S. Florida Woman Jailed In Cuba After Airport Smuggling Accusation
MIAMI (CBSMiami) - A South Florida woman is being held in a Cuban prison according to family members, after she was accused of trying to smuggle drugs through a Havana airport.
Melissa Acosta, 20, and a woman she was traveling with were taken into custody on Saturday, according to Acosta's mother Jenny Valdes.
" I just feel like I failed her because I let her go," she told CBS4's Gaby Fleischman in tears. "I shouldn't have let her go, I made a bad judgment call."
The West Kendall mother says she is terrified for her daughter who flew to Havana with her 5-month-old niece, the baby's mother and grandmother. She says this was their third trip to Cuba within the past month.
"I haven't slept, I mean I'm scared, I want my daughter home. She's a good girl she's never been in any trouble and I'm just scared for her..."
Valdes says Melissa, who has a learning disability, was arrested after Cuban authorities reportedly caught her and her niece's trying to sneak synthetic marijuana into the country. The group made it through customs but before leaving the airport, Valdes says both women were checked again and that's when police found the suspected drugs and took them in to custody. It is not clear whether the synthetic cannabis was found on them or in the suitcases.
"I'm just shocked I feel she's been set up," said Valdes. "She's 20 but she has a learning disability and she's got the mind capacity of a 12 to 15-year-old, so imagine being over there not speaking a word of Spanish and being strip searched and she suffers from anxiety."
Valdes says their un-official in-laws own a travel company and charge customers to bring suitcases filled with belongings from Miami to give to their relatives in Cuba.
Valdes says she hasn't been able to speak to her daughter and can't get a visa to go see her, but is doing whatever she can to bring her daughter home.
She is looking for an attorney in Cuba and has contacted several public officials. Marco Rubio's office says they are looking in to the case but are unable to release any information at this time.
"I love her I miss her I want her home," said Valdes. "I know she's scared but were gonna figure it out, we're gonna find someone who will help her."
The U.S. interests section in Cuba advises citizens that "The Interests Section cannot negotiate or secure a U.S. citizen's release from jail (as U.S. citizens in Cuba are subject to the laws of Cuba), but the American Citizen Services Unit can help protect your legitimate interests and ensure that you are not discriminated against."
The family is also asking the public to write to public officials and support them via their funding site to help pay for attorney costs. To help, click here.
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