Video of the disappeared rafters building the raft
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 19 January 2017 — A picture of the Virgin of Regla, the identity cards of two brothers and a mummified corpse of a Cuban moored alongside the remains of a raft is the only evidence that remained of the six men who escaped from Cuba’s Isle of Youth to Central America This summer looking to reach the United States.
Missing for six months, the discovery of the remains of a man on the beaches of Corpus Christi last fall shocked his relatives, most of them humble fishermen on the Isle of Youth.
In early October a shrimp boatman from Port Aransas informed the US Coast Guard that he had found a raft with a body, as reported to Entravisión a local television channel.
Authorities attempted to contact the Pupo Pupo family in Cuba for sample comparison, but the Cuban embassy in Washington did not facilitate communication
The authorities were able to confirm that it was a man in an advanced state of decomposition. In the pockets of the victim they found the identity cards of Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo and Amauris Pupo Pupo, next to a picture of the Virgin of Regla.
Heraldo Peña, a forensic investigator in Nueces County, explained via telephone to this newspaper that, because of the condition of the body, it was not possible to identify the victim, but DNA samples were kept for comparison to relatives who might appear later.
“We could see that it was a man and we determined that he died because of the lack of food and water,” said Peña, who also added that because of the saltpetre the remains were mummified.
“It was not possible to conclude if the corpse corresponds to any of the identifications that he carried,” he says.
An official related the case, who did not want to be identified, said that since the first clues were known about the possible Cuban origin of the deceased, the authorities tried to contact the Pupo Pupo family in Cuba to make the comparison of the DNA samples, but the Cuban embassy in Washington did not facilitate communication.
“It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba,” said the official, adding that everything possible was done before burial of the body in a graveyard for the indigent.
“It is not allowed to speak about the role of the Cuban Consulate in the investigation because now we want to have better relations with Cuba”
This version does not agree with the statements of Hugo Vega, officer in charge of the US Border Patrol’s Missing Migrant Initiative.
Vega maintains that the Cuban consular section promised to provide fingerprints and information that would enable identification of the alleged Cuban.
“We try to get the deceased migrants identified by their relatives,” says the official from the state of Texas. Since the case was heard, the Border Patrol agent contacted Noyri Muñoz, the sister of one of the rafters residing in Spain.
14ymedio contacted the press office of the Cuban Embassy in Washington via email in order to confirm this information but received no reply.
The identity cards carried by the body found south of Corpus Christi correspond to two brothers of the Pupo Pupo family, who along with four other rafters have been missing since last July.
The group, initially composed of 13 men, left the Isle of Youth on a precarious boat to try to reach Mexico or Central America and from there to continue their journey to the United States.
After about 15 days of navigation and the breakdown of the engine, they decided to separate. The boat was made of boards and truck tires, so according to the testimony of Guillermo Ramirez, the only survivor of the crossing who is in the United States, they divided the raft in hopes of being found more easily.
According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help them
Ramirez, like the rest of the survivors who were repatriated to Cuba from Mexico, does not want to respond to questions from the press. The only testimony about what happened he told a family member this summer.
A group of seven men stayed in half the boat and six others headed off in the other half to increase the chances of a boat finding them.
According to Ramírez, at least four boats passed by and did not help them. The group of seven drifting rafters were rescued by the supply vessel MV Fugro Vasilis, 130 miles from Arrecife Alacranes, north of the Yucatan peninsula. Of the other six nothing is known at the moment.
The names of the disappeared are José Armando Muñoz López, Luis Velásquez Osorio, Rafael Rives Rives, Yoendry Rives del Campo, Amauri Pupo Pupo and Juan Antonio Pupo Pupo.
“We don’t know anything of my husband,” the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo said by telephone from the Isle of Youth. “We all consider him dead, it is better not to continue with this tragedy,” she adds.
According to the woman’s statements, they have not received any official communication about the finding of the corpse, but through other relatives they are kept informed of the case..
“Their mother is the one who has suffered most through all this. She will end up in a hospital with so much suffering,” she adds.
“We know nothing of my husband,” said the wife of Amauris Pupo Pupo. “We all consider him dead, it is better not to continue with this tragedy”
For Noyri Muñoz, sister of José Armando Muñoz López, hope is the last thing that is lost.
“I have brought my nephew to live with me in Spain. He did not have the opportunity to see videos about the rafters and the migratory drama in Cuba, and every time he does he gets very ill,” says Muñoz, 48.
Muñoz’s mother remains on the Isle of Youth with her sister-in-law.
“At least I have the consolation that wherever he is, my brother will be happy to see that his son was able to leave Cuba, which was why he launched himself into the sea: to have freedom and prosperity,” she says.