The tugboat 13 de Marzo.

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Video of attacks by Castro supporters on those remembering the dead.

On 13 July 1994 at least 35 men, women and children were lost at sea when the vessel on which they and others were attempting to flee Cuba sank some seven miles out from Havana. The 31 survivors were eventually picked up by coast guards and taken to shore where the 20 male survivors were detained. Several of the survivors allege that their vessel sank after it had been pursued and assaulted by three other vessels, apparently acting under official instructions, and that those on board were given no opportunity to surrender. The Cuban Government denied any responsibility for the sinking of the tugboat or for the loss of life, alleging that it was an accident caused by the irresponsible actions of those on board. However, Amnesty International has received compelling evidence, including eyewitness testimony from several of the survivors, indicating that those on board the three pursuing vessels employed excessive force disproportionate to the actual situation and seemed to be taking orders from a fourth vessel. They allege that their pursuers deliberately rammed the "13 de Marzo" and undertook other aggressive actions which deliberately put at risk the lives of those on board, none of whom, from the information so far available, even from government sources, were armed or in a position to seriously resist capture. If this was the case, Amnesty International believes that those who perished in the incident were the victims of extrajudicial execution.

See: AMR 25/013/1997


Angel René ABREU Ruiz, 3

Fidelio Ramel PRIETO Hernández, 50

Marta CARRASCO Tamayo, 45

Giselle (or Lisette) BORGES Alvarez, 4

José Carlos NIKEL Anaya, 3

Marjolís MENDEZ Tacoronte, 17

Yousel Eugenio PEREZ Tacoronte, 11

Julia Caridad RUIZ Blanco, 35

Caridad LEYVA Tacoronte, 4

Yaltamira ANAYA Carrasco, 22

Yasse (or Yasser) PERODIN Almanza, 11


Arroyo Naranjo:
Angel René ABREU Ruiz, 3
Jorge Arquimides LEBRIGIO Flores, 28
Julia Caridad RUIZ Blanco, 35

Pilar ALMANZA Romero, 30
Yaltamira ANAYA Carrasco, 22
Marta CARRASCO Tamayo, 45
Yuliana ENRIQUEZ Carranza, 23
Sindy RODRIGUEZ Fernández, 2
Manuel GAYOL, 58
Caridad LEYVA Tacoronte, 4
Reinaldo MARRERO, 48
Helen MARTINEZ Enríquez, 6 months
Marjolís MENDEZ Tacoronte, 17
Odalys MUÑOZ García, 21
José Carlos NIKEL Anaya, 3
Leonardo NOTARIO Góngora, 27
Yousel Eugenio PEREZ Tacoronte, 11
Yasse (or Yasser) PERODIN Almanza, 11
Marta Caridad TACORONTE Vega, 33

Ernesto ALFONSO Loureiro, 25
Lissette María ALVAREZ Guerra, 24
Giselle (or Lisette) BORGES Alvarez, 4
Lázaro BORGES Briel, 34
Joel GARCIA Suárez, 24
Armando GONZALEZ Raíz (or Raizes), 50
Augusto Guillermo GUERRA Martínez, 45
Elio Juan GUTIERREZ García, 10
Fidelio Ramel PRIETO Hernández, 50

Miralis FERNANDEZ Rodríguez, 27
Eduardo SUAREZ Esquivel, 35
Eliecer SUAREZ García, 11
Estrella SUAREZ Esquivel, 45
Yolindis RODRIGUEZ Rivero, 2
Omar RODRIGUEZ Suárez, 30


See: AMR 25/013/1997

Note that at the bottom of the page you will find a moving statement made in 2005 by Sergio Perodin Almanza brother of Yasser Perodin Almanza (11) and son of Pilar Almanza Romero (30) both killed by the Cuban MININT troops that day.


Amnesty International

Human    Rights Watch

IACHR From a survivor


Amnesty International.

AI INDEX: AMR 25/032/1996 12 July 1996
News Service 127/96
AI INDEX: AMR 25/32/96
12 JULY 1996


"On the eve of the second anniversary of the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat, Amnesty International is again calling on the Cuban authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the incident which resulted in the death of 40 people.

