“With the money from the sale of my mother’s house, we purchased the death of my brother.”
Those were the bitter words of Edgardo Nordelo Sedeño, brother of 25-year-old Dunieski Eliades Lastre, who was murdered in Colombia on Sept. 8 along with a young woman named Edelvis Martínez.
Both were Cuban migrants trying to sneak through the thick jungle and across land borders that separated them from their sought-after destination: the United States.
Colombian authorities have revealed gruesome details of the tragic end of life for these two migrants.
Martínez was an accountant for a paladar, a private restaurant in Havana. She left the island with her boyfriend Liover Santos Corria, 35, on a trip to Guyana. From there, they traveled by land across Venezuela and Colombia where they crossed paths with Eliades, who also was trying to get through the Darién jungle.
That day, two of them were killed in the Colombian swamp.
“We have found clear signs of torture before the murder in both victims,” said an official with the Colombian Attorney General’s office.
The alleged perpetrators were identified as 20-year-old Johan Estiven Carreazo Asprilla, alias “Play Boy,” and Carlos Emilio Ibargüen Palacio, 26.
According to Santos, the only survivor, the Cuban migrants paid $1,500 to be taken to Panamá by boat, but once they arrived at the Gulf of Urabá the smugglers demanded more money. When the Cubans explained that they had no more cash, the boaters used knives to kill them and hid the bodies by tieing them to a tree trunk at the bottom of the Ciénaga de Matuntugo swamp.
Santos said he saw his girlfriend’s throat slashed after she was raped, but he was able to break loose and escape from the crime scene.
“The young man is under protection on a Navy ship because we fear for his safety,” said the official in the Colombian Attorney General’s office. According to the investigator, it is very likely that there are more people involved in the murder of the Cubans, so it is necessary to protect the main witness.
“The boatmen pleaded not guilty, but the prosecution has sufficient evidence to incriminate them,” the source said.
Following the arrest of suspects involved in the crime, authorities found backpacks, cell phones, cash and clothes belonging to the victimes. Authorities also seized a firearm, a smoke grenade, several pieces of clothing related to the crime scene and a wooden boat in which one of the shoes of the murdered woman was found.
The identity of the murdered victims were confirmed by Cuban authorities. Sources said the U.S. Embassy in Colombia has taken up the issue and expressed interest in granting asylum to the survivor.
Although the Cuban consulate in Bogotá declined to comment on the matter, officials at the Colombian Foreign Ministry said they have been in contact with the relatives of those killed through diplomatic representatives in Miami to advise them on the procedure to claim the bodies.
“Colombia will provide all the help needed for repatriation, but this is a matter for the family or the Cuban Embassy. Family members can delegate power to the embassy or manage the process independently,” said a Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
For Maria Isabel Aguilar, mother of Edelvis Martínez, her main concern is getting the remains of her daughter back home.
“We went to MINREX (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) but they told us to wait for the authorization of the Colombian government to bring the bodies. We don’t know how to bring my daughter. I only want her here with me,” she said.
Nordelo, the brother of the second murder vicitm, said that the cost to repatriate the bodies is around $3,300 each. The family members, who had to privately arrange the trip to MINREX, explained via a telephone call that although the Cuban government authorized the entry of the bodies, they will not pay for the costs of bringing them home.
“Dunieski was my younger brother, my mother’s delight. She loved him so much that she sold her house so she could pay for his plane ticket out of Cuba and he could have a better life,” explained Nordelo, who arrived in the United States last February via Ecuador.
“I don’t understand the motive for the murder. The other guy [Cuban migrant]… told me that my brother begged them, ‘Don’t kill me, I’ll give you the number of my brother in the United States so he can send you money.’ It wasn’t for money. I don’t understand why they did it,” Nordelo said.
His brother, Eliades, managed to make the crossing from Guyana to Turbo in one week. According to his relatives, he had a good trip until he reached the Colombian coast.
“Because of the bad weather, they couldn’t take them to where the other coyote was. They returned to the house of a guide where they hid, and a few minutes before leaving, he wrote me to tell me. That was the last time we communicated,” Nordelo said.
“The blame for the death of our family members belongs to those who pushed them to the jungle and made them seek out coyotes to achieve their dream of freedom,” he said.