Cuba defended its downing of two U.S. civilian aircraft as a “patriotic action,” telling the United Nations on Wednesday that the exile group flying the planes planned raids against the communist state.
Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina told the 185-member U.N. General Assembly that the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue had plans to dynamite power lines in Havana, sabotage the Cienfuegos oil refinery and carry out attacks on Cuban leaders.
“This band’s aggressive plans leave no room for doubt that it is a paramilitary, terrorist organization in open war against our country,” Robaina said.
“The Cuban government fully assumes the responsibility of the patriotic action carried out in the legitimate defense of the sovereignty of our country,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright brushed aside the Cuban statement, saying it is “preposterous to believe … that the young men in those unarmed planes were enemies of the Cuban people. On the contrary, in their love of freedom, and of their native land, they exemplified the Cuban people.”
Cuba used the same argument - that it was defending its territory - during a presentation to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal on Wednesday. The panel will investigate the Feb. 24 downing and present its findings to the U.N. Security Council.
Cuban parliamentary president Ricardo Alarcon told the U.N. agency that the planes were “paramilitary aircraft.”
Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, who presented the U.S. case, branded the downing as “murder in the skies.”