The State Department Warns The Brothers To The Rescue And Other Cuban Groups Of The Consequences Of Violating Cuban Airspace
July 10, 1997, the United States Government notes that the Miami-based "Democracy Movement" group has announced plans to conduct a commemorative "flotilla" on July 13. A group of privately owned vessels from Florida, accompanied by aircraft, plans to travel to a spot in international waters off Havana. Public statements by organizers indicate that the leader of the Democracy Movement intends to enter Cuban waters for the peaceful purpose of laying a wreath at the site where Cuban authorities sank the Trece de Marzo tugboat on July 13, 1994.
The Department of State cautions, however, that persons who enter Cuban territory, territorial sea, or airspace without authorization from the Cuban Government place themselves and others in serious danger. United States Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notices reinforcing these warnings remain in effect.
The Cuban Government proved itself willing to take actions in clear violation of international law and international aviation standards when Cuban military planes shot down two unarmed civil aircraft in international airspace on February 24, 1996. The Cuban Government has reiterated publicly its warning that it will continue to use measures it deems necessary to defend Cuban territorial sovereignty and to prevent unauthorized incursions into Cuban territorial waters and airspace.
The State Department, FAA, and Coast Guard have also spoken directly with organizers of the flotilla and warned them of the potentially serious consequences of making any unauthorized entry into Cuban territorial sea or airspace. If persons are detained by the Cuban Government in Cuban territory, the ability of the United States Government to assist them would be very limited. Cuban authorities routinely deny consular access by U.S. consular officials to American citizens of Cuban birth. In addition, there would be very little, if anything, the United States Government could do to assist persons arrested by Cuba who are not American citizens.
The United States Government has made clear its intention to fully enforce existing U.S. laws and regulations pertaining to the activities of U.S. vessels and aircraft that may involve the Cuban territorial sea or airspace. The Presidential Proclamation of a National Emergency, issued following the tragic events of February 1996, has been continued. This proclamation invokes emergency authority to regulate the movement of vessels that may intend to make unauthorized entry into Cuban territorial waters. As an additional measure, the "Emergency Cease and Desist Order and Statement of Policy" issued by the FAA, allowing for vigorous enforcement action against persons operating U.S.-registered aircraft that violate Cuban airspace, remains in force. These actions were undertaken to discourage U.S. vessels and aircraft from unauthorized entry into Cuban territorial waters and airspace in order to reduce the risks to U.S. citizens and residents and to prevent an international incident.
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