Fidel Castro sank the 13 de Marzo tugboat killing Cuban women and children
Fidel Castro is lauded and appreciated by many who don’t know the truth about his 50+ year dictatorship in Cuba. One of the most reprehensible crimes committed by his regime was the sinking of a tugboat loaded with 72 potential escapees from the tropical gulag that is Cuba.
In 1994 Cuba was at the height of “the special period”. This was Fidel Castro’s euphemism for the austerity resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union that had been subsidizing Cuba since the early 1960s. Food was scarce, times were extremely tough and Cubans were desperate to escape the dictatorship taking to sea in whatever would float. Here’s a first person account of what life was like:
The collapse of the Soviet Union, our sugar daddy, had led to an economic crisis in Cuba. Twelve or more hours of daily power outages harassed neighborhoods without mercy. Hoarding water became a nightmare for those who did not have enough reservoirs. At some kitchen tables, steaks changed into grapefruit steaks; soap sometimes substituted for toothpaste…
Something had to change. In fact, some Cubans chose to build rafts and risk their lives in the Florida Straits to reach American land.
One July morning in 1994 a group of 72 Cubans boarded a state-owned tugboat (named 13 de Marzo) with the intent to navigate it to freedom. Within minutes the vessel was under attack by other state-owned tugboats. By the time the incident was over 41 Cubans were dead. 10 of them were children.
A complaint about the incident was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is an “autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere.” The report states:
12. On July 13, 1994, at approximately 3:00 a.m., 72 Cuban nationals who were attempting to leave the island for the United States put out to sea from the port of Havana in an old tugboat named “13 de Marzo”. The boat used for the escape belonged to the Maritime Services Enterprise of the Ministry of Transportation.
13. According to eyewitnesses who survived the disaster, no sooner had the tug “13 de Marzo” set off from the Cuban port than two boats from the same state enterprise began pursuing it. About 45 minutes into the trip, when the tug was seven miles away from the Cuban coast–in a place known as “La Poceta”–two other boats belonging to said enterprise appeared, equipped with tanks and water hoses, proceeded to attack the old tug. “Polargo 2,” one of the boats belonging to the Cuban state enterprise, blocked the old tug “13 de Marzo” in the front, while the other, “Polargo 5,” attacked from behind, splitting the stern. The two other government boats positioned themselves on either side and sprayed everyone on deck with pressurized water, using their hoses.
14. The pleas of the women and children on the deck of the tug “13 de Marzo” did nothing to stop the attack. The boat sank, with a toll of 41 dead. Many people perished because the jets of water directed at everyone on deck forced them to seek refuge in the engine room. The survivors also affirmed that the crews of the four Cuban government boats were dressed in civilian clothes and that they did not help them when they were sinking.
15. Later, Cuban Coast Guard cutters arrived and rescued 31 survivors. After being rescued, the survivors were taken to the Cuban Coast guard post of Jaimanitas, which is located west of Havana. From there, they were taken to the Villa Marista Detention Center, which also serves as State Security Headquarters. The women and children were released and the men were held.
In its findings the commission ruled that:
The Cuban State is responsible for violating the right to life (Article 1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) of the 41 people who were shipwrecked and perished as a result of the sinking of the tug “13 de Marzo”, which events occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast on July 13, 1994.
The Cuban State is responsible for violating the personal integrity (Article 1 of the American Declaration) of the 31 persons who survived the sinking of the tug “13 de Marzo”, as a consequence of the emotional trauma it caused.
The Cuban State is responsible for violating the right to freedom of movement and the right to a fair trial of the 72 people who attempted to flee Cuba, rights upheld in articles VIII and XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
The horror of this tragedy can’t be properly expressed in writing. Here is a video collage of photographs of the victims:
Here is a video about the massacre which features survivor accounts.
Survivor accounts to the Castro inflicted tragedy can also be read on the web site of the UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency.
Introduction -Fidel Castro’s greatest atrocities and crimes
1. Fidel Castro’s firing squads in Cuba
2. Fidel Castro sank the 13 de Marzo tugboat killing Cuban women and children
3. Fidel Castro’s shoot down of American civilian aircraft killing 4 people including 3 American citizens
4. Fidel Castro’s Cuban political prisoners
5. Fidel Castro’s Cuban forced labor camps, the UMAPs
6. Fidel Castro’s religious repression against Cubans
7. Fidel Castro separates Cuban families
8. Fidel Castro restricts the movement of Cubans
9. Fidel Castro’s foreign interventions resulting in thousands of deaths
10. Fidel Castro’s espionage