A Fisherman Points to Cancun as the Route used by Cuban Coyotes and Rafters

In this fishing boat, several Cubans arrived at Delfines beach in Cancun. (Facebook/Goal Journalism)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ángel Salinas, Mexico, 9 September 2022 — The escape route for Cubans through Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, has been reactivated. In 15 days, Navy personnel “rescued” 27 rafters and handed them over to the National Institute of Migration for deportation. In the same period, two boats were abandoned in the Caribbean, the last one this Thursday on Defines Beach, a tourist area with close surveillance.

“The Cubans who arrived at Mirador beach were brought by coyotes,” Javier Robles, a fisherman who rents a catamaran to tourists to snorkel, explains to 14ymedio. “It’s an area monitored day and night by tourist and municipal police, and if no one detected a motorboat, there’s no other explanation.”

Robles, who knows the area, was informed by his friends on patrol before five in the morning on Thursday that “by that time the boat was already on the beach,” but it wasn’t until after 7 a.m. that the tourist police showed up. “They arrived, saw and left, and several hours later naval personnel arrived to secure the boat.”

At the place they found some tennis shoes, life jackets, a large empty plastic bag with the “Mary” brand, which migrants normally use to protect something like food or documents, and two drums of fuel. “In Cancun there are many Cubans with legal residence who have set up businesses, so I doubt that these rafters will be found by the authorities,” explains the fisherman.

Up to the first half of August, local authorities recorded 53 rescues of rafters, and with those reported in the last 15 days, there are already 80. “They’re desperate to leave Cuba; at this point many people are going to start coming here,” says Graviel García, a Cuban originally from Havana who is waiting for a response to his asylum request in Mexico.

Before the pandemic, says García, “there were departures through Pinar del Río”, which is 220 miles from Cancun and 211 miles from Isla Mujeres, two of the points that coyotes use and that are mentioned in the report Mar adentro, migrants and shipwrecked at sea, prepared by the United Nations. “I never contacted the coyote; I do know they charged $7000, a lot for that danger.”

In November 2020, a group of 22 Cuban rafters, including three minors, decided to leave the Island and take the Cancun route. They left for Isla de la Juventud, and their whereabouts were never known, nor were the three boatmen who carried them ever found.

Robles, who has been fishing for 27 years, knows that people can quickly transfer from a fishing boat to a speedboat. “We’re hurried, and if we do it, we’re not going to confess, but there are guys who fish at night, right? Needless to say. Suddenly fishing boats from Cancun appear in Cuba, and no one knows anything.”

At the end of June, the captain of the port in Cancun reported as missing a fishing boat called La Perruna, whose destination was Playa del Carmen. Ten days after the report, the boat and its crew appeared on the Island, as confirmed by Captain Daniel Antonio Maass Michel in a nautical report, 019/2022, but no details were given.

Robles showed another point of arrival for rafters in Quintana Roo: “The mafia is exploiting the route through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. There’s no surveillance in that area.”

Meanwhile, the sea route most used by Cubans to reach the United States is Florida. On Friday, the Coast Guard returned 163, including three minors, who were trying to illegally reach Florida by sea.

The Cuban Ministry of the Interior confirmed that the migrants were returned through the port of Orozco, in Bahía Honda, Artemisa, last Sunday, “as a result of a group of illegal departures through the maritime border.” Since the beginning of the fiscal year in October 2021 to date, 5,421 rafters have been repatriated.

This Friday, the Coast Guard reported that a raft with five people was intercepted before reaching Key West, and the Border Patrol reported that 15 Cubans were placed in custody after landfall in Islamorada.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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