Caridad Tacoronte (4), Marjolis Méndez (17)
It's painful to recall, but it's never to be forgotten.
Overview of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre
On July 13, 1994, at approximately 3:00 a.m., 72 Cuban nationals who were attempting to leave the island for the United States put out to sea from the port of Havana in an old tugboat named "13 de Marzo". The boat used for the escape belonged to the Maritime Services Enterprise of the Ministry of Transportation.
According to eyewitnesses who survived the disaster, no sooner had the tug "13 de Marzo" set off from the Cuban port than two boats from the same state enterprise began pursuing it. About 45 minutes into the trip, when the tug was seven miles away from the Cuban coast--in a place known as "La Poceta"--two other boats belonging to said enterprise appeared, equipped with tanks and water hoses, proceeded to attack the old tug. "Polargo 2," one of the boats belonging to the Cuban state enterprise, blocked the old tug "13 de Marzo" in the front, while the other, "Polargo 5," attacked from behind, splitting the stern. The two other government boats positioned themselves on either side and sprayed everyone on deck with pressurized water, using their hoses.
The pleas of the women and children on the deck of the tug "13 de Marzo" did nothing to stop the attack. The boat sank, with a toll of 41 dead. Many people perished because the jets of water directed at everyone on deck forced them to seek refuge in the engine room. The survivors also affirmed that the crews of the four Cuban government boats were dressed in civilian clothes and that they did not help them when they were sinking."
Did they order you to halt?
What were they trying to do when they sprayed water? No, they never told us to stop. Then what they did was to shoot water at us. Then the time came when we saw that we could not go on because it was going to be fatal and we stopped because the water was getting in. Then we stopped and we told them: "Look, we're turning back, we have already stopped, and they saw that we had stopped, and it was then that they split the side and turned the boat around."
When they turned you around, what happened to you?
Those of us on deck, we all went under and the boat sank immediately, but those of us in the water tried to get to the surface. It was very deep. I was carrying my son, I was holding him, I did not let go of him and then I pulled him up, but I don't know how to swim, then I came up but I went under again. Then when I came up there was a woman who had drowned, she was floating beside me, then I grabbed her and carried my son--the waves were high--then I couldn't... I couldn't, he had already drowned...
How old was the boy?
He was ten, he would have been eleven on August 2. He had already drowned, then I stayed with him, when I saw that he had drowned I kept holding him.
Janette Hernández Gutiérrez: We held the children up and they saw them and we began to shout to them please... please don't do this, and they paid no attention. A guy who was with us, Román--he's a prisoner now--even called out to one of the ones operating the tugs and the water hose: Hey buddy, calm down, don't do this. Look, there are kids here... and he showed him his stepdaughter who is three years old, and if someone hadn't taken the girl from him--if he hadn't put her down--they would have killed her, with the jets of water. They never fired a shot, but they never spoke to us over the loud speaker to tell us to stop or anything. They just let us leave the bay and attacked us seven miles out, where there were no witnesses--for, as you know, out in the open sea there are no witnesses.