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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: “13 de Marzo” Tugboat Massacre
July 14, 2012Posted by on
18 years ago, forces of the Cuban regime assassinated 41 people who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom in the United States aboard an old tugboat (“13th of March”). The crime occurred on July 13th, 1994, when a couple of other state vessels persecuted the tugboat (which had 69 people on board), blocked its path, and used a cannon to fire water at the Cubans. 41 of those people died, drowned or from the impact, and among them were 11 minors.
In 2012, during the anniversary of this massacre, the repression of the regime (the same one which committed the crime) was not able to impede Cubans throughout the island from honoring the victims.
On the eve of the anniversary, about 18 activists in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, met at the home of dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes to carry out a candlelight vigil followed by a pots and pan protest in memory of the vicitms. On the following day, July 13th, this same group had plans to march out of the home up to a local river, where they would deposit flowers in honor of those assassinated. However, government mobs surrounded the home, shouted violent slogans, kicked down the door, and impeded the dissidents from stepping out. Regardless, on the morning of Saturday July 14th, the dissidents once again tried to step out of the house, and this time they did, although they were arrested by forces of the political police.
Another successful pots and pan protest took place on July 12th in the city of Placetas, in Santa Clara, where dissidents like Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”, Marta Díaz Rondon and Leticia Ramos Herrería participated. They were carrying out a meeting there, debating a new opposition campaign dubbed “Towards the National Strike”.
July 13th began with the news that 6 activists from the Central Opposition Coalition in Santa Clara also carried out a peaceful march to a local river to also deposit flowers, but all of these members were violently arrested. Among them was Idania Yánez Contreras, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Alcides Rivera and Damaris Moya Portieles. However, Alcides Rivera managed to throw the flowers into the river right before being arrested. In the case of Yanez Contreras, she was shoved into a police vehicle and kept in there for nearly an hour before being taken into custody in a police unit, with the engine off, the windows up and under the scorching sun.
The Free Yorubas Association of Cuba, a religious organization independent from state control, carried out a religious ceremony a couple of days before the anniversary, in which they prayed for the victims and prayed for the freedom of Cuba.
In Havana, the home of Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo had already been completely surrounded by the political police for 5 days, keeping her family and other dissidents from going out to the street. Fonseca explained that, although they could not make it out, she managed to hang a large sign on her porch with messages condemning the Castro regime for the tugboat massacre and honoring the victims, highlighting that there were minors among the murdered. The activist added that other members of the group which she presides over- the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba- did manage to surpass police cordons and pay tribute to the victims publicly in the same province of Havana.
Meanwhile, also in Havana but in the neighborhood of Arroyo Naranjo, Eriberto Liranza Romero said that various activists from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy shocked the police, despite having been under threats and vigilance for 2 weeks, managing to throw flowers into a local river. On the morning of Saturday the 14th, Liranza explained on Twitter that other activities were being carried out by other members of the same youth group.
In Banes, Holguin, a group of dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched to a river as well, successfully throwing flowers. These same dissidents managed to surpass a police cordon which had been set up by State Security Major Roilan Cruz, one of the main culprits of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s assassination in 2010.
Other similar activities were reported in other provinces and cities, although telephone interruptions made it difficult to confirm further details.
Meanwhile, various Cubans across the island sent out messages through Twitter, using the hashtag #Remolcador13M (#Tugboat13M). One of these Twitter users was former political prisoners Pedro Arguelles Moran who mentioned the anniversary and emphasized that the crime was executed under “orders of the Castro tyranny“.
The Pastor and blogger Mario Felix Barroso tweeted, “The assassins are still out on the street, but God will do justice“. Meanwhile, Yoani Sanchez recalled that she was 17 years old when the massacre occurred and mentioned that many people, including her friends, would also risk their lives at sea in search of freedom. She explained that she did not know of the crime until “a couple of months after“, but affirmed that “ignorance does not free us of responsibility“.
“Help us to not forget them“, continued another Tweet by Sanchez, “to denounce the injustice“. The blogger also published a link to a harrowing testimony by one of the survivors.
