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Jerry-Rigged Boat from Cuban Migrants Washes Up on Florida Beach

The makeshift boat’s poor construction probably led to the death of its passengers, who were most likely fleeing Cuba.

Photo courtesy of Mario Loyola

SURFSIDE, FLORIDA — A wreckage of an abandoned, jerry-rigged boat that caught fire offshore was found washed up on the beach in South Florida on Sunday. Mario Loyola, a professor at Florida International University, posted several images of the wreckage on Twitter.

Loyola told The Florida Standard that he initially saw the boat from a distance before it washed on shore. The singed remains left a trail of ashes in the water and reeked of gasoline. It was poorly constructed with scrap metal pieces of rebar constituting the frame, a blue tarp wrapped around a hull made of insulation foam, a rudder composed of old pipes, and an engine with an exposed radiator, possibly from a tractor.

Once the glorified raft washed up on the beach, a crowd gathered around to examine it. Shoes and other articles of clothing reached land, while their owners apparently did not. Some of the bystanders identified food wrappers from Cuban brands.


Loyola, whose mother was born in Cuba, has written extensively about issues that plague the third-world country for outlets such as National Review and The Weekly Standard. He pointed out that the Cuban government’s restrictions on boat ownership forces those seeking to flee the country to build their vessels in secret using whatever materials are available to them. Since the island is approximately 90 miles from Key West, many migrants have reached the southern tip of Florida on poorly constructed floatation devices.

“It’s a tantalizing thing, because all they have to do is make it 90 miles,” Loyola said. “When you’re in the middle of the Florida straits, you can see the lights of Havana to the south and the lights of Miami to the north. It’s so close.”


The U.S. Coast Guard has stopped over 4,400 Cubans at sea since October 2021, according to Local 10 News in South Florida, making it the largest exodus from the island since 1959.

“Something very bad is happening in Cuba right now,” Loyola said, noting the impact of the nation's loss of support from Brazil and Venezuela after the fall of the Soviet Union. “It doesn’t have a productive economy because it’s a communist system.”

Loyola believes the object of U.S. foreign policy should be to “end communism in Cuba as soon as possible by whatever means necessary.” He also criticized self-proclaimed “democratic socialists” Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, suggesting that their willingness to embrace the label of socialism has helped produce the recent red wave among Cubans in South Florida.

“They can detect socialism a mile away,” he said of Latin American voters. “Freedom, rule of law, and private property – those principles that we are fighting to protect here at home from the socialists, we should also be fighting to protect abroad.”