We will not forget Cuba’s 13 de Marzo Massacre

John Suarez in PanAmPost:

We Will Not Forget Cuba’s 13 de Marzo Massacre

Twenty Years Ago a Great Crime Was Committed; Justice Has Yet to Be Served

In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, 37 men, women, and children were killed by government agents seven miles off the Cuban coast, as they sought to travel to freedom on board the “13 de Marzo” tugboat. Eleven of these Cubans were children, ranging in age from Helen Martínez Enríquez — just five months old — to Mayulis Méndez Tacaronte, aged 17.

International human rights bodies and organizations investigated the incident. The UN Human Rights Commission’s special rapporteur on Cuba made the following observation on October 24, 1995, in his report on the human rights situation in Cuba to the UN General Assembly:

Although the Government maintains that the authorities bore no responsibility for what was considered to have been an accident, the Special Rapporteur received testimony from some of the survivors indicating that Government launches from the port of Havana tried to stop the 13 de Marzo with pressurized water jets and then deliberately rammed it, causing it to sink. Non-governmental sources informed the Special Rapporteur that the number of persons who died was not 32, as the Government had stated, but at least 37 and that the families have for a year now been asking for an investigation to be initiated.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in a report released on October 16, 1996, concluded that what transpired that early morning “was not an accident but rather a premeditated, intentional act” by agents of the Cuban government. The report held the Cuban State responsible for violating the right to life of all the people who were shipwrecked and perished as a result of the sinking of the tug “13 de Marzo.”

Twenty years later, the men responsible for the mass murder remain at large and protected by the Cuban state. The survivors and family members, on the other hand, have faced persecution, harassment, death threats, and arbitrary detentions for speaking out.

In 2009, one of these family members, Jorge Garcia, agreed to address Florida International University students at a panel organized by the Free Cuba Foundation on the 15th anniversary of the tugboat massacre. Prior to the event, we met, and he sat down and explained on camera what transpired before, during, and after the events of July 13, 1994.

Jorge Garcia is a man who has suffered a loss few can imagine.

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