We the families of the three American citizens and one American resident shot down over international waters by the Cuban government on February 24, 1996, strongly oppose any exchange of Gerardo Hernandez for Alan Gross, Cuba's hostage.
Hernandez is currently serving two life sentences in US prison. One of these is for conspiracy to commit murder in the Feb. 24, 1996, shoot down murders of Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales. Hernandez’s sentences were affirmed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the US Supreme Court declined to review them. He has received all benefits available from the US justice system.
Gerardo Hernandez's activities went beyond potential damage to our country; his actions resulted in the deaths of four human beings, and his life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder brings at least partial justice for the shoot down.
Mr. Gross, on the other hand, was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years for providing satellite phones and computer equipment to Cuba’s Jewish community. There is quite a difference between conspiring to commit murder and helping Cubans communicate with each other and with the outside world. If Cuba is really serious about wanting to improve relations with the US, it should act unilaterally and release Mr. Gross immediately.
We would only support trading Gerardo Hernandez for the following three men, all indicted for the February 24, 1996, shoot down by the US, and identified as direct perpetrators of the crime by international organizations such as the United Nations: Cuban Air Force General Ruben Martinez Puente, who gave the actual order to shoot down the two aircraft; Cuban Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Perez Perez, pilot of the MiG that shot the missiles that pulverized the aircraft, and the copilot, his brother Cuban Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Alberto Perez Perez.
The US should actively pursue the release of Mr. Gross from the untenable and unfair position of being a hostage of the Cuban government, but not at the expense of justice for our loved ones. We hope that the US’s Department of State leadership continues former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s policy regarding Gerardo Hernandez; she was well aware of all the factors involved in this case and understood that Mr. Gross and Hernandez are most definitely not exchangeable if justice is to be served for murdered US citizens.
THE FAMILIES OF CARLOS COSTA, ARMANDO ALEJANDRE, MARIO DE LA PENA AND PABLO MORALES