Until then, he was a Cuban pilot and hero. He had fought in Angola for the revolution that Cuba supported there. But in March 1991, while doing flight tests, he did something unexpected. He headed his plane north and landed in Florida. He had defected. But there was still a long way to go: his family was still in Cuba. This is the story of the pilot who twice outwitted the Cuban dictatorship.
From hero to traitor
His name is Orestes Lorenzo. Lorenzo risked everything on the flight north. It flew along the waves to avoid being detected by Cuban and American radars. The United States was only 150 kilometers away. In just over ten minutes, Lorenzo’s MIG landed in Florida. And he asked for political asylum.
In Havana he became an enemy, an undesirable one. His family was harassed there. The hero had to start a campaign to get them out. The United States granted them visas. But Cuba did not want to release her: for her it was the family of a traitor.
Lorenzo then started an international campaign. He asked the widow of Martin Luther King for help. In 1992 Lorenzo appealed to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Nothing. He published an open letter to Fidel Castro in the Wall Street Journal. He offered to travel to Cuba and stand trial there if his wife and children were allowed to travel to the United States. Nothing.
So Lorenzo decided to look for his family. He made a plan, bought a Cessna plane, got his driver’s license in Florida. On Saturday, December 19, 1992, he did. He flew ten feet out of the water to avoid the radars, this time the Cubans. It reached about a hundred and fifty kilometers east of Havana. A narrow street was his runway.
On land, his wife and children let them stroll along the beach. When he landed, they raced. But the door wouldn’t close. After several attempts, he was able to escape. The pilot, who twice outwitted the Cuban dictatorship, took his family with him.
Thirty years after this feat, Orestes and Vicky Lorenzo are wealthy real estate agents in Florida. In 1994 they had a third child. Lorenzo sometimes controls airplanes: he does stunts. He never misses an opportunity to remember his accomplishments and his country so near and so far.
Nobody should forget it.