More Cubans Taking to the Sea Following Obama’s Announcement

Wilfredo Cancio Isla  (Café Fuerte)

Cuban rafters captured in the Strait of Florida in September last year. Photo: Coast Guard Service
Cuban rafters captured in the Strait of Florida in September last year. Photo: Coast Guard Service

HAVANA TIMES — In an attempt to curb the alarming increase in illegal Cuban immigration, US authorities announced on Monday that immigration policy and coastguard operations in the Strait of Florida remain unchanged and insisted that only Congress is empowered to alter existing laws applicable to Cuban refugees.

The government announcement was made through a communiqué issued by the Coastguard Service, following an unusual increase in illegal immigration attempts by Cubans during the second half of December and first days of January, prompted by the President Barack Obama’s announcement that relations with Havana were being normalized.

A total of 890 Cubans have been intercepted in the Strait of Florida and areas of the Caribbean – or have managed to reach US coasts – since the beginning of October, 2014. Of these, 577 did so during the month of December and the first days of January this year, part of an escalade in illegal immigration attempts that has sounded off the alarm in Washington and within the Cuban community in Miami.

Post December 17th Wave

A total of 421 Cubans have been captured in the high seas since Obama’s announcement.

“The administration’s recent announcement regarding Cuba does not affect immigration policies including the wet foot/dry foot provision or the Cuban Adjustment Act, which only Congress can change,” the communiqué obtained by CafeFuerte stated.

The announcement insisted that Coast Guard Service operations in the Strait of Florida and Gulf of Mexico remain unchanged and added that operatives are aggressively active in the area to discourage dangerous and potentially deadly voyages from the island.

“Individuals must have a visa or other permission to travel to the States and anyone located at sea will be returned to Cuba in accordance with immigration laws,” the communiqué added.

This is the second warning issued by the Coast Guard Service since President Obama announced a policy change vis-a-vis the island, generating expectations and rumors in Cuba regarding an end to the migratory benefits enjoyed by Cuban citizens through the CAA established in 1966.

Repeated Warnings

On December 18th, a mere 24 hours after Obama’s speech, the US Coast Guard Service was forced to issue its first communiqué and announce that its operations remained unchanged, strongly discouraging attempts by Cuban migrants to reach US soil by sea.

The increase in illegal immigration attempts by Cubans appears to be impelled by baseless claims that the newly-appointed members of the US Congress, with a Republican majority in both chambers as of January 5, will dismantle the CAA and other administrative decrees that favor Cuban refugees.

Figures for December are highly suggestive: 481 Cubans have taken to the sea in 37 different voyages, an increase of 117 % with respect to the same period in 2013. In only five days this January, 96 Cubans have been intercepted in the Strait of Florida by US authorities.

The stampede of Cubans attempting to reach the United States by sea has already resulted in tragedy this year. A 50-year-old Cuban named Manuel Marino drowned this Saturday when the raft he was on capsized off the coasts of the Cayman Islands. Three other Cubans were on the raft.

The Survivors

The survivors were identified as 27-year-old Dailer Perez Arresoitia, 37-year-old Diosul Alarcon Barrero and 33-year-old Lety Sanchez Fonseca, all from the town of Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey. They managed to survive by holding on to inner tubes and the aid of local surfers.

The three Cubans were arrested by Cayman Island authorities and were repatriated to Cuba.

During 2014, the number of Cubans captured in the Strait of Florida went up to 2,059, the highest figure reported since 2008. In the recently concluded fiscal year, voyages on makeshift vessels and contraband operations involved a total of 3,722 Cubans who were attempting to reach the coasts of Florida (including those involved in voyages to the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Virgin Island and other destinations in the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean.

A massive and silent exodus of Cubans is also taking place through the Mexican and Canadian borders. In 2014, some 16,247 reached the United States through the Mexican border alone.


17 thoughts on “More Cubans Taking to the Sea Following Obama’s Announcement

  • January 9, 2015 at 10:47 pm
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    Your system is unworkable. 20th century history is littered with the victims of men who made such promises. One such man resides just south of Florida. It always the same.

    The problem is that you don’t account for human nature in your grand scheme. Our system, and its variations, imperfect as they may be, currently is the only one that works.

