The Ordeal of a Cuban Rafter

By Ivett de las Mercedes

Jorge Mendoza
Jorge Mendoza

HAVANA TIMES — On Friday, March 4, a group of twenty-seven young Cubans set out from Bahia Honda, in the province of Artemisa, headed for the United States. They had built their vessel – approximately six meters long – together. They carried water, food and a big bag of hope.

The next day, the engine broke down and they spent two agonizing weeks out at sea. The dream of a better future left them. 29-year-old Jorge Mendoza Correa, who lives in Candelaria, was one of the young men on the raft. He tells us of his experiences.

Jorge Mendoza Correa: We were twenty-five miles from Tortuga Key when the engine broke. It was overheating and we didn’t have a large enough container to pour water on it and cool it down. As we were making good progress and hadn’t run into any obstacles, we decided to use the water in the tanks we took with us in the engine. I think we were overconfident and didn’t think to leave some for us. Then we were stranded out at sea. Cargo boats and planes went past us, some kilometers away, and no one would rescue us, even though we made signals and yelled. We became more and more desperate as the days passed. There were huge waves, the sun was scorching hot.

HT: Did you take anything with you for the sun and the cold?

JMC: We were protected, but one begins to take things off because they’re bothersome and they start hurting your skin. During the day, you have to put the sweaters out to dry so you can use them to protect yourself from the cold at night. You also have to be careful they don’t fly off in strong winds.

Jorge's house in Candelaria, Pinar del Rio.
Jorge’s house in Candelaria, Pinar del Rio.

HT: You were sitting the whole time? How did you sleep?

JMC: We had lost a stabilizer, something that keeps the vessel from tipping over or sinking, so we had to balance the weight on board. Some were on one side and the rest on the other. You couldn’t stand, because that would have made the vessel tip. We were constantly throwing water out. We slept like that, in an uncomfortable position. Whenever we’d fall asleep, a wave would come along and soak us. We often threw water on ourselves to cool off a bit, and we’d see the sharks. They never attacked us. We had dolphins next to us often.

HT: What happened when you ran out of food?

JMC: After six days at sea, we had run out of food and used up all the water in the containers. Someone had the idea of drinking our own urine, someone else said it was harmful, that it has ammonia. I was the first to do that. I urinated, filtered the pee with a sweater. Drinking that was horrible, but you get used to it. What also saved us were the remoras. We’d eat them raw. There was a nurse among us that would draw blood, and we’d drink that. We each had our own syringe.

My nephew was with us and taking care of him was one of things that kept me strong. I couldn’t let anything happen to him. My brother-in-law had also come. We became one family.

HT: On a stranded raft, without water or food and the sun beating down on you, anything can happen. The twenty-six persons on board knew each other, you planned the voyage together. How did you deal with your losses?

A drift at sea. Ilustration by Carlos.
Adrift at sea. Ilustration by Carlos.

JMC: It was painful. We keep constant watch to make sure no one drank salt water or wet their lips when they threw water on them to cool off. If that happened, you’d get killer diarrhea. We faced very difficult moments. The first was when one of the women started to hallucinate. She became very aggressive, irritated. She wasn’t herself. The next day, she apologized, but I noticed she was drinking cologne. She told me it refreshed her. At noon, she fainted. We carried her, tried to wake her up, but she was gone. Her face had changed. Her heart was beating more slowly and she began to contract. I told the others I couldn’t feel her pulse. The nurse confirmed she had passed away. We decided to leave her on the raft, covered, hoping a ship would rescue us and we’d be able to take the body back to land. As the hours passed, the corpse began to decompose. It was too hot out and the body began bleeding everywhere. We had to throw the body overboard to avoid the spread of an infection or epidemic.

There was another kid from San Cristobal, from the Marti neighborhood, to be specific. He was very weak the moment we set sail. He was vomiting a lot and didn’t want to eat. When he became delirious, we knew he must have drunk salt water at one point. He would call out to his mother and daughter. He grew very pale and started to contract. We knew he wouldn’t be around long.

The third had burnt his feet and they were destroyed. I had never seen flesh like that. He would complain about the pain a lot. He agonized till death. The day before the rescue six more people died. Do you know what it’s like to lose six people you know in a day? Nine died in total. If the cruiser hadn’t rescued us, no one would have been left alive. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those days.

One of the sores.
One of the sores.

HT: Were you afraid? What was going through your mind?

JMC: I thought I would die also. We were stranded somewhere where you couldn’t see anything, neither planes nor cargo ships, for several days. The GPS stopped working because the batteries got wet. One day, we smelled a swamp. We were probably close to a key, but the current drags you along. We didn’t have anything to light the way with, the lighters had also gotten wet.

I thought of those who died, people I’d known since childhood, and about how their relatives would react. Everyone probably thought we were dead after so many days out at sea. I would think of my son, my mother, my hopes, about what would happen in a few hours’ time. I couldn’t cry, I don’t know why. The others prayed, especially the two women. Sores formed on my buttocks from so much sitting. I also got sores on my legs. I didn’t even have the strength to scoop water out of the raft. There was unbearable silence all around. The sea is terrible, especially at night, when it’s cold. Sometimes, you can’t take it. At first, we would huddle, but, as days passed, we couldn’t even touch one another because of the sores and the burns. During storms, there were waves as high as twelve meters. There was tension trying to keep the raft balanced, as we didn’t have the stabilizer. We had to take some planks from the raft to use as rows and it didn’t work. The currents were too strong.

HT: What happened when you saw the cruiser?

JMC: We saw the cruiser in the distance. It was the early morning of March 18. We planned not to yell or signal at it until it was close, as that hadn’t worked previously. We tried to get as close as possible, we started to yell and make signals using the tanks. The cruiser moved away a bit and suddenly lit us up with floodlight. But it took some time to approach us, perhaps it was waiting for an order. The cruiser security came and we told them some of us were ill. They asked us if we wanted water or if we wanted to be rescued. We asked to be rescued. We got on in groups of four until all eighteen of us were safe. The cruiser was coming from Tampa, it was called the Royal Caribe. I am very grateful for their attentions and care, and the rescue most of all. We couldn’t have survived another day.

The rescue.
The rescue.

HT: You couldn’t have even gone on with water?

