FBI: Cuban shoot-down may have been planned


March 11, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 p.m. EST

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the possibility that the downing of two private planes last month by Cuban MiG fighters was planned well in advance.

An FBI source told CNN that the agency is investigating Cuban defector Juan Pablo Roque as a possible conspirator in the shoot-down, which killed two men on each plane. The planes belonged to Brothers to the Rescue, a Florida-based organization of Cuban exiles that seeks to aide other Cubans fleeing the island country.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida will decide -- based on the FBI investigation -- whether criminal charges should be filed against Roque.

"There may be evidence that this was a planned event" by the Cuban government, an FBI source told CNN on the condition of anonymity. He said that there "is a strong possibility" that the attack was planned well in advance.

Roque's wife, who is in Miami, told CNN she was interviewed by the FBI Monday morning and that she was "starting to believe more and more" that her husband cooperated with the Cubans.

Roque, 40, defected from Cuba in 1992 and became a volunteer for Brothers to the Rescue. He flew a dozen missions for the group.

Roque returned to Havana the day before the Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down over the Florida Straits on February 24. Cuba said the planes had violated Cuban airspace, but the United States disputes that claim.

Agents are checking into the timing of Roque's flight to Cuba and how he got there.

The FBI has acknowledged it used Roque as a paid informant in the past. Paul Philip, Miami's FBI special agent in charge, said Roque has been paid $6,700 for information in various criminal proceedings.

But Philip denied that Roque warned the FBI of plans for the attack, as the Cuban has claimed.

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