  • January 9, 2015 at 10:38 pm
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    There was indeed popular support for the revolution. Most of the middle class, the inteligencia, and the wealthy, including the Bacardi family supported the rebels. At the time there were also competing opposition groups including Jose Echevarría’s group who attacked the presidential palace in March 13 1957. It is unfortunate that he did not succeed. Instead we were saddled with a 55+ year dictatorship. Castro came upon Cuba, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. …Out of the pan and into the fire as they say.

  • January 9, 2015 at 10:28 pm
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    You really should learn your history Rich. Batista was a home grown product of Cuba, thus he did not need to be sent “back to US soil”

    And for the record, Batista and his cohorts fled to the Dominican Republic.

  • January 9, 2015 at 3:27 pm
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    Most support for Castro in 1959 was really anti-Batista sentiment. Mickey Mouse would have been received as a hero had he sent Batista packing the way Fidel did. If there was any authentic Castro support it was owed to his pledge to return Cuba to its 1940 Constitution and schedule democratic elections. Subsequently, his pro-Cuba nationalist rhetoric rang true in the ears of the Cuban people. He made Cubans believe that a new day and a new man was possible. But after one debacle after another, Cubans have come to realize the lies they were told. Technology has presented real world information. If the Bay of Pigs were to take place today, the outcome would be entirely different.

  • January 9, 2015 at 3:18 pm
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    In the early days, most Cubans did not know what plans Fidel had in store for them. If they had, they would not have been so supportive. Fidel had promised free elections once Batista was driven from office. Once in power, Fidel quickly forgot that promise.

    If Fidel had held elections in the first year or two, it’s pretty clear he would have won by a huge margin. But that would have legitimized an official opposition, which he could not stomach.

    The Bay of Pigs fiasco came along at just the right time to allow Castro to round up the last of the Cuban opposition to his regime. After that, democracy in Cuba was finished. Tragically, the US played right into Fidel’s hands with the Bay of Pigs. Too many innocent Cubans died, on both sides, and for no good reason.

  • January 9, 2015 at 12:55 pm
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    I just returned from Cuba after living la vida loca again with my Cuban family in Camagüey. While there, a close family friend tried to leave Cuba by boat during the New Year’s Eve celebrations, along with 21 other cubanos, believing they all had a better chance of sneaking away after dark while the policia were busy chowing down on their cerdo. The entire family thought he was totally crazy for trying, fearing he would be lost at sea and never heard from again. But…after powering the boat only 2km’s off the playa, they were spotted with search lights, promptly intercepted, and all were escorted back to shore. I imagine the old diesel tractor engine and prop were making far more noise than the reggaeton in the area. He spent 4 days in jail before being released, complete with a 3000cup fine…but no worse for wear. Others commandeering the boat received 7000cup fines.

  • January 9, 2015 at 10:32 am
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    Whatever Cubans may be thinking now, I think it is clear that there was broad support in Cuba for the initial measures of the Cuban Revolution.
    The Bay of Pigs invasion was based on the belief that Cubans, given the opportunity, would rise up to get rid of the new government. That did not happen.

  • January 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm
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    “What kind of person loves to be ordered around all his/her life ?”

    A faithful Communist drone.

  • January 8, 2015 at 6:54 pm
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    A democracy (majority rule ) government would be significantly better than the present oligarchy.
    And yes, YOU don’t know anything better than the totalitarian systems under which you live.
    You love them.
    What kind of person loves to be ordered around all his/her life ?

  • January 8, 2015 at 4:41 pm
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    Ken Hiebert and other decent, unbiased Americans who have been to Cuba are the last thing that anti-Castro Cuban-exile extremists want to deal with. U. S. laws that benefit only Cubans, especially the rich and powerful Cubans, have always had a dual purpose — one to benefit anti-Castro extremists in the U. S. and the other to hurt Cuba. The uniqueness of all this, of course, revolves around the fact that, way back in January of 1959, the Cuban Revolution triumphed and chased the Batistianos back to U. S. soil, namely Miami and Union City. As both the Washington Post and the NY Times pointed out this week, U. S. laws designed by Cuban exiles to benefit Cuban exiles and hurt Cuba have extremely harmed America’s image and democracy’s image around the world, especially in America’s backyard, the Caribbean and Latin America. Of course, benefactors — through two generations now — don’t worry too much about that, do they, Moses?

