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Relatives Urge U.S. to Keep Cubans Caught at Sea

Group Tried to Float to Florida on Taxicab Converted to Boat

 

HAVANA (June 9) - Relatives of Cubans intercepted off Key West in a vintage blue taxicab converted into a boat urged authorities Wednesday to let their family members stay in the United States.

 

Rafael Diaz Rey, a mechanic who was aboard the taxi-boat with his wife and two sons when it was intercepted off Key West by the Coast Guard on Tuesday. He was making his third attempt to cross the Florida Straits in a car, said his cousin, Marisela Rodriguez.

 

The mechanic and his family were among a group of Cubans who tried to reach the United States illegally in 2004 on a Buick sedan powering another homemade barge. They were intercepted and returned to Cuba.

 

Ten years earlier, Diaz launched the same journey in a 1947 Buick, but had electrical problems and had to turn back.

 

''I hope they let them stay,'' Rodriguez said.

 

Her words were echoed by Efigenia Bello, the mother of Yerani Perez, who was also on the taxi-boat with his wife and two young daughters. ''I beg the U.S. government to not send them back,'' Bello said.

 

The U.S. government has a policy of declining comment on individual immigration cases. The Cuban government had no immediate comment on the case.

 

A Coast Guard official in Key West said Cubans were setting out in unseaworthy vessels that could easily capsize.

 

''People are taking huge risks. They're coming across in unseaworthy vessels,'' said Capt. Phil Heyl.

 

''That vessel, could, at any moment, have rolled over and caused a huge tragedy,'' he said of the latest attempt to reach Florida in a converted automobile.

 

But in Diezmero, one neighborhood over from where writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for 20 years, residents have no doubt the risks are worth taking. Their cinder-block and wooden houses are on streets that smell of sewers and uncollected garbage, and frequent power outages make the tropical heat hard to bear.

 

''They do well to leave. Everyone wants to go,'' said neighbor Jersi Antonio. ''When there is running water, there is no electricity, and when there is electricity, there is no water.''

 

Under the United States' so-called ''wet foot-dry foot'' policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil generally are allowed to stay, while those intercepted at sea are usually returned to Cuba. U.S. officials say about 1,000 Cubans reach American shores by sea annually, but it is unknown how many who undertake the risky voyage never make it.

 

In 2003, immigrants tried to cross the Florida Straits aboard a green 1951 Chevrolet pickup, which a man named Luis Grass had converted into a boat. They were intercepted and sent back to Cuba. The Coast Guard then sunk the craft.

 

In 2004 Grass made a second attempt to get to the United States illegally - this time aboard a Buick sedan powering another homemade barge.

 

Grass and his family had more success sticking to land: On March 12 they entered the U.S. though the Texas-Mexico border and were allowed to stay.

 

 

06-09-05 0001 EDT

 

 

 

 

We wait for the day communism falls in Cuba. :confused

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It was just reported that the family of four will be allowed to stay. Turns out they had valid US visas but the CUban government would not let them leave the island because one of the son's was of military age and the father had previously attemted to enter the US. The other 10 caught on board will be sent back per US law.

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Guest Moneyball

It was just reported that the family of four will be allowed to stay.? Turns out they had valid US visas but the CUban government would not let them leave the island because one of the son's was of military age and the father had previously attemted to enter the US.? The other 10 caught on board will be sent back per US law.

802476[/snapback]

 

Very good news for the ones staying.

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Sometimes I wonder.... do we really think that Communism will fall once the devil dies over there? I don't know. My father hasn't seen his brother and sister since he left.... and that was over 30 years ago. His twin, passed away last year, and he never got to see him again before he died either. It's a sad sad thing to think about.... but I don't think that communism will fall in Cuba right after Castro dies. I am sure he has a plan. :confused

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Cuba SI Castro NO, Cuba SI Castro NO...I cant wait for the day the old man dies and communism falls in Cuba...I cant wait to see my cousins in Cuba...I cant wait to visit the island that my whole family is from

802501[/snapback]

 

im am not sure if it is true but many people say that his brother is worse but i hope this is not true as a fellow cuban with family in the country :confused

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Guest Moneyball

I don't blame these people for leaving Cuba...the place is a mess, and one of the few remaining Communist countries on earth.

 

I have a feeling that many have died during trips from Cuba to Florida, but none of these people will ever be found again.

803231[/snapback]

 

I have seen a few estimates in the 80-100k number.

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