Thursday, June 13, 2019

Justice for the Forgotten: 25 years after Cuba's July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Wednesday, July 13, 1994 at three in the morning three extended Cuban families set out for a better life aboard the "13 de Marzo" tugboat from Havana, Cuba and were massacred by Cuban government agents.

The most extensive international report on the what took place is by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and is available on-line. Fifteen years later human rights defender Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, reflected on what had happened:
Behind the Christ of Havana, about seven miles from the coast, "volunteers" of the Communist regime committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba. In the morning, a group of seventy people in all, fled on a tugboat, led by the ship's own crew; none was kidnapped, or there against their will. They came out of the mouth of the Bay of Havana. They were pursued by other similar ships. When the runaway ship and its occupants stopped to surrender, the ships that had been chasing them started ramming to sink it. Meanwhile, on the deck, women with children in their arms begging for mercy, but the answer of their captors was to project high pressure water cannons against them. Some saw their children fall overboard under the murderous jets of water amid shrieks of horror. They behaved brutally until their perverse mission was fulfilled: Sink the fleeing ship and annihilate many of its occupants.
The man who denounced the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre would himself become a martyr of the same dictatorship along with Harold Cepero, a youth leader from the Christian Liberation Movement.
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante killed 7/22/12
Seven years ago on July 22, 2012 on a stretch of road in Eastern Cuba, State Security agents rammed the car Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were traveling in. Both bodies appeared later that same day.

One month from today will mark 25 years since 37 Cubans were killed for wanting to live in freedom. Eleven of them were children, and nine days later we will remember two men killed seven years ago for non-violently advocating for freedom in Cuba.

They must not be forgotten, and the demand for justice continued.

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