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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The first group of Cuban migrants to arrive in South Florida since Fidel Castro’s death are relieved their long and dangerous journey is now over.
The group of 13 made it to Big Pine Key just after 4 a.m. Tuesday.
“We were in the ocean for 26 hours,” said Odalis Lopez, one of the migrants. “We got lost but we had a good journey.”
“It was a tough journey because the sea was rough. Our GPS got broken. It got wet so we had to throw it out,” said Jose Ramon Lueje Mestre, a migrant who says this was his third attempt making it to the U.S. “We guessed which way we were going by the sun, clouds and stars.”
The migrants say they left Cuba early Monday morning.
“We left on the 5th at 2 in the morning. We were at sea all day long. Then we found our way to the Keys,” said Lueje Mestre.
“There, the police came to get us. They took our information and did our paperwork and then sent us over to immigration and now here we are,” said Dennis Postrille Abad.
The migrants say Castro’s death actually delayed their planned journey by a few days.
“We had to wait a few days because police were everywhere,” said Lueje Mestre. “If you get caught, you get in trouble. You get fined. So the death of Castro made it harder for us to leave.”
“This was my third attempt coming on a raft,” said Postrille Abad. “I had it planned long before Castro died.”
But when asked their thoughts of Fidel, the migrants were cautious to say anything negative about the late communist leader fearing what the Castro regime could do to their loved ones back home.
“I don’t want to talk about that topic because I have family over there and this may be seen there. I don’t want any trouble,” said Lueje Mestre.
“I don’t think it’s right to celebrate a person’s death,” said Postrille Abad, regarding the celebrations that broke out in South Florida following Castro’s death. “That’s ugly.”
Some of the migrants told CBS4 News friends and relatives were picking them up to start their new lives. Others say they were on their own.