Cuban Rafter Who Fled a Conviction for July 11th (11J) Protests Must Show ‘Credible Fear’

Yariel Alfonso Puerta left the Island with a friend last Friday. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 May 2022 — The 27-year-old Cuban Yariel Alfonso Puerta, who jumped into the sea last Friday along with his friend Alioski Quintero González and left the island to avoid a trial for his participation in the July 11 demonstrations in Matanzas, is on a US Coast Guard Cutter conducting his “credible fear” interview.

América TeVé journalist Mario J. Pentón confirmed the information directly with the United States Coast Guard this Tuesday, after Yariel Alfonso was in custody for several days in Florida waters and after pressure from the Cuban community in exile not to return the two young men to the Island. If they manage to show that their personal integrity is in danger (“credible fear”) should they be deported to Cuba, the two rafters will be able to continue their political asylum process to stay in the United States.

Yariel Alfonso’s mother, Yamilé Puerta, confirmed to 14ymedio that Democratic congresswoman Federica Wilson, who is helping in the case, has asked the family for permission to inform the press about the current situation of the young people and whether they will be able to continue with their legal process for asylum.

Alfonso Puerta set sail from the Island with his friend in a homemade raft with a sail and four oars. That same day, the police went to look for him to take him to court for having participated in the 11J demonstrations.

His desperate mother hopes that the US authorities will not return him to Cuba. “If they return my son, his life is going to be miserable,” she told 14ymedio from the Valencian town of Villarreal, in Spain, where she arrived more than six years ago with her husband, Yoenis Martín González.

The woman was in contact with her son until Saturday at nine in the morning, when the young people were already in international waters. Until then, she maintained communication with him.

She even broadcast a video call with the young man at the precise moment that the Cuban coastguard intercepted them, the day before. “They have them in the water, they aren’t letting them move,” the mother denounced, but later they were able to continue their journey.

According to the Cubalex legal organization, an NGO, Alfonso Puerta faces a six-year prison sentence for the crimes of public disorder, disobedience and resistance.

On August 2, when a rafter who was a police officer in Cuba managed to pass the “credible fear” interview on the high seas, lawyer Willy Allen told América TeVé that these types of migrants do not continue their asylum process in US territory.

“Let’s be clear, he has no entrance to the United States,” he said, referring to the rafter identified by a relative as Ernesto Urgellés, who had been intercepted along with other Cubans by the Coast Guard. “Under the rules that exist, no person who is found to have credible fear in the Coast Guard cutter enters the United States.”

Allen explained that rafters who manage to pass the first “credible fear” interview are transferred to the Guantánamo naval base where they are processed for asylum. The lawyer said that being admitted for this reason does not make the migrant an asylum seeker, it only allows him to argue his case and then carry out the entire process before Immigration. In addition, he added that they can send the rafter to a third country while their request is analyzed.


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