Group urges Raúl Castro charges.
By Luisa Yanez
A Cuban exile group is offering to donate $1 million to an effort to
indict Cuban Defense Minister Raúl Castro.
A Cuban exile group wants the U.S. government to indict Raúl Castro --
Cuban defense minister and Fidel Castro's brother and designated
successor. But José Basulto, head of Brothers to the Rescue, is going a
step further: He says he'll donate a fortune to see it happen.
On Tuesday, Basulto pledged $1 million for legal costs and information
leading to the indictment of the younger Castro for the 1996 shooting
down by Cuban MiGs of two Brothers planes in which four fliers died.
''The time for this action has arrived,'' Basulto said during an
afternoon news conference at Opa-locka Airport, the place from which his
rescue planes once flew to search for rafters.
Basulto's purpose is twofold: He wants justice for the murder of the
fliers. The group believes the Castro brothers gave the deadly orders to
the MiG pilots.
And he wants to help end a dynasty. Fidel Castro, who is 78, has said
his brother will take over when he dies. Raúl is five years younger. By
discrediting Raúl Castro, the Castro brothers' reign on Cuba will be
endangered, Basulto hopes.
''This would make it impossible for the U.S. to recognize Raúl Castro as
a legitimate future head of state, worthy of recognition or any kind of
U.S. financial support,'' Basulto said.
It's not the first time Raúl Castro's name has been linked to a possible
U.S. legal action.
In April 1993, The Herald reported that federal prosecutors in Miami had
drafted a proposed indictment charging the Cuban government as a
racketeering enterprise and Raúl Castro as the chief of a 10-year
conspiracy to send tons of Colombian cartel cocaine through Cuba to the
Nothing came of the indictment. Flash forward a dozen years.
''We are here today to promote the indictment of Raúl Castro simply
because it can be done,'' Basulto said, implying the White House could
make it happen. "This is based entirely on a political decision whose
time has come.''
To generate leads and interest, Basulto said the United States would
have to release part of the money awarded to him from millions in frozen
Cuban assets held in U.S. banks.
In January, Basulto won a $1.75 million federal judgment against the
Cuban government for the MiG attack, which occurred in international
airspace over the Florida Straits.
Once he gets the money, he said, it will be used to offer rewards for
information and to pay for a team of attorneys.
''Getting the cash will be easier than getting the indictment,'' he
Basulto said the recent announcement by U.S. Attorney Marcos Jiménez
that he will be stepping down in June did not play a role in his call
for an indictment.
''It's just a coincidence that we're doing this now,'' he said.
Alicia Valle, special counsel to the U.S. attorney's office, had no
comment on Basulto's statements.
Basulto said he's calling on other exile groups to join him in the
ambitious plan. ''I'm asking them to join me; let's see what happens,''
Former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, who practices law in Miami, said he is
helping Basulto and the relatives of the other fliers in their effort
bring those responsible to justice.
''Based on evidence in the public record, I think there is enough to
prove that both Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro were involved in these
conspiracies,'' Lewis said later, referring to both the Brothers
shoot-down and the narcotics trafficking.
Basulto was also joined by a newly formed board of trustees, who will
manage the ''Truth and Justice'' fund. They include local attorneys, a
former federal prosecutor and the daughter of an American flier slain
during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
May 25, 2005