Sun | Jan 29, 2023

Country calls migrant boat crash an accident, denies ramming

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2022 | 12:06 AM


Cuba has denied that its coastguard vessel was to blame for a collision with a migrant-packed boat that led to the deaths of seven people, including a two-year-old girl, saying the migrant boat made an abrupt turn in heavy swells that caused the crash.

The boat was headed to the United States in October when it flipped over after the crash near Bahía Honda, about two hours from the capital of Havana. The boat, which was made to hold six people, was carrying up to 26, according to state media CubaDebate and CubaVision, which gave details of the government’s version of events this week.

The government account comes after some survivors of the crash, family members and people on social media accused the coastguard of ramming the migrants’ boat. Cuba is facing one of the biggest mass migrations in decades, spurred by compounding and deepening crises.

Colonel Victor Alvarez Valle, an investigator for Ministry of the Interior, said when the driver of the boat saw the coastguard, he “turned on the engine and violently turned in front of the boat,” causing him to lose control and crash. The Cuban report included testimony from the driver, who was detained by the Cuban government following the crash, in which he said he lost control of the boat.

But Héctor Manuel Meizoso González, the uncle of the two-year-old girl who died in the crash, told AP in an interview on Wednesday that the boat driver did not make any turn, but that it was hit from behind.

Meizoso González was not on the boat, but said he was speaking for the family because his sister who had been on the boat, Diana Meizoso, was too traumatised to talk about her daughter’s death.