Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Remembering Castro's Victims (Some of Them)

On July 13, 1994, at approximately 3:00 a.m., 72 Cuban nationals who were attempting to leave the island for the United States put out to sea from the port of Havana in an old tugboat named "13 de Marzo".  The boat used for the escape belonged to the Maritime Services Enterprise of the Ministry of Transportation.

According to eyewitnesses who survived the disaster, no sooner had the tug "13 de Marzo" set off from the Cuban port than two boats from the same state enterprise began pursuing it.  About 45 minutes into the trip, when the tug was seven miles away from the Cuban coast--in a place known as "La Poceta"--two other boats belonging to said enterprise appeared, equipped with tanks and water hoses, proceeded to attack the old tug.  "Polargo 2," one of the boats belonging to the Cuban state enterprise, blocked the old tug "13 de Marzo" in the front, while the other, "Polargo 5," attacked from behind, splitting the stern.  The two other government boats positioned themselves on either side and sprayed everyone on deck with pressurized water, using their hoses.

The pleas of the women and children on the deck of the tug "13 de Marzo" did nothing to stop the attack.  The boat sank, with a toll of 41 dead.  Many people perished because the jets of water directed at everyone on deck forced them to seek refuge in the engine room.  The survivors also affirmed that the crews of the four Cuban government boats were dressed in civilian clothes and that they did not help them when they were sinking.

Later, Cuban Coast Guard cutters arrived and rescued 31 survivors.  After being rescued, the survivors were taken to the Cuban Coast guard post of Jaimanitas, which is located west of Havana.  From there, they were taken to the Villa Marista Detention Center, which also serves as State Security Headquarters.  The women and children were released and the men were held.

The victims who died in the incident of July 13, 1994 are:  Leonardo Notario Góngora (27), Marta Tacoronte Vega (36), Caridad Leyva Tacoronte (36), Yausel Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte (11), Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte (17), Odalys Muñoz García (21), Pilar Almanza Romero (30), Yaser Perodín Almanza (11), Manuel Sánchez Callol (58), Juliana Enriquez Carrasana (23), Helen Martínez Enríquez (6 months), Reynaldo Marrero (45), Joel García Suárez (24), Juan Mario Gutiérrez García (10), Ernesto Alfonso Joureiro (25), Amado Gonzáles Raices (50), Lázaro Borges Priel (34), Liset Alvarez Guerra (24), Yisel Borges Alvarez (4), Guillermo Cruz Martínez (46), Fidelio Ramel Prieto-Hernández (51), Rosa María Alcalde Preig (47), Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco (22), José Carlos Nicole Anaya (3), María Carrasco Anaya (44), Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco (35), Angel René Abreu Ruiz (3), Jorge Arquímides Lebrijio Flores (28), Eduardo Suárez Esquivel (39), Elicer Suárez Plascencia, Omar Rodríguez Suárez (33), Miralis Fernández Rodríguez (28), Cindy Rodríguez Fernández (2), José Gregorio Balmaceda Castillo (24), Rigoberto Feut Gonzáles (31), Midalis Sanabria Cabrera (19), and four others who could not be identified.

(From the official report -- Report N 47/96 -- of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States.)

The "13 de Marzo" brutality has never been featured on 60 Minutes or Dateline. Neither Oliver Stone or Sean Penn has considered making a movie about it. The Castro government has never apologized.

But a few do remember. And mourn. And continue the cry for justice.

For instance, at 12 noon this Friday (July 13), a prayerful, peaceful group of Americans who stand against the horrific decades of human rights abuses perpetrated by the Communist government of Cuba will gather around the main fountain at the Florida International University. They will dress in black and carry black umbrellas during a silent vigil of 18 minutes. It is an event that has occurred there every year since 1995. The participants do this to remember...and to stimulate others to remember too.

Of course, most of you reading this will not be in Florida on Friday but you can say a prayer for those joining in the vigil, asking the Lord to protect them, to multiply their numbers and to make their efforts very effective in highlighting to the public the cruel injustices of the Castro regime. And you can say a few more prayers during those 18 minutes on Friday for God to strengthen the people of Cuba, to grant them greater religious and political freedom, and to free them from the economic and cultural disaster that Cuba has endured from the tyranny of the Castros.

For those of you interested in staying better informed of the human rights actions being performed in this arena, I encourage you to check out the Free Cuba Foundation. (The Facebook page for the Foundation is here.)