Exhausted Cuban exiles abandon attempt to reach Cuba

MIAMI (AP) — Rough seas and mechanical failure forced four Cuban exiles Sunday to abandon their attempt to make a political statement by sailing to their homeland without permission.
Group leader Ramon Saul Sanchez said he would try to enter Cuba again in the future, saying he has a right to go there despite his opposition to the government of Fidel Castro.
“Cuba belong to all Cubans, communists and non-communists,” Sanchez said. “The day Castro recognizes our right to return, we’ll cancel all flotillas.”
Sanchez and three other members of the Miami-based Democracy Movement set sail Friday, ignoring U.S. government warnings that they risked endangering their lives and provoking an international incident.
But they never got more than 15 miles from Miami, or roughly 180 miles short of their destination.
The steering system on the 35-foot fishing boat, Human Rights, had malfunctioned and the boat foundered in up to 7-foot seas during the night.
Sanchez, 43, said the four were “exhausted beyond limits.”
Another demonstration by the Democracy Movement went on as planned Saturday. Several members of the group went on a separate boat just to the edge of Cuban territorial water to hold a prayer service for political prisoners on the island.
Initially, U.S. officials had said Sanchez might have been in violation of a 1997 presidential order that requires boat captains leaving South Florida for Cuba to seek permission from both countries.
But the presidential decree only covered boats leaving
an area that ends just south of Boynton Beach, where Sanchez said he departed, and the Coast Guard said Saturday it had dropped an active search for him.