June 29, 1999 is a sad day for human rights – this time for the US, the world’s defender of human rights. Live television pictures from Florida clearly show the shame. The ill-advised Clinton Administration policy of reapproachment with Castro’s tyranny, this day provided a display of harm for Cubans who struggled all the way to US waters for freedom and democracy.

I watched in disbelief as a feeble boat with six refugees fleeing a violent communist tyranny were given a violent and inhumane reception by the US Coast Guard.

Just about 400 feet from a Florida beach and witnessed by hundreds of people and news cameras, the US Coast Guard was working very hard to prevent six-unarmed desperate people from touching US soil – that, according to the Clinton-Castro’s arrangement, is the only way they would be allowed into the US.

This dark chapter in the Clinton-Castro affair places the US Coast Guard at the same level as the vicious and criminal Cuban Coast Guard - infamous for shooting at desperate boat people, the use of high-pressure water cannons and ramming boats to sink them as well as using their helicopters and planes to drop sand bags on makeshift rafts.

Clinton’s Castro copy cats used high-pressure water cannons and pepper spray against six innocent and exhausted people whose only crime was to escape from their violent communist nightmare to face yet another nightmare at the hands of uncle Clinton.

The boat was surrounded by four US Coast Guard vessels harassing and attacking them. Even a dangerously low-flying helicopter threatened to sink the boat of perplexed Cubans who apparently could not understand why in the land of freedom they were being treated so badly.

It was like watching a struggle between David and Goliath. And the shocked onlookers on the beach were cheering for the six Davids while cursing and booing at the coastguard and police.

Two of the rafters jumped from their boat and managed to swim to the beach. The first was chased by a group of police officers trying to prevent him from touching US soil. But David won and touched the prized soil! The officers - like animals – immediately jumped on top of the skinny and unarmed young man, putting him in handcuffs in the land of freedom.

The second David also beat Goliath. Both were taken away as the crowd cheered for them and protested at the police brutality. The other four were arrested by the US Coast Guard to be sent back to Castro. But it may not be so easy . . ..

July 13 will be the fifth anniversary of another crime perpetrated against people who wanted to escape tyranny. This one happened in Cuban waters, by the Cuban Coast Guard following Castro’s orders. It was the attack by high-pressure water cannons and ramming of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat witnessed by hundreds of Cuban people from Havana’s shore. In that massacre, 41 people lost their lives, including women and children.

Castro’s henchmen were given medals and promotions for following his orders. This crime, and the others committed against the Cuban people for 40 years, remains unpunished.

Now, barely two weeks prior to the fifth anniversary of that crime, the US Coast Guard under Clinton Administration’s orders gets involved in a despicable incident against six desperate people. That paints a very bad picture of America under Clinton. Cubans are not going to forget.

This outrageous incident - as usual - so far has not received the attention of the US media that it deserves. It appears to be "not newsworthy" for the US media like the July 13, 1994 sinking of the tugboat which was not reported at that time.

I learned the details and saw the footage of this incident on the Spanish television network that did a good job reporting the incident as it unfolded on the afternoon of June 29. But I could not find a word that afternoon from the local television stations in Washington, DC.

That evening, NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight dedicated less than a minute to file a very incomplete report. Castro’s buddy, Dan Rather - if he reported it - was so fast that that it escaped my eyes and ears.

The suburban edition of The Washington Post delivered in the following morning (with a deadline of 9 p.m. the prior evening) has no mention whatsoever of this incident even though it happened about 3 p.m. the previous day. A later edition published an AP cable about it.

That ought to show us once more time that neither the Clinton Administration nor the US media cares about Cuban’s human rights. Clinton is more interested in getting cozy with Castro to get a place in history and to satisfy unscrupulous businessmen pressuring for "deals" to exploit Cuban semi-slave labor. And the US media is into making money. Apparently, they think that they can make more money from Castro, and indeed, it may be true – under the table. The bottom line for the US media is money, never mind news.

For many Cubans who live in the US as citizens, our concerns and needs, our right to know, our opportunities for being heard and published are systematically denied. Our only powers are the vote and the power to buy. Let us exercise our powers in the places where it hurts the most in a democratic and capitalist society.

Clinton’s shameful immigration arrangements and policies toward Castro should be overturned. Disgusting incidents like this Black Tuesday of June 29, 1999 must not be allowed to happen again. The people responsible for this violation of human rights must be punished. The US Coast Guard must not emulate the Cuban Coast Guard because of a misguided policy by the Clinton-in-Chief.


Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
ABIP 1999

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