So Castro began using immigration as a weapon -- loading criminals and the mentally ill onto boats and shipping them to the United States. Florida officials cried foul, and the Clinton administration adopted the “wet foot, dry foot" policy, granting asylum only to Cubans who actually set foot on our shore, rather than to all who made it to open or U.S. waters. Worse, the Coast Guard was charged with preventing the freedom-seekers from reaching dry land.
As a result, Brothers to the Rescue re-tooled its mission. Instead of simply helping the people clinging to rickety rafts, they began encouraging the people of Cuba to press their government -- peacefully, non-violently -- to stop its repressive ways. They flew close to Cuba (and even over Havana) and dropped leaflets urging change. Angered, the Cuban government warned them to stop, but they persisted. “Shoot Down” gives you all the details, but suffice it to say, the pressure was building toward a showdown that February day.
Ask yourself, though: What moved Pablo Morales and his fellow rescuers to risk death? And why have so many people braved a treacherous sea to escape Cuba? Two words: compassion and freedom. Pity for the plight of other human beings moved Pablo, Armando, Carlos and Mario to put their lives on the line. And a burning desire for liberty has motivated thousands of Cuban refugees to do the same.
Life under the Castro regime has been so intolerable that the probability of perishing at sea actually paled in comparison. “Shoot Down” gives us several unforgettable images -- ones you won’t see anywhere else. You’ll shake your head in amazement when you see a picture of a billboard in Havana -- one depicting the Cuban flag with the words “Vamos bien” written on it. Translation: “We’re doing fine.”
If only they were. Thanks to the selfless humanity of people like Pablo Morales, though, thousands of Cuban-Americans now living in the United States are, in fact, doing fine. Let’s pray for those left behind and do what we can to ensure that, someday soon, an era of freedom will dawn for them as well.