Damas de Blanco
Movimiento Crisitano Liberacion
Miembro de Consenso Cubano
CONDUCIDAS POR EL MOVIMIENTO DEMOCRACIA EN
FAVOR DE LA LIBERTAD DEL PUEBLO DE CUBA Y EN DEFENSA DE LOS
DERECHOS DE LOS CUBANOS BALSEROS , HAITIANOS E INMIGRANTES EN
ESTADOS UNIDOS Y OTROS PAISES
~Huelgas de Hambre
~Desobediencia Civil Masivas
~Retos en Los Tribunales
Grief Marks Anniversary of Triumph of Castro
HIALEAH, Fla. — Four months after they appeared
in the waters between Havana and Miami, the four
dead men remain nameless. At a morgue in the Florida
Keys, they lie on stretchers stacked like bunk beds,
their bodies chewed by sharks, their faces too
putrified to be recognized.
to next paragraph
Maggie Steber for The New York Times
Ramon Saul Sanchez and
Nilda Garcia, who is waiting to learn whether
one of the bodies that washed ashore in
Florida in August is that of her son, Osmani,
who fled Cuba on a raft.
The police suspect they were Cuban rafters. Nilda
Garcia thinks one of them might be her son — and the
thought makes her weep. Fourteen years after she
Cuba on her own makeshift boat, she finds
herself wondering once again: When will it end?
“How many mothers are going through this?” Ms.
Garcia said in an interview at her daughter’s
apartment here as she awaited DNA results on the
bodies. “How many more are crying for their losses?
How many young people have drowned in this sea? How
Fifty years ago today, many Cubans cheered when
Fidel Castro seized power in Havana, and even
now, the revolution attracts many fans — as
evidenced by the Canadian tour agencies advertising
trips “to celebrate five decades of resilience.”
But the bodies speak to a different legacy. Here
in South Florida, where roughly 850,000 Cubans have
settled over the years, repeated waves of painful
exile and family separation define the Castro era.
The revolution never met their hopeful expectations,
the island they love has slipped into decay, and for
many, this week’s golden anniversary provides little
more than a flashback to traumas, old and new.
“It pounds in everybody’s conscience every day,”
said Ramon Saul Sanchez, 54, the founder of
Movimiento Democracia, a Cuban-American group known
for using boats to stage protests. “Fifty years is
something very hard to accept.”
Some Cubans remain defiant. Huber Matos, a former
revolutionary leader who came to Miami after Mr.
Castro sent him to jail in 1959 for suggesting that
the Cuban government included too many Communists,
said that the anniversary inspired him to keep
pushing for change.
“When you think of what you have to do, you can’t
be sad,” Mr. Matos, 90, said. “To continue working,
that’s the key.”
But for many, the revolution’s 50th anniversary
has inspired a period of reflection. Cubans across
Florida say they are mourning privately, or
trying to forget, and formal commemorations are
being kept to a minimum. If Miami in the 1980s was a
place of militants, where “Havana vanities come to
Joan Didion wrote, today it is also a home to
newer arrivals who ask, Must the pain go on?
A poll released this month by Florida
International University shows that 55 percent of
Cubans in Florida favor lifting the United States
embargo against Cuba, up from 42 percent a year ago.
It is the first time a clear majority has held that
position since the survey began in 1991.
Barack Obama — while backing away from an
earlier pledge to meet with Cuban leaders during his
first year in office — condemned the current “failed
policy” during the presidential campaign and
promised to make it easier for Cuban-Americans to
visit relatives on the island or send them larger
amounts of money.
Even among those who support the 46-year-old
embargo, like Senator Mel Martinez, a Republican,
continued damage to families has become a more
“This is an ongoing tragedy,” said Mr. Martinez,
who left Cuba at age 15 and spent four years without
his parents. “How many people today are still being
separated? How many people in Cuba are making plans
Ms. Garcia was a “balsera,” one of the 38,000
rafters who fled Cuba in 1994. She said she left her
suburb of Havana because her daughter needed medical
care she could not get in Cuba for a brain tumor.
Her son, Osmani, stayed. He was 20 at the time, a
speaker of English and French, who became an
His work often put him at odds with the Castro
government. In one dispatch, published on Oct. 26,
2007, he condemned Cuba’s foreign minister, Felipe
Pérez Roque, for mischaracterizing comments from
“I will not take the time to point out all the
lies told by Felipe Pérez Roque at this press
conference, but I will say there was a worried look
on his face and those of his cohorts,” Mr. Garcia
wrote, in an article posted online. “It almost seems
that they too are realizing there is little time
left to the Castro dictatorship and that change is
Instead, over the next year, political pressure
on Mr. Garcia increased. In June, according to a
report in a Cuban online forum, he was arrested and
interrogated by state officials. Two months later,
his mother said, he was filmed by a Cuban television
reporter at a protest against the government,
scaring him enough to flee.
