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.