Clinton Set To Sign Hostage Compensation Bill; Cuban Exile Group Not Impressed

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - President Clinton is expected soon to sign a bill that would pay American hostages in Lebanon millions of dollars in compensation. Families of three pilots shot down by Cuba would also benefit from the compensation. However, the Cuban exile group that was involved in that shoot down is not impressed and believes it's an election year ploy by the Clinton administration.

The money would come from the United States government but would be reclaimed later from Iranian assets being held in the United States. An estimated $400 million of frozen Iranian assets are in United States banks. The money would come through litigation that is now in progress in an international claims tribunal in The Hague.

The law will also benefit the families of Cuban-Americans from a Cuban exile group called "Brothers to the Rescue" whose aircraft was shot down by Cuban MIGs in the Florida Straits.

Nevertheless, Jose Basulto, President of Brothers to the Rescue and a survivor of that shoot down, isn't impressed by Clinton's action.

"We are far from having obtained justice for the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. When we talk about justice, we want an indictment of Fidel Castro and those that helped him here in the United States to make possible the shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes," Basulto said.

Basulto also thinks the compensation is an election year ploy in hopes of winning votes for Vice President Al Gore in the November 7 general election.

Many Cuban-Americans in the Miami area have indicated through polls that they will be voting for Republican George W Bush. A big factor is the Clinton administration's early morning raid last Easter weekend in Miami's Little Havana community when government agents took 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives.

"They are trying to mend fences, the best they can, with the Cuban-American community. After all that they have done to us and after the hurt and damage they produced in our community, it is much too late to have an effect," Basulto said.

Basulto also is angry about the Clinton administration's lack of response against Cuba in the wake of the Florida Strait shoot down.

"I am accusing the government of the United States, namely the Bill Clinton administration, to having had prior knowledge of the shoot down and assisted in the shoot down and to have obstructed justice after the shoot down. Unless and until the Clinton administration's participants in the shoot down are exposed and brought to justice, there will be no justice in the case of Cuba and Fidel Castro because Castro will remain a free and un-indicted criminal because of the event," Basulto said.

Meanwhile, the Castro government on Monday retaliated against the United States by slapping a 10 percent tax on phone calls between Cuba and the United States.

A recent editorial in the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma said the compensation action encourages "piratical attacks on our country."

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