The organization is also demanding that the Cuban authorities lifts their threats against peaceful protesters."

See: AMR25/032/1996   


AI INDEX: AMR 25/013/1997 1 July 1997

The Sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994


Given the grave accusations of the survivors, the contradictory official accounts of the incident and the failure of the Cuban authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation and to make the findings public, as well as the fact that those seeking such an investigation or even simply to commemorate the incident have faced intimidation and harassment, Amnesty International believes that there are serious reasons to doubt the official version of events. While acknowledging that those on board the "13 de Marzo" had committed a crime by stealing the tugboat, there is no evidence to suggest that they were armed or that they were in a position to offer any serious resistance to the pursuing vessels. Indeed, from many of the survivors' accounts, it appears that their pleas to surrender and to be rescued may have been deliberately ignored. Amnesty International has therefore concluded that at the very least the force employed by the pursuing vessels to prevent the departure of the "13 de Marzo" was disproportionate to the nature of the crime, especially taking into account the risk to the lives of those on board the "13 de Marzo" who included women and children. The Cuban authorities have argued that those on board the pursuing vessels were dock workers acting on their own initiative and not government or law enforcement officials. However, several of the survivors have doubted this assertion and have alleged that the whole operation appeared to be coordinated and directed by radio from a coast guard vessel. The Cuban coast guard service falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior. Amnesty International believes that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that it was an official operation and that, if events occurred in the way described by several of the survivors, those who died as a result of the incident were victims of extrajudicial execution.


Amnesty International is therefore making the following recommendations to the Cuban Government: 

See: AMR 25/013/1997   PDF file

Human Rights Watch.

Cuba: Human Rights Developments - 1995.

Enforcement of the illegal exit law had eased somewhat in recent years, with the trend increasingly to fine first-time offenders and incarcerate only repeat offenders. Despite this overall softening of enforcement, cases of shootings or prosecution for illegal exit were not uncommon. In June 1994, coastal authorities from the port of La Fe, in the municipality of Guane, shot dead José Inesio Pedraza Izquierdo when he tried to set to sea for the United States. This was followed one month later by the most prominent case in 1994, the sinking of the hijacked state-owned tugboat, the 13 de Marzo. The boat, carrying seventy-two passengers, was intercepted by three government boats a few miles out from the Havana harbor early on the morning of July 13. The Cuban authorities sprayed the 13 de Marzo with high-pressure water cannons, reportedly sweeping several passengers off its deck and into the ocean. According to survivors, the boat's path was then cut off, and one of the pursuing tugs deliberately rammed the 13 de Marzo, causing it to sink. At least thirty-seven people died, including many children who had sought refuge from the water cannons in the hold of the vessel.

See: 1995 Report.

Human Rights Forty Years After the Revolution

June 1999 by Human Rights Watch

See: 1999 Report

Impunity for the Sinking of the 13 de Marzo

Without other avenues for redress, several Cuban exiles brought a historic human rights case before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (hereinafter the commission), the human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS), in 1994. Although Cuba is not a member of the OAS, the commission considers the Cuban government responsible for protecting the rights enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. On October 16, 1996, the commission approved a public report concluding that on July 13, 1994, Cuba violated the right to life of forty-one people who died when Cuban government boats rammed, flooded, and sank the 13 de Marzo, a hijacked tugboat loaded with civilians fleeing Cuba.129 The report also found that Cuba violated the right of personal integrity of the thirty-one survivors of the sinking, and violated the rights to transit and justice of all of the seventy-two persons who attempted to leave Cuba.130 The report provides shocking survivors' testimony of the Cuban government's deliberate attempts to sink the boat. Statements by President Castro and the Interior Ministry regarding responsibility for the incident provide a disturbing counterpoint to the victims' experiences. Clearly, the government's effort was to exculpate itself from responsibility, rather than conduct a serious investigation and punish those responsible for this incident.

