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Woman claims Cuban government rammed boat, jailed men on board

Coast Guard says Miami boat captain being held on human smuggling charges

MIAMI – Three days ago, a Cuban gunboat rammed a boat carrying 32 men, women and children in Cuban waters, splitting it in half, sinking it and tossing everyone into the water.

That was the scenario relayed by a Cuban woman via telephone during a news conference Friday in Miami.

She also claims Cuban authorities rescued all but her husband, who is still missing, and jailed all of the 22 men on board.

"They were taken back to land, and the women were incarcerated, as well as the men," Ramon Saul Sanchez of the Democracy Movement said. "The men remain incarcerated. The women obviously were released."

The U.S. Coast Guard corroborates some of the story. While on patrol in international waters, the Coast Guard claims it received a distress call but couldn't enter into Cuban waters.

As for those jailed, the Coast Guard only confirms that the boat captain, who is from Miami, was being held by Cuban authorities on human smuggling charges.

More than 20 years ago, human rights organizations claim, 41 Cubans died during a similar incident when a Cuban patrol rammed a tugboat headed to the U.S. and refused to help those in the water. Cuban authorities have denied those allegations.

These latest allegations enrage a Cuban community already on edge after Wednesday's news of a swell towards better relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

"The Cuban Coast Guard should not have rammed the vessel, especially when there were women and children on board," Sanchez said.

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