Mystery of empty Cuban raft found on Black Point appears to be solved

 

jtamayo@elnuevoherald.com

The mystery of the Cuban raft found over the weekend near Black Point in South Miami-Dade appears to be solved.

The cruise ship Carnival Valor rescued four Cubans on Dec. 30 aboard a Styrofoam raft that appears to be the same one that washed up empty, sparking fears that its passengers had drowned.

U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo confirmed Monday that the Valor picked up four Cubans and transferred them to a cutter, but added that officials were still checking whether the two rafts were the same.

A passenger on the Valor on Monday emailed El Nuevo Herald cell phone photos of the Cubans and the raft, which looked to be the same one that was found Saturday near the Black Point Marina in Cutler Bay.

The brief email noted the four rafters were picked up by the Valor at about midnight on Dec. 30. The U.S. Coast Guard was “a few miles away and was witness to the rescue,” it added, and the four “were returned to the American Coast Guard on Saturday 5 January.”

The passenger did not reply to emailed requests for an interview or further details, and could not be independently located.

The discovery of the empty raft Saturday sparked fears that its occupants might have died.

Nancy Perez, who spotted the beached raft during a nature walk and took photos of it, told El Nuevo Herald Sunday that a Florida Fish and Wildlife agent at the scene told her the occupants probably died. An agency spokesman Monday denied its agents made any such comment.

Perez also noted the raft contained an altar to Eleguá, a god of Afro-Cuban religions, and a Cuban national ID card. “No one abandons an Eleguá. If you believe in that and you put it in the raft, you don’t,” she added.

Cuban citizens who set foot on U.S. territory can stay under the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. Those who are intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba by the Coast Guard unless they indicate a “credible fear” of persecution if repatriated.

The raft found near the Black Point Marina was made of Styrofoam blocks and wood planks, had an olive green tarp for sail and four oar posts.

It contained a large water container, several small bottles with sugared water and honey, empty juice cans, plastic bags with food crumbs, a blue lighter and what seemed to be a container of coffee.

U.S. authorities intercepted more than 1,270 Cuban migrants at sea during the 12 months that ended Sept. 30. Another 350 rafters made it to U.S. shores during the same period.

Read more Top Stories stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category