Wed, May 14, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Cubans headed for Florida survive 17-day ordeal at sea


An attempt to reach Florida turned into 17 days at sea for Cuban migrants crammed aboard a rickety sailboat that drifted ashore in Mexico near the Belize border.

The migrants — 12 men and two women — were severely dehydrated when they landed on Saturday and two of them had to be hospitalized, local deputy police chief Didier Vasquez Mendez said.

“These people survived by a miracle. The boat was made of sticks, very small and not seaworthy,” Vazquez Mendez said on Monday. “Plus, they ran out of water.”

The migrants told reporters they drank urine with sugar in their efforts to survive.

The tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula near Cancun is only 190km southwest of Cuba. But the migrants landed in Xcalak, a town near the border with Belize more than 300km south of Cancun.

Cubans migrants hoping to avoid detection by the US Coast Guard are increasingly heading to Mexico in hopes of then reaching the US by land.

But the 14 migrants told reporters they had been trying to reach Florida when they found themselves adrift.

They were detained by Mexico authorities, but most Cubans who arrive in Mexico are released after being held 90 days at an immigration center.

Jamison Jones, a New York native doing volunteer work in Mexico, said he saw the boat land on the beach and gave the migrants water.

He said the wooden boat was about 4.5m long and held together with fiberglass.

“They were really crammed in there,” Jones said by telephone. “It was the most amazing boat.”

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