WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday modified the emergency declaration regarding Cuba approved two decades ago after the island’s air force shot down two civilian aircraft piloted by members of the Cuban exile organization Brothers to the Rescue.
In a proclamation sent to Congress, Obama eased the emergency restrictions imposed on March 1, 1996, by then-President Bill Clinton that basically affect the entry of U.S. vessels into Cuban territorial waters.
Wednesday is the 20th anniversary of the attack by Cuban MiG fighters on three small planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue.
Cuba said that the aircraft violated its airspace, although the United States maintains that they were in international airspace north of the island.
Four people survived the attack, but four other pilots lost their lives when two of the Cessna Skymasters were hit by air-to-air missiles and crashed at sea.
The new proclamation acknowledged that certain aspects of the emergency decree “no longer reflect” the state of relations between Washington and Havana.
As Obama said, the proclamation “recognizes the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba” and that Washington “continues to pursue the progressive normalization of relations while aspiring toward a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Cuba.”
Nevertheless, Obama did not nullify the emergency declaration and maintained the warning saying that “unauthorized entry of vessels subject to the jurisdiction of the United States into Cuban territorial waters is in violation of U.S. law and contrary to U.S. policy.”
The president went on to instruct Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to issue the necessary directives to continue to “regulate the anchorage and movement of vessels” in the area.