Cuba Considers Closing Airspace to All U.S. Flights

From a Times Staff Writer

Cuba is studying the possibility of closing its airspace to all U.S. planes because of continued American pressures over the two civilian planes shot down by Cuban jet fighters on Feb. 24, a Foreign Relations Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday.

Other measures also are being studied, Marianela Ferriol said during her weekly news conference, but she declined to specify what they are.

Prohibiting U.S. planes from flying over Cuba would lengthen flights for planes going from the United States to parts of the Caribbean and South America, requiring them to use more fuel for such trips.

Previously, Cuban officials stated they had considered closing off air corridors and prohibiting private planes from landing at the airport near Varadero Beach resort outside the capital to discourage unauthorized flights into their airspace by planes taking off from Florida.

Cuban officials had not mentioned punitive measures against the United States until National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon spoke late Wednesday of the possibility of closing off Cuban airspace.

He spoke in Montreal, where he attended a session of the council of the International Civil Air Organization, which decided Wednesday to investigate Cuba's shoot-down of the two planes.

Four people died when Cuban jet fighters shot down the two planes belonging to Cuban exiles from Miami. Havana said that the planes were in Cuban airspace and that the incident was the latest in a series of incursions that have occurred over the past 20 months.

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