U.S. Coast Guard: Cuban Refugees Drink Bleach, Jump Overboard When Caught

USCG Photo Jan. 6, 2016

Cuban refugees caught before landing on American soil jumped off Coast Guard vessels, drank bleach, and capsized their own makeshift vessels in attempts to avoid being sent back to the communist regime in Havana, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed to Breitbart News Thursday.

In a news blurb Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Coast Guard officials have documented “more hostility” among Cuban refugees attempting the perilous voyage from Cuba to Florida. While the AP headline touted that the refugees had become increasingly violent, the examples it provides are exclusively of incidents of self-harm: “more are jumping overboard, trying to poison themselves or suffering self-inflicted wounds in attempts to be taken to U.S. shore.”

Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District spokesman, has confirmed to Breitbart News that there have been incidents of violence, both among the refugees themselves and directed at Coast Guard officers, issuing a list of recent incidents involving machetes, Molotov cocktails, oars, and bleach:

  • A group of 12 Cuban migrants were non-compliant in refusing to stop for law enforcement for more than 18 hours.
  • On three different occasions, migrants have jumped overboard from Coast Guard cutters, all subsequently safely recovered.
  • 18 Cuban migrants traveling aboard a makeshift vessel refused lifejackets and attempted to use oars to fend off the Coast Guard. One migrant jumped into the water and another ingested a foreign substance to initiate a medical evacuation to the U.S. During this event, the ringleader attempted to use evasive maneuvers and capsized the vessel, injuring at least one other Cuban migrant.
  • 23 migrants refused to stop their rustic vessel for the Coast Guard. The migrants were in possession of knives, which they used in an attempt to evade Coast Guard law enforcement tactics.
  • Coast Guard crews discovered two Cuban migrants with self-inflicted gunshot wounds during an at-sea interdiction.
  • 12 Cuban migrants refused to stop their vessel, and one migrant drank bleach before disembarking the vessel.
  • 11 Cubans refused to stop for the Coast Guard for two hours before Coast Guard crews disabled the vessel’s engine.
  • 17 migrants refused to stop their rustic vessel for five hours until surrendering to law enforcement officers on-scene.
  • 23 migrants refused lifejackets and refused to stop their rustic vessel for two hours.
  • 8 Cuban migrants refused to stop their rustic vessel for three hours. At least one migrant was in possession of a machete, made threats to Coast Guard law enforcement officers, and made an advance at the Coast Guard boarding team.
  • 8 Cuban migrants refused to stop their rustic vessel for 72 hours. During the standoff, migrants attempted to set a can on fire with rags (“Molotov cocktail”). Coast Guard officers ultimately compelled compliance.

Refugees who require medical attention are taken ashore for treatment, though Lt. Cmdr. Somma notes that “those migrants attempting to evade capture or cause harm to themselves or others will receive any necessary medical treatment from Coast Guard personnel before being returned to Cuba, in accordance with immigration laws.”

Coast Guard officials have recorded a significant increase in the number of Cuban refugees attempting a maritime voyage to Florida. There has been a 350 percent increase in “overall Cuban migrant flow” to the United States by sea in the last six years, Lt. Cmdr. Somma confirmed to Breitbart News. The Coast Guard recorded a 20 percent increase in the number of refugees attempting the trip in the 2015 fiscal year and a 23 percent increase between January 2015 and January 2016.

The Cuban Adjustment Act, known colloquially as “Wet Foot-Dry Foot,” grants legal status to Cuban refugees who touch ground in the United States, but returns those caught at sea to Cuba. The Cuban government has referred to the law as “La Ley Asesina” (“The Assassin Law”), suggesting that the granting of legal status to Cubans encourages more to make the dangerous voyage.

Following President Obama’s December 2014 announcement that the White House would pursue a “normalization” of relations with the communist government, Raúl Castro’s officials have repeatedly pressured the U.S. government to abandon granting refugee status to Cubans. After a December 2015 meeting between diplomats of the two nations, in a statement, the Cuban government “reiterated its concern over the ‘wet foot-dry foot’ policy, which encourages irregular migration and violates the spirit and the letter of agreements currently active.”

Raúl Castro announced in December 2014 that he believed President Obama’s new policy would lead Cuba to establish a “prosperous and sustainable socialism.” Chief Cuban diplomat on American issues, Josefina Vidal, has echoed this line of argument. In August 2015, she insisted Cuba “would not move one millimeter” to cease its widely documented human rights violations. Of rumors that President Obama would like to visit the island, Vidal said, “The day that the president of the United States decides to visit Cuba, he will be welcome … but [Cuba] is not going to negotiate matters that are inherent to its internal system.”

Rather than adjusting to global standards on human rights, instances of Cuban government abuse of dissidents have increased since President Obama’s normalization announcement. The change was immediate; between January and March 2015, politically motivated arrests on the island increased 70 percent. Even those freed as a goodwill gesture towards the United States have been imprisoned once more. Vladimir Morera Bacallao, who was freed in that round of amnesty announcements after being sentenced to four years in prison for posting an anti-Castro sign in his window, was force-fed in a Cuban hospital more than 80 days into a hunger strike. The United Nations has deemed the forced-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike a human rights violation.

Cubans not involved in the political dissident movement must still contend with the dire economic situation through which the island nation continues to suffer. Lt. Cmdr. Somma tells Breitbart News the Coast Guard believes this to be one of two major factors contributing to the surge of Cuban refugees attempting the voyage to the United States. “There has been a lack of economic improvement and opportunity in Cuba. The internal situation in Cuba is a key push factor in illegal migration from Cuba,” he writes.

Yet the fear of the Cuban Adjustment Act being repealed appears to be “the most significant pull factor” triggering this new wave of migrants, he says, adding:

Any perception of U.S. immigration policy change, including rumors, often leads to an increase in maritime migration flows. Despite the fact that immigration laws and policies remain unchanged, including the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot-dry foot” policy, many Cubans report the belief that they need to migrate to the United States before such immigration policies change.

The Obama administration has taken Cuba off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, despite its continued support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the world’s wealthiest non-jihadist terror organization, one of three major demands from the Cuban government. Castro is also demanding an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act and sovereign control over U.S. territory at Guantánamo Bay. That the White House granted the first wish appears to have spread alarm among Cubans seeking a peaceful existence out of the scope of power of the Havana regime, triggering increasingly erratic behavior among refugees desperate never to return.


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