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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Fetuses found in airport luggage bag from Cuba

MIAMI — A TV crew filming a reality show at Miami International Airport must have been beyond shocked when U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found two human fetuses in the luggage of two women returning home from Havana.

The fetuses were to be delivered to someone in Miami and used in one of the mixed Catholic and African religions widely practiced in Cuba, like Santeria, according to two persons knowledgeable with the case.

“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Pat Diaz, who retired two years ago after 25 years on the homicide squad of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

MDPD spokesman Roy Rutland confirmed to The Miami Herald on Thursday that the two fetuses were found Jan. 30 in the luggage of two Cuban-American women — one in her 60s and the other in her 70s.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, agents X-rayed a sealed jar they carried and spotted one human fetus. A second one was found when the jar was opened, according to Rutland.

“The medical examiner made a determination that both of the fetuses were close to 20 weeks and both had been stillborn — they were not viable,” he added, making it clear that there was no foul play in the deaths of the fetuses.

The two women told U.S. authorities that they received the jar in Havana from a babalao — a Santeria priest — and were asked to deliver it to someone in Miami, an airline industry official at MIA told The Miami Herald.

But they insisted that they did not know what was in the jar, and were not charged with any crimes, Rutland noted.

Santeria rites usually involve the sacrifice of small animals such as chickens and goats and sometimes the use of old human bones stolen from cemeteries. Human fetuses are rarely if ever used, according to experts on Santeria.

Rutland said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who found the fetuses could not identify any crime committed by the women, and passed the case to the MDPD homicide squad.

MDPD investigators presented the evidence and forensic reports to the States Attorney office, which made the decision to not pursue any state charges because the women had “no intent” to commit any crime, the spokesman added.

Rutland did not identify the women or the person in Miami who was supposed to receive the fetuses, citing privacy constraints.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Medical Examiner’s offices in Miami could not be reached late Thursday for comment on this story.

The travel industry official at MIA said Cuban security officials at Jose Martí International Airport in Havana are intensely interested in how the jar got past their tight screenings of outbound luggage.
Cuban authorities screen the luggage to prevent terrorist attacks on airplanes that service the island, said the official, who asked for anonymity because she was not authorized to comment on the case.

All 73 persons aboard died in the 1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana de Aviacion airliner. Two Venezuelans were convicted, and Havana has accused militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles of masterminding the attack. Posada has denied any role.

The discovery of the fetuses came as a TV crew was filming a reality show at the airport, Rutland noted. The series, titled “MIA,” is scheduled to be broadcast this summer on the Travel Channel.

Rutland recalled he received a call from the crew about the case, but understood that the details were so gruesome that the channel may not even mention the fetuses when the series is broadcast.

MIA’s large amount of international traffic, especially with Latin America, has led to the discovery of many exotic or bizarre items in luggage and cargo, including archaeological objects, tropical food items and, in one case, a preserved Llama fetus.

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