BY JENNIFER BABSON
MARATHON -- Nine people, most of them members of the anti-Castro Democracy Movement, piled onto a boat Wednesday afternoon bound for a fireworks protest in international waters about 15 miles from Havana's coastline.
The group was originally on a two-boat flotilla that left early Wednesday morning, but was forced to turn back about 12 miles from the Florida Keys when mechanical troubles disabled one of the boats, the Democracia. After towing the Democracia back to shore, participants boarded the second boat, the Human Rights, and departed again at about 3:30 p.m.
``The people took all their stuff, their fireworks, their wreaths, food and supplies, and they are on their way,'' Coast Guard spokesman Luis Díaz said.
The Coast Guard was monitoring the voyage closely, said Díaz, and deployed three cutters to keep an eye on the Human Rights, from which about $1,500 worth of fireworks were slated to be launched Wednesday night or this morning.
Originally scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, the fireworks display was supposed to coincide with a demonstration by Cubans on the island who pledged to bang pots and pans together, according to Ramón Saúl Sánchez, head of the Democracy Movement. A similar protest had been planned Wednesday in Little Havana.
The effort is aimed at protesting the Cuban government's system of food rationing.