Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon says U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher is a brazen liar. Christopher called the downing of the planes "totally unjustified" and a "blatant violation of international law and the norms of civilized country."
Alarcon said it was "astonishing" that Christopher could claim the planes had been shot down over international waters when U.S. officials themselves had requested permission for the U.S. Coast Guard to enter Cuban waters to help in the search and recovery of bodies and debris from the downed planes.
"We have ample material recovered in our waters," he stated, "and the U.S. has no material at all recovered in international waters."
Cuban Foreign Ministry spokespeople said, "We are not talking about an 'unjustified action' but an act of legitimate self-defense against pirate attacks in Cuban air space and over Cuban territorial waters."
They noted that Havana had repeatedly warned those carrying out the provocations.
"No country with a modicum of self-respect could tolerate what was being perpetrated against Cuba by means of increasingly brazen and humiliating actions. The United States would never have allowed such violations even once," the Foreign Ministry statement says.
Cuban government officials say they have "unequivocal proof" that the planes violated Cuban airspace. This proof includes annotated maps showing the minute-by-minute radar detection, taped conversations, and "even objects that belonged to the transgressors of our sovereignty" that were recovered from Cuban waters on Feb. 24.
Alarcon also said Washington was irresponsible in not stopping the repeated violations of both U.S. and international law by the so-called Brothers to the Rescue and similar anti-Cuban groups based in Florida.
Alarcon pointed out that this incident "didn't occur out of the blue." The Cuban government has presented the U.S. government with a long list of violations of Cuban territory over the years, he said, and they have been acknowledged.
"We have warned them repeatedly that we would be forced to take action," he said. "Patience has its limits," he added, noting that a number of anti-Castro groups have not limited themselves to dropping leaflets, but have engaged in violent terrorist acts against the Cuban population.
"Just a year ago," Alarcon stated, "Christopher's department sent us a note saying they were investigating the possible violation of international law by Jose Basulto's group. Basulto was accused of violating FAA regulations, they said, and Cuba was asked to supply information to prove these allegations."
Despite Cuba's complete cooperation, no formal charges were lodged against Basulto. "What happened to that investigation and those charges?" Alarcon asked. "This man and his cronies took off from Florida after the investigation was conducted, and the U.S. failed to do anything to stop them."
"Just last month", he added, "they conducted a news conference in Miami, rejoicing at their exploits."
And on Feb. 24, they took off again from Opa-Locka airport. They turned back after the first Cuban warnings, but returned in the afternoon.
After numerous appeals to them to turn back failed, MiGs were sent out after them.
Alarcon ridiculed the image being disseminated by the U.S. government and media of "unarmed civilians carrying out a humanitarian mission."
"There was nothing humanitarian about them. They were not engaged in legitimate civilized activities," he asserted.
"They were violating many international laws that the U.S. should be concerned about," he said, including "illegal immigration" and "terrorism."
Alarcon noted that a small plane can carry lots of armaments, "and we know they came from a country where you can buy every kind of weapon by mail order. ... We can't exclude the possibility that the plane was armed and preparing a terrorist attack, just because a liar like Warren Christopher says they were unarmed."
Cuban officials, recalling many threats and terrorist acts including the strafing of fishing villages and tourism hotels, say they cannot wait until people are killed before stopping planes illegally flying into their territory. An international tourist hotel is located a few miles down the beach from the area where the planes were shot down.
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