Coast Guard tries to dissuade Cubans considering fleeing country by boat

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The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday tried to dissuade Cubans looking to flee the country amid widespread protests to not attempt a voyage at sea due to the perilous conditions.

The Coast Guard called the Florida Straits “dangerous and unforgiving.” The statement pointed to the nearly 20 lives “tragically lost in recent weeks as a result of these dangerous voyages.”

On Saturday, the Coast Guard announced that it ended the search for nine Cubans who were missing after a boat capsized off Florida’s coast. Thirteen people were rescued. The survivors said they left Cuba on Monday night with 22 people aboard. 

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Cubans intercepted at sea by the U.S. are generally returned to their home country.

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The Coast Guard acknowledged the historic protests in Cuba and said it echoes the support from U.S. leaders who say they have a fundamental right of freedom of expression and assembly. But that statement said its core mission is to protect lives at sea. 

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“The Coast Guard and our federal partners maintain persistent and vigilant airborne and surface patrols in the in the Caribbean, including the Florida straits, to ensure safety of life at sea for all mariners. Please don’t take to the sea,” the statement read.

The Associated Press contributed to this report