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Cuba: Twenty Minutes of Silence for Twenty Years of Impunity

Washington DC. July 8, 2014

Human rights and civil society organizations have called for a symbolic nonviolent protest action in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the murder of 37 Cuban passengers of the “13 de Marzo” Tugboat, who on July 13, 1994 were killed by agents of the Cuban government for trying to escape the island. The demonstration will take place on July 10 at 12:00 noon outside of the Cuban Interests Section located on 2630 16th Street NW in Washington DC. Human rights activists, members of international civil society and Cuban exiles will gather in front of the embassy in order to hold twenty minutes of silence for each of the twenty years that this crime has remained unpunished.


On July 13, seventy two Cubans tried to escape the island on board the “13 de Marzo” tugboat at 3:00am. The boat used for the escape belonged to the Maritime Services Enterprise of the Ministry of Transportation. Upon leaving the port 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 two other boats belonging to said enterprise appeared, equipped with tanks and water hoses, proceeded to attack and sink the tug.  “Polargo 2” blocked the “13 de Marzo” tug in the front, while the other, “Polargo 5,” attacked from behind, splitting the stern.  Two other government boats positioned themselves on either side and sprayed everyone on deck with pressurized water, using their hoses.” According to survivors another vessel that appeared to be directing operations was believed to belong to the Cuban Coast Guard, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior. Sergio Perodin, one of the survivors who lost his wife and young son during the incident, explained how the massacre ended in a 1998 Nightline program: “We saw in the distance a boat with a Greek flag that appeared to be what stopped them. lt looked like the boat was watching what they were doing, the murder they were committing. So they stopped and decided to pick us up.”

Thirty seven people were slain that day, including 13 women and 10 children.

Twenty years after the events, and despite the exhaustive reports and conclusions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other international organizations on the responsibility of the Cuban State in the massacre, the authors of this crime continue enjoying absolute impunity while both the victims who survived and the families of the dead have been denied justice, and any kind of moral compensation.

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