14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 17 August 2016 — Thirteen men were determined to leave the misery, despair and weariness of lives filled with official propaganda. For months they crafted a boat on the cost of the Isle of Youth, off Cuba’s southern coast. In absolute secrecy to avoid being betrayed, they prepared a catamaran and stocked it with food and water. They wanted to get to Central America or Mexico, to continue their journey overland to the United States, an ever more frequented route, but a month and a half later they are still missing at sea.
Noyri Muñoz, a Cuban, 47, who is the sister of one of the rafters, explains that, of the 13, only seven have returned to Cuba, deported from Mexico a month ago. On returning to their own country, they do not want to talk to the press nor with the families of the missing. Their silence is more eloquent. Of then other six, there is no news. “The sea is so vast, perhaps it swallowed them,” she commented from Spain, where she lives.
The weeks pass and the fear grows that the worst has happened. “They left at dawn. They were from different towns on the Isle of Youth. They bought a good quality engine and set sail for Mexico,” explained Muñoz, so said that for 15 days they “didn’t see land anywhere” and decided to separate into two groups to increase their chances of being found.
When the engine gave out they continued to paddle and use the sail they carried, but they didn’t seem to make much headway, so they decided to separate, according to the version of one of the young boys who was on the boat,” added the sister.
“Three days after we separated a boat found us,” explained one of the rafters in Mexico to a family member of the missing. According to this testimony, half of the group left with eight inner tubes, in search of better luck. They divided the biscuits and the water. Since then, they don’t know anything more about them.
The same rafter explained in Mexico that at least four boats passed them and didn’t help them. The drifting boaters were finally rescued by the supply vessel MV Fugro Vasilis, 130 miles from Arrecife Alacranes, north of the Yucatan Peninsula.
“My brother was an economist for a state enterprise. He was a fighter, intelligent, a man always looking for solutions to problems. He was very creative. We are desperate, because we don’t have any information. We have tried to communicate with the Navy and the Mexican Army and US but without success,” says Muñoz.
The lives of the rafters could have been seriously threatened by Hurricane Earl in early August in the Western Caribbean. The number of rafters has significantly increased this year. According to the United States Coast Guard, from 1 October 2015 to 15 July 2014, 5,241 Cuban rafters have tried to reach the coast of the United States.
The names of the missing are José Armando Muñoz López, Luis Velásquez Osorio, Rafael Rives Rives, Yoendry Rives del Campo, Amauri Pupo Pupo and Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo.