09/12/13 - Jamaica Observer - Two drowned, 23 rescued trying to flee Cuba
MIAMI (CMC) - At least two Cubans drowned and 23 were rescued after their
boat capsized during an attempt to escape the island on Tuesday.
According to one survivor, Mirja Yancy Naranjo Ortiz, a member of the
anti-Castro group Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), two bodies have
been recovered however one would-be-migrant is still missing and the 23
others were back in Cuba.
"What we went through was an odyssey," Naranjo, a former player in Cuba's
national women's softball team, told the Miami Herald by phone from her
hometown of Manzanillo in eastern Cuba.
Naranjo said they all met at 3:30 am on September 1 on the Cauto River,
near Manzanillo, but were spotted around 10:00 am still on the river by a
Border Patrol boat that "made big waves to try to tip us over.
"They said it was to make sure our boat was good," she said. "They tried to
stop us, and we screamed that we were ready to die but that we would not
Naranjo said the patrol boat escorted the group about one mile offshore,
then headed home. But she said another approached and launched the same
"big-wave manoeuvre" a second time around 3:00 pm near a place known as la
Cucharilla.She said the group kept going, but at 8:00 pm on September 3,
their boat started to take in water.
Naranjo said they used cellphones to alert relatives in Manzanillo, who
went to the Border Guards to ask that a rescue boat be sent. But she said
the Border Guards informed them that they were prohibited from going to sea
After the boat sank, Naranjo said one group of 10 men and two women, which
included her, swam in the darkness for hours, eventually latching onto a
navigational buoy and taking turns climbing on the buoy to rest.
She said the following morning, a small fishing boat picked up the women,
left behind water and food for the men and was heading back to land when it
picked up four other survivors but left one body in the water.
Naranjo said the six were arrested, and she was taken to the provincial
capital, Bayamo, where she spoke with other survivors and was detained
"The Border Patrol could have rescued us, but they did not," she said.
"And now, they want to punish us and evade their own responsibilities."
The group of 26 was very diverse, with two nurses and one lawyer, "each
escaping for our own reasons but all of us because this government is
asphyxiating all of us" she said
Meanwhile, the United States Coast Guard said on Wednesday that crewmembers
aboard the Cutter Ocracoke have repatriated 46 Cuban migrants to Bahia de
The Coast Guard said Friday's repatriation was a result of three separate
migrant interdiction cases.
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