Despite consistent testimonies that four Transportation Ministry boats fired water cannons onto the decks of the tugboat and later rammed and sank it, President Castro denied a government role in the sinking.131 Although President Castro asserted that Cuba had fully investigated the incident, the commission noted that Cuba never recovered the bodies lost in the tugboat, nor the boat itself, and concluded that "there was no judicial investigation and the political organs directed by the Cuban Chief of State rushed to absolve of all responsibility the officials who went to meet the 13 de Marzo tugboat."132

See: Cuba996-11  Part of: 1999 Report


Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

REPORT Nº 47/96

                                                      CASE 11.436

                            VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA

                                                   October 16, 1996


          VIII.                 CONCLUSIONS


          105.    The Cuban State is responsible for violating the right to life (Article 1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) of the 41 people who were shipwrecked and perished as a result of the sinking of the tug "13 de Marzo", which events occurred seven miles off  the Cuban coast on July 13, 1994.  The persons who died that morning are:  Leonardo Notario Góngora, Marta Tacoronte Vega, Caridad Leyva Tacoronte, Yausel Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte, Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte, Odalys Muñoz García, Pilar Almanza Romero, Yaser Perodín Almanza, Manuel Sánchez Callol, Juliana Enriquez Carrasana, Helen Martínez Enríquez, Reynaldo Marrero, Joel García Suárez, Juan Mario Gutiérrez García, Ernesto Alfonso Joureiro, Amado Gonzáles Raices, Lázaro Borges Priel, Liset Alvarez Guerra, Yisel Borges Alvarez , Guillermo Cruz Martínez, Fidelio Ramel Prieto-Hernández, Rosa María Alcalde Preig, Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco, José Carlos Nicole Anaya, María Carrasco Anaya, Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco, Angel René Abreu Ruiz, Jorge Arquímides Lebrijio Flores, Eduardo Suárez Esquivel, Elicer Suárez Plascencia, Omar Rodríguez Suárez, Miralis Fernández Rodríguez, Cindy Rodríguez Fernández, José Gregorio Balmaceda Castillo, Rigoberto Feut Gonzáles, Midalis Sanabria Cabrera, and four other victims who could not be identified.


          106.    The Cuban State is responsible for violating the personal integrity (Article 1 of the American Declaration) of the 31 persons who survived the sinking of the tug "13 de Marzo", as a consequence of the emotional trauma it caused.  The surviving victims are:  Mayda Tacoronte Verga, Milena Labrada Tacoronte, Román Lugo Martínez, Daysi Martínez Findore, Tacney Estévez Martínez, Susana Rojas Martínez, Raúl Muñoz García, Janette Hernández Gutiérrez, Modesto Almanza Romero, Fran Gonzáles Vásquez, Daniel Gonzáles Hernández, Sergio Perodín Pérez, Sergio Perodín Almanza, Gustavo Guillermo Martínez Gutiérrez, Yandi Gustavo Martínez Hidalgo, José Fabián Valdés, Eugenio Fuentes Díaz, Juan Gustavo Bargaza del Pino, Juan Fidel Gonzáles Salinas, Reynaldo Marrero Canarana, Daniel Prieto Suárez, Iván Prieto Suárez, Jorge Luis Cuba Suárez, María Victoria García Suárez, Arquímides Venancio Lebrigio Gamboa, Yaussany Tuero Sierra, Pedro Francisco Garijo Galego, Julio César Domínguez Alcalde, Armando Morales Piloto, Juan Bernardo Varela Amaro, and Jorge Alberto Hernández Avila.


          107.    The Cuban State is responsible for violating the right to freedom of movement and the right to a fair trial of the 72 people who attempted to flee Cuba, rights upheld in articles VIII and XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          IX.       RECOMMENDATIONS


          108.    It is recommended that the Cuban State conduct an exhaustive investigation in order to identify, prosecute and punish those responsible for sinking the tug "13 de Marzo", which event caused the deaths of 41 people.


          109.    It is recommended that the Cuban State recover the sunken boat and the remains of the victims and hand them over to their relatives.


