Clashes between Cuban Coast Guards and smugglers are getting increasingly violent


A series of shootings between migrant smugglers and the Cuban armed forces suggests that organized crime groups may be changing their tactics of human smuggling between the Caribbean island and the United States.

On June 28, the Cuban Ministry of the Interior announcement that at least two clashes between crews of speedboats traveling from the United States to pick up Cuban migrants and border patrols had occurred earlier in the month. Additionally, 13 speedboats have been intercepted so far this year.

On the morning of June 18, a Cuban Coast Guard vessel shot and killed a suspected smuggler after he was fired from a speedboat carrying migrants to the United States, according to Cuban authorities. The boat then sank and nine people are still missing as of June 28, France 24 reported.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of human trafficking

On the same day, a Cuban Coast Guard boat intercepted another speedboat attempting to pick up migrants near the coast of Villa Clara in central Cuba. During the chase, a smuggler opened fire with an automatic rifle, wounding a Cuban soldier and hitting the ship several times. The speedboat managed to escape. But according to universityCuban troops detained 30 people on the ground waiting to board the boat.

Violence linked to human trafficking from Cuba is rare, but clashes have increased in recent months. In March, one person died and two others were injured after a speedboat collided with a Coast Guard vessel.

At least one of the boats captured by the Cuban authorities was registered in the United States, which caused a investigation by the US Coast Guard.

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Growing economic desperation on the island and a dearth of legal migration channels led more and more Cubans to seek to reach the United States. While many still set sail in hastily built rafts, the increased use of speedboats shows the involvement of smuggling networks.

As hundreds of thousands of people tried to reach the United States by land after crossing from other Latin American countries, the US Border Patrol reported a rapid increase in human trafficking by sea in 2022.

In May, the new head of the US Border Patrol for Miami attacked smugglers who took advantage of Cuban migrants.

“Criminal organizations that overload these ships are sacrificing migrant safety for profit,” Walter Slosar Told local media. “They can only stand on these boats, not enough water, not enough life jackets. It is a huge tragedy just waiting to happen. »

SEE ALSO: Sex traffickers take advantage of the influx of Cuban migrants to the United States

And the willingness or armed crews to engage in firefights suggests that there are indeed serious profits to be made from migrant smuggling. However, one analyst has suggested such violence may not be entirely new.

“It’s normal on the island. It’s happened in the past but the Cuban authorities don’t reveal it,” César Mendoza, a longtime Cuban human rights analyst based in Mexico, told InSight Crime. . “They may have made it known now to pressure the United States in some way.”

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