Brothers to the Rescue founder Jose Basulto said a tribute Friday from the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce really belongs to the many Cuban exiles who gave their lives, time and money to help people fleeing the island.
“I sincerely believe that Brothers to the Rescue was one of God’s plans,” Basulto said before he received the Golden Eagle award during a ceremony at the Coral Gables Country Club marking the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the SFHCC.
“Basulto is a man of unique character and integrity,” said SFHCC President Liliam M. Lopez. “His dedication for so many years to the search for people lost at sea while fleeing from Cuban communism is worthy of praise and admiration,” Lopez said.
Basulto said the honor should have gone to the many volunteers who helped Brothers to the Rescue airplanes spot and drop supplies to Cubans trying to flee the island aboard homemade rafts and other vessels.
Four of the volunteer pilots were killed in 1996 when Cuban MiG jets shot down their unarmed civilian planes over international waters. The civil aviation arm of the United Nations blamed Cuba for not following proper procedures in cases of territorial violations.
Basulto also thanked the many exiles who donated money to keep Brothers to The Rescue flying, saying that the average contribution was about $10, and the news media that followed the organization’s work closely.
“I believe the credit belongs to a lot of people,” he said.
The SFHCC, founded in 1994 to help small businesses in the South Florida region, awards the Golden Eagle prize each year to a person who defends equality and human rights.