Florida Flotilla to Cuba Could be Fined $25K Per Day if They Go Without Permit

Organizers poised to launch a flotilla from South Florida to waters near Cuba next week were warned by Federal authorities Thursday that they could be breaking the law.

In an advisory, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that boaters planning to enter Cuban territorial waters must get permission from the U.S. Coast Guard or risk fines of $25,000 a day and 10 years in prison.

"It is illegal for boaters to depart with the intent to travel to Cuba for any purpose without a permit," the advisory said.

Bringing foreign nationals into the U.S. illegally could be slammed with $250,000-a-day penalties and five years in prison, the department warned.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, continue below.

Cuba libre
A man holds a sign reading "Communism is evil" during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Hialeah, Florida on July 15, 2021. - Unprecedented anti-government protests broke out in Cuba on July 11, which the single-party state leadership blames on a Twitter campaign orchestrated by the United States. Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP/Getty Images

According to Osdany Veloz, an organizer of the boaters, the goal of next Monday's planned trip is to go to international waters near the island, but not cross into Cuban waters, to let island residents know they have supporters in South Florida.

Organizers said they will set sail from South Florida if 100 boaters show up, according to Miami television station WFOR-TV.

"The purpose is to stay on the border, not trespassing, stay in international water and just let the Cuban people know we're also fighting for their freedom, so once and for all they can be a free country," said Jorge Lopez, who plans to make the trip.

Thousands of Cubans began taking to the streets last weekend to protest limited access to COVID-19 vaccines and basic goods. The country is going through its worst economic crisis in decades.

The protests in the island nation have sparked an outpouring of support in Florida, which is home to the nation's largest community of Cuban exiles. Throngs of people in Miami, Orlando and the Tampa area have rallied in support, sometimes shutting down major thoroughfares.

Cuba flotilla
Demonstrators shout their solidarity with the Cuban people against the communist government, Thursday, July 15, 2021, in Hialeah, Fla. Hialeah has the greatest concentration of Cuban exiles in the U.S. Marta Lavandier/AP Photo