Shipwrecked Cubans believed safe

Tuesday, 01 August 2006

By Angel Novelo - Staff Reporter

Twelve shipwrecked Cubans may be hiding out in Belize after they abandoned their 16-foot sailboat which crashed into the Barrier Reef on Monday night July 24, north of San Pedro Ambergris Caye.

Police in that municipality report when they arrived at the scene early Tuesday morning, they found only the disabled boat.

The recalled receiving a tip about the boat and its occupants Monday night but because they have no boat of their own, they were late in getting to the scene on Tuesday.

Sources in San Pedro say the Cubans, men and women, had been at sea for more than a week. They made it safely to shore on Monday night.

The boat was taken off the reef on Tuesday and is docked at a pier near the Nova Shrimp Farm north of Ambergris Caye.

Up to late Thursday morning Immigration officials in San Pedro could not say whether the shipwrecked families had made their way to Belize.

One source reports that the Cubans made their way into Mexico and are already on their way to the United States where they hope to join family members in Florida.

There are at this time four Cubans at the Hattieville Prison awaiting deportation to Cuba.

Belize has a strict policy not to provide asylum for Cubans who flee Cuba.

All those who risked their lives and made it safely to Belize over the years have been returned.

Prison authorities at Hattieville say immigration detainees are housed separately from convicted felons.

Many of those who find themselves facing deportation to Cuba say they would rather die than to go back.

In June last year a senior Cuban diplomat stationed at the Cuban Embassy in Belize City defected with his entire family and fled to the U.S.A.

Belize once had a humanitarian hospitality for political refugees and still maintains a tolerant attitude toward immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

But because of the government’s close ties with Fidel Castro, refugees from Cuba are no longer welcome in Belize.