Cuban troops report deadly Florida speedboat collision

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban authorities say they have intercepted more than a dozen speedboats arriving from the United States this year — including two shooting incidents and at least one death. They say US authorities handed over a suspect in the shooting of a Cuban coast guard officer.

The statement from the Department of the Interior, read on state television Monday evening, comes amid a surge in migration from Cuba to the United States, both by sea and through Mexico, at a time of economic hardship exacerbated by the pandemic. and tightened US sanctions.

The ministry said its coast guard units intercepted 13 US speedboats entering Cuban waters this year, carrying 23 crew members. It was not clear how many of the boats would have reached shore or how many of those on board were arrested. It listed at least a few arrests, but also at least one case where a boat escaped.

“Situations of increased violence and aggressiveness have recently arisen, with the use of firearms” against Cuban coastguard units, the ministry said.

It said in one incident, officers intercepted and fired on a Dakota speedboat with a Florida registration number 3 nautical miles north of Bahia Honda, on the coast west of Havana. The ministry said the troops returned fire, killing one of the speedboat’s passengers.

That boat was stopped and the ministry said it found drugs and evidence of firearms use on board. It said US authorities were informed of the identities of those arrested and the man who died.

In another case on June 18, people aboard a speedboat near Cayo Fragoso off the central Cuban province of Villa Clara said close fire with an automatic weapon, wounding a Cuban officer, then ran north as Cubans evacuated the injured man. before treatment.

It said Cuban officials notified the US Coast Guard and asked for help in detaining the attackers. On Monday, a Cuban citizen “involved in the aggression” was returned to the island, it said, under an agreement under which the US is returning Cubans attempting to immigrate illegally.

“At the same time,” it said, 30 people trying to leave the island were found by Interior Ministry agents and were being investigated.

In a separate statement Monday, the Interior Ministry said its coastguard forces have found six of the 15 people left in a makeshift board that sunk last week. It said there was no word on what happened to the other nine.

The 15 had apparently set out on June 20 from the Playa Jibacoa area along the coast east of Havana.

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported finding about 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 U.S.

The US Coast Guard said Monday it has intercepted 2,900 Cuban migrants at sea so far this fiscal year, up from just 838 in the previous fiscal year and 49 in 2020.

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