JMC: We were very weak. We had sailed past Florida. We couldn’t have endured another day under the sun.

HT: What happened on board the cruiser?

JMC: We were put in wheelchairs. A Spanish nurse took our blood pressure. We drank water and energy drinks. We couldn’t start eating all of a sudden, only fruit and light meals. They also gave us clothing and shoes. We spent a whole day in the cruise ship. They treated us magnificently, but the experience was dampened by sadness. In total, two women and seven men had died.

HT: What happened after the rescue?

JMC: The cruiser left us in Cozumel, Mexico. The marines put us on a speedboat and we reached Puerto Ventura in 45 minutes. Then, there was a four-hour journey to Quintana Roo, accompanied by immigration officials. They received us there. The nurse from the immigration center saw us and gave us medication. No one spoke to us about the law. We had arrived on Saturday, March 19, and, on Tuesday the 22nd, they explained they had to send out some information with our photos and IDs to the Cuban consulate, then wait fifteen working days.

During that time, the Cuban consulate had to decide whether it would allow us to continue towards the United States or repatriate us. If there’s no reply, immigration sends out the information again and there’s a 45-day waiting period. In the event the consulate does not reply within 60 days, they let you go. We were hoping they would let us continue on our way. We were in a place that felt like a prison, even though they make a point of telling you you’re not imprisoned, but under protection. Four of us were taken to the hospital. One had anesthesia administered to him for the treatment of his burns and the sores on his feet. He was able to continue on his way and has already made it to the United States. He was the only one who made it.

HT: After that whole ordeal, what was it like to know you were going back to Cuba?

JMC: I clung to hope till the last moment. I don’t have relatives in the United States that could have help me pay for a lawyer, but we were confident they would let us go.

Jorge at the moment of the rescue.
Jorge at the moment of the rescue.

At eleven at night on March 23, we had heard rumors they were sending us back to Cuba, and so it was. It was a five-hour journey from Quintana Roo to Kumal, and from there to Cancun, all under maximum security.

We left on the first flight, at 7 am. When we arrived at the airport here, State Security came and made us fill out some forms. Then, they did some tests and told us we would be taken to Valle Grande. We spent five days there. They explained to us we weren’t prisoners. When they interviewed us, they questioned our testimony. They blamed us for the deaths. It was very painful for me to throw those people overboard, we knew them all, we loved them, we had grown up together. Then, we had the bitter experience of having to deliver only some of their clothes to their families.

After we spent those five days at Valle Grande, they interrogated two of us again. On the 29th, they put us on a bus and dropped us off at the Candelaria highway.

HT: Would you do it again?

JMC: Perhaps. I’ve never had any political problems. I have a Bachelor’s in Education. I earned 500 pesos (around 20 USD) a month, which isn’t enough for anything.

The psychological impact has been huge. I can’t sleep remembering what happened, the agony, the hunger, the despair. When I meet with a relative of someone who died, they immediately ask me what happened and, even though one tries to conceal some details, my words betray me.

I believe we deserved to make it, because of everything we went through. When I boarded the plane back to Cuba, my plans went to hell. I was dead inside. Before I left, I was working as a chemistry teacher at a school. Now, I don’t even have that and I have to maintain my six-year-old kid. If I ever try again, I have to be more prepared. It’s no easy task. You put your life at risk.

80 thoughts on “The Ordeal of a Cuban Rafter

  • The US embargo is a toothless tiger that is easily circumvented.

  • There are Cuban children who go to bed hungry even night. Castro propaganda to the contrary should be dismissed. Stop trying to justify the failure of the Castro revolution by highlighting the worst circumstances in the US. Our problems do not make the suffering in Cuba any less painful for Cubans.

  • The US embargo is not the worst problem that Cubans face on a daily basis. In fact, given the fact that Cuba is able to trade with every country in the world save the US, the embargo is far more bark than bite. Nonetheless, it remains a crutch for the Castros and provides political cover for the failure of the Castro revolution.

  • Kennedy it would appear that your one trick pony to defend tyranny on Cuba is to attack the US. Problems in the US do not justify tyranny in Cuba.

  • Dan, of course the Castros are to blame! But for the economic and political conditions created by the dictatorship in Cuba, Cubans would not want to leave in the record numbers that we are seeing. And of course we blame the government’s of the other countries that you listed for the problems their emigrants are facing. The difference remains that the special circumstances in Cuba warranted a special immigration policy.

  • Don’t be ridiculous Kennedy. Public schools are free in the US. Anyone, including undocumented immigrants can go to school without paying at the point of service. This in NOT the case in Cuba. Obamacare has nearly guaranteed universal health care in the US and US hospitals are clean. Anyone in the US can run for public office REGARDLESS of political party affiliation. Winning is a horse of a different color. Try publicly declaring membership in a political party other than the PCC in Cuba. Not only will you not be allowed to run for office, you will likely be arrested. Finally, anyone can join a trade union in the US. Furthermore, trade unions in the US actually represent and defend the rights of the workers. In Cuba, the trade unions work for the Castros. Stop making stupid comments. They are too easy to refute.

  • MOSES, Is there an organization called the KLU KLUX KLAN in America? wWere Black people lynched in America? Was segregation ever practised in America? Was there a ROSA PARKS who lived in America? Why was Martin Luther King assasinated in America. The only place in the world which was more racist than America was the Apartheid South Africa and America supported the system for it kept Black people subjugated. The right to universal education is a human right which is not enjoyed in the great America. The right to proper health care is another human right which is enjoyed in Cuba but not America. The right to run for political office in Cuba by any citizen is a right which cannot be enjoyed in Ameria where only the ultra rich can run for office. The right to join a Trade Union is a right which is enjoyed in Cuba but not in America!

