by Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
On March 6, 1996, at its headquarters in Montreal, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council designated a commission to carry out an “investigation on the February 24 incident in all its aspects, taking into account all the factors that conditioned the incident and led to it” and charged the commission with the presentation of a report 60 days later. On March 19, the president of the commission sent a communiqué to the governments of Cuba and the United States indicating the data and information that would be required, while simultaneously requesting permission to visit both countries.
Cuba responded immediately and received the investigators a few days later, on March 24. The commission worked intensely until the 31st of that month. From there, it went on to Washington, from April 2 to 4, and to Miami, from April 14 to 19.
But by May 6, the report wasn’t ready. The Commission could only report what it had done during its visits to the two countries and had to ask for an additional month to collect the information that remained missing.
What had happened? With respect to Cuba, the commission stated the following: “by March 30, 1996 the Cuban authorities had fully met all the requests formulated by this team regarding interviews and declarations by civilian and military personnel involved, interviews and declarations by witnesses, civilian and military data, documents and letters, as well as communications registers and transcripts.” In regard to the United States, however, it mentioned that it had met with authorities on a number of occasions, had met with only one witness – José Basulto – and was still waiting to receive US radar data. Even at that level it had still not been handed over.
The ICAO, of course, extended the commission’s mandate for another month, until June 6. But by the second week of June, the report had still not appeared. The Council continued to wait and the Commission did not present its report until the end of June, to be considered at the last meeting of the Council before its summer recess.
What the Commission had done after it left Havana, the only place where it was able to collect all the necessary information three months earlier, was also evident. According to the final report, the Commission did not return to Washington or Miami. It met only with US officials, in Montreal, on May 2, 3, 6, 7 and 9, and again on June 3 and 4. One need not be an oracle to figure out that these secret conclaves facilitated the final drafting of the report.
Even the data from the US radar stations was surprising. From one, the data had been destroyed, from another it was lost, from others it was confused, while generally coinciding with Washington’s official version, which was that the event had occurred outside Cuban airspace, although very near to it.
In Cuba, certainly, not only did the investigators receive radar data promptly, they also visited installations, checked equipment and interviewed operators. They were unable to do anything of the kind on the US side.
In view of the circumstances, the ICAO commission decided to forget the radar information. In a moment of rare lucidity, it asked Washington to deliver the images taken by its special satellites. But the request was rejected. Although it made no complaint, the ICAO recorded the curious negative response.
Instead, the commission preferred to use the captain – of Norwegian origin but resident in Miami – of the Majesty of the Seas, a tourist cruise line that, it was said, had been in the area on the day of the incident. He was made available thanks to the kind selection of US authorities, who recommended him and set up the meeting. No other crew or passengers were interviewed. The commission chose, as though at random, the visual observation of a person who said that the downing had occurred over Cuban airspace.
The investigators were prudent enough to clarify that they had been unable to make an independent determination of the real location of Majesty of the Seas. But they did not mention that this ship belonged to a company located in Miami and that its owners and executives were among the founders and largest donors to the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), the main promoter of anti-Cuban terrorism, and the group that provoked the incident on February 24, 1996. Nor did they recall that in a report on the CANF published in 1995 by the New York Times, the same Majesty of the Seas boss had said “We want to help the Cuban community here in their efforts to move Mr. Castro out.”
In effect, the intrepid sailor lost no time making good on his promise.
Reprinted from antiterroristas.cu