Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Bitter fruit of Wet Foot/Dry Foot

Oct. 13, 2005, 3:59PM

Cuban boy dies in Coast Guard chase off Florida

Associated Press

MIAMI — A 6-year-old Cuban boy died early today after the speedboat he was being smuggled on capsized as the U.S. Coast Guard tried to intercept it, trapping him underneath, authorities said.

The other 30 people in the boat were rescued.

"This terrible incident is an example of the dangers inherent to illegal entry to the United States by sea," Rear Adm. D. Brian Peterman, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District, said in a statement.

The 33-foot boat initially spotted on radar about 45 miles south of Key West just before 1 a.m. The Coast Guard cutter Dauntless pursued the vessel, but the boat refused orders to halt and was maneuvering erratically in an attempt to get away, the Coast Guard said.

The Dauntless lost sight of the boat briefly, then found it capsized with 30 people clinging to the hull. The 30 were rescued by two other boats and the cutter, and it was learned that the boy was missing. His body was found when the cutter's crew overturned the boat, authorities said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were investigating.

Officials said the quality of the boat makes it clear that it was a smuggling operation and not a group of Cubans trying to leave the communist island without help.

"Small boats, very fast, trying to evade us — that's typical with what we see when we're dealing with migrant smugglers," Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Doss said. "We don't see these types of boats leaving Cuba unless they're smuggling."

The 30 survivors were being held aboard the Dauntless until a decision is made whether to return them to Cuba. It was not known if the boy's parents were among the survivors. Under the U.S. government's "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, immigrants intercepted at sea are usually returned while those who make it to land are generally allowed to stay.

The U.S. government has prosecuted smugglers for the deaths of Cubans at sea. The Coast Guard was trying to determine if any of those rescued were the smugglers.


This policy is a magnet for smugglers who know that all they have to do is unload their cargo on some desolated beach. It's time to bring sanity to our policy toward Cubans seeking refuge or asylum in the U.S.


Anonymous said...

I apologize for the ignorance but what do Cubans "smuggle" out of Cuba?

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

People are smuggled out of Cuba. Just like Mexicans pay smugglers to get across the border, Cubans pay large sums to smugglers (it's unclear what nationality these smugglers are but it wouldn't surprise me if they were being coordinated by the Cuban government) to get them to U.S soil. Once a Cuban sets foot on dry land he is elegible to residency after one year according to the current policy. But if a person is interdicted at sea they go back to Cuba no ifs ands or buts about it. What results is a dangerous game of cat and mouse between the smugglers and the coast guard. This child was a victim of the game.

Anonymous said...

Thank you soooooo much for the explanation. I must be living in a bubble cause I had never heard of people smuggling Cubans into the US. I thought that all the Cubans that risk their lives to get here this way were working on their own to escape the island not with the help of a smuggler. I guess having the misfortune of not living in Miami, I don't have this kind of news in my face all the time. Your theory about the possibility of the Cuban government having something to do with the smuggling of Cubans is very interesting. But how do you think Castro could benifit from this?

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Smuggling of people into the US from Cuba wasn't always a problem. Since we had no diplomatic relations with Cuba and since Cuba is governed by totalitarian regime, and since the U.S. abandoned the cause of Cuban freedom after the missile crisis there was a policy to accept all Cuban migrants as political exiles.

After the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and the rafter crisis of 1994 the US reached an agreement with Cuba whereby the US would grant 25,000 visas (if I remember correctly) annually. But getting a visa is only part of the ordeal, you need an exit permit from the Cuban government as well. In addition to the explicit number of visas the wet foot/dry foot policy was enacted to supposedly prevent people from risking their lives trying to get here.

Why would Castro be interested in operating smuggling rings? Because it's a business. Cubans in Cuba get their relatives in the US to send them money (through Canada or some other country where they can exceed the remittance limits set forth in the embargo) so they can contract a smuggler. You can imagine 30 people on that "go fast" boat that capsized each paying $3000-$5000. That's $90,000 to $150,000 of cold HARD currency. Not only that. Each person that leaves Cuba is one less person for the broken economy to feed. One less malcontent that might turn his dispair into "counter-revolutionary" activity. Plus Castro gets to stick it to Uncle Sam. It's a Win-win-Win.

The smugglers have to have some connection to the government. There's no way a vessel from outside can approach Cuba without being detected. If I go fishing and stray off course I might find myself in a Cuban prison. The question is: are these smugglers bribing low level Cuban officials to have safe passage or is this an activity sanctioned by the Castro brothers? I tend to think the latter. Anyone caught doing the former would face a firing squad lickety split.

Anonymous said...

You make a very valid point. Castro ends up benifitting from EVERYTHING that goes on in the island. It's so pathetic how even after everything that has happend in the last almost 47 years has not affected the media's perception on "President" Castro and his "government". It makes me sick! Thanks for your well written responses. You opened my eyes to a whole other chapter in Cuba's never ending saga. YA NO MAS!!!

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

When you say "Castro ends up benifitting from EVERYTHING that goes on in the island." you are absolutely correct. Despite the perception the contrary the US is currently Cuba's largest trading partner for food and agricultural products and its 5th largest trading partner overall. When the regime speaks of removing the embargo, they want to buy on credit, even though they aren't credit worthy. A farm subsidy where Castro winds and the Cuban people and the American taxpayer lose. See my post at for more info.