Todays Miami Herald has an update on the Cuban refugees found in the Bahamas.
By Oscar Corral
The eight Cuban migrants found alive on Elbow Key Thursday had been afloat for seven days in the Florida Straits, their food and water supply gone.
Then the sea turned on them, slamming their makeshift vessel against a jagged reef, and sending them all tumbling into the water, said Manuel Felipe Prieto, who lives in Miami and is the uncle of one of the victims, Yuley Parra, 22.
That’s when six of the Cubans may have died, Prieto said.
”Everyone jumped into the sea,” Prieto said. “They started swimming, but the sea was choppy. Yuley, the girl, was very skinny, and that’s when she disappeared.”
Prieto’s account comes from his conversation Thursday night with Raidel Martinez Chavez, the migrant taken to a hospital in Marathon to treat an infected thumb and lacerated arm. Prieto said Martinez lost part of his finger as he swam toward land through the razor-sharp reef, and that many of the other migrants were injured.
Mariners Hospital said Martinez was not taking phone calls.
The survivors told Coast Guard officials that six others had died while attempting to reach shore after their homemade vessel broke apart.
This group of Cubans was not the group of 15 that the Coast Guard had searched for last week. ”The two had no correlation,” said Coast Guard spokeswoman Gretchen Eddy. “That other group is still missing.”
LIVED BY FORAGE
For 13 days, the survivors ate snails and other mollusks, seaweed and other edible things that washed up on shore, Prieto said.
The Coast Guard said the survivors claimed they had left Cuba Jan. 13, and desperately swam to the island after the shipwreck Jan. 20.
Seven of the survivors were awaiting their fate Friday afternoon aboard a Coast Guard vessel, said Petty Officer James Judge. Judge said no bodies had been recovered, and that the Coast Guard planned to turn the migrants over to Bahamian authorities because they had been found on Bahamian territory.
The Coast Guard rescued the survivors after receiving a report from the Bahamian fishing vessel Sea Explorer, the Coast Guard said. Judge said no bodies had been recovered.
William MacDonald, assistant director for the Bahamas immigration agency, told the Associated Press the migrants would have to prove they faced persecution in communist Cuba to be granted political refugee status in his country. Otherwise, they will be deported.
Martinez will likely be allowed to stay in the United States because he was taken for medical care to the Florida Keys.
CALL FOR REVIEW
Meanwhile, the Cuban American National Foundation sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him to conduct an immediate review of the controversial wet-foot, dry-foot policy, which mostly allows Cubans who reach U.S. shores to stay, but demands the repatriation of those picked up at sea unless they can show they qualify for asylum.
It has been two weeks since the White House promised Cuban exile leaders that federal officials will meet with them to discuss concerns they have with the policy.
So far, no date has been set for a meeting. (my emphasis)
UPDATE– George at the Real Cuba has photos of Elbow Key. Looking at them, how bare and rugged the landscape of the key is you’ll agree it’s amazing they survived. View these photos here
Please everyone, keep up with the letter writing and the phone calls.
Email the White House
or telephone 202-456-1414