“Shootdown,” an excerpt from Stephen Kimber’s forthcoming book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five is now available as an ebook from Amazon. http://amzn.to/HWl12l
The excerpt unfolds the critically important episode of the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft over the Straits of Florida in February 1996—from Brothers’ first illegal flyover of Havana in July 1995; through seven months of escalating diplomatic back and forth between Havana and Washington; equally escalating provocations by Brothers’ leader José Basulto; on to the February 24, 1996 mid-air confrontation and then the fallout—the unseemly quick passage of the draconian Helms-Burton law, which continues to hobble any serious attempt to improve relations between the United States and Cuba.
The excerpt also documents what members of the Cuban Five did and—more importantly—didn’t do in the lead-up to the Cuban government’s decision to bring down the two civilian aircraft, killing four people.
Seven months after the FBI arrested the Five in September 1998 for failing to register as foreign agents, using false documents and conspiracy to commit espionage—all serious but relatively minor charges—prosecutors tacked on an explosive addendum, charging Gerardo Hernandez with conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the shootdown.
That red-flag charge in Miami’s virulently anti-Castro exile community dramatically upped the stakes of the case, making it even more impossible for the Five to get a fair trial. The shootdown allegations permeated the trial and affected the sentencing, not only of Hernandez—who was handed a double-life sentence plus 15 years—but also of the other members of the Five, whose fates had all inextricably become linked to the shootdown.
As this excerpt clearly shows, there was not a shred of compelling evidence to indicate Hernandez even knew about, let alone had any role in the shootdown.
The full book, What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five, will be published by Fernwood Publishing in the spring of 2013.