MIAMI (WSVN) - Support is headed from South Florida to Cuba with demands for democracy and freedom.
Organizers were expecting about 100 boats, but at 7 a.m., which was when the flotilla was set to leave, only two boats could be seen at the dock. By 8 a.m., the group of five boats took off on their journey.
“I think this is a great way to show the support,” flotilla organizer Osdany Veloz said. “They’re going to see us, and they’re gonna see that we’re there for them. We pretty much made it very clear what we’re doing is going to be a peaceful protest. We’re not going to get into their waters and be around 15, 16 miles, so we’re not going to invade Cuba or none of that.”
7News spoke with those on the boats and they said they plan to set sail no matter what.
The captains said they planned to stop in Key West to refuel and then make their way to about 15 miles off of Cuba. Once they arrived in Key West, their vessels had to be cleared by the U.S. Coast Guard at Stock Island Marina Village before they could make their journey.
They plan on getting as close as they can to Cuba while staying in international waters.
“The message is get up, keep doing what you’re doing guys,” one captain said. “We support you. That’s why we’re doing this. You know what I’m saying?”
When they get there, they plan to set off flares, fireworks, Chinese lanterns and lights to let people in Cuba know that they are standing in solidarity with them.
One boater said he was a little nervous before heading off.
“A little bit of nerves, it’s a long trip,” he said. “From here to Key West is nothing, but you’re crossing a long distance. About another three or four hours on a boat and anything can happen.”
Another boater, however, didn’t let nerves get to him.
“They say the weather is going to be fine. It’s going to be great. Maybe a little bit windy, but we’re going to be OK,” the boater said.
The gathering of boaters left Key West just after 2:30 p.m. on their way to the island.
Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla posted on Twitter regarding the flotilla: “We have learned that a flotilla is being prepared from the United States to Cuba. I warn the United States government to take serious action to avoid incidents, which are not in the best interest of either party.”
President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that he will be sanctioning Cuban officials responsible for committing human rights violations. The sanctions will allow Biden to freeze assets and block travel to the United States.
They will be against the Cuban Minister of Defense Alvaro Lopez Miera as well as a special brigade with the Cuban Ministry of the Interior.
Many people have been demanding U.S. intervention. Some people are happy with this move, but others said it is not enough.
The Coast Guard said they will not be following the group of vessels, but they will have assets out in the water in the Florida Straits in case of an emergency.
Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.