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Cuban Exiles Stage High-Seas Democracy Demonstration

May 21, 1990

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) _ Cuban exiles sailed across the choppy Florida Straits for a high-seas democracy rally at the edge of Cuba’s waters, where they threw wreaths and bottles carrying messages overboard.

Cuban patrol boats looked on but took no action against the flotilla that left Sunday from Key West.

Backers of the expedition said it was a demonstration against Cuba’s communist government and a celebration of the anniversary of Cuba’s independence from Spain.

″It was a very emotional moment for all the Cubans who participated in this,″ said Julio Rebull of Miami.

Some smaller boats among the 34 that started out turned back because of 8- foot waves. The boats rendezvoused about 20 miles off Cuba’s northern coast, then sailed parallel to the coast for six miles before heading back to Key West.

For seven minutes, a Roman Catholic priest read prayers over the radio to a Cuban radio monitor at a Havana lighthouse, Rebull said. The operator acknowledged the message but made no further response.

The current on the straits carried the flowers and bottles north, away from Cuba.

Coast Guard cutters monitored the flotilla by radar but provided no escort. Coast Guard officials earlier warned the exiles to lodge verbal protests but to go along peacefully if they were intercepted by Cuban forces.

At least one boat carrying a TV news crew from Miami had to turn back in the middle of the windswept Gulf Stream because of seasickness.

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