"13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre

Text taken from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights REPORT Number 47/96 CASE 11.436
VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA October 16, 1996

"Man loves liberty, even if he does not know that he loves it. He is driven by it
and flees from where it does not exist."

Jose Marti

Against Terrorism
and supporting Freedom.

This site is dedicated to the men, women, and children who love liberty, and risked and in many cases lost their lives on July 13, 1994. In their own words they'll tell you of the high price they paid.


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.

Left:Yaltamira Anaya, her son Jose Carlos. Center: Angel Rene Abreu (3).
Right: Marta Carraso (Mother of Yaltamira) ALL KILLED IN THE MASSACRE

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."

Left:Yousel Pérez Tacoronte (11). Center: Marta Tacoronte (3).
Right: Caridad Tacoronte (4), Marjolis Méndez (17). ALL KILLED IN THE MASSACRE

María Victoria García Suarez: We saw that two firefighting tugs were coming after us. They hit the sides and then began to shoot water--pressurized water--at us. Then we kept going and told them not to harm us, that there were children on board and we showed them the children and they kept shooting water. Later we saw two more [tugs] about seven miles out and they positioned themselves one on each side: one in front, another in back, and one on each side. And then, all four started shooting water at us and one of the boats rammed us and also shot water at the side of the boat; they were shooting water to make [the boat] capsize, and then they had to close the cabin to keep the engine from getting wet... Then the ones on the side started ramming us and hitting us until they split the right side and turned it, and that's when the boat sank.

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, because I saw that he no longer had the strength to resist, then I had to get him out because he might be saved.

How did you get out of the water?

At that point I lost the boy.

María Victoria García, a survivor who lost her 10-year old son in the sinking

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. When they saw that, that they were bumping us and all that, they put a tug behind us, the biggest one... the biggest of the tugs, it was green with a red stripe---a red stripe--they went up over our stern and split the back part of the boat in half. Then, right about then, two men fell in the water, one of them my husband, and Román, the guy who called out to them not to shoot because there were children. When that happened... the boat was adrift because the captain, whose name was Fidencio Ramel, they knocked him down with the jets of water--they knocked him into the sea. He disappeared, all of a sudden, and when Raúl, he's the one they put in charge, saw that we were adrift, he got up and went running up there. He had some idea about how to steer. Then, doing his best, he tried to help us---no---to save us, because the boat now had so much water because of the jets of water, because they were shooting it straight into the hold---right in there---, in the faces of the children. The children even had to keep their head down, because it's not easy to breathe or swallow it, at least not for children, no. We were already... we knew that we were going to sink because there was something I had a feeling about, that they were going to kill us, because if they weren't they would have stopped. Raúl stopped the engine, our engine, and when they saw that it stopped, it infuriated them and it didn't matter that Raúl had done this. This is how they sunk us: the tug that split our stern moved to the front, came up over the bow and split it. That is, now there was no way of keeping that tug afloat; it sank because it was full of water. Everyone who was in the hold, there were about 72 of us. Mostly children and women.

Jorge Alberto Hernández: Later, the rescue operation began. All the while there was a [Cuban] coast guard cutter observing the situation, without doing anything about it. The tugs did not help them, they told them to keep swimming toward the coast guard cutters. Some climbed aboard [the coast guard ship], but some children who were in a crate were killed when it ran over them.

Left:The Captain of The tugboat, Fidelio Ramel was also among the victims. Right: Julia Caridad Ruiz, (34).

In the opinion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the damages caused by the illegal acts committed by the Cuban State are the following: (a) irreparable physical harm, consisting of the deaths of the 41 people shipwrecked on the tug "13 de Marzo"; (b) 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, and the impossibility of recovering the bodies for proper burial. Added to this is the knowledge that they did not receive justice, i.e., that the deaths caused by Cuban State employees remain unpunished; and (c) physical damage, consisting of the loss of income and indirect damages.

Consequently, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers that the Cuban State is under obligation to make reparations for the damages caused and compensate the families of the victims and survivors of the tug "13 de Marzo".

Conclusions of the Commission

The Cuban State is responsible for violating the right to life (Article 1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) of the 41 people who were shipwrecked and perished as a result of the sinking of the tug "13 de Marzo", which events occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast on July 13, 1994. The persons who died that morning are: Leonardo Notario Góngora, Marta Tacoronte Vega, Caridad Leyva Tacoronte, Yausel Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte, Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte, Odalys Muñoz García, Pilar Almanza Romero, Yaser Perodín Almanza, Manuel Sánchez Callol, Juliana Enriquez Carrasana, Helen Martínez Enríquez, Reynaldo Marrero, Joel García Suárez, Juan Mario Gutiérrez García, Ernesto Alfonso Joureiro, Amado Gonzáles Raices, Lázaro Borges Priel, Liset Alvarez Guerra, Yisel Borges Alvarez , Guillermo Cruz Martínez, Fidelio Ramel Prieto-Hernández, Rosa María Alcalde Preig, Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco, José Carlos Nicole Anaya, María Carrasco Anaya, Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco, Angel René Abreu Ruiz, Jorge Arquímides Lebrijio Flores, Eduardo Suárez Esquivel, Elicer Suárez Plascencia, Omar Rodríguez Suárez, Miralis Fernández Rodríguez, Cindy Rodríguez Fernández, José Gregorio Balmaceda Castillo, Rigoberto Feut Gonzáles, Midalis Sanabria Cabrera, and four other victims who could not be identified.

The Cuban State is responsible for violating the personal integrity (Article 1 of the American Declaration) of the 31 persons who survived the sinking of the tug "13 de Marzo", as a consequence of the emotional trauma it caused. The surviving victims are: Mayda Tacoronte Verga, Milena Labrada Tacoronte, Román Lugo Martínez, Daysi Martínez Findore, Tacney Estévez Martínez, Susana Rojas Martínez, Raúl Muñoz García, Janette Hernández Gutiérrez, Modesto Almanza Romero, Fran Gonzáles Vásquez, Daniel Gonzáles Hernández, Sergio Perodín Pérez, Sergio Perodín Almanza, Gustavo Guillermo Martínez Gutiérrez, Yandi Gustavo Martínez Hidalgo, José Fabián Valdés, Eugenio Fuentes Díaz, Juan Gustavo Bargaza del Pino, Juan Fidel Gonzáles Salinas, Reynaldo Marrero Canarana, Daniel Prieto Suárez, Iván Prieto Suárez, Jorge Luis Cuba Suárez, María Victoria García Suárez, Arquímides Venancio Lebrigio Gamboa, Yaussany Tuero Sierra, Pedro Francisco Garijo Galego, Julio César Domínguez Alcalde, Armando Morales Piloto, Juan Bernardo Varela Amaro, and Jorge Alberto Hernández Avila.

For more information visit: OAS Report on the 13 de Marzo Massacre|Cuban Rafter Phenomenon

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