  • January 8, 2015 at 11:37 am
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    Thank you for a measured rebuttal. The praises of Cuba’s health and education systems have not been entirely earned. A good portion of what is said is based on Castro propaganda. Nonetheless, it remains true that a child can go to school from pre-K to PH.D without paying tuition. It is true that if a Cuban needs heart bypass surgery it will not cost even one peso. The quality, timeliness and location of these services is debatable but there is no argument of their existence. So what’s the bad news? The bad news is that the Castros decided without asking anyone to impose this system upon the Cuban people and tax 95% of their income and 100% of their political freedom to pay for that system. Crime in Cuba is indeed on the rise. Property crimes and personal crimes of rape, suicide, and domestic abuse have been very high for some time and go largely unreported by the victim and unaccounted for by the Castro regime. On balance, Cubans who continue to escape the Castro tyranny must see the quality of life in Cuba as poor justification for the sacrifices asked of them to support the benefits Castro sycophants love to proclaim.

  • January 8, 2015 at 11:25 am
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    Not exactly true. Given the current disenchantment with BOTH of the two major political parties, if someone could present a third party option that convincingly demonstrated that the economy would grow faster, wages could rise higher and people could live better, that third option would succeed speedily. The problem with your crazy ideas is that you make no verifiable assurances that my salary would rise, that crime in my neighborhood would go down and that my life would improve. All that you do, and other wackos who think like you, is criticize the system that exists. Americans know our system is flawed. We just don’t know of any other system that is significantly better.

  • January 8, 2015 at 10:21 am
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    Just so you understand the U.S. electoral system …
    Most of the GOUSA IS appointed by the very wealthy few who finance the otherwise unaffordable election campaigns .
    They let the leaders of the two capitalist party wings know that the party will not get their money unless those chosen to receive these legal bribes are selected by their respective parties.
    This insures a steady pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist government .
    To not understand this basic truth is to not understand why that government does what it does.

  • January 8, 2015 at 10:13 am
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    The “wet foot -dry foot” clause of the CAA , the entire embargo , along with an ever- tougher and expensive legal immigration policy was put in place by the USA to embarrass the Cuban revolution.
    Lester Mallory’s embargo was intended to hugely impoverish the entire population of the island .
    The hardships caused by the embargo, the tougher U.S. legal immigration policies with 18 month waiting times, coupled with the instantaneous admission granted as a reward to those who chose to embarrass the revolution, ensures a steady stream of ‘balseros”.
    Yes the embargo DID impoverish the entire island . They are poorer than they would be absent the U.S. embargo .
    It’s why hard-liners don’t want to let the embargo go
    Were the “wet-foot, dry foot ” clause be extended to free-enterprise capitalist countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, you’d be able to walk to Key West across all the boats filling the sea.
    Just opening that option to Haitians alone would cause sea-going traffic jams.
    A far greater number AND percentage of Jamaicans emigrate to the U.S. yearly than do Cubans even with the “Get Into The U.S. Free” card that is the “WF-DF” clause.
    just saying…..

  • January 8, 2015 at 10:04 am
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    I recall the showing of the Cuban film La Vida es Silbar (Life is to Whistle) some years ago in Vancouver. The director was there and he said, “Cuba is not heaven. It is not hell. It is Cuba.” I am happy to recommend this film.
    As for Cuba’s accomplishments in health and education, Delgon and Teague are not alone in talking about these. These accomplishments are widely acknowledged.
    As for crime, while I have seen a report that this is on the increase, Cuba remains comparatively safe if we judge this by the experience of Canadians who travel to Mexico. When we were in Cuba in May of 2013 I found the street hassle in the tourist areas unpleasant, but I never felt in danger, even when we wandered into dimly lit back streets at night.
    Clearly, some Cubans want to move to the US to escape poverty. Just as clearly, the US embargo of Cuba is a major contributor to this poverty.

  • January 7, 2015 at 5:06 pm
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    These Cubans should read Elio Delgado Legon’s posts. They should read the comments made by Walter Teague, Analyser and Rodrigvm. They would realize that they are escaping PARADISE for the living hell of the United States. All that “free” education and health care, not to mention the low crime in the streets. how could it be that they are willing to risk their lives to escape such a wonderful place. Somehow, I just don’t think they see it that way.

  • January 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm
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    There is no reason to believe the Republicans will vote to change the CAA (wet foot – dry foot policy). In fact, Obama has almost no chance of getting the embargo lifted while he is still in office.

    On a side note: the members of congress were elected, not appointed, as was written above.

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