UPDATED 6:08 PM PT – Saturday, July 17, 2021
Tens of thousands of Cubans have continued to protest and express anger over shortages of food and medicine, rising inflation and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as cries for the U.S. to intervene have grown louder. The U.S. Coast Guard shared concern on Saturday amid reports of Floridian boaters organized to sail south to international waters on Monday morning.
“When this started we were hearing that they were going to Cuba. Well, it’s illegal to enter Cuban waters without permission,” explained Nicole Groll, U.S. Coast Guard. “We educated the public and we saw a change in the narrative saying okay, we are gonna go to the international waters.”
Organizers announced if 100 boats showed up at Government Cut, which is between Miami beach and Fisher Island, they would set sail on Monday morning. However, their intent is not to cross into Cuban waters, but to let people on the island know they have South Florida’s support.
Plan to go to Cuba on your boat? FYI: It’s illegal to transit into Cuban waters without an approved permit. Click here for more info https://t.co/uLlMxy3Zcz & RT these flyers to spread the word. #USCG #Miami #D7 #District7 #Cuba pic.twitter.com/5sd9m48uyS
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) July 15, 2021
One boater, Jorge Lopez, explained his intentions on making the trip.
“The purpose is just stay on the border, no trespassing,” he stated. “Just stay on international water and just let, again, let the Cuban people know that we’re also fighting for their freedom so that can be once and for all a free country.”
The Department of Homeland Security warned boaters who intend to enter territorial waters risk facing heavy fines up to $25,000 and a 10 year prison sentence. Officials added they must get permission from the U.S. Coast Guard.
Boaters are expected to face a tough journey and the Coast Guard strongly urged them not to take to the seas and stressed it could put their life in danger, especially during hurricane season.
“It’s dangerous on the water. Visibility still goes down, lighting happens,” Groll warned. “…Please be safe make educated decisions. If you get past our skill level, please come back.”
The Coast Guard strongly urges boaters to not #TakeToTheSeas as it could put the boater’s life in danger, especially during hurricane season.
If a boater attempts to transit near #Cuban territorial waters, here are recommended #BoatingSafety tips: pic.twitter.com/JReCQHXjD7
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) July 17, 2021
However, the Coast Guard also handed out some boating safety tips if boaters did decide to attempt transit near Cuban territorial waters. Tips included having working communication equipment, closely monitoring the weather and sea state, and bringing extra food and water.
Despite the Cuban president’s recent lift of restrictions on food and medicine, thousands continue to protest amid the country’s worst economic crisis in years, which has gained an outpouring amount of support from Florida.