Cuba condemns trafficking of persons and holds the United States accountable for the deaths of 31 migrants

Campaign News | Saturday, 27 August 2005

Official note from the Cuban Foreign Ministry 25 August 2005

DURING the early morning hours of Sunday, August 21, 2005, two women and a man were rescued in waters approximately 48 kilometers north of the coast of Matanzas province by a merchant ship flying Antigua and Barbuda colors and headed toward the port of Havana. The three individuals, who were found on the hull of a speedboat that was overturned and partially sunken, were taken to Cuba, where they were given all necessary medical care.

According to statements by the rescued individuals, a group of about 32 people (24 men and 8 women) were picked up by a speedboat from the United States on the evening of August 16 at a point on the northern coast west of La Habana province, in a people-trafficking operation, to be taken illegally to U.S. territory.

After traveling some 20 nautical miles, the boat, designed to carry no more than 10 people, and actually carrying more than three times that amount, stopped due to the overload on its engines and a broken rudder. During the early morning hours of August 17, the boat, because of excess weight, logically began to take on water, and the two men operating it ordered the passengers to get out of the boat, which caused general confusion and a build-up of people on one side of the boat, resulting in it turning completely over with all of the passengers thrown into the sea.

Immediately after receiving the first news of this situation, Cuban Border Guard units began a search-and-rescue operation, using air and sea equipment, and informed the U.S. Coast Guard, which also searched the area.

No other survivors among passengers or traffickers have been found.

The Cuban government, while deeply regretting this loss of human life, strongly condemns the activities of illegal trafficking in persons carried out by unscrupulous criminals based in the southern United States, encouraged by the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act and the so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, which allows Cubans who reach that country’s territory to remain there and later receive permanent residency.

Cuban authorities have repeatedly alerted the government of the United States of America regarding the increased criminal trafficking of persons between Cuba and the United States, strongly encouraged by its unscrupulous and dirty policy, and in particular about the main reasons that continue to foster illegal immigration, in which attempts countless people have perished, including women and children, mercilessly led to their deaths.

We hold the United States government accountable for the deaths of 31 people, all of whom almost surely have died, and we once again call on U.S. authorities to put an end to the smuggling of persons organized and financed from that country, and that they eliminate the murderous Cuban Adjustment Act, which is not only the main encouragement for illegal immigration, but also a gross violation of the immigration agreements signed by Cuba and the United States in September of 1994.

US to blame for shipwreck that killed 31

HAVANA, Aug 25 - Cuba blamed the United States on Thursday for the death of 31 people lost when an overcrowded speedboat with failing engines capsized en route to Florida, an illegal migration Havana accuses Washington of fomenting.

A Cuban government statement said 24 men and eight women were aboard a speedboat that had a capacity for only 10 passengers and capsized on the night of Aug. 16. Three survivors were picked up in the sea by a passing ship 30 miles (48 kms) off the Cuban coast on Monday and returned to Cuba.

When the engines began to fail, the two smugglers manning the boat told the passengers to throw themselves overboard, the statement said, citing the accounts of the survivors. In the confusion, the boat overturned, it said.

"We hold the government of the United States responsible for the death of 31 people who have all surely perished," said the statement read out on nightly television news.

The U.S. Coast Guard said its aircraft and vessels searched more than 10,000 square miles (26,000 sq km) of ocean -- an area about the size of Massachusetts -- but found no other survivors or bodies. It gave up the search on Wednesday.

The 31 deaths would make this the worst tragedy in years involving Cuban emigres who brave the crossing by the hundreds each year to leave Communist Cuba for the United States.

"We call on the U.S. authorities once again to put an end to the smuggling of people that is organized and financed from the United States," the Cuban statement said.

Havana blamed a U.S. law that grants Cuban emigres almost automatic residency if they make it ashore in the United States for encouraging the illegal emigration. It called the Cuban Adjustment Law a "killer."

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