  • Brother Rodriguez. Your story has no merit in it. If you lived so long in Cubs, you must have known about conditions under Batista. Did you get a free education under the Revolution? If you were a scientist, and a boa fide one, why would you be forced to lie about results? OK, so you have gone to the mighty USA where there are no crimes, where every body works; there is no unemployment; there is no poverty; everybody can live comfortably off the wages they receive. There are no homeless people on the streets; there are no persons hungry in America. You have found the paradise on earth in America as against living in Cuba. By the way, are you still employed in America as a scientist where you do not have to falsify your results. If this is so, why are there so suits against the pharaceutical companies for the products they produce and sell to patients?If you possess so many scientific books this shows that you are from the oligarchic class, so you hate the idea of the ordinary people accessing a good education like you? Did you ever hear anyone comparing what existed under Batista and what exists today in Cuba? If you teach a man to read and write, how can such a person be deemed a dictator? Batista kept his people ignorant and illiterate. The Castro’s taught the people to read and write, who is the dictator my friend? You have let the cat out of the bag my friend and people of your ilk always want to keep we the working class in bondage and, any one who comes to our rescue is a dictator. Pinochet of Chile was a dictator who your adopted country supported. The military juntas which the CIA trained at the School of the Americas in the State of Virginia were not dictators. Learn the history of your adopted country!

  • The US’s Cuban Adjustment Act right here everybody. The immigration blank check given to Cubans right here.

  • I logged in just to give you an upvote.

  • I pay $800/mo for rent but I live in a 1BR apartment all by myself in the middle of a large city, that amount of money is in no way necessary or typical for someone who is cash strapped. Even here in the city it is possible to rent a room for perhaps $300/mo and most unskilled jobs start at $10/hr. Totally unskilled jobs that could be done by a monkey provide a much better standard of living here than being a skill professional in Cuba.

  • Yes, cite it. Lets see if the cafe con leche leftists will say that it is a Fidel Castro’s lie.

  • Fantastic quote. You will of course indulge me in allowing my re-posting of this at some future time

  • I provide my opinions and views, not those of others. But you are correct in querying whether all books are available in Cuba because of censorship. The Director of a Pre-University school in Cuba had never heard of Dr. Zhivago or Boris Pasternak.
    That is because it was banned in Russia, so Fidel Castro banned it in Cuba.
    I think that Circles in trying to admonish Kennedy Earle Clarke was referring to the constant repetition of the same old, same old.

  • My Lord, your mother and father were extremely fertile judging by the number of brothers you have even in these few pages. However there appears to be a shortage of sisters – or were they aborted? I guess that as you inherited the title, you are the eldest.
    USA, USA, USA, USA, USA, USA – why don’t you find that continuous mental chant as boring as the rest of us?
    If you want to keep people down, you subject them to indoctrination. That is why Dr. Ernesto Guevara de Serna Lynch said:
    “People have to learn to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.” That enthusiasm of his for education resulted in rural retreats for him to indoctrinate Cubans into his adopted version of Stalin’s “new man”. That enthusiasm for ‘education’ was shared by Fidel Castro Ruz.
    Yes, I have been in all levels of school in Cuba from the creche to pre-university and yes I have read the textbooks used in the schools. HAVE YOU?
    The definition of ‘education’ is:
    the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction especially at school or university
    that for ‘indoctrination’ is:
    teach a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically
    That is why not only the schools in Cuba indoctrinate, but why the posters and hoardings that can be observed from one end of Cuba to the other extol the supposed virtues of ‘socialismo’ with quotes by Fidel, Raul, Ernesto Guevara, and pictures of them looking down upon the indoctrinated masses. That is why there is such emphasis in the schools from age two, upon the need for ‘respect’. Accept what you are taught without debate, without discussion and have respect for the communist system and those who impose it. But I guess My Lord, that that is beyond the capacity of your intellect to comprehend. You have your drum and you will continue with your boring beat.

  • You My Lord have forgotten what the article above was about being too busy conforming as part of the blabbering socialist mass. These young people, some of them dying as a consequence, were fleeing from the ‘socialismo’ paradise you so admire. I will lay odds that you don’t even know whereabouts in Cuba they come from and you don’t care. Candeleria not being a tourist resort, but part of inland Cuba. Do I know it? Yes, I even have a relative living there.
    I have the good fortune to have not swallowed the Marx/Lenin theories, and continue to think as an individual rather than having like you become a part of the unthinking mass!

  • Firstly and thankfully, I am not your brother – any more than you being an Earle are entitled to be called ‘My Lord’.
    Secondly, Dr. Ernesto Guevara de Serna Lynch said:

    “People have to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.”

    You My Lord, are obviously a student of Dr. Guevara and are complying with his instruction.

  • Kennedy, one of our commenters offered you a place to stay if you want to visit Cuba. I suggest you do so to enrich your comments with some of the present. I lived for 7 years in Cuba during this century, under both Fidel and Raul Castro as president, and have visited once or twice a year ever since leaving. That doesn’t make me an expert but I do have contact with many different realities within the country. And as to your comments, try not to repeat yourself so much, we all know you live in America and hate the the system and would love to live in Cuba but for some reason don’t. This site is about Cuba! not life in the USA.

  • Strange comment. Castros’ unions represent the Castros and not Cuban workers. I was born after 1959 so I didn’t “lose” anything. I encourage you to visit Cafe Versailles in Little Havana in Miami and ask around about how many Cubans believe that the Castros “liberated” them? By the way, I do remember Sanford and Son. Funny show.

  • I’m here for you.

  • Very soon brother Circles, soon. You must try and make a trip there yourself and then speak from reality. You have just made my day brother, for you speak about freedom of speech, but you seem most annoyed because I dare to expose the hypocrisy of America. So much for Freedom of Speech. Brother Circles, I would live any day in Cuba and be completely satisfied and content than to live one day in America where my life would be worth nothing. I have also read the negative things you have written about Cuba and I am not annoyed at you, but you seem extremely upset about my comments? Does America have a terrorist organization called the Klu KLux Klan? Were there terrorist cells in Florida planiing to execute terrorist actions on Cuba when the Cuban Five infiltrated them and, instead of bringing the terrorists to judgement they imprisoned the Cuban Five for infiltrating the terrorist organization at a time when America was pursuing Bin Laden for performing terrorist acts on the Twin Towers of America? Can you deny these historical facts brother Circles? The bible says that Ye must know the truth for the TRUTH will set you free!! Show me up as a person of incorrect information and I will apologize to you! ARROGANCE!!!

  • It is sooo interesting that in every place in Cuba you can buy American products if you have enough dollars! Thats is some embargo.

    And about your mantra that Cubans were starving under Bastista, I will provide you with a quote and a link.

