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US Coast Guard terrorize Jamaican fishermen

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced that it will be suing the United States Coast Guard on behalf of four Jamaican fishermen who were held for five weeks in 2017 on suspicion of smuggling marijuana.  

The Jamaican fishermen went missing after setting out for sea from the village of half Moon Bay. However, their quest for tuna and snapper was supposed to last about two days. But, it was not’til five weeks later the men re-emerged in Miami, covered in burns and blisters, according to ACLU.

The ACLU alleges that the US Coast Guard officers had snatched them off their boat on suspicion of marijuana smuggling, then held them at sea for more than a month, shuffling them among various vessels en route to the US to face trial.

On board the Coast Guard subjected the men to the most brutal treatment.

The Coast Guard was operating under some flagrantly  arbitrary policy in which they stop boats in international waters, search them and their crew for drugs, destroy boats, and detain crew members for prolonged periods of time in inhumane conditions, regardless of whether any drugs are found aboard.

So in this instance, the Jamaicans were forced off their boat at gunpoint and brought aboard the Coast Guard vessel, the Confidence.. Then they were stripped naked and forced to wear a thin white overall. Then the ship’s officers chained each of them by one of their ankles to metal cables that ran the breadth and length of the ship’s deck. Thirty men were already detained at the bow. All were dressed in the same white coveralls, and chained by one of their ankles to the metal cables affixed to the deck.

When night fell, the Jamaicans, still chained to the deck, watched in disbelief as a Coast Guard officer fired a flare at their boat. The boat burst into flames and then sank after Coast Guard officers riddled its hull with bullets.

They remain ankle-chained to Confidence’s bow for four days, and were freed from the cable only to relieve themselves in buckets or over the side of the ship. Their only protection from the elements was a plastic tarpaulin hung over them.

 Their  officers chained the fishermen up on decks exposed to the elements—even while sailing straight through Hurricane Maria—fed them little, and denied them contact with their loved ones.

When they finally reached a US courtroom, they were never convicted of a drug crime, since the ACLU says no drugs were ever found on the boat. They pleaded guilty to lying to investigators because, according to the suit, their attorney told them it was the fastest way to get home. They were sentenced to ten months in prison and deported.

The ACLU argues that indefinite detentions of the kind it says its clients suffered are inhumane and illegal. 

Editorial: What an outrage! Jamaican fishermen or any other non-American fishermen, must live in fear that any time they venture out into international waters to put food on their table, the US Coast Guard may pounce on them and subject them to weeks of horrible abuse because of their suspicions.  I hope these fishermen receive a multi-million dollar settlement, but even that is not enough. The Jamaica government should raise this issue in the UN or the International Court of Justice. How will Jamaican fishermen live under such a dire threat of US Coast Guard piracy?

Can black Jamaicans get justice in an American court against the mighty US Coast Guard? Often innocent black American citizens shot by police do not get justice here.  I am not optimistic and especially with the environment created by the racist President Trump.

(this is a preview from, which is having technical publishing issues.

Editor, Hot Calaloo
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