The national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Cuba, Eduardo Cardet Concepción, called “unacceptable” the sinking of a boat that was carrying 23 migrants, including a 2-year-old girl, noting that “everything seems to indicate” that it was caused by officers of the Cuban dictatorship.

A boat from Miami that made a run to pick up a group of Cuban migrants sank when it was struck Oct. 29 by a Cuban coast guard vessel in the ocean north of the city of Bahía Honda in Artemisa Province, Cuba, causing the death of at least seven people, including a 2-year-old girl named Elizabeth Meizoso.

The Cuban regime’s version of what happened is that the boat transporting the migrants crashed into the Cuban coast guard boat during the identification process. In addition, the regime accused those involved of human trafficking and said that the coast guard rescued the 23 passengers, which included recovering the bodies of the deceased.

In a statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Cardet pointed out that the testimonies of the survivors contradict the dictatorship’s version.

“Everything seems to indicate” that it was an intentional collision by the coast guard “when they positioned themselves in a calculated way with the boat that was trying to leave. There are the testimonies of the survivors and relatives of the survivors that describe it clearly,” he pointed out.

Diana Meizoso, mother of Elizabeth, told Radio Martí: “We got on the boat and when we left (the pilot) slowed down because he saw that he was hemmed in from all sides, because another boat was coming. When we passed beside them, the (coast guard officer) said, ‘Now I’m going to split you in half,’ and then he rammed us and split (the boat) in half.”

The woman said that she lost consciousness and it was at that moment that her daughter was missing.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, the leader of the MCL noted that it’s not the first time that a tragedy of this type has occurred, in which government agents are involved. 

“The record that the Cuban regime has in this regard is terrible, there is a very serious history of incidents of the same magnitude on other occasions,” Cardet said.

More in Americas

Cardet pointed to the sinking of the tourist boat XX Aniversario in July 1980 in the Canímar River and the 13th of March tugboat in July 1994, two “of the most significant events that we can relate in this regard, although many things have happened that need to be clarified.”

The opposition leader said that “we lament” and “we consider unacceptable” the deaths that occurred off Bahía Honda. 

“Once again the people of Cuba, ordinary Cubans, have to lose because of the fault of a regime that is blind, that is entrenched in power and that doesn’t recognize the legitimate demands of the Cuban people,” he said.

Cuban migration continues to increase

Cardet said that the attempt by these 23 people to flee Cuba is not an isolated event.

“Unfortunately, the exodus of Cubans so far this fiscal year is enormous; it’s a stampede. More than 235,000 Cubans have requested asylum in the United States, arriving there by various means,” he noted.

The Cuban dissident leader said that “there is a very large number of Cubans fleeing misery, calamity, oppression, injustice and who have lost all prospects for a reasonable life project in our country, and they go out looking for that opportunity that you only have once in your life to be able to achieve a decent standard of living and freedom.”

(Story continues below)

Regarding the government’s announcement that it will launch an investigation, the MCL leader expressed his skepticism because “what they are going to try to do is cover up what really happened there.”

He pointed out that “if there is no independent mechanism that can evaluate what really happened there and give a verdict, we don’t expect the regime to recognize their responsibility in this tragic event.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.