14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, February 8, 2021 — The families of a group of 22 Cubans who have disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico since November 29 are desperate. The migrants, three habaneros and 19 piñeros, including three minors, left the Isle of Youth for Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, but it’s not known if they reached their destination.
Family members of the rafters filed complaints in several Mexican cities, including Chetumal, Cancún and Islas Mujeres, without obtaining a response from the authorities.
Yanet Paz, mother of one of the minors who was on the boat, tells 14ymedio that two lawyers have also presented the case before the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico. Along with the Cubans, Paz says, the three Mexican boatmen they were traveling with are missing.
The boat left Mexico for the Isle of Youth to pick up the Cubans and return to its starting point. The last they heard about the rafters, from the call to a relative, is that they were near the Mexican coast. “One of the boatmen said that they had run out of fuel and were being towed by another boat. Since then nothing else has been known,” says Paz.
Her son, Fabio Francisco Paz González, is only 16 years old, and although it’s been more than two months, she says that she still has faith and hopes that he will appear along with the other migrants. His goal was to get to the U.S., where she is living.
“No, I didn’t know anything about that trip; my boy didn’t tell me. Three days after leaving Cuba, I found out that he had left in a boat. Since then I’ve searched for him everywhere.”
The 421 kilometers that separate the Isle of Youth from Cancun are one of the most common routes for Cubans trying to escape their country. Another of the most frequent points that serves as a port of departure is the province of Pinar del Río, just under 200 kilometers from the Mexican coast.
According to data published by the Mexican press, between 2014 and 2017, 393 Cubans were rescued on the high seas when they were seen by cruise ships, cargo ships or tourists, who reported them to the Mexican Navy. The average number of people per boat ranges from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 18.
On November 28, 14 Cubans were rescued by personnel from the Secretariat of the Mexican Navy when they were navigating in the vicinity of Isla Mujeres. The rafters had been on the high seas for more than five days and had intended to reach the coast of Honduras.
In addition, Cubans try to enter the U.S. through South Florida. On January 1, the Miami Border Patrol detained 12 rafters in Key West, the first in 2021 to reach land in a homemade boat.
In 2017, the Obama Administration eliminated the wet foot/dry foot policy that benefited Cubans who stepped onto U.S. territory. However, dozens of the island’s residents continue to jump into the sea in precarious boats to escape a life without a future in their own country.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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.