July 10, 2012Posted by on
The Lady in White and spokesperson for the National Resistance Front, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, was arrested at around 8 AM this past Monday, July 9th, in Havana, along with a group of other pro-human rights activists who had plans to carry out a tribute to the victims of the 13th of March Tugboat Massacre, which occurred on July 13th 1994, where the Cuban regime gunned down a group of Cubans- among them children and women- who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom aboard a tugboat.
In the case of Fonseca Quevedo, she remained behind bars until approximately 9 PM. She was first kept in the police unit of Cojimar and later in the 4th Unit of El Cerro. Another detainee was Yanelis Cabrera Bouza, also a Lady in White, who was released after an interrogation session during the afternoon.
Bouza told “Radio Republica” that, in her case, she was arrested separate from Fonseca Quevedo, when she was about to arrive to the spot where they had plans to carry out the peaceful activity, where they were to throw flowers into the ocean in memory of each victim of the massacre. When she was taken to the police unit of Alamar, uniformed agents accused her of trying to plan an illegal exit from the country, an accusation which is completely false, according to the dissident.
Upon being released, Cabrera Bouza head to the home of Fonseca Quevedo, where a number of dissidents were congregated, among them the independent rapper Rodolfo “El Primario” Ramirez, who also shared declarations with “Radio Republica”, explaining that the demonstrators were carrying out a vigil and a peaceful protest, demanding the immediate release of Sara Marta Fonseca, who suffers from numerous medical ailments.
During night hours, Fonseca was released, which was proven by a Twitter message she managed to publish on her account (@SaraMartaCuba). “From the PNR Unit in Cojimar, transferred to the 4th of El Cerro”, explained the message of the Lady in White, “liberated at 9:20 PM, they took away my sign with messages paying tribute to victims of Tugboat Massacre. My home is surrounded”.
July 12, 2011Posted by on
On a dark and late night, 72 Cubans tried fleeing the island aboard an old tugboat called “13 de Marzo” in search of freedom. Many young mothers boarded their small children on the tugboat, while many other adults clung onto the faith that, soon, they would be able to work and live like dignified people. Wrapped in fear, but with much hope that beyond the horizon they would be ree, these Cubans were planning to reach the United States, but destiny and the cruelty of a regime impeded this dream, which was born out of desperation, to become reality.
Tomorrow, July 13th, will be another dark anniversary of Cuban history- the “13 de Marzo” tugboat massacre. This slaughter, which stole the lives of 41 innocent Cubans- among them many children and adolescents- is one of the many atrocities committed by the Cuban dictatorship against its own people. Official representatives of the repressive police force of the island used their hate, in this case personified by viciously hosing down the victims who were trying to escape, in order to prevent the tugboat from reaching land of liberty. Despite the fact that 17 years have passed since the cruel assassination, justice has not been done, the same way that there has been no justice for the shot down Brothers to the Rescue victims, the thousands of innocents executed by firing squads since 1959, the countless cases of death behind the prison bars, and, in sum, the thousands of anonymous Cubans who have lost their lives at the hands of totalitarian communism.
Let it be clear in Cuba, and in the rest of the world: we will never forget the victims of the dictatorship and tomorrow, July 13th, and always, we will remember the victims of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat.
Below is a report made on the massacre, sent to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission:
REPORT Nº 47/96
VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT “13 DE MARZO” vs. CUBA
October 16, 1996
1. On July 19, 1994, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a complaint stating that in the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, four boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, opposite the port of Havana. The complaint also indicates that the Cuban State boats attacked the runaway tug with their prows with the intention of sinking it, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas of the women and children to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat–named “13 de Marzo”–sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten minors. Thirty-one people survived the events of July 13, 1994.
2. On February 28, 1995, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received another complaint concerning the same events, which was added to Case File No. 11.436, in accordance with Article 40.2 of its Regulations.
And a moving short video about the massacre, narrated by the survivors:
And more stories here.
Faces of the victims