Monday, August 6, 2007

To those who left their country...

I've been wanting to again address a particular post I wrote this past July 16 about the massacre of those on the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat. My post, titled "To Those Who Were Innocent," was based on two reports:

-Amnesty International: The Sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994.

-(OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Victims of the Tugboat "13 de Marzo" vs. Cuba.

Furthermore, I sought to not only highlight this traumatic event as a significant moment within Cuban exile identity, but also place it within a grander perspective of trauma that belongs to the many collective identities across the globe. In doing so, I did not aim to minimize the loss of loved ones, but rather point out that such suffering is an emotional bond many in the world share.

After my post, blogger Manuel A. Tellechea wrote a response, which he also posted on his blog. I also took the time to respond as best I could to clarify my position. Comments by Agustin Farinas were also very welcomed and responded to as well. And, I also recently noticed that he made more comments on another blog, to which I will address now with further evidence.

One obstacle in debating issues about Cuba is bias. How do we know its there? And, how sure are we that we are being objective? There are standard ways to do this, such as the method of peer review, or some kind of blind testing. But, if you do not have those methods at your disposal then you can engage in a simple investigative experiment: examine a similar case (the more similar the better) where the parties in dispute are viewed impartially by you, and then compare your judgments with another similar case (maybe one you are partial too).

In my July 16 post, in an attempt to make a comparison, I brought up the massacre of those on Iran Air flight 655. But, there's another example that has recently been brought to attention that I feel is a much better case to examine with and compare to the case of the "13 de Marzo" massacre.

This past May, at least 61 migrants trying to leave their country by sea drowned when their dilapidated boat capsized after being struck by a coast guard boat. Many did not know how to swim and some where devoured by sharks. Upon a government investigation of the incident, which placed no blame on the actions of the coast guard, the families of the victims have buried their loved ones and have yet to see any justice done.

This is the tragic and horrific event of May 4, 2007 where approximately 160 Haitian migrants heading towards the Islands of Turks and Caicos were intercepted by the island's marine police unit, which set upon events that triggered the deaths of approximately 61 Haitians. One can only approximate these numbers given the illegal nature of entry and the lack of any full report by the marine police.

Last week, the Miami Herald published the latest in this tragic event, with the release of the anticipated British report [PDF] on the incident. The many recommendations made to the marine police of the Islands of Turks and Caicos (a British territory) "shall in no case create a presumption of blame or liability." That's because "[t]he main causal factor in this tragic accident was the [dilapidated ship's] inherent lack of stability." And, furthermore, "responsibility for the condition and overloading of the [dilapidated ship], which ultimately let to its capsize and consequential tragic loss of life, rests with those involved in the trafficking of migrants."

Just like the Cuban government blamed those who planned the "trafficking of migrants" on the "13 de Marzo" tugboat, so does the British government redirect the blame in this case of 61 dead Haitians. The British and Cuban lesson to illegal migrants: don't risk your life, stay in your desperate situation at home.

Did the marine police of Turks and Caicos also intend to kill these Haitian migrants, just like it is attributed to the Cuban government in the case of the "13 de Marzo" massacre?

Migrants all over the world suffer from one great curse: apathy. People hardly care for their welfare as they leave one country for another. Amnesty International summarizes:

"Vilified by politicians and the popular media, often subject to discrimination and human rights violations, many migrants continue to live their lives at the margins of societies unwilling or unable to accept or integrate them fully."

In Cuba, those who leave the island suffer such discrimination, mainly due to the Cuban government media, which then allows others to not care at all for their welfare. Thus, they become vulnerable to the same "tragic accidents" that plague many migrants around the world.

But, calling such horrific events "accidents" only explains one side of the story. The other explanation is that these "accidents" result from pure lack of any intention. In other words, there is no thought, worry or feeling involved in the action of the perpetrator.

That's one reason why the US warship Vincennes blew up a plane with almost 300 people in it; why the Turks and Caicos marine police rammed the dilapidated ship with 160 person on board; and why the Cuban coast guard let those women and children drown.

