U. S. Coast Guard authorities have identified the bodies of four men found floating in the Atlantic Ocean east of Hollywood Beach six weeks ago as Cuban migrants.
They were part of a group nine - including eight men and one woman - who left Cuba aboard a makeshift boat on Aug. 19, headed for Miami.
The boat never arrived and the five other migrants have yet to be found.
It is the latest tragedy at sea involving Cuban migrants.
While almost 800 Cuban migrants reached South Florida coasts safely in the last 12 months, many others migrants never make it.
On Feb. 6, for example, four Haitian migrants were found dead 75 miles northeast of West Palm Beach after their 24-foot motorboat capsized.
“We will continue to work with our federal, state and local partner agencies to send a clear message to anyone contemplating this dangerous and deadly voyage to reach the U.S. illegally,” said Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of response for the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami. “Don’t risk your life, or the lives of those you love. Don’t become the next soul lost at sea.”
Though the Coast Guard identified the four recovered bodies, it made no reference to the missing five. But Ramón Saúl Sánchez, president of Democracy Movement in Miami, said family members in South Florida told him that there was nine migrants originally on the boat.
The Coast Guard identified the dead as Guillermo Enrique Buitrago Milanés, 45; José Ramón Acosta, 35; Alberto González Mesa, 25 and Junier Fernández Hernández, 32.
Sánchez declined to identify the other five, but a person familiar with the case said their names are Yunier Díaz, Jorge Lazo, Yudersy Leal, Lester Martinez and Ahmed Vargas.
Not all family members in Miami could be located, and some were not willing to talk publicly about their family members.
The husband of a woman said she was a cousin of Junier Fenández Hernández.
“We have no details as to what happened,” he said.
Idania Mesa, aunt of Alberto González Mesa, said the group consisted mostly of young people who were desperate to leave Cuba because they saw no future for themselves or their children. She said González sold hot dogs in a government-run shop in San Antonio de los Baños. Gonzáles left behind a 2-year-old boy, she said.
Idania said she learned that the group was coming when her sister called her from San Anonio de los Baños shortly after the boat left the island.
“She told me that the people, including Alberto, had left the island on Aug.19 and were en route to Miami,” recalled Idania.
She began to grow worried after several days. Then weeks passed and she did not hear from her nephew.
She contacted Ramón Saúl Sánchez who reached out to the Coast Guard.
Another family member who provided details was Olga Lidia Guerra, whose sister is the mother-in-law of Guillermo Enrique Buitrago Milanés.
“She called and said that he was on his way,” Guerra said.
Sánchez worked with the Coast Guard and family members to establish the identities of the four bodies, providing pictures, DNA and identifying tattoos.
Family members said they received official notification of the deaths and identities in mid-September.