The Tragedy of a Cuban Mother: One Daughter Disappeared in a Shipwreck, the Other in Prison for July 2021 (11J) Protests

On the left, in prison for 11J, Yarelys; in the center, the daughter who disappeared in the shipwreck, Yamily; on the right, the survivor, Yailyn. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2023 — Marta Vázquez Molina, mother of two women who shipwrecked on Tuesday in a precarious boat in the surroundings of Cayo Cruz del Padre, in Matanzas, denounces that the Cuban Border Guards did not continue the search for the disappeared, alleging that they did not have the equipment to work at night. One of her daughters, Yailyn Mesa Vázquez, 27, was rescued, but the other, Yamily Triana Vázquez, 35, is still missing.

Between sobs, Vázquez told 14ymedio that on Monday, January 23, at 8:30 p.m., the boat in which her daughters were traveling left from La Sierrita beach, in Cárdenas. On board were 31 people seeking to reach the United States, a figure that is far from the number reported by the official press which claims there were 28 rafters, of whom 11 have been rescued, 12 remain missing and five have been confirmed dead.

Around noon on Tuesday, the boat with the migrants sank and “all the crew members tried to swim in different directions to save their lives,” Vázquez details. Her two daughters stayed together at sea for a while, but Yamily Triana “couldn’t make it,” laments her mother.

The youngest, Yailyn Mesa, spent around 24 hours adrift until a fishing boat carrying foreign tourists rescued her, dehydrated and with burns on her skin, while Yamily Triana is still missing.

According to the mother’s account, after the shipwreck one of the young rafters swam to a key, from where he saw and signaled to a boat that did not rescue him because “the Cuban state ships are prohibited from helping” any shipwrecked person. “It was only the next morning that the young man was able to swim to shore and notify the Border Guards of what had happened.

Then the search maneuvers began but they were suspended when the sun went down, a few hours that were crucial to find her daughter and other survivors, Vázquez believes. “I want to report that she has not appeared because they did not look for her at night. Those who are appearing are dead. I want to report it, I don’t care what happens to me or what they tell me,” she insists.

The 11 rescued people were transferred to a polyclinic in the province, where they received medical assistance until State Security agents detained them despite their suffering from burns and dehydration. The rafters were taken to the Santa Marta Police Unit, without communication with their families and without medical care to treat their injuries, says Vázquez.

It was like that until Thursday. “They didn’t tell us anything,” laments the woman. Relatives began to demand to see the detainees. Then, a “high-ranking” State Security agent came out and asked for one from each family to enter. Once inside, the man read a list with the names of the rescued and the missing.

“I got very sick, my blood pressure rose, I fainted. And I asked to see my other daughter and they didn’t bring her, and she yelled for them to bring her so that she would be the one to confirm for me about Yamily, until they finally brought her and she confirmed that yes, it was true,” she recalls bitterly.

Finally, the Police released Yailyn Mesa, the mother of a two-year-old girl, but the other nine people rescued were transferred to an establishment in the city of Matanzas known as “El Técnico” to continue the investigations there. “They don’t care about anything,” adds the mother, reproaching the delicate health situation of the survivors.

“I have hopes that Yamily will appear. She has two children, an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. I have to draw strength for them,” she stresses.

This tragedy adds to the drama that the Vázquez Molina family has suffered in the last year and a half, after another of their daughters, Yarelys Mesa Vázquez, was imprisoned together with her husband, Osdennys Salinas Martínez, for participating in the massive demonstrations of 11 July 2021, commonly referred to as “11J.”

The matriarch says that the couple was in a protest in front of the Cárdenas government house in which they shouted ‘Freedom!’, when a group ran into a freely convertible currency store (MLC) and broke the windows. “They also went in, they took some food, but they did not break anything,” however they appeared in a video that came into the hands of the Police.

One day after the protests, two trucks of black berets, armed, arrived at their houses to arrest the couple. “As if murderers lived here,” the woman claims. “They took them prisoner, beat them, mistreated them,” she adds. Her daughter was sentenced to seven years, while her partner received eight years in prison.

The Madrid-based organization Prisoners Defenders (PD) came out in defense of the Vázquez Molina family. “The mother has not only suffered from having her daughter unjustly and violently imprisoned,” but also from mistreatment, persecution, verbal abuse, and harassment by the uniformed officers.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it, besides, with my other daughter in prison I think I’m going to go crazy,” says Vázquez Molina. The mother insists that her imprisoned daughter still knows nothing about this tragedy. “We have only told her that her sister is on a key and that they are still looking for her. I don’t have the courage to tell her the truth.”


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