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Raft with Cuban refugees sinks near Cancun

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 13, 2012 -- Updated 0540 GMT (1340 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thirteen are either dead or missing
  • Yucatan is a popular destination for refugees headed to the U.S.
  • Ten survivors are in the custody of immigration officials

(CNN) -- Two people drowned and at least 11 went missing, when a raft bearing 23 refugees from Cuba sank off the coast of Isla de Mujeres, near Cancun, Mexico Friday, according to immigration authorities.

Ten adult survivors, nine men and one woman, were taken into custody, where Red Cross medical workers determined them to be in good health, the Federal Immigration Institute in Quintana Roo said.

The Yucatan Peninsula, particularly the municipalities of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, is a major landing point for smugglers who bring Cubans into Mexico and take them to the U.S. border.

"It's a major receiving dock for things coming from the Caribbean," said Samuel Logan, founding director of Southern Pulse, an online information network focused on Latin America.

The Cancun area has become more popular with human smugglers in the past decade because the 135-mile-wide Yucatan Channel is not heavily patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard as are other parts of the Caribbean Sea. Most U.S. interdiction efforts occur in the Straits of Florida between Cuba and Florida.

Mexican authorities did not say what the refugees' intended destination was.

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