Mr. Garcia’s relatives said that on the night of
Aug. 15, he climbed aboard a boat with no motor and
seven or eight other people, pushing off from an
area near Havana with hopes of reaching Florida
within a few days.
The pace mattered; the sea was churning. By early
Monday morning, Tropical Storm Fay had moved through
Cuba into the Florida Straits, bringing nearly a
foot of rain, swells of several feet and winds that
would strengthen to 60 miles per hour.
Ms. Garcia, 64, a home health aide, said she was
not sure if her son had known the storm was coming.
Even if he had, she said, “he was desperate and
needed to go.”
She said her son had done all he could to change
Cuba from the inside. “How can Cubans confront the
government, with rocks and sticks?” Ms. Garcia said.
“Everyone has nothing, and the people are afraid.”
She found out about the bodies from the news. The
first one, tagged 0107 in morgue records, appeared
in the waters off Craig Key just after 5 p.m. on
Aug. 21. A fisherman called the Coast Guard, and two
Monroe County police officers pulled the dead man
from the teal-blue sea. Three other bodies followed,
appearing offshore over the next 24 hours in a line
Detective Terry Smith, one of the lead detectives
investigating the case with the Monroe County
Sheriff’s Department, said the locations and
currents suggested that the bodies had probably
spent several days in the water, drifting from
somewhere to the south, though the Coast Guard’s
computer analyses were not definitive.
Their identities have been even harder to
determine. E. Hunt Scheuerman, the medical examiner
for Monroe County, which includes the Keys, said all
four bodies were naked and gnarled, with only three
defining characteristics. Body 0107 wore a ring with
a Celtic cross and green stone on the fourth finger
of his left hand; 0109 arrived with a white sock and
blue Lotto running shoe on his right foot; and 0110
had a tattoo on the inside of his lip that said
Ms. Garcia said the ring sounds similar to one
she gave Osmani, but the ring in the morgue is
yellow, suggesting gold, and the ring she gave her
son was silver.
She said she hoped her son was at the American
military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where she was
processed before coming to the United States. And
initially it seemed possible. The Coast Guard
stopped a boat near the Bahamas with eight or nine
Cuban rafters a few days after Aug. 15. But it must
have been another group, Detective Smith said; Mr.
Garcia’s name could not be found on the Coast
Guard’s list of repatriated refugees.
At least two other Cuban families in Miami are in
a position similar to Ms. Garcia’s. In emotional
phone calls, they have told Detective Smith about
relatives who left Cuba on Aug. 15 in a boat, never
to be heard from again.
“What if the four we received are not any of
their relatives?” the detective said, discussing
what haunts him most.
DNA may be the only way to know for sure. In
September, Detective Smith swabbed Ms. Garcia’s
mouth and sent the sample to the
Federal Bureau of Investigation for a comparison
with the bodies. For the other two families, the DNA
must be collected from closer female relatives, who
live in Cuba.
Mr. Sanchez, of Movimiento Democracia, has been
trying to arrange for secure samples from the
island. “There are hundreds, probably thousands of
Cubans who think they lost relatives in the high
seas,” he said. But so far, he has received little
help from either the Cuban or American governments.
And so the cycle continues. According to Coast
Guard statistics, 10,489 Cubans have been stopped at
sea since the beginning of 2005, more than double
the 4,223 who were caught in the previous four
years. A report in May from the Institute of Cuban
and Cuban-American Studies at the
University of Miami found that 131,000 Cubans
had settled in the United States permanently over
the last four years, and its title predicts more of
the same. “Not Going Away,” it says. “Cuban Mass
Migration to Florida.”
Ms. Garcia said she just wanted an end to the
50-year pattern: the uncertainty, tears and tales of
Three months after her DNA reached the F.B.I.,
she is still waiting for answers. Conversations
about her son are drenched with tears, and she is
never far from a photograph that shows him staring
straight ahead, with a stern face, a few wrinkles
and thick, dark hair.
It looks like a passport picture — of a man who
may have only reached a Florida morgue.
Bridge too far for Cuban exiles
The White House has agreed to talks about
immigration policy for Cubans after pressure from the
influential exile community in Miami culminated in protests and
a highly-publicised hunger strike.
By Simon Watts
BBC News, Miami
Cuban-Americans are furious about a decision by
the US Coast Guard to send back a group of migrants who reached
a disused bridge in the Florida Keys island chain after making
the dangerous sea crossing from Cuba.
