No evidence Cuban refugees were saved

MIAMI, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The Coast Guard said Tuesday it has no evidence to support rumors that 30 Cubans missing since their go-fast boat capsized in heavy seas on their way from Cuba to Florida last week were picked up by a Panamanian freighter.

"Nothing has changed. We contacted the Panamanian consulate and he said no," said Petty Officer Gene Smith of the Coast Guard in Miami.


The Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma warned that the rumors that survivors have called friends and relatives in Cuba could be "a cruel joke."

In Panama, Jaime Beitia, a spokesman for the Panamanian Maritime Authority, said officials had no knowledge of a rescue.

"I contacted all of the principal ports, and they told me that no boats carrying rescued Cubans had arrived," Beitia said.

"There has been a lot of speculation about what happened. It's possible that they're alive and have been in touch with a Panamanian boat that went somewhere else. But we haven't been able to confirm anything."

Reports on Cuban-American radio talk shows in Miami that survivors had called Cuba gave families in Miami hope. David Castro, whose former wife and daughter were on the boat, said, "You know they're alive."


He said reports from Panama that the rumors may be false may be attempts to "hide the truth."

The smugglers' boat left Cuba shortly after midnight Nov. 17 and was expected to arrive later that day. Relatives of the refugees notified the Coast Guard the next day when it had not done so and the Coast Guard search began.

A capsized go-fast boat matching the description of the smugglers' vessel was found Tuesday, but no survivors were spotted and the search was called off Wednesday night.

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