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Cuban Exiles Resume Flights Over Florida Straits

August 25, 1996|From Reuters

MIAMI — Two small airplanes piloted by a Cuban exile group resumed search-and-rescue flights Saturday, six months after Cuban MIGs shot down two unarmed exile airplanes between Florida and Cuba.

The two Cessna planes left the Opa-Locka Airport on Saturday morning to fly over the Florida Straits and help any Cuban rafters trying to flee the island.

The airplanes also planned to toss flower wreaths over the site of the February attack, in which four exile pilots died. Cuba said the two planes were shot down over its territory, but the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization concluded that the attack took place over international waters.

One of the passengers aboard the planes Saturday was Jose Basulto, a controversial Cuban exile who heads the group Brothers to the Rescue.

The February attack worsened already chilly relations between the Communist government of Cuban President Fidel Castro and the United States and contributed to President Clinton's recent decision to tighten the long-standing U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

During the last two weeks, several Cuban exile families in Miami told Brothers to the Rescue that they had received word that relatives would be attempting to leave the island on rafts.

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