By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: January 28, 2002
KEY WEST, Fla., Jan. 27 (AP) — Members of a Miami Cuban exile group sailed just outside Cuban territorial waters and set off a barrage of fireworks on Saturday in memory of the Cuban independence hero José Martí.
The group, Democracy Movement, set off a 45-minute fireworks display Saturday night from two boats, the Democracía and the Human Rights, said Ramón Saul Sánchez, who leads the group.
The group also prayed for the "unification of the Cuban nation," Mr. Sánchez said.
A Coast Guard vessel escorted the group for the trip from Key West on Saturday morning. The demonstration was without incident and the group's boats returned to Key West this morning, Mr. Sánchez said.
Mr. Sánchez has frequently led flotillas to the edge of Cuban territorial waters in the Florida Straits to hold memorial services for Cuban migrants who have died trying to leave Cuba in small boats.
He remained in Key West on Saturday because he is barred from leaving South Florida while he awaits trial on federal charges that he and two other men illegally entered Cuban waters during a flotilla protest last July.
The trial is set for May.
Mr. Sánchez said Saturday's flotilla did not breach Cuban waters, which begin 12 miles from shore.
The flotilla was originally scheduled for last month, but inclement weather forced the group to postpone it. Martí's birthday is Monday.
"I believe that we really can make a difference," said Milagro L. Velasco, a passenger on one of the boats. "We get in touch with the Cuban people, and they know we are there."