Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-146 Daily Report 20 Jul 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba: Castro Discusses Hijacker, Migration

96P20473A Havana GRANMA in Spanish, 20 Jul 96 pp 4-5 96P20473A Havana GRANMA Spanish CSO [Interview given by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and president of the Councils of State and Ministers, to journalists accompanying the Spanish delegation headed by Julio Anguita, General Coordinator of the United Left, at the Palace of the Revolution, on 18 July 1996, "100th anniversary of the fall of Antonio Maceo in combat."]

[FBIS Translated Excerpt] [Passage omitted]

[GRANNA] A second related question, to conclude this topic.

The United States has still not said what it will do with the Cuban former lieutenant colonel who, one week ago, hijacked an airplane and re-routed it to the Guantanamo Base. If he were deported or tried in the United States, one of those two alternatives, would Cuba be satisfied with this? And, a second question, if they were to give him political asylum, would Cuba feel the United States was violating the migration agreements and would Cuba feel at liberty not to fulfill its part of the agreements, something which could unleash a new conflict over migration?

[Castro] If the United States gives this person asylum, it would be violating many things, it would be violating many international principles, norms, and laws, not just a migration agreement.

This individual was not a member of the military, he was no longer a member. He boards a plane--which was transporting passengers and mail--carrying a rifle; he hijacks it, and forces it to land in the area occupied by the Guantanamo Base. The migration agreements expressly condemn this--violence, hijacking of planes, illegal emmigration. This man endangered the lives of all those people with his escapade, and it would be a flagrant violation of the migration agreement, but even worse it would be a flagrant violation of international laws and agreements.

The hijacking of planes was an invention that the CIA used against Cuba during the first years of the Revolution, and that turned into a boomerang, because insofar as they were bringing hijacked planes from Cuba, acting with impunity, many people in the world began hijacking planes. There are all kinds of people in the world capable of hijacking planes. In the United States itself, where there are a large number people, as there are everywhere, who are unstable or had problems of one kind or another, or who were victims of injustices, victims of discrimination and of everything else, they began hijacking planes and taking them to Cuba.

It created a serious problem. There were days when up to two planes landed; there was no way to stop that problem, that precedent they had established, and we were the ones who solved the problem. First by means of laws that imposed stiff punishments for hijacking an airplane; corresponding warnings were issued and prison sentences were increased, in accordance with those laws, for everyone who hijacked a plane from the United States or anywhere else, and flew it here. But, that was not enough.

In an effort to put an end to that situation--if I'm not mistaken it was during the Carter Administration--we issued a public warning, because there were many people, including Cubans, who were hijacking their planes in order to return to Cuba, because they were tired of, and bored with, U.S. society, or for any reason, that anyone who hijacked would be sent back, or might be sent back--more or less, I would have to refer to the terms used in the declaration. I believe it was quite categorical, I believe it stated that anyone who hijacked a U.S. plane and brought it to Cuba "would be sent back." Soon after that there was a hijacking, and we sent the two hijackers back. They were Cubans who were residents there; we returned them, although no agreement existed, we sent them both back. Afterwards, they were sentenced to 40 years in prison.

More than once we asked about those men, how they were doing, and asked that their families be allowed to go to visit them in the United States. And we never received an answer. However, it put a definitive end to the hijacking of U.S. planes.

Would it make sense for the United States to now give asylum to someone who hijacks Cuban planes, and lead to a return to that chapter of history which caused the world so many headaches? That seems crazy to me, I don't think they will do something like that.

I'm referring here to the question of the airplane hijacking. As regards illegal entry, they would be violating the migration agreements, encouraging illegal departures, encouraging the use of violence, and the hijacking of boats and other vessels to go to the United States. It would be a complete violation of the policy of the migration agreement, of the U.S. commitment.

As far as our response is concerned, this is not the time to make a decision or to give a response. I think that both the United States and Cuba are interested in maintaining the migration agreement, and it has been maintained despite all the things that have happened recently. So, the agreement has a solid foundation, and, for our part--I don't want to judge the agreement now, or judge the degree to which the United States has fulfilled the migration agreements--we are interested, as was stated a few days ago, in scrupulous compliance with the migration agreements, and we would not like for anything to happen that would force the country to suspend them. No measure of this kind is being considered at present.

The matter of this individual is being studied through diplomatic channels, and we have not made any warning to the effect that measures of this kind would be taken, nor do we want to take such measures. Rather, we are expressing our desire to maintain the agreements and--I repeat--that nothing happens, that things not continue happening, which would lead to the suspension of those agreements, because that is neither in the interest of the United States nor of Cuba. So, we will do everything possible--this is what I say--to maintain the migration accord. [passage omitted]