CUBAN PASSENGER PLANE HIJACKED AND FLOWN TO THE UNITED STATES
Yesterday, Wednesday March 19, at 6:51 p.m., a DC-3 Aerotaxi belonging to Empresa Nacional de Servicios Aéreos (registration CUT-1 192, flight number CNI877), took off from Nueva Gerona Airport on the Isla de la Juventud bound for Havana. It carried 31 passengers, a crew of five and an escort. The passengers included 25 Cuban adults, an Italian citizen and five children.
At 7:24 p.m., when the plane was ten miles south of Boyeros airport and ready to land, the captain radioed Air Traffic Control to report that there were "political problems" on board and that he was heading north.
Four minutes later (7:28 p.m.) Boyeros Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the DAAFAR Command Center announced that the captain of a DC-3 aircraft en route from Nueva Gerona to Havana had reported that his plane was being hijacked and that there were armed individuals on board. Fuel was running low and he had asked for coordinates for the shortest route to Miami.
At 7:29 p.m., the plane's normal identification was changed to Code 7500, which is used in the event of unlawful interference aboard, while Boyeros ATC received a request for an even shorter route, in view of the fuel situation. The plane was rerouted via Key West, the only shorter air route in that direction.
Immediately (7:30 p.m.), Boyeros ATC notified Miami ATC that a DC-3 Aerotaxi with armed hijackers aboard had been diverted to Miami, also advising the direction it was following. The Miami ATC inquired whether Cuban fighter aircraft were escorting the plane, and received a reply in the negative. It then responded that US fighters would escort the plane until landing.
Finally, at 8:10 p.m., Boyeros ATC reported that the plane had landed at Key West three minutes earlier (8:07 p.m.). Total flight time: one hour sixteen minutes.
This act clearly belongs to the category of terrorism, as defined in several international conventions ratified by Cuba and the United States.
At 9:00 a.m. today, Thursday March 20, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented to the US lnterests Section in Havana a Diplomatic Note based on the available data. The same note was presented an hour later in Washington through the Cuban Interests Section. It called on the US authorities to return the hijacked civil aircraft immediately, together with its passengers and the perpetrators of this despicable act, which is specifically classified as an act of terrorism in three current international conventions that are binding on both the Cuban and US governments. These are: the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft (Tokyo, September 14, 1963); the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (The Hague, December 16, 1970); and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Montreal, September 23, 1971).
The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs also asked the US authorities -that keep holding the plane, the passengers, the crew and the hijackers - for such details of the incident as are available, including the circumstances in which it took place. It emphasized the threat to human life and air-traffic safety in the region implied by failure to punish such acts. It expressed its deep concern over the complacency and tolerance marking the US authorities' response to previous similar acts of piracy against Cuba. This has included granting exceptional privileges to the perpetrators, which clearly encourages such acts of terrorism. It highlighted the need that, on this occasion, Washington complies with its commitments under the above-mentioned international accords.
Apart from the offences mentioned, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs also pointed out that this act constitutes a flagrant violation of the migration accords entered into in September 1994, under which both nations undertook to "take effective measures in every way they possibly can to oppose and prevent the use of violence by any persons seeking to reach, or who arrive in, the United States from Cuba by forcible diversions of aircraft and vessel."| Similarly, according to the same accord as drawn up and signed: "the United States has discontinued its practice of granting parole to all Cuban migrants who reach U.S. territory in irregular ways".
The Cuban authorities still lack current information on these events.
March 20, 2003