Supporters and family members of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots shot down 13 years ago gathered Tuesday around UP’s Graham Center fountain to commemorate the anniversary of their death.
By Sissi Aguila
The Free Cuba Foundation, an organization founded by FIU students, held a vigil Tuesday, Feb. 24 to mark the 13th anniversary of the deaths of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots – Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre ’88, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales – who were shot down by Cuban MIG jets in international airspace.
Families of the victims joined FIU students, faculty and staff in forming a human chain around University Park’s Graham Center fountain at 3:27 p.m. -the time the first plane was shot down. They then observed six minutes of silence to mark the time between the first and second plane’s downing.
The victims were searching for Cuban rafters off the Florida straits when they were fired on by two Cuban pilots. Two planes were hit. A third plane, flown by Jose Basulto, escaped. U.S. investigators found that the Brothers to the Rescue planes were attacked on orders from Fidel Castro and the UN Security Council concluded in a report issued in 1999 that “Cuba was responsible for violating the right to life and the right to a trial that would indemnify the relatives for the damage they suffered as a result of those illicit acts.”
“This is an opportunity for our community to remember these crimes,” said John Suarez, member of the Free Cuba Foundation. “It is a silent, dignified way to ask for justice.”
“I wanted to be present and share this moment with them,” said Venezuelan-born Miriam Martorella, who was visiting the campus when she saw a flyer for the event. “Liberty is the most beautiful thing God gave us and we must all stand up when we see injustices like what happened to these men.”
“Justice may be late but it will come,” said Nancy Morales, sister of downed-pilot Pablo Morales.