South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 1, 2004

The Summer of 1994

Here are some of the events that occurred when more than 35,000 Cubans took to rafts and headed for the United States:

May 28: A group of 124 Cuban asylum-seekers occupy the residence of the Belgian ambassador in Havana. Cuba blames the United States for encouraging such acts and says the group will not be allowed to leave Cuba. The group leaves the premises voluntarily, the last of them on June 30.

June 13: 21 Cubans enter the German embassy in Havana using a stolen truck. Two months later, 14 were still on the premises.

July 13: Would-be migrants steal the tugboat 13 de Marzo from Havana, but it sinks after Cuban navy boats ram it and open high-pressured water hoses on the boat. In that incident, 41 Cubans drown.

July 26: Hijackers take control of the Havana bay ferry Baragua and point it toward the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepts the boat and 15 Cubans are sent to the United States.

Aug. 3: Havana Bay ferry La Coubre is hijacked toward the United States. Of the 190 people aboard, 117 request asylum.

Aug. 4: Havana Bay ferry Baragua is hijacked again. The vessel runs out of fuel in Cuban waters and drifts ashore.

Aug. 5: Hundreds of people gather in Havana, drawn by news of ferry boat hijackings. They later turn on police. Castro blames the clashes on Washington and warns that Cuba will stop putting obstacles in the way of Cubans trying to depart if Washington does not change its immigration policy.

Aug. 8: A Cuban coast guard member allegedly kills a naval officer while hijacking a naval vessel from the Port of Mariel.

Nearly 30 Cubans go to United States.

Aug. 11: Cuban security forces are ordered to monitor, but not stop or aid people leaving by sea.

Aug. 16: U.S. Coast Guard picks up 339 Cubans.

Aug. 17: U.S. Coast Guard picks up 537 Cubans.

Aug. 18: Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles says the state cannot cope with the surge of Cubans arriving, and asks President Bill Clinton to declare immigration emergency.

The Clinton administration announces that Cubans arriving in Florida by boat will be detained rather than released into the community.

Aug. 19: Clinton directs the migrants are to be transported to "safe havens" outside the United States, such as the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Aug. 20: Clinton announces a ban on remittances to Cuba and cuts in charter flights linking Cuba and the U.S.

Week of Aug 22: The Coast Guard interdicts 10,190 Cubans, more than were rescued during the decade 1983-93. On Aug. 23, the Coast Guard intercepts 3,253 Cubans, the most in one day.

Sept. 10: The United States announces an agreement with Cuba to increase legal migration. Cuba closes the beaches to rafters.

Sept. 11: Castro issues a directive to security forces to prevent further illegal maritime departures.

Sources: U.S. Coast Guard, Newsday, The Associated Press, Chicago Tribune

Copyright © 2004