    Se decía que si no había una crisis económica, si no
    había hambre, no era posible una revolución y, sin embargo, se hizo la Revolución (APLAUSOS).



    This is from Fidel Castro’s mouth before he started changing history to suit his ends.

    ‘In Cuba there was not an economic crisis, there was not hunger..’ so, please, stop repeating the dictatorship propaganda.

  • Mr Clarke,

    I talk about Cuba because I am a Cuban. A Cuban who lived there for 48 years, who got to know the physical country and the highest and lowest levels of Cuban society in a way I am sure you do not by miles. I talk about Cuba because I do know how it was before 1959 from my own experience and what I have heard from older people (simple, common people, not batistianos). I talk about Cuba because it pains me to witness how many uninformed cafe-con-leche leftists defend a dictatorship they would not bear in their own country at all.

    I do despise all dictatorships, from the left, from the right, and religious, but what touches my heart is Cuba because I was born there, buried my father there, and was forced to leave my books, my family and my love there.

    I talk about Cuba because, despite being an excellent scientist, I was declared ‘politically unreliable’ (something you probably do not have fear for in Canada or USA) just because I refused lie on my research results and was so left unemployable. I took my case all the way to the very top of the system to no avail and I had to live for 8 years on a prayer and outside the law to survive and feed my dying father and my mother until I was able to leave just with $200 US and the clothes on my back to start from zero in the US.

    You, and others like you, do not have the foggiest idea of what it means to live under a totalitarian regime, and are easy prey of the system propaganda. Stop spouting nonsensical caricatures of Cuba before and after 1959. You do not know the first thing about either of them.

    If you want to learn a little about Cuba now, (just a little because it will not allow you feel in your soul all the accumulated baggage people carry there) go to live there as a common Cuban who might have a profession but only gets $20US per month, a house that is falling apart shared with three generations, water that comes and goes, the stench of garbage an clouds of flies at all times, and the knowledge that, after decades of sacrifice and strife for a supposedly better future there is an eternal elite living the good life while you rot, and there is nothing you can do to change your situation but to leave all behind and emigrate. Until then “calladito, te ves mas bonito”.

    In Cuba, they have medical care and education (indoctrination) but what people lack is HOPE.

  • Kennedy, when is your next trip to Cuba? We’ve already read your comments on the USA a thousand times.

  • Brother Ken, Your information is very acurate. If you want to keep a people down, would you educate them? The answer is an emphatic NOOO!!!

  • Carlyle, What is Communism? If Capitalism is for the Rich and exploitative class, then, Communism is for the exploited class of people. For the 241 years that America gained its Independence from Great Britain, isn’t there still discrimination, poverty, disease, illiteracy, crime and expolitation of the workers up until today? Is this an example to follow if you really want to liberate your people?

  • Thanks for opening our eyes Moses! Confession is realy good for the soul!

  • With regard to this and other posts….are we talking about the same Cuba here? Because I’m Cuban, and I certainly don’t recognize the Cuba you describe.

  • I have the book and I do not know what you are alluding to. Please point out to me the specific passage or chapter or page I should concentrate on to bring out the facts you want me to see; on the other hand, I would like to direct you to the Amazon Bookstore to encourage you to read or order a book which is entitled, “Slavery by another name.” When you have read the first twenty pages of that book and you possess a conscience or you are concerned about the plight of your fellowmen, return and engage me in conversation. Dr Earnesto Guevara was a Medical Doctor who, like the Castro’s, was touched by the plight of his fellow human beings and fought for their liberation. After the success of the Cuban Revolution, he went to other Latin American countries to do the same and was assasinated by your CIA who hunted him down. What do you want me to read brother Carlyle? Are you better off today in Cuba than how your parents lived under Batista? Kindly answer the question please?

  • Firstly, Costa Rica does not have free education from kindergarten to university. I would like you to present the whole United Nations Statistics for the whole world to see? It is a fact that the prison population of America is more than the eleven million inhabitants which populate Cuba. In a land of plenty, in a land of the free and the home of the brave, why are there so many prisoners and why are they at risk to be either raped or murdered. Why are there special prisons for the rich who commit crimes and, by the way, why are you beating up on Cuba? Why dont you clear up the image of America which has a brutal society? Why don’t you beat up on Saudi Arabia where it is a crime for a woman to drive a car? Is it because it is an ally of America? What about all those countries in the Middle East which do not hold General Elections? What about all those military juntas your country backed and supported because they were subjugating their people so that the mulinationals could reap enormous profits off the backs of their people? Why are you bullying Cuba? If the Cuban people are being paid small wages, look at the many privileges they enjoy that the average American cannot and do not enjoy? Tell your government that it must ease the criminal embargo that it has imposed on the Cuban people for choosing their right to self determination? Who are you or America to determine how the Cubans run or govern their country? Where was your voice when Batista was subjugating his people? When they were illiterate? Where was your voice then? Leave the Cuban people and their Revolution alone! Go and clean up your backyard and, when you have made it spotlessly clean, then, you can return to point your small finger at others. Clean up your sordid history. The lynchings of Black people by the Klu Klux Klan. The rapings of Black women down South where they possessed no rights to bring charges against the white men who raped them. Th assasination of Black folks by the police without any trials, the treatment meted out to the Red Indians who are the original inhabitants (read the book,”Bury my heart at Wounded Knee).” STOP BEATING UP ON CUBA! Present whatever statistics yo have from the United Nations for the whole world to scrutinize. Is it only Cuba you have statistics on? What about the plght of the Palestine people who are suppressed by your ally Israel and there is no outcry from you and your Government?.

  • Kennedy Earle Clarke, this is the problem with people like you who become saturated with the propaganda you hear without researching the facts for yourself by actually going to the country you’re lecturing about and seeing the
    truth with your own eyes.

    If you doubt me, all you have to do is to actually come visit me in Cuba and you’ll see the truth spelt out in Black and White. If you’re too afraid to visit Cuba then I will accommodate you and provide guiding services free of cost.

    Please, prove me wrong that you’re not simply an ivory tower wannabe academic and come see the truth with your own eyes instead of constantly regurgitating propaganda about a subject with which you have absolutely ZERO first hand knowledge or experience.

    Come on. Man-up and prove me wrong. My door is always open. Is your mind equally open?

