Cuban Rafter Who Fled From Prison Sentence for July 11th Protests Rescued by US

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

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 16 May 2022 — The 27-year-old Cuban Yariel Alfonso Puerta, who threw himself into the sea on Friday to avoid trial for his participation in the July 11 demonstrations in Matanzas, is in the custody of the Coast Guard, in Florida waters, along with his friend with whom he left the Island, Alioski Quintero González.  

The rafter’s mother, Yamilé Puerta, confirmed this Monday to 14ymedio the news from the journalist Mario J. Pentón with a source in the US Coast Guard. According to Pentón, the coast guard found two individuals in a raft with the characteristics that he himself provided of the boat.

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 demonstrated on 11J (July 11th). According to the Cubalex legal organization, the young man faces a six-year prison sentence for the crimes of public disorder, disobedience and resistance.

His desperate mother now hopes that the US authorities will not return him to Cuba. “If my son is returned, his life will be miserable,” says Yamilé Puerta, who has lived in the Valencian town of Villarreal, Spain, for more than six years with her husband, Yoenis Martín González, breaking into tears.

Yariel lived with her until just under a year ago. The young man, who has a three-year-old boy in Spain, decided to return to Cuba, says his mother, “because here the issue of papers and other things was difficult for us.”

Very shortly after, the demonstrations exploded on July 11, which he did not hesitate to join in his city, Matanzas. “He calls me and tells me: ’Look, mom, we finally woke up, the people took to the streets,’ and I told him: yes, yes, yes, do it, go ahead!, and I supported him,” Yamilé says between sobs. “I don’t know if I made a mistake, but at that time, the excitement of seeing that your people having finally woken up… Do you understand? Now I’m regretting it.”

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 that moment, she was in contact with him at all times.

He even broadcast a video call with the young man at the precise moment that the Cuban coastguard had intercepted them, the day before. “They have them in the water they don’t let them move,” denounced the mother in some images released by Mario Pentón.

In the same communication, the boy explains that the coastguards struggled with them, trying to get them on the boat to take them back, and that in that trance, they lost two oars and the sail of their precarious boat.

“It’s just us,” Yariel said, pointing to his friend Alioski. “The only thing we ask is that they let us continue calmly. If we drown, it’s our problem.”

Minutes later, the Cuban coastguard is heard pointing out to the young people which is the safest way to continue the trip. “They heard that I told them that I was going to report them and that I was going to upload it to social networks, it seems that’s why they helped them,” Yamilé explains to this newspaper.

In that video call, Yariel declares: “I am a political prisoner, I am going to the United States of America by rowing, because I do not want to continue in the dictatorship. If something happens to me, it is because they sank me here.”

Now, he is waiting for his maternal uncle to meet with Democratic Congresswoman Federica Wilson and expose the boy’s case so that he is not deported. Various exile activists, both in the United States and in Europe, says Yamilé, are mobilizing to collect signatures in favor of his case.


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