Gabinete do Deputado Lael Varella
Cámara dos Deputados, Brasília
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Cuba: The Tugboat Massacre
July 13, 1994

by Lael Varella,
Member of the Brazilian Congress (PFL), Brasilia

I would like to remember, with a note of disbelief, a crime committed by the Coast Guard of the communist regime of Cuba, which its 4th lamentable anniversary will be commemorated on July 13th.
In effect-- according to documents of the Organization of American States (OEA), and in various trustworthy publications-- July 13, 1994, a group of families were fleeing the prison-island of Cuba in a small tugboat, looking for freedom.
At 7 miles from the coast, the vessel was intercepted and attacked repeatedly by Castro's ships, in an action that was clearly premeditated, While the tugboat, broken in two, started to shipwreck, its passengers on deck were thrown to the sea by powerful streams of water from pressured hoses. The streams of water with merciless power were directed to the children, targeting them directly on their faces and therefore preventing them from breathing.
When the tugboat sank, Castro's vessels started to revolve around in circles, creating a huge whirlwind that swallowed the shipwrecked people. Out of 72 people, 41 died because of drowning, among them, 23 children.

Janet Hernandez, a survivor, gave this account: "Sometimes I think that it was all a nightmare. But the hideous cries of mothers that lost their children, the little hands of children sinking forever to the bottom of the sea and the crying that we shared, is real."
Confronting that massacre, the communist dictator Fidel Castro said: "The coastguardsmen had nothing to do with it, they arrived a few minutes after the accident happened..."
Instead, the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights, in its session of October 16, 1996, pointed clearly to the responsibility of the Cuban state in that crime, with the flagrant violation of two consecrated rights found in the American Declaration of Rights and Duties of Mankind: the right to LIFE and the right to TRANSIT.

But this tragedy has been practically forgotten. I ask in the name of those who died, a prayer and a feeling of compassion. A prayer so that soon, freedom will come to the Cuban people; and to the many occidental leaders, to stop "opening" to the dictator and instead, open to the unfortunate inhabitants of the prison-island of Cuba, as His Holiness John Paul II, asked them to.
I will request also in the plenary of the Brazilian Congress - as soon as it starts its activities after the current recess - that there will be one minute fo silence in remembrance of those innocent victims. But that minute of silence - as it will constitute a genuine manifestation of respect, and justly so, of the Congress of my country - does not seem to suffice.

Every time it is more imperious the necessity to proclaim to the entire world, not only this horrendous crime that lays unpunished, but the actual situation of Cuba.
Denouncement so needed and urgent, as there has been so little or no change in the Cuban society after the visit of His Holiness John Paul II, despite the revolutionary stubborness of Castro.
It was denounced a few days ago by Sebastian Arcos, son of a well known Cuban dissident, who recently passed away, as he received in Madrid a posthumous award given to his progenitor: "Castro has instrumentalized the visit of the Pope, to give an appearance of change in front of the International Community, which has hastily diminished its pressure on Cuba, when nothing has changed in the regime. Everything has continued to be exactly the same."
And the executive secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba (COCC), ffther Jose Felix Perz Riera, has just declared; "There has not been any openness or any significant occurrences. To the average citizen, everything has been kept the same."

July 13, the catholics of this entire world also commemorate a special date, which has a lot of common from many points of view, with the massacre of the tugboat and with the actual situation of the Cuban people. It is the 81st anniversary of the 3rd apparition of our Blessed Mother the Virgin of Fatima, Portugal. to 3 little shepherds. It is of significant coincidence that said apparition happened also July 13th, and that same day, the Virgin prophetically pointed out that Russia would spread "its errors throughout the world," promoting "wars and persecutions against the Church," in which "the good will succumb to martyrdom." Those celestial words, don't they describe and how profoundly so, the stations of the cross of the cuban people, in which the massacre of the tugboat is but one chapter?
Our Blessed Mother, on the same occassion, had some words of hope that equally important, without a doubt, have a relationship with the island; "At last my immaculate heart will triumph!"
May the victory of the Christian civilization as previewed by the Virgin - that in Cuba is revered under the invocation of the Caridad del Cobre - arrive at once to the "Pearl of the Antilles".
So I stated.