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Operation Able Vigil

In 1994, the Coast Guard was involved in its largest peacetime operation since the Vietnam war, responding to two mass migrations at the same time -- first from Haiti, then from Cuba. Over 63,000 migrants were rescued and prevented from illegally entering the US in Operations ABLE MANNER and ABLE VIGIL. At its height, Operation ABLE MANNER involved 17 US Coast Guard vessels, patrolling the coast of Haiti while Operation ABLE VIGIL involved 38 Coast Guard cutters patrolling the Straits of Florida.

  • 13 July 1994: Tugboat 13 DE MARZO stolen from Havana by migrants sinks after a collision with a pursuing Cuban patrol boat. 32 Cubans drown, 31 are rescued.
  • 26 July: Havana Bay ferry BARAGUA is hijacked towards the U.S. and intercepted by the Coast Guard. The tug is returned to Cuba.
  • 3 August: Havana Bay ferry LA COUBRE hijacked toward the U.S.
  • 4 August: Havana Bay ferry BARAGUA hijacked again. Vessel runs out of fuel in Cuban waters and drifts ashore.
  • 5 August: Crowds of hundreds gather in Havana drawn by news of ferry boat hijackings later turn on police. Castro blames the clashes on Washington and warns that Cuba will stop putting obstacles in the way of Cubans trying to depart if Washington does not changes its immigration policy.
  • 11 August: Cuban security forces ordered to monitor, but not obstruct or facilitate illegal maritime departures.
  • 12 August: In response to increased Cuban migration, US Coast Guard patrols are enhanced to deter potential southbound US vessels from going to Cuba to pick up migrants.
  • 19 August: USCG initiates Operation ABLE VIGIL, a Cuban Mass Migration Emergency Plan in response to uncontrolled migration from Cuba and the announcement by President Clinton prohibiting the entry of undocumented Cuban migrants into the U.S.. The President directs the migrants are to be transported to safe havens outside the U.S..
  • 20 August: the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff orders DoD forces into action to support Operation ABLE VIGIL. This includes:
    • US Navy: Transport of Migrants to Safe Havens and secondarily used as interdiction assets
    • US Army: Camp Construction and Security at Camps
    • US Marine Corps: Security at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO)
    • US Air Force: Transport of DoD assets to GTMO and Cuban migrants to Panama
  • Week of 22 August: 10,190 Cubans are interdicted this week, more than were rescued during the decade between 1983-1993.
  • 28 August: Castro bars children, the elderly, and pregnant women from departing on rafts.
  • 10 September 1994: An agreement with Cuba is announced to increase legal migration. Cuba closes the beaches to rafters.
  • 11 September 1994: Castro issues directive to security forces to prevent further illegal maritime departures.



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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:20:05 Zulu