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Tuesday, July 14, 1998

Silent vigil for justice for the victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre

Free Cuba Foundation, community remember "13 de Marzo" victims

The Beacon

Staff Writer
On July 13, 1994, at least 41 men, women and children died in the "13 de Marzo" Massacre. Yesterday, approximately 25 individuals from The Free Cuba Foundation and the FIU community attended a five-minute silent call for justice to remember those victims.

"Four years ago on early July 13, 1994, the tugboat "13 de Marzo" was attacked by agents of the Cuban government," said John Suarez, member of The Free Cuba Foundation. "They repeatedly rammed the tug, used high pressure water hoses on the victims and sank the ship seven miles off the coast of Havana, Cuba."

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 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 23 dead children. 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.

According to Susana Stefek, who left Cuba 32 years ago, "it is important for all of us to participate in this remembrance because the more people we have, the bigger the force to obtain what we want, which is the liberty of Cuba. Cuba Libre for everyone."

This year, for the first time, the pictures of the victims of the "13 de Marzo" Massacre were published.

"We must remember those who died at the hands of Castro's inhumane regime," said Jose Raul Carro, former president of The Free Cuba Foundation.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the damages caused by the illegal acts committed by the Cuban State are the following: irreparable physical harm, consisting of the deaths of the 41 people shipwrecked on the tug "13 de Marzo"; the emotional and psychological distress inflicted on the relatives of the victims and survivors, consisting of emotional suffering due to the loss of loved ones, the trauma caused by the incident; the impossibility of recovering the bodies for proper burial; the knowledge that they did not receive justice, i.e., that the deaths caused by Cuban State employees remain unpunished; and physical damage, consisting of the loss of income and indirect damages.

"We don't think FIU students know much about this event that occurred four years ago. It is an event that the whole world knows, but it is not as known in FIU," said Xavier Utset, President of The Free Cuba Foundation. 18 years ago, a similar massacre was committed by Castro against Cubans who tried to escape his tyranny.

According to the book, "Cuba: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," on July 6, 1980, Fidel Castro ordered the sinking of a riverboat that had been commandeered by a group of youngsters trying to escape. The orders were carried out with the loss of dozens of innocent lives. The massacre of at least 45 innocent children, women and men on the "XX Aniversario" river boat was dismissed by the Castro regime as a "thwarted illegal exit from the country." The government's version was that the Cuban Navy's Patrol Boats had "accidentally destroyed the 'XX Aniversario' when waves forced the vessels to collide." The same version would be repeated 14 years later after the sinking of the tugboat "13 de Marzo" in which at least 41 children, women and men were killed trying to escape Castro's Cuba.

"This moment of silence is important because the crime that the victims of the tug '13 de Marzo' committed was trying to leave Cuba. They were brutally murdered. International organizations condemned the Cuban government's actions, yet four years later, the bodies of victims have not been recovered nor have they been returned to their families," Suarez said. "Those responsible for the attack and the sinking of the tugboat have not been prosecuted or even investigated. The families have not been compensated in any way for their loss. That's why today we held that circle of silence. It was a silent call for justice."