A small flotilla of Cuban-Americans and their supporters took off from Miami Friday on their way to international waters. Five boats left Bayside Marina with the intention to stop in Key West, refuel and check in with the Coast Guard before sailing towards Cuba. The group will stop just 15 nautical miles from Havana as they show their support for the Cuban people.
Captain Adam Chamie with the US Coast Guard told CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez that the trip is legal, but crossing into Cuban waters is not, and can incur fines up to $25,000 and five years prison time. There’s also concern over South Florida’s tropical and unpredictable weather.
“What might seem like it’s pretty safe waters just a few miles from shore when you’re 50 miles from shore can look very differently,” Chamie said.
The group of boaters were supposed to depart on Monday, but the event was postponed until Friday. About a hundred boats were expected to show up to the event.
The planned trip comes as the Biden administration announced new sanctions on Alvaro Lopez Miera, the Cuban Minister of Defense, as well as the Cuban Interior Ministry Special Brigade for repressing the peaceful pro-democracy protests in Cuba that began July 11. There are reports of about 500 people detained since the protests.
In a statement, President Biden said, “The Cuban people have the same right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as all people.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez argues Cuba is not a priority of the Biden Administration.
“The Cuban people are defending themselves with rocks and sticks against guns and clubs, so I’ve even called for things as dramatic as not taking off the table the possibility of some level of military intervention,” said Suarez.
Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, told Bojorquez that the Biden administration is trying to find the middle ground between the more open policies of the Obama administration and former President Trump’s swift reversal.
“Much of the calculus regarding what to do with Cuba has to do with next year’s midterm elections here in Florida. I’m sure that’s part of the discussion within the White House,” Duany said.
Duany also said the Biden administration’s stated goal of restoring internet to Cubans, which was cut by the communist government after the uprising, could help protesters keep some momentum going.