Miami, FL – The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC), would like to remember and highlight victims of the “Cuban Tugboat Massacre,” an event that took place 21 years ago this Monday July 13th, 2014.

The incident occurred seven miles off Cuban shores, opposite the port of Havana. Seventy two civilian men, women & children boarded the recently renovated “13 de Marzo” tugboat, planning to escape the island.

The boat set sail at approximately 3:00 AM that fateful morning, hoping to reach U.S. shores to begin a new life in a free society. Just as the “13 de Marzo” cleared the harbor, two tugboats, piloted under orders from the Cuban regime, “Polargo 2,” and “Polargo 3,” chased down and sprayed high-pressure water at the “13 de Marzo.” After about 45 minutes, these two tugboats rammed the “13 de Marzo” from either side, leaving it practically immobilized. It was at this point, the third tugboat, “Polargo 5” captained by Jesus Martinez Machin, rammed the “13 de Marzo” from behind, and broke the stern. The “13 de Marzo” immediately began to sink. A group of passengers trapped below deck were the first to drown.

According to Sergio Perodin Perez, a survivor of the massacre, “we were all screaming for them to stop the attack; that we would give ourselves in, but it was futile; the force of the water cannons ripped the children from their mothers’ arms…others were dragged along the rail into the ocean.”

In the end, of the 72 passengers onboard, 41 were drowned, of which 10 were minors, while 31 were ultimately rescued, mainly by foreign ships.

This Sunday, The Ladies in White, a nonviolent human rights group in Cuba, will be dedicating their weekly march to the victims of the tugboat massacre and for release of all political prisoners in Cuba.

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (“FHRC”) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established in 1992 to promote a nonviolent transition to a free and democratic Cuba by empowering independent Civil Society within Cuba. FHRC maintains regular contact with human rights defenders and civic activists who are working for change in Cuba through nonviolent means.

The Cuban American National Foundation’s mission is to advocate for a non-violent transition to a free and democratic Cuba, a nation that fosters economic prosperity with individual equality and social justice for all; upholds the rule of law and protects the social, economic and political rights of its entire people. To that end, CANF seeks to engage, support and empower Cubans on the island to become the architects of their own destiny by uniting, organizing and reclaiming their inalienable rights. In the continuation of the struggle for those ideals, the Cuban American National Foundation reaffirms its sacred commitment to Cuba and all Cubans.


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