This very fine documentary looks at the events of February 24th, 1996, when the Cuban air force, flying Russian Mig 29′s took out two civilian US aircraft in international airspace over the straights of Florida. This heinous act actually garnered little outrage from the US, a quick bluster by then President Bill Clinton was about the only official response.
Of course the story is somewhat more complex. The planes involved were piloted by members of ‘Brothers To The Rescue’, a non profit organization supporting the plight of the average Cuban. Formed in the early 90′s ‘Brothers To The Rescue’ had patrolled the airspace over the 90 miles separating Cuba from the US, their mission was to look for small boats and rafts with people trying to escape the clutches of Castro in search of a better, freer life in the US. When they spotted a rafter, they would alert the Coast Guard and a rescue would be mounted. In the mid 90′s the US changed their immigration policy, suddenly Cuban refugees were not welcomed, merely tolerated. In what sounds more like a school yard game than international policy. If the rafter could make it to the US and set foot on terra firma, he won. But if the Coast Guard picked you up mid way, you would be returned to Cuba, to face almost certain punishment.
At first this change looked like it would be the demise of ‘Brothers To The Rescue’, but they rebounded. They still flew, the mission now was still to search, but when they located a rafter they would drop a radio and offer Coast Guard assistance if needed.
They also figured out that while still in international airspace it was possible to drop leaflets and let the prevailing winds carry them to land.
Early in 1996, this all changed, with two planes shot down, and four people dead!
Shoot Down is on a 20 city release, and if you have the chance, go see it. It is illuminating. There is also an official web site that has more information.