Pay Up, Fidel

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MIAMI: A U.S. District Judge in Miami has ruled that Havana owes some $200 million in damages to the families of three exiled-Cuban pilots killed when Cuban jets shot down their planes off the island in 1996. Cuba continues to insist that the Brothers to the Rescue planes were in Cuban airspace, had been dropping anti-Castro propaganda leaflets, had buzzed Havana repeatedly in the past and had been warned about retaliation.

U.S. Cuba policy, however, is crafted to please Cubans in Florida, not in Cuba; Clinton and Congress piled on sanctions in the wake of the shootdown and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996 was quickly enlarged to allow victims of acts by "terrorist nations" to seek financial compensation.

This is the first trial based on the new law, and the winners know that collecting from Fidel falls somewhat short of a realistic option. Attorney Aaron Podhurst says he will turn to the U.S. Government instead. "If Congress is going to pass a bill, they need to provide so we can implement it," he complained. "Or else why pass the bill?" Because the Sunshine State is simply packed with electoral votes.