“My name is Dante Leguizamón. I am 45 years old and I am a journalist in captivity on a Dutch ship,” says an Argentine who has spent 42 days on a journey marked by COVID-19, of which for now he does not know when or how he will be able to get out.
In an open letter posted on his Facebook account, Leguizamón, who is on board the cruise ship “Rotterdam” along with ten other Argentines, five passengers and five musicians, as well as crew members, says he is living a “nightmare.”
His family filed an amparo appeal this week (“habeas corpus”) before the Argentine justice in order for the Holland America Line company to allow him to appear before a judge.
Now he launches an SOS from “Rotterdam” to press for a solution to be given to the eleven Argentines on the cruise and to many other Argentines who work on cruises and are in an even worse situation, according to his account.
Efe contacted the spokesmen for Holland American Line, of the Carnival group, to find out what will happen to Leguizamón and the other Argentines, but so far has not received a response.
NO TRUE TRACK
Since April 9, when the “Rotterdam” sailed from the port of Fort Lauderdale (Florida) in the middle of the night “we have circled the sea in places near the Bahamas aimlessly – and I repeat – without precise information from the captain about our destination” he wrote this Friday.
On April 8 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention They prolonged an order prohibiting cruising based in the country to sail, as a preventive measure for the new coronavirus pandemic.
The “Rotterdam” is not the ship on which Leguizamón left Buenos Aires on March 9 at the invitation of a crew member for a journey that included the Falkland Islands and in his case it should have ended on March 21 in Chile.
“The borders were closed (by COVID-19) and from then on I was in the hands of this company with the Dutch flag and North American capitals,” he says.
The trip began in the “Zaandam”, of the same company, which was able to touch port for the last time on March 14 in Punta Arenas (Chile) and arrived in Panamanian waters at the end of March with four dead passengers and several sick people on board .
For humanitarian reasons, the Panamanian authorities allowed part of the passage to be transferred to “Rotterdam” and after both ships crossed the interoceanic canal towards Florida.
Despite opinions against local politicians and even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, both ships were allowed to dock in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) and disembark the sickest under strict security protocols.
Then the disembarkation of healthy passengers began and their repatriation in the case of non-Americans on charter flights.
Other Latin Americans, such as Mexicans and Uruguayans, were able to return to their countries, but the Argentines were not, since Argentina has been closed since mid-March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
SPECIAL FLIGHTS TO ARGENTINA AND HONDURAS
For that same reason, more than a thousand Argentines are stranded in Miami and it is estimated that there are about 10,000 worldwide.
A special flight by Aerolineas Argentinas with some of these people, including the most vulnerable, is scheduled for this Saturday. The price of the ticket, as some of the stranded in Miami told Efe, is about 550 dollars.
Also tomorrow, a special flight by the Spirit company will depart from Fort Lauderdale to San Pedro Sula (Honduras) with 150 Hondurans stranded in the United States.
In Honduras, as in Argentina, the borders are closed by COVID-19 and it was necessary for the Government of that country to grant a special landing permit to Spirit, which has offered a reduced price (just over $ 200) for the tickets .
The two flights this Saturday will be a relief for some of the stranded in Florida because of the COVID-19, but they do not totally solve the problem since in both cases the capacity of the planes is less than that of people in that situation. .
Among the Argentines stranded in Miami there are cancer patients, octogenarians, pregnant women, a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a 16-year-old girl who was doing a student exchange and another 19-year-old who was studying piano with a scholarship, Jonatan tells Efe López Luna, who has been trapped in this city since March.
The serious situation of the crew of ships trapped on board by COVID-19 has been highlighted by spokesmen for the International Federation of Transport Workers (ITF).
Stephen Cotton, secretary general of the ITF union, has urged governments to “respect” seafarers and coordinate “a comprehensive strategy with key stakeholders, including major airlines, to ease restrictions and facilitate crew change of ships. ”
Leguizamón says in his letter that, in addition to COVID-19, there is another “invisible virus that can also kill”: that of anguish over not being able to return home.