MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning to South Florida boaters planning to take part in a flotilla next week to Cuba.
“It is illegal for boaters to depart with the intent to travel to Cuba for any purpose without a permit,” according to an advisory they issued on Thursday.
DHS said in the advisory that any boater intending to enter Cuban territorial waters must get permission from the U.S. Coast Guard. Violators risk facing fines of $25,000 a day and 10 years in prison, the advisory said.
People who bring foreign nationals into the U.S. illegally risk facing fines of up to $250,000 a day and five years in prison, the department said.
According to Osdany Veloz, an organizer of the boaters, the goal of next Monday’s planned trip is to go to international waters near the island, but not cross into Cuban waters, to let island residents know they have supporters in South Florida.
Organizers said they will set sail from South Florida if 100 boaters show up.
“The purpose is to stay on the border, not trespassing, stay in international water and just let the Cuban people know we’re also fighting for their freedom, so once and for all they can be a free country,” said Jorge Lopez, who plans to make the trip.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets last weekend to protest limited access to COVID-19 vaccines and basic goods. The country is going through its worst economic crisis in decades.
The protests in the island nation have sparked an outpouring of support in Florida, which is home to the nation’s largest community of Cuban exiles. Throngs of people in Miami, Orlando, and the Tampa area have rallied in support, sometimes shutting down major thoroughfares.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)