"Working together for a free Cuba"




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 United States.

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 said.

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,'' he said.


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.

Source: The Miami Herald
May 25, 2005