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Memorial planned for Cuban shoot-down anniversary


February 23, 1997
Web posted at: 7:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondent John Zarrella

MIAMI (CNN) -- Every week, relatives of four men meet for solace. They're trying to cope with an event that changed their lives, along with U.S. policy.

A year ago Monday, three planes were being flown by members of the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue over the Straits of Florida. Without warning, Cuban fighters shot down two of the planes, killing the four men.


Havana claimed the planes were in its territory, but Washington insisted -- and an international aviation organization ruled -- that the planes were in international airspace.

The relatives and members of the exile group plan to gather Monday to remember those killed.

The memorial will include "two aircraft that are identical to the ones that were shot down, flying formation and dropping flowers on the location where the other two aircraft had been downed," said Jose Basulto of Brothers to the Rescue.

The State Department has warned both the Cuban government and those participating in the memorial to keep their cool.

"What's needed, of course is a degree of restraint on the part of the protesters or those who are demonstrating, and on the part of the Cuban government," said State Department spokesman Glyn Davies.

Cuba also issued a warning, saying, "We will take all measures necessary to prevent a violation of our airspace or territorial waters." Participants say they will not go into Cuban territory.

Last year, Congress responded to the shoot-down by passing the toughest laws to date against Cuba. All this helped send U.S.-Cuban relations into a deeper freeze, and left four families with an emptiness they can't fill.


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