May 27, 1999
Tampa Bay Online , 5/26/99 -- 3:37 PM
MIAMI (AP) - A survivor on board a hijacked Cuban tugboat sunk by a Cuban gunboat while trying to flee the Communist island nation has reached exile here, five years after the incident in which 41 Cubans drowned.
Maria Victoria Garcia, one of 31 people rescued from the sinking Havana harbor tug ``13 de Marzo'' in July 1994, and her parents Jorge Garcia and Elisa Suarez arrived in Miami Tuesday.
The family were able to leave Cuba and resettle in the United States thanks to visas obtained for them by the Miami-based exile group the Cuban American National Foundation.
Ms. Garcia lost her husband, 10-year-old son and 12 other relatives that summer day five years ago when a Cuban gunboat rammed the tug just seven miles north of Havana, then sank it by filling it with water from fire hoses.
``We are very hurt that the Cuban government has denied responsibility here,'' Ms. Garcia said. ``That incident was murder and the government keeps claiming it was an accident.''
The 32-year-old woman said she and her family had been under surveillance by the Cuban government since the sinking.
``We all endured terrible persecution,'' she said. ``Even today, I look back and can't help but think someone may be following me.''
The family plans to start a new life in the United States. Still, Ms. Garcia said things will never be the same without her lost family members.
``Our life is not - and will never be - a real life without them.''
Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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