Friday, October 19, 2007

For Profit or Freedom?

A recent report by NBC6, and also reported today by Telemundo51, adds to public speculation that recent boat thefts in South Florida are tied to the recent increase in Cuban migration to the US.

Late last month, the Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy began the speculation with the release of a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission investigation report. Chardy wrote:

"The report said that more than 235 vessels had been stolen in Miami-Dade alone between Jan. 1 and June 28, or more than a 20 percent increase over the same period in 2006. It added that at least 784 marine-related thefts, including 492 boats, were reported in Florida between April and June -- 22 percent more than during the same period last year."

Ironically, the chairman of Florida's Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Rodney Barreto, was also a victim of boat theft and was quoted saying: ''Authorities told me they were seeing these thefts with increasing frequency, that the spike was driven by human-smuggling."

This week, the New York Times' Marc Lacey added that "Cubans are migrating to the United States in the greatest numbers in over a decade." About 11,487 Cubans made it to the US through Mexico after landing on smuggling sites in the Yucatan Peninsula.

This new report by NBC6 (Tisha Lewis) confirms how some Cubans are being smuggled into Mexico and where the smugglers are getting their boats. The report (with a link to video) tells the story of a recent boat theft victim whose "boat is equipped with top-notch technology -- a low-jack, which reportedly allowed the U.S. Coast Guard and other authorities to track the stolen boats. Boats were found in Cuba and Cancun."

The video shows the owner of the boat on his way to Cancun to recover his stolen property. Reporter Tisha Lewis says that "authorities confirm the boats are being used to smuggle people." This report, like the Chardy report, doesn't exactly detail what "the authorities" know about the recent boat thefts. Most likely, the federal authorities are in the middle of an investigation.

But, are these actions by smugglers a form of "rescue" for Cubans wanting to leave the Communist island? Mr. Tellechea from Review of Cuban-American Blogs probably thinks so. Responding to the Chardy article, Mr. Tellechea wrote: "Back then [in 1966, smuggling] was known as rescuing fugitives from injustice and entailed no punitive measures either for the rescuer or the rescued."

I don't know if that was true or not, but today making profit from human smuggling is a serious crime. Just ask sports agent Gus Dominguez, who was convicted in April of "conspiracy to smuggle five ballplayers from Cuba to the Florida Keys." He faced "up to five years in prison for his conviction on the smuggling conspiracy charge plus up to 10 years each for 20 separate smuggling convictions." But, he had his punishment reduced to five years in prison, three years probation and a $2,100 fine.

Hall of Famer, Sandy Koufax, described Dominguez in a letter to the court as a man of "high moral principles."

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