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Cuban Biplane Carries 13 Refugees to Florida

November 16, 1993

MIAMI (AP) _ A Cuban pilot loaded his family and friends into a crop duster and flew across the Florida Straits on Monday, adding 13 more people to Miami’s Cuban exile community.

Alvaro Macial Hernandez Dominguez said he flew the Russian-built AN-2 biplane on a four-hour, zig-zag course to confuse Cuban radar. Guided by a U.S. Coast Guard interceptor, he landed just before dawn at Opa-Locka Airport just north of Miami.

Hernandez Dominguez and his co-pilot, Manuel Alvarez Cardenas, got themselves assigned as duty officers on the night security shift Sunday at a small airport in the central Cuban city of Camaguey. That’s when they carried out a daring plan in which phone lines were cut and another guard was tied up before they departed.

Less than six hours after they touched down, the refugees - like more than 3,000 other Cubans who’ve crossed the Florida Straits this year - were granted political asylum and released.

″We left partly because of the professional frustration that we have, and really, there is no freedom and a lot of social division,″ said Hernandez Dominguez.

″In Cuba, it is not possible to live like a human being,″ he said. ″I don’t want my son, who is 5, to have the same fate as I.″

The pilot and co-pilot each had their wife and child aboard. The other passengers were two other couples, each with one child, and the plane’s mechanic.

Not counting Monday’s group, the U.S. Coast Guard says it has assisted in the rescue of 3,004 Cuban refugees this year. That’s more than any year since the 1980 Mariel Boatlift brought 125,000 Cubans to U.S. shores.

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