  • Moses, if you had uttered anything different, I would have suffered a Sanford. Do you remember the Comedy “Sandford and Sons?” “I am coming Elizabeth for I am getiing a big one (heart attack).” Everything is Castro, Castro. If the Castro’s were as hated as you hate them, they would have been eliminated a very long time ago by the people, but you see, while you are a nuclear weapon of hatred for them, the Cuban people thank them for liberating them. You must have lost a lot of privileges after the triumph of the Revolution eh brother Moses? Oh! How you must be yearning for those glory days to return? But,you see brother Moses, your loss of the privileges you once enjoyed is the gain of the masses of people upon whose backs you trod to enjoy the privileges you once enjoyed. My sympathies are extended to you and your family, brother Moses!!!

  • Eden Wong, this is the problem with people like you who become saturated with the propaganda you hear without researching the facts for yourself in this modern day and age of information and technology. If you doubt me, all you have to do is to get hold of the Cuban Constitution in English and you will see it there spelt out in Black and White. If you cannot get hold of a copy, send me your address and I will post it to you free of cost. My brother Wong, are you an oligarch or are you a working class person? Do you believe that it was America which initiated the first Workers Day or Labour Day? Do you believe that it was America which initiated Holiday with pay? Do you believe that it was America which initiated Social Security? Do your research and prove me wrong!.

  • I am guessing that the moderator does not want us running off on a tangent not directly relevant to the discussion of Cuba.
    I will recommend some books and pamphlets and Carlyle MacDuff can do the same and we can leave it at that.

    The foremost poet of the Palestinian experience –

    Phyllis Bennis – a short primer on the issue

    Edward Said

    Michel Warschawski – On the Border, plus other books

    Sorry, I don’t know which of these are available to people in Cuba.

  • Brother Amel, third countries are denied selling anything with an American part in it; Cuba cannot use the American Dollar for any business transactions. Any ship whic visits a Cuban port cannot visitan America port under six months There was this International Competition for students. All the competitors were given a camera except the Cuban student who was presented with some trifling. The reason why he could not be given a camera like the others, was because of the embargo. The particular camera contained American parts. You keep spewing all kind of propaganda, but you fail to tell the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth.What America is doing to Cuba and its people is against The United Nations Charter and against International Law. Cuba has done nothing to America but to exercise its God Given right to pursue a pathway where the oligarchs cannot exploit its citizens and keep them in ignorance, disease and squalor. Oligarchs like you would condemn Cuba for instilling human worth in its citizens for you believe that the masses of the world should be hewers of wood and drawers of water. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 says that all men were created equal and that all have the right to access free education, proper medical attention, proper housing, the right to enjoy the fruits of the land. Everybobdy and not a few while the vast majority starve.This is what was happening under Batista and this is what is happening in America up and until this day. Viva the 1959 Cuban Revolution! Viva the heroic people of Cuba! Viva the brave, heroic and fearless leaders of Cuba. Viva the Cuban people who have been freed of ignorance, disease, discrimination, exploitation, suppression! Viva to the Cuban people who now possess human dignity. Viva to the Cuban soldiers who have liberated Angola and Namibia from the clutches of the Apartheid system which America backed and supported but which the brave Cuban soldiers ingloriously defeated.

  • Brother Ken, It is counter productive because it did not work thanks to the impregnable faith the average Cuban had in their Revolution and the benefits they have received since the triumph of their Revolution! All the gestures America is now excercising towards Cuba, is not form any real love or admiration for the Cuban Government or its Revolution; it is just a change of tactics! Yes! There are people who will be fooled by the propaganda spewed out by the American press that America is the land of milk and honey. A lot of Cubans have expressed great disappointment at their experience! America is far fron being the land of the free and the land of milk and honey! Tell me something Brother Ken, who ordained America to tell Cuba that the embargo is to ensure that they return to democratic principles? Didn’t the UN Charter declare that all of its members are sovereign and, as such, possess the right to determine the economic pathway they deem best suited for their development? If America is ordained to instruct other sovereign countries as to the economic pathway that they should pursue, then there is no need for the United Nations at all!!!

  • Brother Amel, you have not answered my question> Is there poverty in the richest nation or country in the world? Do people walk the streets of America eating out of garbage pans? America is a nation. Cuba is an island. If, under the capitalist system which America adopted when it became an Independent Nation in 17775-2016,( 241 years) ago, people have no access to free education, no access to proper medical attention, job security, proper housing, then we should be shouting hurrahs upon hurrahs to the Cuban Revolution which, after just 57 years, (1959-2016) was able to obliterate illiteracy after meeting 70% of its inhabitants illiterate under the Batista regime which was fully backed and supported by the American Government which supports any regime which keeps its people subjugated so that they could be exploited. America is no example for the development of a country and a people. As for your propaganda about the Castro family traveling the Mediterranean on a yacht, this is pure propaganda. I challenge you to produce the video for the whole world to see. The Castro brothers hail from a rich family. They were touched by the plight of their Cuban brothers and sisters and they forsook their comfort zone and came to the rescue of their unfortunate brothers ans sisters. Are you human enough to have done that? Look at the many professionals Cuba has trained free of cost in the Third World countries with its meager resources. This is an enormous contribution that Cuba has made to the underdeveloped countries of the world! Can you keep a mn down when you have opened his eyes with an education? This is a humongous feat which no First World Country has ever undertaken, as their duty is to keep thyeir colonies and their people starved of a proper education, proper housing, proper medical attention and human worth. The 1917 Workers Revolution in Russia eliminated child labour from the pits, gave women equal pay like men, introduced Social Security, holidays with pay; maternity leave and universal education. Communist Russia was the first country to extend free education to the children of Third World Countries whose countries were plundered by the Capitalist countries of the world and which kept them in abject ignorance, poverty and squalor, while the few exploitative rich people, live in splendor. Read up on the history of the working class people of the world and then return to engage me in conversation. Before I depart, could you answer me just one question, “Why is it, that the great beast of exploitation always try to assasinate those who fight in the interest of the WORKING CLASS PEOPLE OF THE WORLD? WHO ORDAINED THIS BEAST WITH THE RIGHT TO BE EXECUTIONER OF THOSE WHO FIGHT THE WRONGS METED OUT TO THE WORKING CLASS OF THE WORLD?

