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Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Recate) — the loss of four

24 February 2012

Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Recate) — the loss of four

25º 54′ 30″ N / 80º 16′ 04″ W

The Brothers to the Rescue Memorial is a serene square with four benches and five plaques. One plaque, in elegant script, states simply that Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre Jr., Pablo Morales and Mario de la Peña gave their lives on 24 February 1996.

What happened and why?

Essentially, they crewed a pair of Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft flying for the rescue organization Brothers to the Rescue. Their mission that day was humanitarian — patrolling the international waters between Cuba and the Unites States looking for Cubans afloat escaping to the U.S. Incredibly, these two small civilian aircraft were shot down with air to air missiles by the Cuban Air Force while in international air space. All four men perished while the Cuban Air Force pilots returned to base.

Those are the basics but there are other details which cloud the issue, perhaps. Brothers to the Rescue aircraft had previously intruded into Cuban air space to drop information (or propaganda if you wish). The organization viewed these acts as civil disobedience, meant to inform the populace as well as to irk government — they succeeded in both.

International Law tends to be a pairing of mutually exclusive terms since there is no international police force, no international court. Yes, there is the court in the Hague but it handles only the large decades old type of issues — not single instances.

Premeditated incidents such as this are not rare with both military as well as civilian aircraft intentionally shot down. A list could be assembled but the fundamental point which I see is that these four men knew they flew into a certain amount of danger but determined it to be their duty — this is what brave people do, taking risks wholly upon themselves. More than twelve miles off the Cuban coast MiG fighters shot down Skymasters and four defenseless men died, forfeiting their lives cause for which they were committed to see through, no matter the consequences.

Today is their anniversary.

International incidents often fall into one of two categories — push back or pay back. In this case it may have been a bit of both. Civilians poking the bear, if you will, and the bear waiting for a chance to get pay back — little regard for life is what dictatorial governments often exhibit and this threat was part of the calculation of these four brave men. This is their deserved memorial at the airport which was their base of operations.

Brothers to the Rescue Memorial square — photo by Joseph May

Their plaque — photo by Joseph May

Armando Alejandre Jr, 45 years old — photo by Joseph May

Carlos Costa, 29 years old — photo by Joseph May

Mario de la Peña, 24 years old— photo by Joseph May

Pablo Morales, 29 years old — photo by Joseph May


The memorial is easy to get to and to see as it lies with the Opa-locka Executive Airport on the northwest corner of Le Jeune Rd and NW 147th Terrace.

A complete assemblage of information from both sides of the issue can be found here at the Free Cuba Foundation web site.

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