BY MAYA BELL | The Orlando Sentinel
MIAMI - (KRT) - Six years after Cuban MiGs shot down two planes carrying members of an exile rescue group, the latest weapons in the decades-old war against Fidel Castro hurl words instead of bullets:
A measuring tape, a stopwatch, a thermometer and a formula to calculate the rate leaflets fall from the sky.
They were wielded Monday by Jose Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue, as he prepared to mark the sixth anniversary Tuesday of the deaths of four men who were shot down while searching for rafters fleeing the island.
Weather permitting, Basulto plans to return to the skies near Cuba any day now to drop scraps of paper demanding Castro’s indictment on murder charges. Federal prosecutors already indicted two Cuban pilots and the former head of the island’s air force in connection with the shoot down.
Basulto, who was on the only plane to survive the ill-fated mission, has papered Cuba maybe a half dozen times before. But this time he plans to use smaller, biodegradable scraps, which presented the architectural engineer with a technical challenge: determining the optimal place to drop the leaflets from his Cessna.
The plan is to drop the missives so they’ll drift over the mainland - without Basulto breaching Cuban airspace, something he vowed not to do. An investigation during the Clinton Administration concluded that Basulto’s plane illegally entered Cuban air space, provoking the 1996 attack.
So on Monday, Basulto walked to the peak of one of Miami’s tallest bridges, the Rickenbacker Causeway, with a tape measure, a walkie talkie, a temperature gauge and two assistants in tow. His mission: to calculate the rate of fall for his equation.
As one assistant dropped bundles of leaflets into Biscayne Bay, Basulto timed their descent. Then the other assistant unfurled a weighted tape measure to mark the distance. Below, a third assistant radioed Basulto when it hit the water.
By incorporating the paper’s velocity and distance with wind speed, temperature, humidity and other variables, Basulto said he can calculate the ideal place for the drop. Exactly when, he wouldn’t say.
“This is plain, applied physics, mechanics and dynamics - dynamics of paper,” he said. “We’re the part of the exile community that wages war with our brains.”
And, of course, with paper.
“February 24, 1996 condoned terrorism against Americans,” says one of the scraps aimed at the Cuban Interests Section in Havana, Washington’s only diplomatic presence on the island. “Bush” says another, “Follow the rule of law. Indict Castro for murder.”
A spokesman with the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on Basulto’s demands, or his strategy.
“The Justice Department does not discuss individuals not named in an indictment nor do we speculate on who may or may not be indicted,” spokesman Mark Corallo said.