  • In referring to Cuban troops fighting against South Africa, I assume you are talking about Angola. The UN declared Israel to be a State. The consequence of the invasion of Israel be Asad ruled Syria, with 500 Cuban tank drivers to drive the Russian tanks, was that they were defeated and areas were captured by Israel including the Golan Heights and chunks of the West Bank.
    Cuba’s military involvement in Middle East countries was prolonged and the countries in which they intervened are without exception having substantial problems today. It is no secret that Cuba was actively endeavoring to encourage strife.
    As one who has visited Israel, there is much to observe and to support the views of both the State of Israel and the confused variety of opposition groups. That is one of the problems, who actually represents the Palestinians?,
    But if you look at the bigger picture and take out the map, and if you examine the history of the various nomadic tribes as well as the historic builders of cities, then you may possibly conclude that the tiny proportion of the Middle East that is the land area of Israel compared with the huge area that is occupied by Arab peoples is not unreasonable. If on the other hand you support the view propounded by some Arab groups that Israel should be obliterated then there is no discussion.
    I was amazed to find that there were Israeli Arabs sitting in the Knesset. I was interested to find that Israeli Arab farmers received the same services from Israel as Jewish farmers – and I learned by visiting, not by any form of propaganda.
    As time has passed, the overall position has deteriorated. There are moments in history when long term decisions have to be made and they involve statesmanship. Yasser Arafat had such opportunity at Camp David when the best deal that could possibly be achieved was on the table, but sadly the veteran freedom fighter and terrorist (he being both) overcame any ability to be a statesman and he declined. The subsequent losses have been suffered by the Palestinian people. Successful politics are based upon the art of compromise and Arafat couldn’t grasp that – he wanted things his way only.

  • Chile was a multi-party democracy, with newspapers bitterly opposed to the Allende government. That did not assuage the hostility of the US. In any case, you do not dispute the role that the US played in undermining Allende.
    And you do not dispute that the US has often been on the side of dictatorship and repression in Guatemala. Remember, Che Guevara was a witness to the US backed coup in Guatemala in 1954. That made a deep impression on him.

  • “… In Cuba, every worker has the right to join a Union and every union has a say on the panel of any industry…”

    Holy crap you can’t actually believe that rubbish, can you?

    I assume that if you’ve ever been to Cuba it was on an approved government tour because you got taken in hook, line and sinker…

  • I am aware that Cuban troops fought against South Africa. i hadn’t heard that Cuban troops were in the Middle East. But if they could help the Palestinians to get the Israeli boot off their necks, who could be opposed to that? Wouldn’t that qualify as a humanitarian intervention?

    If my recollection is correct, Castro did not declare the revolution to be communist (or was it socialist?) until they had been pushed into a corner by the hostility of United States.

    The revolution continues to inspire support today, even if it is worn and bedraggled. For example, opening the pages of BC BookWorld, I see a note on a book by a Canadian author, Shirley Langer, Anita’s Revolution, “…recalling Castro’s literacy campaign of the early 1960s when school children were sent into the countryside to teach one million illiterate Cubans.” This is how a good number of Canadians see Cuba.

  • Simply not true. Swedish-style multiparty democracy in Cuba would be a breath of fresh air to Americans paying attention to what goes on in Cuba. You don’t seem stupid so why would you compare a Soviet-leaning Allende administration to the government that exists today in Sweden? Guatemala is also a horse of a different color. There are no American corporate interests to protect in Cuba the way there was in Guatemala at the time. Dumb comparison.

  • Ken do please say which you approve. Or are you just avoiding the question?

  • Don’t you agree Ken that what really matters is the people having the opportunity to decide upon their government?

  • Not much Ken. As I have pointed out, it serves as an excuse for the regime. But maybe you can demonstrate your view by giving a few examples of the problems you know of?

  • Any country in the Caribbean or Latin America that aspires to be another Sweden must be prepared for violence and subversion from the US. I cite two examples among many, Chile and Guatemala.

    Chile had elections, opposition parties and opposition newspapers. But that did not reduce the hostility of the US government.

    The role of the US in supporitng violence against peasants and others opposed to the government in Guatemala is so well known that eventually Bill Clinton had to acknowledge this and issue an apology.

  • Well said.

  • Many of these comparisons are based upon self-reported statistics. As we discovered AFTER the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialists regimes lie, a lot, especially about social markers like literacy and infant mortality rates. It’s a red herring to presume that absent a Castro dictatorship, the only other choice for Cuba is a right wing government. Cuba could very well become the “Sweden of the Caribbean. Finally, why compare Cuba to those countries more corrupt. Cuba is Cuba and, once free from Castro tyranny, could evolve in ways different from the rest of Latin America.

  • I checked the Corruption Index issued by Transparency International. Cuba comes in well ahead of Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Argentina. So if Cuba had a right wing government like those countries it might suffer more corruption, not less.

    It’s also useful to look at this index. As well as corruption it looks at infant mortality, life expectancy, and literacy. If we can agree that basic human rights include the right to life and the right to read, it would be interesting to compare Cuba to other Latin American countries on those questions.

  • Thank you for reminding us of your opposition to the embargo. I should have acknowledged that in my comment. It remains true that there are people living in comfort in the US who continue to support the embargo.

  • Pigs, cows and chickens also get free house, medical care and food. The only things they cannot do is to decide where to live, what to eat or present any proposition to change the rules on the farm. I guess you would not like to live like that. However, you think it is OK for Cubans. Probably you think that, after all, they are less than human and more like cattle.

  • Have you ever gone to Cuba? There are homeless people in Havana, and people fishing through the garbage for recycling and eating.

    Have you ever gone to the neighborhoods and houses of the Cuban elite? houses as good as any rich American, with swimming pools and all kinds of electronics? Have you read or watch the video about one of Castro’s family travelling the Mediterranean in a yacht and renting rooms in the most expensive Turkish hotels? This guy is a sports medical doctor so he cannot earn more than $30-50 US a month. Where is all that money coming from?

  • Mr Clarke, you have swallowed the whole dictatorship propaganda, without trying to check it out. I will just point out three things.

    1- Free of cost education.

