A Cuban Rafter Dies of Hypothermia and Hunger in Search of the American Dream

The family had a photo at the wake of Raúl Martínez, the rafter who died in search of the American dream. (Osiel Hernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2024 — Raúl Martínez Torres, the Cuban who went missing from the group of 13 rafters who were rescued this Monday by a cruise ship and taken to Mexico, died during the trip. “He died of hypothermia and hunger on January 16 during the crossing,” Osiel Hernández told 14ymedio, explaining that the young man’s body “was thrown into the sea” on the crossing. On Tuesday, his family had “a photo of the boy to keep watch over him,” he adds.

Before he left the Island, Martínez Torres had doubts but decided to go on the raft in search of the American dream despite the fact that he “didn’t know how to swim.” The others took care of him as far as possible, but “his health deteriorated even more due to the lack of food,” explained Hernández, who is in now in Mexico, waiting for a response from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to be able to travel to the United States.

They ran out of food and relied on fishing for several days. However, Martínez Torres stopped eating. He was shivering and not making any sense before he died. They kept his body for days, “but it began to decompose,” and they decided to throw it into the sea, says Hernández

Hernández regrets the death of his compatriot. “Unfortunately,  Cuba forces us to do these things. Because of the dictatorial government we have, we prefer to risk our lives instead of fighting to get rid of [the regime].”

They took care of him as far as possible, but “his health deteriorated even more due to the lack of food”

The group of Cubans, made up of five women, one of whom was pregnant, and seven men, was assisted on the high seas, near the coast of Cancun by the Norwegian Prima cruise ship, which left Texas bound for the Caribbean. Currently, the migrants are at the Chetumal migratory station (Quintana Roo), from where on Tuesday they made a video call with one of the families and told them what happened to the deceased migrant, a native of Holguín, who would have turned 25 in May.

According to a statement from Migration, the corresponding procedures were initiated to give these Cubans “the necessary attention to regularize their immigration situation” in Mexico.

Last November Mexico suspended the deportations of Cubans, which it called “legally assisted returns.” Cuba accepted the returns of its nationals from the month of October, as long as the transfer expenses were covered by the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Each person returned to the Island costs Mexico 4,000 pesos ($237).

While the deportation flights to Havana were underway, Mexico used the services of the Viva Aerobús airline. In total, it transferred 435 Cubans in five connections.

This Wednesday, the release of three Cubans who were kidnapped in Tijuana, a city bordering the United States, was also confirmed, while waiting for a response from the migration authorities. According to the Univisión journalist, Javier Díaz, the amount of ransom demanded from each family was $5,000.

The reporter identified two of the victims: Yandy González Darías and Yandy David Mengana Abreu. Through his social networks, Díaz indicated that their belongings were taken from them, but he did not say if the families paid the ransom.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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