By NAN Contributor
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Tues. Mar. 22, 2016: As U.S. President Barack Obama wraps up a historic visit to Cuba today, reports indicate that nine Cuban migrants trying to make it into the U.S. illegally are dead even as the U.S. Coast Guard reported sending back a whopping 109 who did make it, back to the Caribbean island.
The nine were among 27 others who started out a dangerous journey on a rustic 30-foot boat to the U.S. The nine died after battling the elements at open sea for 22 days. Eighteen others were rescued by the Royal Caribbean ship, Brilliance of the Seas, about 130 miles west of Marco Island in southwest Florida at about 7 a.m. Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.
The bodies of the nine were buried at sea, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney while the survivors are being treated for severe dehydration.
“They could barely walk off the vessel itself,” Barney said. “They were weak and they were shaking.”
“The Coast Guard has observed a steady increase in illegal maritime migration attempts from Cuba to the southeastern U.S. since the U.S. announcement of normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014,” the Coast Guard said in a press release.
A whopping 109 were sent back this month alone. Forty-two were repatriated back to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba, Friday, the same day the 18 were found alive and nine reported dead trying to get to U.S. soil. Another 16 were sent back on March 13th while some 47 were returned on March 1st.
Last month, 269 Cuban migrants attempted to reach U.S. shores and about 2,420 have tried to reach the United States by sea since last October.
President Obama wraps up a 2½-day visit to Cuba that began on Sunday. It is part of his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. He is the first U.S. President to visit the Communist island in 88 years.