    Average income per capita in Cuba is around $240 US a year. In a similiar country, like Costa Rica (where there is also “free” education and heath care), average salary is $6810. It means that Cubas are paying whatever the costarricans pay in taxes for their “freebies” plus 96% of the remaining salary. ¿ Would you say that in the US the average person pays 96% of their income for medical care and education whether they study or not or are sick or not?

    2- Insecurity and crime

    Using the UN statistics we can see that US has the second highest incarceration rate among 223 countries. Cuba has the fifth. If we take into account that firearms are not as abundant by far in Cuba as in the US, we have to think that: anything in Cuba will throw you into jail, which makes it a very repressive society or crime is rampant.

    Using the UN statistics, the US has the 114 place in intentional homicide rate among 213 countries, which make it kind of average. Cuba, suprinsingly for you, has place 106, so it has a higher intentional homicides then the US. If again we take into account the millions of weapons in the US population, and the existence of well documented and commented massacres that happen regularly, that makes us think that may be Cuba is not as safe or peaceful as depicted by the Cuban government media.

    3- Freedom of education.

    What would you think if tomorrow the US government will banish all private education and will make public education to follow a curriculum strictly designed by the big media, the military complex or the Mormon Church? In Cuba parents cannot decide what their children learn. They have to use the public system and it is highly indoctrinating.

    Go a little beyond the propaganda, please.

  • So, the fact that right now Cubans, (whether they live in Cuba or abroad) cannot invest in the Cuban economy is the US fault? The fact that farmers are not allowed to sell their products freely in the market but have to sell to the government who many times does not pay on time neither collects the produce is a US fault? The fact that no one is allowed to import or export goods but the government is the US fault? The fact that only a very small number of trade activities are allowed to be carried out by private people is a US fault?

    These are the things that basically hold back the Cuban economy. There are dozens of countries in the world willing to sell things to Cuba. Cuba doe not buy because Cuba does not have any money, and does not have any money because the state owned economy does not work and Castro is afraid of economic freedom.

  • It’s not what you don’t support within the regime that bothers me. What is particularly loathsome is what you choose to ignore. The corruption, the inequity, the racism and lack of basic human rights should give you pause for concern at the very least. How do you ignore this?

  • Your anti-US rhetoric is largely inaccurate. You seem to romanticize Cuba forgetting the fact that even you don’t want to live there. You also exaggerate the worst aspects of the US. Your support for a “Socialist government” is laughable. Which specific government might that be? Or, as usual, are you comparing the worst aspects of a real capitalist country with the best aspects of the imaginary Socialist government that has never existed?

  • Bullsh*t. Castros unións represent the government not the worker.

  • It is not a crime to leave the US by boat. Should people die, it would be called a boating accident. Reread the post. Especially the part about being under guard.

  • The socialist system is not concerned about the individual, only about the malleable mass. It is currently at its purest form in North Korea, but the Castro’s have tried hard to equal that. My views of Cuba are based upon living there, not upon reading socialist journals. To claim that socialist governments are concerned about the worth of the individual human being runs counter to reality – read Dr. Ernesto Guevara!

  • Did you Ken when they took part in the Syrian invasion of Israel?
    Was your enthusiasm for the revolution before it was declared by Fidel Castro to have been a communist one? In short did you approve the views of Camilo Cienfuegos and Huber Matos or those of Fidel and Raul Castro, for it isn’t possible to approve both.

  • Put bluntly, bunkum.

  • So what are you as an American doing about it?

  • You may recall Ken that I have expressed my belief several times that the US embargo has been counter-productive. Although I recently quoted the US Cuban Democracy Act in these pages and its purpose to benefit the people of Cuba, I believe that it obviously failed and that the US should have re-visited it and considered a change of policy. But I agree with its objective which you may recall was:
    “To maintain sanctions on the Castro regime so long as it continues to refuse to move towards democratization and greater respect for human rights.” and ” to encourage free and fair elections to determine Cuba’s political future.”
    But in effect, the Castro regime has utilized it as a whipping post for all their own faults and incompetence: “It is a consequence of the blockade”. This has served as an excuse for a multitude of their own decisions and the prevention of information channels with total control of the media has enable them to get away with their excuse. I don’t believe that lifting the embargo would make much if any, difference to the lives of average Cubans. But it would expose the problems of socialismo and lay them at the doors of the Castro regime. (I say doors because of the number of properties.)

  • I am not concerned about painting America at all. If you have criticisms of that country where at a guess you live, then do so there. The workers to whom you refer as receiving $7.50 US per hour totalling $60 per day, are receiving the equivalent of two months pay for a Cuban schoolteacher. That Mr. Clarke is in “this modern day and age”. The cost of a 200 gm loaf of bread from the state bakeries in Cuba is the exact equivalent of 20 cents US. So, a full days pay for a Cuban teacher purchases five 200 gm loaves. How many loaves does $60 buy in the US? Yes, the US has fallen further and further behind the example set initially by the UK in 1948 in introducing a public medical system although more enlightened countries have adopted one. One consequence of that US folly is that it has the highest percentage of GDP spent upon health of any country in the world. But we here in these columns are not here to discuss any part of US stupidity.
    Yes, the Government of Cuba makes for-profit medical agreements with many countries and pays only a fraction of the fees received to those actually earning them. Don’t believe that the Government of Cuba is providing the services without payment. But as you raise the subject of medical services, I can assure you from personal experience that the Cuban doctors and nurses are excellent especially when considering the sorry state of the facilities in which they work. Hospitals with broken windows, missing door handles, broken staircases – yes I have seen them and it increases my respect for Cubans who perform so well. The school teachers similarly teach in schools which are deteriorating, but the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba has the money to plaster the walls with political graffiti even including promoting Dr. Ernesto Guevara de Serna Lynch – he who said:
    “Learn to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.”
    Obviously you and I were encouraged to think for ourselves and we have been allowed by our democratic systems to express our views and opinions openly without fear of being jailed. Cuba has the fourth highest rate of incarceration in the world and many are in jail for criticizing the Government and being reported to MININT by the CDR.
    Let’s not keep dragging the faults of the US like a dead cat across every discussion about Cuba. Firstly because they are obviously numerous according to some of those who write in these columns and secondly because doing so is boringly tedious.

