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Cuban migrants rescued off Mexican coast

Posted September 5, 2014 – 2:59pm

Cuban migrants rescued off Mexican coast

MIAMI — Two Cuban migrants died and as many as eight more are missing
after a three-week odyssey at sea, according to relatives of 15 badly
sunburned and dehydrated survivors of a boat rescued by the Mexican Navy
this week.

The Cubans, who face possible deportation back to Cuba, are receiving
treatment at an immigration facility in the city of Merida, in Mexico’s
Yucatan Peninsula.

The rustic, homemade boat carrying 25 people left Manzanillo in eastern
Cuba on Aug. 7, Jose Caballero, the husband of one of the survivors,
told Reuters on Friday in a telephone interview from Austin, Texas.

Caballero, who left Cuba by a similar route last December, said his
wife, Mailin Perez, told him by phone from Mexico that the boat’s motor
broke down after two days and the passengers rigged a makeshift sail.

Believing they were close to the northwest coast of Cuba seven or eight
passengers decided to swim for shore holding onto rubber inner tubes.
“No one has heard anything of them since,” said Caballero.

The boat drifted for more than two weeks, without food and only rain
water to drink, before it was spotted by fishermen and intercepted by a
navy vessel about 150 miles northeast of Puerto Progreso in Yucatan, the
Mexican Navy said on Monday.

One 16-year-old boy died shortly after he was rescued of an apparent
heart attack, officials said.

Caballero said his wife told him another passenger, a six-months
pregnant woman, died during the journey and her body was thrown overboard.

“They tried to save her. They gave her urine with condensed milk,” he
said, adding that his wife was an assistant at a blood bank and had
medical supplies with her.

“Her husband, pricked his skin and fed her with his own blood in a
syringe,” he added.

Two Cuban American members of Congress in the Miami area wrote to
Mexico’s government on Thursday urging it not to send the 13 survivors
back to Cuba.

“Cubans forcibly repatriated to the island often face harsh punitive
measures,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart. “It is imperative that
Cubans who are found fleeing from their island prison are not made to
return to the oppression that they risk their lives to escape.”

The latest boatload of Cuban migrants came only days after six men who
identified themselves as Cubans landed on a Texas coastal island after
their boat engine broke down and they drifted for two weeks across the
Gulf of Mexico, using a sail made out of a plastic sheet.

Relatives of another boat carrying 11 Cubans, last seen leaving the
Cayman Islands on Aug. 28, were also anxiously awaiting word of their
fate on Friday.

“I put my faith in God and that I hear news soon,” Marlenis Alvarez, 42,
whose son and her brother are on the boat, said in a phone interview
from her home in Texas.

Under the U.S. “wet foot, dry foot policy,” Cuban migrants who make it
onto U.S. soil are allowed to remain while those intercepted at sea are
turned back.

Cubans seeking to flee the communist-run island are heading in
increasing numbers to Central America or southern Mexico and then making
a long journey overland to reach the United States.

The U.S. Border Patrol said in late July that more than 13,500 Cubans
had tried to cross the southwestern U.S. border since last Oct. 1, more
than during all of the previous 12 months. Four years ago, the 12-month
total was about 5,500.

Additional reporting by Peter Polack in the Cayman Islands.

Source: Cuban migrants rescued off Mexican coast | Las Vegas
Review-Journal –

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