Below is official Cuban government reaction to the shooting down of two U.S. planes on Saturday. It is from the Ministry of the Exterior, which is a branch of the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

February 25, 1996
Web posted at: 1:15 p.m. EST (1815 GMT)

On February 24, 1996 between 3:21 p.m. and 3:28 p.m. two Cessna planes were shot down by our armed forces.

They were coming from the Opalocka airport in the state of Florida. The two Cessna planes were pirate planes.

As they flew, once again, in 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., three 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 their presence impeded the violation of the Cuban airspace.

The pirate planes then took off to the north.

At 3:21 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 airspace 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 couldn't 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 of the pilots that they were heading towards 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 provacation takes place precisely on the day our country is commemorating the 101st anniversary of the start 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 Cubans living in the United States territory during which materials of subversive character were thrown.

Because of these recent events, each time bolder than the last and in particular the most recent, the Cuban government has again warned of the grave 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 means necessary 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 sent to the government of the U.S. on January 16, 1996.

For the purpose of exhausting all 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 of the dangers that such flights caused by entering Cuban airspace without authorization.

In this context we also mentioned the repeated threats and actions that, in a particulary aggressive manner, the gangs of Cuban origin based in Miami have effected 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 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 this Floridian city and they have been commented, 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 are based in Miami and have even warned them publicly on various occasions that if they continued these 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 soveriegnty of Cuba.

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 that are based in Florida, the Cuban government decided to interrupt the continuation of air flights that transgress the Cuban soveriegnty 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 soveriegnty falls on those who on repeated occasion reused to heed the warnings and persisted in their irresponsible adventures. The shooting down of these pirate planes should serve as a lesson to those who support and carry out such acts that have a tendency to increase the tensions between the United States and Cuba.

The Cuban Revolution will invariably continue adopting all means necessary in order to defend its soveriegnty and preserve the security of its people. The Cuban government accepted the requests of the U.S. government to allow the U.S. coast guard to come into our jurisdictional waters and in conjunction with our border patrol carry out search and rescue in the place where the planes were downed. Our government laments that there was possible human fatalities as a result of the irresponsible and criminal aggressions against our country.

The Cuban Ministry of Exterior Relations



Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.