  • ‘”Don’t assign the blame on the Cuban government.” and “Cubans have it – el bombo.” There speaks the true adherent to socialismo. To suggest that Cubans fleeing their country are not motivated by loathing for the system imposed upon them is frankly balderdash. Cubans envy the opportunity to have freedom of expression, to have freedom of the media and access to information. As one who negotiated agricultural labour programs between Mexico and Canada I am able to recognize the differences of motivation. To try to justify the Castro family regime’s repression by suggesting that Cubans fleeing their country are not motivated by detestation of that repression displays ignorance of actuality.

  • Tyrannical you say Moses? Is there anywhere in the story which said that he was forced to return to Cuba? The venture was uncalled for. Look at the loss of so many lives? Can you bring back these people? If the youngster was in America, he would have been charged with manslaughter and sent to jail and you know that Moses!!

  • Moses, the Cuban Revolution will give you nightmares for the rest of your life for it can never be destroyed. When the workers in America stormed the financial big boys in Wall Street,, didn’t the American police beat them up and almost drowned them with water cannons? You see, America is not a workers paradise it is a Capitalist exploitative country where the rights of the worker is ot respected. In Cuba, every worker has the right to join a Union and every union has a say on the panel of any industry.

  • Please stop your propaganda! There are people living in America who are wosre off than the average Cuban. Why doesn’t America willing to lift the embargo? It is afraid to do so because the Cubans would have no cause to travel to America. The embargo was intended to starve out the Cuban Revolution, It is the Embargo which is against International Law and against the UN Charter which is bringing hardships on the Cuban population. Not the Castros, because no Cuban goes to bed hungry, whilst there are hungry people patroling the streets of America searching the trash cans searching for food; the chicken bones, the discarded bread, the half eaten sandwich or hamburger. This is happening in the so-called richest county in the world. Tell me that this does not happen in your America!!

  • Carlyle, this youngster received his education free of charge and had access to free medical attention! Cuba has trained most of the Third World Professionals free of cost; how many has America trained? Cuban Doctors are all over the world ensuring the health of the inhabitants of the country who toherwise would never visit a doctor in their lives. Is this a bad country which looks after the welfare of the human being> The workers at the fast foods receive $7,50 per hour, adding up to $60.00 per day. This adds up to $300.00 per week in this modern day and age. House rent could add up to $800.00 per month. What if you took sick? And you painting America as if it is the land of milk and honey>

  • Moses, what has the Castro’s done to you for you to hate them so much? Why does America trade with China which is Communist and buys the Stocks and bonds of America but America wants to destroy the Revolution of Cuba? You are forgetting that every country is sovereign and has th right to pursue the economic pathway best suited to it. The youngster possess a degree in chemistry which he received free of cost from the Cuban Government and people. He could never have received this free of cost in America where the inhabitants have no access to universal education?. The youngster has access to free medical attention. Why didn’t you tell him that, in America, he will have to work two and three jobs just to pay the house rent alone? Why don’t you tell him that he is much safer living in Cuba than living in America? Why don’t you tell him that the education system in Cuba is much higher than that of America? Why don’t you tell him that, were he to take his son to America, he might not be even be able to see him on weekends because he the father would have to leave him to perform extra work so that he could purchase the high costing things he would need in order to keep up with his other school mates? America keep fooling people that it is the heaven on earth, but this is not so, for,if it was, why are there so many persons in American prisons where they could be raped or killed? How many Cuban immigrants have to resort to prostituting themselves in order to make ends meet? Maybe the youngsters would end up on drugs because of the stressful life in America? My grandmother used to say that a bad wind never blows and perhaps it is a good wind which has blown him back to Cuba! Look at the loss of lives in attempting to leave a paradise island to a land of discrimination,uncertain death, stress, economic slavery, gangsterism, the Klu Klux Klan? Anything goes in America as it is money which counts and not the worth of the Human Being, people homeless an devoid of medical attention, people searching the trash bins for food. This does not happen under any Socialist Country for the Socialist Government is interested in the total worth of the human being..

  • My very real enthusiasm for the Cuban Revolution does not require me to support each and every policy of the Cuban government.
    For example, if it turns out that you are right and there are Cuban troops in Syria, I will not hesitate to loudly criticize them.

  • Millions of the world’s poor want to immigrate to the developed world for economic reason, many in much more desperate straits than the average Cuban. They must apply for immigrant visas thru a family member residing in the U.S. or win a visa thru the visa lottery. Cubans have it – el bombo. I have sympathy for this guy, but unlike others, don’t assign the blame on the Cuban government. I, as an immigration attorney of 23 years, have seen plenty of stories like this, or many times worse, and no questions or blame was assigned to the would-be immigrant’s countries, Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico,Colombia, ect, ect., because there is no propaganda value in it.

  • US restrictions on trade with Cuba certainly interfere with economic freedom for Cubans. Or are you suggesting that the US embargo has no impact?

  • It’s a sad story. After all the sacrifice to leave Castros’ Cuba, being forced to return is tragic beyond imagination. How can you continue to support such a tyrannical regime?

  • The only embargo that is affecting the Cuban people is the one the Cuban government imposes against their own citizens, not allowing even a modicum of economic freedom for them to thrive.

  • You haven’t told us about how you feel about this person being forcibly returned to Cuba. Shocking, isn’t it?

  • Hearing of the hardships that Cubans are suffering, it is hard to believe that people living amidst plenty still support the embargo against Cuba.

  • Hard to believe that something like this can happen in this day and age. It is heart wrenching.

  • This dreadful story reflects so many of the realities of Cuba. A university graduate teaching chemistry and receiving 500 pesos per month. A father of a six year old boy, but desperate to leave his community which is on the Carretera Central about 90 km west of Havana and not far from the tourism spots of Soroa and Terrazas. How anyone living in the privileged free world can offer support for the Castro regime and the system that imposes the conditions that drive thousands of good people to take such risks remains a mystery. Maybe next time Fidel Castro Ruz will untie his yacht Aquarama II from its mooring on the pier at his twin island retreat of Cayo Piedra and donate it to these people. On the other hand he will more probably dismiss them with the same comment as that which he applied to those who sought refuge in the grounds of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana describing them as:

  • Sad story. Sadder still because it is a common story told by tens of thousands of Cubans. Viva la revolución.

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