March 1, 1996
The downing on February 24th of two civilian aircraft by Cuban fighter planes is a clear violation of international law and an unjustified use of deadly force. We express our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the lost pilots and crew. Their loss is our loss. Our prayers and sympathy are with them in these tragic times.
We are also disturbed because the brutal attack on civilian aircraft, combined with the Cuban crackdown on the dissident organization known as Concilio Cubano, sets back hopes for necessary dialogue within Cuba and between Cuba and the United States.
In responding to these unjustifiable acts, we urge the United States and groups within the U.S. to clearly distinguish between the Cuban Government, which must be held responsible for these actions, and the Cuban people who live with an autocratic and undemocratic regime and have no voice in these actions. Punishing the people of Cuba who long for religious liberty and political freedom is no way to respond to the irresponsible actions of the Cuban Government.
The U.S. should do all it can to hasten the prospect of peaceful change in Cuba without worsening the plight of the Cuban people. Together with the bishops of Cuba, we seek a genuine dialogue within Cuba and between Cuba and the U.S., focused on democratic values, human rights and religious liberty. As we condemn without reservation this barbaric act, we continue to search for ways for the U.S. and Cuba to advance the rights and dignity of the Cuban people. There is no excuse for the destruction of civilian aircraft but overaction to these tragic events can retard, rather than advance, the cause of freedom in Cuba.