          110.    It is recommended that the Cuban State pay fair compensation to the surviving victims and to the families of the dead for physical and nonphysical damages, including emotional distress.









          111.    To forward the present report to the Cuban State and to the petition­er.


          112.    To publish the present report in the Annual Report to the General Assembly of the OAS, pursuant to Article 53(3) and (4) of its Regulations, inasmuch as the Cuban State never replied to Confidential Report Nº 16/96 of May 3, 1996.


See: 1996 Report: Cuba case 11436


In July 2002, at the Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey, Cuban political prisoners Humberto Real Suárez and Ernesto Durán Rodríguez Ponce were punished for marked the 8th anniversary of the deaths of those who perished when the 13 de Marzo tugboat sank.


See: 2002 Report


"Our only luggage was hope"

Posted on Wed, Jun. 01, 2005


`Our only luggage was hope'


[email protected]

As a child I had an experience that taught me the price that individuals are willing to pay for freedom.

I was only 7 years old and living in communist Cuba. My parents yearned for freedom and dreamt of coming to America. They secretly planned to escape, along with 72 others who shared their dream. We embarked on a wooden tugboat. Our only luggage was hope, but in that attempt, 41lives were lost. Among them, my mother and brother. My father refused to give up hope, and a short time later, we risked our lives in a second attempt, but on this occasion, aboard a raft.

It began on the fateful day of July 13, 1994, as we embarked on the 13 de Marzo tugboat at about 2 a.m. About 13 miles off the coast of Cuba, we were suddenly attacked by three Cuban tugboats. They rammed us.
Pressure hoses, normally used to put out fires at sea, were used against us. Their impact was so powerful that children were swept to sea from their parents' protective embrace.

Those on the tugboats shouted insults over loudspeakers. In a frenzy, they crashed into the ship, damaging the hull, which caused the tugboat to take in water rapidly. Within minutes, the ship sank. People were screaming and begging to be rescued, but those on the tugboats showed no pity. They circled us and made whirlpools in the water, causing men, women and children to be lost forever in a black sea of despair.

After what seemed an eternity of brutal abuse, the tugboats finally stopped and began picking up survivors. My mother and brother (see picture) were not among them. Those of us who survived, more dead than alive from the ordeal, were not taken to receive medical assistance. Instead, we were taken to prison, where my father remained. I was later sent home in a small van and handed over to my aunt, to take care of me.

A month later, my dad was released from prison, and we were more determined than ever to attempt our search for liberty once more. It took about two weeks to build a raft. One night we embarked on the raft along with seven others and began navigating the seas with wooden paddles. We paddled for a whole day and suddenly we got caught in a storm. We tied ourselves to the raft with ropes and fell asleep from exhaustion. When we woke up, we noticed that we were being taken back to the coast of Cuba by the rough currents of the storm.

At that instant, it seemed as if all our hopes had been lost, but again with all the strength within us, we continued paddling assured that freedom awaited us. We were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and eventually taken to the Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba.

On Jan. 21, 1995, we finally arrived in the United States. At that moment we felt happier than ever, but there was sadness and anger and disappointment that in our search for a new life, my father and I had lost our most valued treasures -- my mother and brother. Yet the first thing my father and relatives did was fly to Washington and testify before the U.S. Congress on what has come to be known as the Massacre of the Tugboat 13th of March, perpetrated by the Castro regime.

Two months after our arrival, life showed us how generous it can be. My father met an incredibly loving woman who has been a mother to me. A month later we moved to her apartment and started our new life in the United States, supported by her unconditional love and guidance.

I will be graduating from high school today. Another dream has been achieved. To this day, I remember that awful tragedy and I still struggle with the memories. But I know I have another dream to accomplish for myself and the memory of my mother and brother. I will go to college. I will do it in the land where everything is possible -- in the land where I found something so valuable that people are willing to risk their lives to obtain it.

It is called freedom.

Sergio Perodín Jr., a survivor of the 13 de Marzo tugboat massacre, is graduating from Coral Gables Senior High today.

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