

German-born Anna Veltfort spent her formative years in Cuba and was traumatized by the  "treatment of gay people, especially starting in 1965 when [her] university was bombarded with antigay rhetoric by the government and by the UJC (the Young Communist Union)." However it was what came later that she says led to her horror with the Castro regime. "In subsequent years, her disillusionment grew as she saw 'the ever increasing militarization of daily life and of the life of the country; the Cuban government’s rejection of Glasnost (the political liberalization policies of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union); the show trial and execution of General Ochoa; and the deliberate sinking of the Tugboat “13 de marzo” in July 1994, with 70 people aboard who had hijacked the boat in their attempt to flee Cuba—37 men, women, and children drowned,' she said, in an interview with the University of Miami's UNews@TheU last month.

Truth and memory are necessary elements to change hearts, and minds to achieve positive change, but this is not the most important reason to remember. Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel in his important work Night  explained the importance of remembering: "To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”


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