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Posted January 22, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuban Americans

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Basulto’s plane was the sole survivor of a Cuban Mig missile attack that killed four others.

By Madeline Baro Diaz
Miami Bureau
Posted January 22 2005

Jose Basulto, pilot of the only Brothers to Rescue plane to escape a Cuban MiG attack that left four men dead, has won a $1.7 million ruling against the Cuban government, far less than the $122 million he had sought.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra dismissed Basulto’s claims against most of the defendants, including Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and dismissed all but one of the counts in the case. The judge determined, however, that Basulto still suffers the effects of the 1996 incident in which Cuban military aircraft shot down the planes of his Brothers to the Rescue companions in international airspace and then chased Basulto’s plane for more than a half hour.
“[Basulto] justifiably continues to fear for his life,” Marra wrote in his ruling, dated Wednesday. “In his words, `I have a MiG on my tail for the rest of my life.’”

Basulto filed his federal suit in 2002 with the help of the watchdog group Judicial Watch. He heads Brothers to the Rescue, the group that became known in the early 1990s for their missions to spot and rescue Cuban rafters and drop leaflets over Cuba.

He asked for almost $76 million in compensatory damages and $46 million in punitive damages. Basulto had said he planned to use any monetary award in the case to help the internal opposition in Cuba.

“[The judgment] falls short of our objective to finance a substantial effort to promote democracy in Cuba,” Basulto said Friday.

Still, he called the ruling “another victory against the Cuban government for the damage that it has done to its people.”

Basulto is the latest South Floridian to win a judgment against the Cuban government in federal and state courts. As in the other cases, the Cuban government did not respond to Basulto’s suit and the judge issued a default judgment. The judge then heard testimony during a one-day trial in Fort Lauderdale federal court.

In 2001, President Clinton released $97 million in Cuban assets frozen in the United States to the families of three of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots killed in the attack, satisfying part of their $187 million judgment against Cuba.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said attorneys with his organization will be “pursuing collection aggressively” for Basulto.

Fitton said attorneys had not determined whether to refile claims against Castro, his brother Raul Castro and the Cuban Air Force, all of whom the judge dismissed as defendants in the case because they were not properly served.

The Cuban government, however, was served through diplomatic channels, Fitton said.

The Cuban Interests Section could not be reached for comment Friday.

Madeline Baro Diaz can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 305-810-5007.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 22, 2005 by Summerwood with 10 total posts

    Although I certainly sympathize with JosÈ Basulto’ fears and the trauma he has suffered, I find it interesting that a judge should award claims for damages to a person who was a member of a group that had violated Cuban airspace in the past.  It would follow then that President Bush and the United States government are open to damage claims from individuals and groups in Iraq, for attacks on that nation’ citizens.  Cuba has a claim to defend itself due to the embargo and aggressive stance taken by the US government for over 45 years.  It has been shown that the US entered Iraq with no demonstrable justification - it would follow that Iraq’ citizens have an even more solid claim than JosÈ Basulto.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 22, 2005 by jesusp with 246 total posts

    Summerwood, You are absolutely right of course, but I would submit that Mr. Basulto’ chances of collecting are not very good, my feeling is that the default judgement which was served to the Cuban authorities is now being used for back-up toilet paper.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 22, 2005 by YoungCuban with 409 total posts

    I wonder what they did with the $97 Mil. they collected?
    Have they purchased new planes and continue to search for Cubans off the Florida straits?

    Have they given any of that cash back to Cubans on the island by means of a flotilla of goods?


  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 22, 2005 by mattlawrence with 69 total posts

    YoungCuban, the $97 mil judgement has never been collected, and to my knowledge BTTR has not maintained any search program for Cuban rafters after the loss of the two Cessna 337s that were shot down over International waters in 1996. 

    Due to the embargo it would be illegal for anyone to send “goods” from the U.S. without license from the U.S. Treasury; and it seems from the current U.S. administration’ policy, that license will not happen.

    One thing I can assure you of. . no amount of money from any judgement will ever erase the pain suffered by the pilot’ families OR bring back the four innocent men who lost thier lives flying that humanitarian mission on that fateful February day.  A day that saw four more innocent lives inturned in the Great Cemetary of the Florida Straits.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 23, 2005 by YoungCuban with 409 total posts

    Goods leave to Cuba every single day,with or without permission,I know this and you surely must also know this.

    Enough Said.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on January 23, 2005 by Dana Garrett with 252 total posts

    I don’t get this.  I read that the Brothers to the Rescue ADMITTED to having violated Cuban airspace on several occasions to drop leaflets over Cuba.  Who knows what else they might have dropped from their planes.

    So Cuba defends itself against repeated violations of its airspace and this man claims that he was traumatized? 

    This trial reminds me of the woman who won recently won a claim against Cuba because Cuba killed him while he participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion.  Apparently, Cuba is at fault by definition if it does ANYTHING to defend itself against aggression.

    One would have to work hard to find examples of more transparent show trials that occurred in Nazi Germany than these trials staged in the USA against Cuba.

    Here’ a different account of these events:


  7. Follow up post #7 added on January 24, 2005 by mattlawrence with 69 total posts

    To my friend YoungCuban, I only know what is legal, and it is my understanding that it is illegal for goods to leave the U.S. headed for Cuba, without license from the U.S. Treasury.  I personally, have no first hand knowledge of what happens “every single day” and I’d appreciate no conjecture from YOU as to what I have knowledge of. We don’t know each other personally. Please, govern yourself accordingly. TC

    Dying to Get Here: A Story of Coming To America
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