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Cubans are embarking on treacherous sea journeys as the economic crisis worsens

   March 20, 2021 3:03 AM
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by Patrick Oppmann, CNN

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CaibariƩn, Cuba (CNN)When Beatriz Jimenez closes her eyes, she sees her daughter and two young grandchildren and they are alive.

Jimenez's family left the small seaside town of CabariƩn, on Cuba's north coast, on March 4, aboard a packed smuggler's boat. The boat had come from Florida and picked up a group of Cubans desperate to reach the US, according to a statement from the Cuban foreign ministry.

The smuggling run violated both US and Cuban laws and put the passengers' lives at risk. Although the communist-run island is only 90 nautical miles from the US, the weather in the Florida Straits is treacherous, particularly in the spring when "Easter winds," as Cubans call seasonal abrupt shifts in weather, can transform the sea into a frothing monster.

Jimenez said her daughter Lisbethy took the trip because she had been apart from her husband in Florida for more than a year, after the pandemic forced Cuba to cut most international flights. Lisbethy had been afraid to leave her daughter Kenna Mariana, 6 years old, and Luis Nesto, 4, behind in Cuba and risk a lengthy separation.

"My daughter is a good mother. She wouldn't have done this if everything wasn't safe. She wouldn't have put them through this. Her children are everything to her," Jimenez told CNN from the small room full of toys that her daughter had shared with the children.

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