Cubans shipwrecked on Ambergris Caye

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 45            November 21, 2002

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The "Mabel" transported the seven Cubans to Ambergris Caye

Seven Cuban men were detained last week following reports reaching the San Pedro police of their presence on the island. Information received by The San Pedro Sun is that Ranger Jason Edwards and Biologist Isani Chan of the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve and National Park were on a routine patrol and spotted seven men drifting ashore inside the reserve. The Cubanos told the park authorities that they were traveling from Cuba to Honduras and had experienced engine trouble. They reported that they had been at sea without food or water for two weeks. The Bacalar Chico staff immediately provided them with necessary nourishment before reporting the incident to the police.

    According to reports, before SP police personnel could arrive on the scene, the Cuban men abandoned their boat, and took off on foot fearing they would be deported. Local residents later informed the police of their whereabouts and they were apprehended. Inspector Guzman of the SP Police Department described the seven-man crew as "well-mannered, intelligent, professional men who were seeking a better life."

    The Cubans revealed the following information during an interview while they were detained. Jose Enrique Camacho Sanchez, 32, engineer; Alejandro Verdecia Mauri, 20, artist; Jaime Almenares Sanchez, 28, mechanic; Armando Quintana Pino, 26, landscaper; Roberto Miranda Hererra, 41, chef; Ramon Rivero Lopez, 36, barber; and Luis Mayedo Pardo, 30, electrician stated that they left Camagłey, a province in the southern coast of Cuba on October 24th in search of a better way of life for themselves and their families.

    Altogether, a total of 13 people boarded two vessels (one with seven people and the other with six). They left with high hopes of getting to Honduras or Costa Rica where they could be granted political asylum. They reported that, after two days at sea, their engines malfunctioned and they quickly made two sails out of sacks and other materials on board. Unfortunately, the rough seas separated the two boats. The men who ended up in Belize drifted for fourteen days under the scorching sun aboard the vessel "Mabel". They rationed cheese, peanut bars and guava sweets, and even drank their own urine sweetened with sugar to survive the journey.

    The men stated that, after two weeks at sea, they arrived on the northern coast of Ambergris Caye - hungry and dehydrated. They were clothed and fed for four days, and feeling healthier decided to go to the police station for help. During their detention, the men claimed to be well taken care of as many Belizeans and Cubans living in San Pedro tended to their needs.   

    Charged with "illegal entry," or "refuse to land and leave," the Cubans were detained and subsequently sent to the Immigration Department in Belize City. It was initially stated that in keeping with Belize's policy on refugees, the aliens would be ordered to leave the country, but according a Belize City Immigration officer, the detainees were housed at the Belize Defense Force compound before being transferred back to their office on Monday.

    At press time, neither Immigration officers nor their supervising or senior personnel could comment on what was in store for the Cubans. Directed to the Ministry of Immigration The San Pedro Sun learned that Minister of Immigration Assad Shoman was out of the country. Additionally, Director of Immigration Peter Parchue could not be reached for comment.
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