The day before President Barack Obama announced to the world his administration’s unilateral decision to normalize trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba, Cuba’s Coast Guard sunk a small, rickety boat full of refugees attempting to flee to America.
Among the 32 people on the boat seeking to escape the Communist island dump were two children, the Miami Herald reports.
“We were screaming and crying for help as the boat was sinking. But they ignored us,” said Masiel González Castellano, who was on the boat. “Instead, they continued charging against our boat. Some people dove in the water and others stayed aboard as the boat sank.”
González believes that members of Cuba’s Coast Guard were aware that children were on the boat when they sunk it.
One of the children was the woman’s eight-year-old son.
“They knew there were children aboard, but continued to charge against us,” she said. “They didn’t care.”
Worst of all, for González, she said her husband, Leosbel Díaz Beoto, fell from the refugee boat during the Coast Guard attack and remains missing.
The Cuban Coast Guard collected most of the other people who had been on the ill-fated voyage from the water, then transferred them to a Cuban prison.
González said prison officials released her on Thursday night along with six other women and the two children. All of the men who were on the boat are still in jail.
Members of the Cuban dissident movement connected González to American journalists.
The incident occurred in international waters, just over 20 miles from Cuban territory.
The distance from Cuba to Florida is about 90 miles.
In 2013, Cuba attempted to overhaul its draconian immigration system which had very strictly controlled who the government permitted to depart from the island.
Despite the modicum of liberalization, Cubans still can’t simply leave the way people can in the world’s free and civilized nations.
This years, the United States Coast Guard has intercepted over 3,700 Cubans in rickety refugee boats in the Caribbean. That number is double the number from 2012, according to The New York Times.
“We have seen vessels made out of Styrofoam and some made out of inner tubes,” Cmdr. Timothy Cronin told the Times. “These vessels have no navigation equipment, no lifesaving equipment. They rarely have life jackets with them. They are really unsafe.”