TEGUCIGALPA – Fifteen Cuban immigrants arrived on a Honduran beach after a 12-day boat journey from their country, during which one member of the group disappeared after jumping overboard, authorities said.
The Cuban rafters arrived on Monday in Esparta, a municipality in Atlantida province, where they were helped by local residents.
Of the 15 Cubans who reached the beach, 12 are in police custody and three managed to flee. One other man “jumped from the boat and is still missing,” Esparta police told Efe.
La Prensa newspaper cited one of the migrants, Rafael Lopez, as saying that fellow traveler Orlando Labrada Ramirez disappeared after jumping overboard into the ocean out of fear that the boat was sinking when they were near the Honduran beach.
“A wave turned the boat and (our) comrade panicked. Despite the efforts to rescue him, the heavy waves prevented us from reaching him,” Lopez told the daily.
The 16 Cubans set sail from Manzanillo on Feb. 2 in a boat 20 meters (65 feet) long looking for “better living opportunities, since everything is repression on the island” of Cuba, said Annet Caridad Fabre, the only woman in the group.
Local police will transfer the Cubans to Honduran immigration authorities in the coastal city of La Ceiba.
The Caribbean coastline of Honduras in recent years has become an arrival zone for groups of Cuban immigrants who abandon their country, most of them seeking ultimately to get to the United States. EFE