Monday, February 25, 2008

Keeping the flame alive

Keeping the flame alive
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008

Maggie Alejandre Khuly's brother was one of four South Floridians shot
down in Brothers to the Rescue planes 12 years ago today. Carlos Costa,
Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales will be
commemorated in a 1 p.m. mass at St. Agatha Catholic Church, 1111 SW
107th Ave., Miami.

Q. Has the painful memory of the shoot-down diminished?

A. Every year, the pain is refreshed. You begin planning the
commemoration activities to bring alive the memory of these four men for
those who don't remember them as we family members do. You also tend to
remember past anniversaries and to worry. Will their photo be in the
paper? Will there be media coverage? We want their photos shown because
they are the focus, not us.

Q. What stands out about this year's anniversary?

A. This anniversary is different because Fidel Castro stepped down as
head of state last week. So what we have been hearing, that he has
head-of-state immunity, is no longer true. From what we've seen these 12
years, there is no political will on the part of the U.S. government to
indict Castro. Now this impediment has been removed. These were four
Americans who were murdered. The U.S. government will have to come up
with a different reason for why the indictment is not possible. Another
difference is that the documentary Shoot Down has been playing in area
theaters for five weeks.

Q. 'Shoot Down' was made by your daughter, Cristina. What is its impact?

A. It makes very clear in a linear way the events that led to the
shoot-down. And it reinforces that the government of Cuba is responsible
for the murders of these four men. It's good that the documentary is in
English. It's important as a portrayal of an egregious violation of
human rights. Every single one of us, as part of the human community,
should take an interest in it. It happened to our families, and we don't
want it to happen to any other American family ever.

Q. Have the families gained justice for the victims?

A. We have received a measure of justice. I would start with the formal
condemnations by United Nations and Organization of American States
commissions of human rights; and the civil lawsuit by which the
government of Cuba was found guilty of premeditated murder in the
shoot-down of two unarmed, civilian planes flying a humanitarian
search-and-rescue mission over international waters of the Florida
Straits. That's what people see in the documentary.

We also have the conviction of Gerardo Hernández [one of five Cuban
spies convicted in 2001] for conspiracy to murder in the shoot-down; and
the pending indictments for the Cuban Air Force officer who gave the
order and the two pilots who fired the missiles.

Q. What comes next?

A. We would like additional indictments. We believe there is enough
evidence available to indict other Cuban officers, all the way from
Fidel and Raúl Castro to the air controllers who guided the planes to
find their targets. There were a lot of people involved.

Even though we are focused on our family members, we won't be finished
until there is justice for other victims of the Cuban government, such
as the victims of the attack on the 13 de Marzo tugboat. The families
are looking forward to the day that we, through our foundations funded
by the civil lawsuit [that awarded $93 million in damages], can help
people in Cuba with schools and libraries built in the memory of Carlos,
Armando, Mario and Pablo.

Editorial Board member Susana Barciela prepared this report.

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