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Cuban refugees rescued after returning for families

MIAMI - Two Cuban refugees who floated to freedom last year on a raft have been rescued again after returning to their homeland, officials said Monday. The pair failed in an effort to bring their families back.

Francisco Gomez Rodrigues, 31, and Jorge Diaz, 37, initially were picked up in August after leaving Cuba on a raft in an attempt to reach Florida, said Coast Guard spokesman Alastair Worden.

They missed their families, however, and after working at odd jobs they traded an old Volkswagen and $250 for a 15-foot boat. On Jan. 6, they left Marathon, in the Florida Keys, bound for Cuba, they told the Coast Guard.

But their boat was detected by a Cuban vessel when it reached coastal waters, and they were picked up by a patrol boat and imprisoned.

They stayed there until Feb. 5, when the Cuban Coast Guard took them five miles offshore in their boat, gave them 10 gallons of gasoline and warned them not to come back, Worden said.

Gomez and Diaz said they never contacted any of the family members they sought to bring back.

The boat either ran out of gas or developed problems, and on Sunday the tanker Chestnut Hill saw the men waving and blinking SOS on a flashlight off the Florida coast.

The Coast Guard picked them up and turned them over to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials, who were interviewing them Tuesday, said deportation supervisor Vincent Intenzo.