subject: CUBAN OFFICIAL STATEMENT by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Statement of 26 February, 1996

By the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In relation to the latest incidents which occurred on 24th February '96, when 2 Cessna aircraft were shot down, the Cuban Consulate would like to inform that:

  1. Early that morning, between 10.15am and 11.27am the Cuban aerial and maritime space was violated by three Cessna aircraft. A Cuban aircraft from the Cuban AirForce tried to prevent the violation by them, which provoked them to move to the North.
  2. At around 1.21 pm while they were intending to go to Cuba again, one of those responsible for the incursion was warned by the Air Traffic Controller in Havana, that the zones of the aerial space were activated and of the risks involved in trespassing those zones. The pilot acknowledged this, but insisted he would do it regardless of what he had been told.
  3. At 3.15 pm it was known, through internal communication by one of the pilots, that he was coming to Havana.
  4. Such provocation took place on the very day our country was celebrating the 101st Anniversary of the Beginning of our Independence War, back in 1895. The people of Havana were preparing to celebrate the Carnivals. After having tried to persuade the pilots to go back and it was now obvious they were refusing our warnings, our AirForce had no alternative but to prevent the violation of our air space and sovereignty. The two planes were shot down in the territorial waters of Cuba, between 5 to 8 miles off Baracoa Beach to the West of Havana.
  5. In the past, both in 1995 and more recently during January 1996, there were the same kind of violations by groups of 'contra- revolutionaries of Cuban origin, who were responsible for dropping Anti-revolutionary propaganda pamphlets in the capital of Havana. This was a flagrant violation of our air space and sovereignty.
  6. Considering those incidents, which are becoming more aggressive and provocative, the Cuban Government alerted those US- based pilots of the seriousness of the situation and also of the consequences of such activities.
  7. In the same way our government has informed the government of the United States on several occasions about such violations that are becoming more common and frequent. The latest Diplomatic Note, numbered 45, is dated 16th January 1996.
  8. With the purpose of preventing such incidents, the Cuban Government discussed the problem with the US Federal Aviation Administration Directives in the USA, informing them of the dangers that the flights carry for Aerial Navigation.
  9. Such terrorist acts are not a secret in the United States, as some high US government officials have commented on, with alarmed disapproval of such activities. The Miami-Florida perpetrators have often given details of their terrorist activities against Cuba, and have been warned by United States authorities that they could not do anything about the outcome, if such acts caused Cuba to react in order to protect its citizens and its sovereignty.
  10. Therefore the responsibility for the events of Feb'y 24 lay exclusively on the individuals that have continued to ignore and disobey the warnings given by the Cuban Government.
  11. The Cuban Government has allowed the request for the US Coast Guard to enter Cuban waters to rescue any survivors, regretting any loss of life; but requesting a permanent ending to this kind of international intimidation.
(from CUBAN CONSULATE, Sydney per JC)