HAVANA – Cuban authorities say they have intercepted more than a dozen speedboats from the United States this year, including two shootings and at least one death. They say US authorities have handed over a suspect in the murder of a Cuban Coast Guard officer.
The Interior Ministry statement read on state television Monday night comes amid a surge in migration from Cuba to the United States, both by sea and through Mexico, at a time of hardship. economic conditions aggravated by the pandemic and by the tightening of American sanctions.
The ministry said its coast guard units intercepted 13 US speedboats entering Cuban waters this year, with 23 crew members. It was unclear how many boats might have made it to shore or how many people on board had been arrested. He mentions at least a few arrests, but also at least one case where a boat got away.
“Recently, situations of increased violence and aggressiveness have occurred, with the use of firearms” against Cuban Coast Guard units, the ministry said.
He said in one incident, officers intercepted a Florida-registered Dakota speedboat 3 nautical miles north of Bahia Honda on the west coast of Havana and fired at it. The ministry said troops returned fire, killing one of the people aboard the speedboat.
That boat was detained and the department said it found drugs and evidence of gun use on board. He said US authorities have been notified of the identities of those arrested and the deceased man.
In another case, on June 18, he said people aboard a speedboat near Cayo Fragoso off the central Cuban province of Villa Clara opened fire with an automatic weapon at close range, wounding a Cuban officer, then ran north as the Cubans evacuated the injured man. for treatment.
He said Cuban officials notified the US Coast Guard, asking for help in stopping the attackers. On Monday, a Cuban citizen “involved in the aggression” had been returned to the island, he added, under an agreement by which the United States returns Cubans attempting to immigrate illegally.
“At the same time,” he added, 30 people trying to leave the island were found by Interior Ministry agents and were being investigated.
In a separate statement on Monday, the Home Office said its coastguard had found six of the 15 people who boarded the makeshift panel that sank last week. He said there was no word on what happened to the other nine.
The 15 had apparently departed from the Playa Jibacoa area along the coast east of Havana on June 20.
US Customs and Border Patrol reported finding around 140,000 Cuban migrants between October last year and the end of May – a number that surpassed the so-called Mariel exodus of 1980, when 125,000 Cubans reached the United States.
The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday that so far this exercise it has intercepted 2,900 Cuban migrants at sea, compared to just 838 in the previous exercise and 49 in 2020.
Andrea Rodríguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
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