Eighteen people were rescued Saturday from the waters of north Bahia Honda, in western Cuba, after a speedboat taking migrants to the US state of Florida collided with a a Cuban coast guard ship and flipped over, the Cuban Interior Ministry said.
At least five people — a young girl, a man and three women — have died in the incident, according to Cuban officials.
The incident took place when the Cuban Border Guard sought to question the migrants, according to a statement read on Cuban television. Cuban officials claim that the boat of migrants had arrived from the US instead and that it “violated Cuban territorial waters in a human trafficking operation.” While further details of the incident were not released, the interior ministry laid the blame on US migration policy towards Cuba and the decadeslong embargo.
In 1962, then-US President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order which put an embargo on all trade with Cuba. This embargo has lasted for over 60 years now and is the longest sanction regime in modern history.
Cuba facing multiple crises, spurring migration
The deadly incident comes at a time when an economic, political and energy crises in Cuba have led to the biggest migratory flight from the Caribbean island country in 40 years. In 1980, over 125,000 Cubans had traveled to US by sea in just 6 months, in an exodus called the Mariel crisis.
Around 20,000 Cuban citizens were intercepted by US authorities just between October of 2021 and August of 2022 — either while crossing the US-Mexican border by land or while crossing to Florida by sea, according to US Customs and Border Protection figures. US immigration authorities also detained 30,000 Cubans in the same period, a year ago.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Havana offered condolences. “As we strengthen safe and legal pathways for migration, we warn against attempting dangerous and sometimes deadly irregular migration,” it tweeted.
mk/wd (AFP, AP)