By Larry Daley

Miami Herald apparently horrified that more Cuban refugees and thus potential Republicans have arrived, keeps on trying to pretend that the Cuban vessel Gaviota was "hijacked" from Cuba. It is clear since one of the three guards was a brother of one of the "hijackers" that there was obvious collusion between the Castro guards and the escapees.

The loud protestations of the "captured" guards are so obviously intended for Cuban authorities that the whole thing about being forced to do it is absurd. Just place yourself in the guard's shoes, and realize if their protests are not loud enough, if they are returned they may well be executed.

It seems that the Miami Herald will do anything to keep potential Republicans out of Florida.

Why the boat is being returned to Cuba is not clear, since everything the Cuba government holds is either stolen from prior owners, bought on unpaid credit, was part of Soviet Union support during the cold war, or extorted from the almost unpaid labor of the subjugated Cubans.

Footnote 1 from Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Jul. 19, 2003 U.S. officials mull fate of boat hijack suspects

KEY WEST - The strange journey of the Gaviota 16 began early Tuesday under cover of darkness on Cuba's northeastern coast when a group of men surprised three guards watching the boat.

They managed to grab an AK-47 from the men, then tied them up, placed hoods over their heads and stashed them in a cabin, according to U.S. officials familiar with the incident.

The Gaviota, which means ''sea gull'' in Spanish, then headed north into the Florida Straits -- where it was stopped Wednesday near the Bahamas by the U.S. Coast Guard. But not before Coast Guard officers were allegedly attacked with fire extinguishers and threatened with knives.

By late Friday U.S. officials were still mulling the fate of what they say may be as many as 12 Cuban hijackers who set their sights on South Florida. Federal prosecutors want to bring them to Florida to face federal charges of hijacking and assaulting Coast Guard officers.

But U.S. diplomats also have asked Cuban diplomats for assurances that if the alleged hijackers were to be returned to Cuba for trial they would not be executed. In April, three armed hijackers were killed by firing squad after a botched effort to commandeer a ferry to Florida.

But even if Cuba offers such assurances, the alleged hijackers would not necessarily be sent back, U.S. officials said.

Representatives from the U.S. departments of Justice, State and Defense, among others, were deciding Friday what to do. U.S. officials would not comment on whether or how Havana has responded.

The Gaviota's 15 passengers -- including one woman who may be an accomplice or girlfriend of a male hijacker -- remained aboard a Coast Guard cutter off the Keys Friday.


Under U.S. immigration policy, Cubans intercepted at sea are generally repatriated to the island nation, while those who reach the United States are allowed to stay. Migrants who make a compelling case that they fear persecution if returned to the island are taken to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. From there, some are eventually allowed to emigrate to the United States, or may be resettled in a third country.

However, U.S. officials also don't want to reward or encourage Cubans who hijack or steal boats.


Adding to the drama is a bizarre family twist: One of the guards -- who was described by U.S. investigators as particularly irate -- told investigators that one of the hijackers was his brother.

The boat -- which had two engines, a cabin, and a pilot house -- was pursued on the water and in the air by Cuban authorities, who failed to thwart its escape into Bahamian territorial waters. The boat meandered along relatively shallow banks in the Bahamas for hours, with a Coast Guard C-130 plane flying above it, before entering international waters.

A small Coast Guard boat pulled up alongside the vessel. When asked about their intentions, the passengers said they were headed to Miami.

When the Gaviota got about 60 miles off the Florida coast, the Coast Guard decided to end the vessel's voyage.

But it was not easy, according to U.S. officials.

When the Coast Guard threw entangling devices in front of the boat to try to stop its engines, two alleged masked hijackers jumped into the water and used cutting devices to free an engine.


When officers boarded the vessel, they were met by passengers waving knives and homemade weapons. Several officers used pepper spray after one Cuban man lunged toward an officer with a weapon. Then the alleged hijackers drafted more unusual armaments: four fire extinguishers, the contents of which were emptied like shaken seltzer bottles. During the melee at sea, one hijacker also allegedly grabbed a radio from an officer and began hitting him with it.


Eventually, the Cubans were handcuffed and transferred to a cutter. The AK-47, which U.S. investigators learned about in interviews with passengers, was not recovered by the Coast Guard. The boat was returned to Cuba on Thursday at the insistence of federal officials in Washington.

Some of the passengers told investigators that the weapon was hidden behind an engine.

Several alleged hijackers who have confessed to investigators claimed the plot was hashed out by six participants before it was carried out. One alleged hijacker, whose brother was also on the boat, is a neonatologist, U.S. investigators said.

Invoking their Miranda rights not to speak to investigators, several passengers refused to talk to Spanish-speaking FBI agents who flew to the Coast Guard cutter to interview them.

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