At 3:19 p.m. on the afternoon of February 24, 1996, over the Straits of Florida, a Cuban MiG fighter pilot urgently radioed his ground controller: “Target lock-on, authorize us.”
“Zero-eight… Authorized to destroy.”
A pause, then: “First shot… We got him, damn it! We got him!”
Within seconds, Cuban jets had blown two unarmed aircraft out of the air, killing four civilian members of the anti-Castro exile group, Brothers to the Rescue.
That shootdown touched off an international incident that reverberates to this day.
But what really triggered the tragedy, and why does the shootdown itself continue to stalk relations between Havana and Washington?