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Mexico frees Cuban survivors found at sea, some bound for U.S. border

Mexico frees Cuban survivors found at sea, some bound for U.S. border
CHETUMAL Mexico Tue Sep 23, 2014 6:55pm EDT

(Reuters) – Mexico on Tuesday released 14 Cuban migrants rescued at sea
this month and some of them headed for the United States by bus to take
advantage of a U.S. policy that allows Cubans arriving by land to stay.

The Cubans, who were without food and survived by drinking rain water,
were intercepted off the Yucatan peninsula badly sunburned and
dehydrated after three weeks adrift during which many of their
companions died.

Mexico’s government had said they would likely be deported.

Only 15 survived the journey from Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, with 15
dying at sea, and two more dying after they were rescued. One migrant
had already been released and is in the United States.

The group set off on August 7, and were forced to fashion a makeshift
sail for their vessel after the motor failed early in the journey.

A Mexican immigration official said on Monday that the Cuban government
had not recognized the survivors as its citizens. The Cuban government
has not commented on the case.

They were released from an immigration center in Chetumal on the Yucatan
peninsula on Tuesday and the group split into two. Some made for the
southeastern city of Villahermosa and said they were on the way to the
U.S. border, while the rest headed for the Yucatan capital of Merida.

“I have 30 days to either leave the country or legalize (my situation),”
said Luis Suarez Calzada, one of the survivors as he left the
immigration center in Chetumal wearing a red polo shirt and a baseball cap.

“We are grateful to the fishermen who rescued us,” he added, saying the
group had gone without food for 25 days during their ordeal.

Jose Caballero, the husband of one of the rescued women confirmed that
his wife, Maylin Perez, had been released.

“My wife just called. We spoke very briefly,” he said, explaining she
was using a borrowed cellphone and asked him to send money to pay the
bus fare to the U.S. border.

“I’m running now to send the money,” he added.

Caballero left Cuba by the same route in December and is now a
maintenance worker at a trucking company in Austin, Texas.

Separately, nine Cubans came ashore in a homemade metal boat near Miami
on Tuesday afternoon saying they had been at sea for 10 days, according
to eyewitnesses.

“They were very excited when they got onto the beach,” said Cristina
Plihal, who watched from her beach front condo window in Key Biscayne,
as U.S. officials escorted them off. “When they jumped onto the sand
they started screaming ‘Cuba, Cuba’.”

Under the “wet foot, dry foot policy” of the United States, 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.

U.S. authorities say 16,200 Cubans arrived without visas at the border
with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.

On Monday, just days after Mexico’s foreign minister visited the
Communist-run island, a Mexican immigration official said the 14 were
being released on humanitarian grounds, and would be given legal residency.

(Reporting by David Adams in Miami, Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City and
Reuters Television in Chetumal; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing
by Simon Gardner and Andrew Hay)

Source: Mexico frees Cuban survivors found at sea, some bound for U.S.
border | Reuters –
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/23/us-usa-cubans-boat-idUSKCN0HI2CH20140923

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