Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
On March 5, the US Senate voted 74 to 22 in favour of a final compromise version of legislation tightening the US embargo on Cuba and punishing other countries that trade with Cuba. The US House of Representatives passed the package, known as the Helms-Burton bill, on March 6.
US President Bill Clinton has signed the bill into law. Earlier versions had been held up by a White House veto threat until the Cuban government's February 24 downing of two small planes.
On March 6, the Russian parliament voted 291 to two, with one abstention, in favour of a declaration accusing the US of using the plane incident as a pretext for passing the Helms-Burton bill. The parliament found it "particularly alarming that the US would approve a law imposing clauses of US national legislation on other countries''.
Numerous other countries have condemned the bill, with Canada and the European Union leading the pack. The European Commission is considering filing a joint action against the measure with the World Trade Organisation. Both the Panamanian and Nicaraguan governments were among those who expressed strong disagreement with the legislation.
Speaking to a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on March 6, Cuban foreign minister Roberto Robaina explained how two years of intrusions launched from the US into Cuban waters and airspace led to his government's decision to shoot down the two planes, operated by the Miami-based organisation Brothers to the Rescue.
Robaina said that a flight on November 10, 1994, dropped leaflets over eastern Cuba after taking off from the US naval base at Guant namo Bay.
In an interview published on March 8 in the Miami Herald, Brothers to the Rescue president Jose Basulto announced that his group would fly to the Bahamas on March 9 to take supplies to a camp of Cuban migrants there. Basulto added that the organisation is planning new flights to search for balseros (Cubans who flee the island on small boats or rafts) in the Florida Straits - although he admitted that his group has not spotted any balseros since last August. (There was no mention of what Brothers to the Rescue would do if they did find balseros, since US policy is now to repatriate any Cubans who try to enter the US illegally.)
Asked whether the group was planning on violating Cuban airspace again, Basulto replied, "It is an option that will always be present and I'm going to reserve the answer to that question''.
When asked if the Cuban government's claims that Brothers to the Rescue had entered Cuban airspace 25 times were true, Basulto responded, "I haven't counted them''.
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