This past Monday, the FIU College of Law marked the 17th anniversary of the attack by the Cuban Air Force on two small, unarmed civilian aircraft, by hosting a vigil for the victims’ families and friends.
Four men — three of whom were United States citizens — were shot down and killed by Cuban fighter planes on Feb. 24, 1996, while flying over the international waters of the Florida Straits. Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales, flying with the Brothers to the Rescue organization, were on a volunteer mission to spot potential rafters at sea.
The incident led to various international organizations condemning the shoot down and in 2003, the United States indicted the Cuban Air Force general that relayed the immediate order to shoot the planes and the two pilots who executed the order.
Monday’s ceremony began in the FIU Law C.A.M.P. 4 Justice Courtroom, named in honor of the fallen pilots (Carlos, Armando, Mario and Pablo), where guests viewed “Shoot Down,” a documentary that chronicles the events that led to that fateful day.
A moment of silence was then observed from 3:21 p.m. to 3:27 p.m. around the FIU Graham Center fountain; marking the times the two aircrafts were shot down.
“The vigil, to me, made me reflect on what the some people must pay to achieve a more just world. We started with four pilots that set out to help those in dire need and we end up with four martyrs that died by trying to lend a helping hand,” said Jose Campins, law student and recipient of The C.A.M.P. 4 Justice Scholarship. “The vigil, at its core, the way they died, it was about why they died and how their story has inspired the movement to change how we view and deal with human rights abuses in a country only 90 miles away.”