A Miami Herald editorial from July alleged that the Cuban government wanted to send "an enduring lesson" through the massacre to all Cubans who wished to leave the island. But, this theory doesn't seem credible since the Cuban government, already knowing that many Cubans were leaving anyway during the Special Period, eventually allowed illegal emigration from the island. Why plan a lesson that would never be learned?

- Three weeks after the tragedy off Turks and Caicos, another group of Haitians were found trying to enter the islands. "There is no money, no work," they say in Haiti. "Things are worse now."

- Days after the tragedy, the Haitian survivors were not allowed to talk to the press about how their boat was rammed by the marine police. About how they yelled "God help me!" They were kept in a detention center barred from journalists and only spoke through a Haitian official who said they were "angry and revolted."

- Some Haitians in Miami were angered too and couldn't sleep. The bodies recovered off Turks and Caicos were eventually sent back to Haiti, where they were all buried in a common grave, some without a name or a relative to remember them by.

- In 2005, the UN's Global Commission on International Migration recommended "the need for greater coherence, cooperation and capacity to achieve a more effective governance of international migration."

"God will welcome each one of you, our compatriots. You should not have had to take to the seas and leave your country."

- Rev. Hubert Constant, the archbishop of Cap-Haitien


Manuel A.Tellechea said...


I would have linked your post to my blog and even praised it if you had desisted from making your ridiculous assertions that the deaths of the Haitians and the Cubans were the result of an "accident," or that these deaths had anything at all to do with Iran Air Flight 655.

The 61 Haitians murdered by the British on the high seas, like the 43 Cubans murdered by Castro, were the victims of an intentional premeditated act of maritime piracy committed by the British government and the Castro regime.

Did you seriously expect me to defend the actions of the British or excuse the massacre of the "13th of March" tugboat on account of it.

Mambi_Watch said...

I'm not asking anyone to defend anything. Nor am I trying to convince you of anything.

This is my position, which is examined through a method of comparison. In doing so, I review my judgments and examine internal bias. My conclusions aim to discover some understanding on issues that may be misinterpreted.

It's not an act of apologetics because I do blame governments in the horrific acts mentioned, mainly due to their lack of responsibility after the event.

But, I also seek to challenge the presumption that many attribute immediately to governments after such events. Such as intention to commit a massacre.

In the cases mentioned (Cuban and Haitian migrants), there is a thread that runs through both, and can apply to many others: apathy and discrimination.

If you read the British report, you'll see how easily many eyewitness accounts of Haitian survivors were dismissed. The report gives us a fancy computer analysis showing how the boat capsized due to factors beyond the actions of the marine police.

The report doesn't mention how many Haitian survivors were interviewed, how they conducted their interviews, and never mentions their names or if they knew the persons who perished.

The report is pure apologetics, and this is standard practice of governments. There's a Miami Haitian group that may demand a UN investigation. Also note that, unlike the "13 de Marzo" tragedy, this event has not been investigated by Amnesty International, nor any other mainstream human rights group that I know of.

So we settle for a common grave with no names. Was this all planned?

I say no because both tragedies (Cuban and Haitian) do not have a lesson to be learned, or a reason to be found. They are tragedies without logic, or morals. A curse seen around the world in cases of migrants. Chinese internal migrant abuse, dead migrants who wash up from the Strait of Gibraltar, the list is endless.

Are all of these events based on the intent of governments?

I don't believe they are. Sometimes people just don't care for the plight of others. It's an overwhelming global phenomenon that can be ameliorated, but it takes a lot of effort.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Let it never be said that I don't exert a healthy influence over you. You have just refuted your own ridiculous contention that the Cuban Coast Guard and the British Marine Patrol did not act intentionally and deliberately when they executed their quarry on the high seas. Yes, Pancho, "Sometimes people just don't care about the plight of others," as you say. This makes their actions intentional, not accidental.

Mambi_Watch said...

Not, really. Having no concern over something doesn't mean one has intended to not care. It means that such ideas have not even entered conscious though and thus have not been part of any rationale, or intent.

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