Cuban-Americans have held protests demanding justice
Conscious of the political importance of the
one-million-strong exile community, Florida Governor Jeb Bush
intervened to ensure that the White House receives a
Exile groups had warned that the Republicans might not be
able to count on their traditional Cuban-American support in
forthcoming elections, such as the US Congressional vote in
The uproar started shortly after the New Year, when 15 Cuban
migrants came ashore on the Old Seven Mile Bridge, which lies on
the road to Key West.
The bridge - built by the Florida pioneer, Henry Flagler -
was abandoned after a more modern structure was constructed
alongside in the early 1980s. Some sections of the old bridge
have since collapsed.
Under the current rules for Cubans - known as the
"wet foot, dry foot" policy - migrants who reach US soil are
generally allowed to stay and apply for residence, while those
caught at sea are mostly deported.
The US government finds itself in a difficult
political position... If it loosens the rules too much,
it could encourage an influx of illegal immigrants from
Cuba, like one in the mid-1990s
In this case, the US Coast Guard ruled that the 15 Cubans had
to be sent back because the part of the bridge where they had
landed was no longer attached to dry land.
To exiles - who believe Cuban migrants are fleeing an
oppressive regime - the decision smacked of bloody-mindedness.
And it seemed to confirm that the US authorities want to
apply the "wet foot, dry foot" rules more strictly. The number
of Cuban boat-people has been rising recently, with nearly 3,000
intercepted in the last fiscal year.
The Cuban-American community soon started to make its anger
known in protests that united hardline opponents of Fidel Castro
and moderates favouring dialogue with Havana.
Columnists fumed in the Miami Herald newspaper, two state
department officials in charge of Cuba policy were harangued at
a lunch with Cuban business leaders, and protesters lined up
along highways with banners demanding justice.
Cuban-American politicians holding national
office lobbied hard in private and were fiercely critical in
Republican Senator Mel Martinez said the ruling showed the
"wet foot, dry foot" policy was "a complete and utter failure".
The anger in Miami really grabbed headlines when Ramon Saul
Sanchez, the leader of the Democracy Now pressure group, started
a hunger strike to demand a response from the federal
As television bulletins carried interviews with Mr Sanchez
from his roadside bed in the Little Havana district, Governor
Bush made calls to the White House, which is run by his brother.
Under pressure on several fronts, the White House agreed to
receive a Cuban-American delegation and Governor Bush was able
to announce the news on a visit to Miami.
"God has heard our prayers," Mr Sanchez said, as he consumed
his first food for more than 10 days. "The doors have been
opening in Washington for the government to listen to our
concerns about US migration policy."
In their meetings to discuss the "wet foot, dry foot" rules,
the Cuban-Americans will push for wholesale change.
First, they want a clear definition of what
qualifies as US soil, to avoid a repeat of decisions like the
one involving the Old Seven Mile Bridge.
Some exiles fear the US is becoming stricter on
A judge has already agreed to consider a request by
Cuban-American lawyers to define dry land as anywhere within US
territorial waters - a ruling that would sharply increase the
number of migrants eligible to stay.
Exile groups also want Cubans caught at sea to have a better
chance to make their case for residency in the US. This would
mean giving migrants proper legal representation and a formal
Another suggestion is that some of the 20,000 visas allocated
to Cubans each year be set aside for those caught on the sea
crossing to Florida.
Some sort of reform seems likely, especially as the Secretary
of State, Condoleezza Rice, is committed to reconvening her
department's strategy panel on Cuba.
But the US government finds itself in a difficult political
position. If it loosens the rules too much, it could encourage
an influx of illegal immigrants from Cuba, like one in the
At that time, President Clinton was forced to adapt Cold War
legislation which had given all fleeing Cubans the right to
asylum from a communist government. The "wet foot, dry foot"
rules introduced a threat that at least some boat-people could
be sent back.
The Bush administration also knows that other migrant
communities resent Cuba being a special case because of its
long-running conflict with the US.
Most Haitians, for example, are deported if they enter
without papers, even though their country is poorer than Cuba
and has experienced decades of political turmoil.
Los Domingos a las 8:00 PM
Por La Poderosa WWFE 670 AM
Miami, Florida o por Internet, conectando a:
Legacy in Half a Century:
A Revolution or a tyranny?
~With over 30,000
~With over 250,000 political prisoners
throughout 50 years
~With over 20% of Cuba's population exiled
~With over 10,000
political asylum in the Peruvian Embassy in just one day
~With over 125,000
leaving the Island by sea in one month
~With hundreds of thousands rafters loosing or risking their lives to
escape from Castro's rule.
~With two brothers ruling the country for
over 50 years without democratic elections
~With the 2nd largest foreign debt with
the Paris Club of debtors
Then, isn't it time for a change?