Cuban Authorities Promise a ‘Thorough Investigation’ of the Bahia Honda [Honda Bay] Speedboat Ramming

The authorities affirmed that the border guards must act without putting anyone’s life at risk and that the facts will be investigated. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 3 November 2022 — Four days after the tragedy, the Cuban authorities “deeply” regretted the deaths that occurred in Bahía Honda and announced an investigation to clarify the events of October 28, when a Border Troops speedboat rammed a makeshift boat in which 28 balseros [rafters] were traveling, and at least seven of them died. The agents, however, count on the a priori defense of their superiors, who worked hard this Tuesday to clarify how many migrants have been rescued by the body.

“The border guards have saved 2,085 people in 168 operations. Of the total, 121 people were related to seven acts of human trafficking,” said Colonel Imandra Oceguera Cull yesterday. He is the head of a department of the Directorate of Border Guard Troops of the Ministry of the Interior. He spoke on the Cuban Television program, Roundtable, about migrations, a phenomenon that is bleeding the Island and that has grown exponentially since last year when Nicaragua decreed a waiver of visas for Cubans.

The choice of subject is no coincidence after last Friday’s event, in which relatives of the victims and survivors denounced the agents’ attack on the boat, even describing what happened as murder. Oceguera alleged that the goal of the border guards has always  been the preservation of human life. “Hundreds of  people have been rescued from the danger of losing their lives at sea,” he reiterated.

The officer also indicated that agents can’t use force or firearms or carry out any action that involves risk when there are rafters involved. However, he insisted that a “thorough investigation” is being carried out, which will determine responsibilities.

So far, the authorities already identified an indirect and habitually responsible party: the United States. In addition, they point out that “the same participants in these events recognized that they were abandoned to their fate by human traffickers,” whom official sources accuse of acting irresponsibly, aggressively and negligently. “When there are cases of human trafficking with boats coming from abroad, their final destination is the United States,” they stressed.

“These criminal elements, which are located in that country, act for profit and without real interest in human life. They act at night, in inhospitable places, and travel at high speeds. Another element that characterizes them is that they overload the speedboats, which demonstrates their lack of knowledge of the navigation rules,” said Oceguera, who added that these routes are occasionally used to introduce weapons or drugs, a fact that he described as a “serious threat” to national security.

“To this is added,” the official said, “the fact that the materials of the boats are not adequate, the balseros don’t know the most basic rules of navigation, lack rescue methods and don’t have any way of determining the state of the sea,” the official stressed.

Despite everything, the lieutenant colonel recognized that there is a fluid exchange with his American counterparts when it comes to supervising border waters. “It’s a direct communication, case by case and in real time. When such an event is detected, you are immediately informed of the number of people on board, the characteristics of the environment, and their position.”

Mario Méndez Mayedo, head of the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and Alien Affairs of the Ministry of the Interior, and Laura Pujol Torres, Deputy Director General of Consular Affairs and Cubans Residing Abroad, also participated in the program. The latter specified that emigrating should not be a politicized or negative phenomenon, but something that is necessary under appropriate conditions.

Pujol insisted on the responsibility of the U.S. Government in increasing the flow of travelers for having paralyzed the granting of visas between 2017 until this year (when it finally delivered the amount agreed in the agreements), and for maintaining a policy of sanctions that suffocates the country’s economy. She didn’t make the slightest gesture of self-criticism about the inability of national authorities to mitigate any possible effect of the embargo and insisted that the Cuban Adjustment Law “irresponsibly stimulates this type of event and hinders any action that, on the other hand, the authorities may have to mitigate these issues of irregular migration.”

According to her, several Latin American countries, including Cuba, have recently started talks with the United States, and things are on the right track. “Positive steps have been identified within Joe Biden’s Administration to reverse this process, and Cuba will always be willing to talk and cooperate,” she said.

Colonel Mario Méndez Mayedo detailed the cost of a trip through a coyote, which has passed, according to his calculations, from 2,000 to 3,000 dollars a while ago, to 15,000 dollars, and he added that these traffickers profit by putting the lives of others at risk and, frequently, leaving when things go wrong. In addition, along the way they find corrupt agents who demand more money and end up blackmailing relatives. He also cited the minors involved in these outings, the wounded and dead that remain on the road and the inhuman conditions of these trips that, despite everything, hundreds of thousands of people undertake every year.

The soldier finally accused the U.S. of politically manipulating Cubans, whom it welcomes as asylum seekers for alleging “credible fear” when many return to the Island within a few months “without any problem, and that is known by the US authorities.” And he added: “It makes no sense for a person who legally leaves his country to have ’credible fear’ as an argument to enter the United States.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.