On February 24, 1996 between 3:21 p.m. and 3:28 p.m. two pirate Cessna planes coming from the Opalocka airport in the State of Florida were shot down by our armed forces while they were violating, once again, the Cuban airspace at a distance between 5 and 8 miles north of the Baracoa beach, west of the city of Havana.
Before this, between 10:15 a.m. and 11:27 a.m., 3 planes of the same kind had invaded Cuban airspace. In this occasion, an airplane from our armed forces went to the place where these pirate planes were and with its presence impeded the violation of the Cuban airspace. The pirate planes then took off to the north.
At 1:21 p.m., while they were returning again to Cuba, one of these planes responsible for these incursions was warned by the center of control of air traffic of Havana that they had activated areas of air space north of the capital and they were warned of the risks they were running by doing this. In response the pilot of the pirate plane said it was clear he could not fly in that zone but he was going to do it anyway.
At 3:15 p.m. it is known through internal communications of one the pilots that they were heading toward Havana. Meanwhile, two of the planes were penetrating the restricted zone of Cuban airspace. The head of the group in a third plane remained outside of the 12-mile limit.
This provocation takes place precisely on the day our country is commemorating the 101st anniversary of the beginning of the war of independence of 1895 and when the people of the capital were preparing to celebrate carnival.
These violations have been produced numerous times despite repeated warnings that they would not be tolerated and that our patience has a limit. As you will remember on the past July 13, 1995 and more recently the 9th and 13th of January 1996 there were incursions in our airspace by counter-revolutionary groups of Cuban living in the United States territory during which material of subversive character were thrown.
Because of these recent events, each time bolder than the last one and in particular the most recent one, the Cuban government has again warned of the gravity nature of these acts and the consequences that would be derived from them. In the public notice which appeared on the 15th of January in the newspaper The Workers it was warned at the end "to the transgressors we can say that Cuba has the necessary means to guarantee the integrity of its national territory likewise to interrupt flights not authorized in our airspace for which violators better be ready to face the consequences."
In the same manner our authorities have informed the U.S. government on various occasions of these acts of violations that have been committed in a diplomatic note #45 sent to the government of the U.S. on January 16, 1996.
For the purpose of exhausting all deterrent resources that could avoid this from happening, the Cuban aeronautical authorities issued directives to the Federal Aviation Administration of the U.S. in order to inform them the dangers such non authorized flights could cause.
In this context we also mentioned the repeated threats and actions that, in a particularly aggressive manner, the gangs of Cuban origin based in Miami have carried out in recent times which include the aforementioned violation of Cuban air and water space, and even the gathering of weapons, the acquisition of ships, the introduction of arms and explosives and sending of terrorist commandos so they can carry out acts of violations in several places in Cuba.
There has been no need to obtain some of the fundamental elements of this part of the story through secret means. They have been narrated by their authors in press conferences in Miami, they appeared described in the newspapers of the Floridian city and they have been commenting, including with alarm by high officials of the U.S. government.
These U.S. Government officials, as stated in their declarations, have disapproved of the intentions and acts of these bands of terrorists that have theirs headquarter in Miami and have even warned them publicly on various occasions that if they continued such acts against Cuba the North American authorities would not be able to interfere with the actions the Cuban government would have to take to guarantee the sovereignty of its Nation.
Because of this, and after exhausting the recourse of warnings and adopting a very cautious manner in the face of repeated declarations and actions of an aggressive nature, of these terrorist groups of Cuban origin who have their burrows in Florida, the Cuban government decided to interrupt the continuation of air flights that transgress the Cuban sovereignty and put in danger the lives of Cuban citizens.
The responsibility for the actions that the Cuban government has now been forced to adopt in order to preserve its sacred and irrefutable duty to defend the national sovereignty falls on those who on repeated occasions refused to pay attention to the warnings, and persisted in their irresponsible adventures.
The shooting down of these pirate planes should be a lesson for those who support and carry out such acts and have the tendency to increase the tension between the United States and Cuba.
The Cuban Revolution will invariably continue adopting all means needed in order to defend its sovereignty and preserve the security of its people.
The Cuban government accepted the requests of the U.S. government to allow U.S. coast guard to come into our jurisdictional waters and together with our border patrol carry out search and rescue in the place where the planes were downed.
Our government regrets the loss of human lives as a result of the irresponsible and criminal aggressions against our Country.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.