US Halts Cuba’s “Russian Roulette”

May 11, 2017 | Print Print |

by Fernando Ravsberg

The change in US immigration policy was worthwhile if they manage to stop more Cuban children from suffering the dangerous journeys through the Darien Gap or being put on board rafts.

HAVANA TIMES — “The immigration flow has ceased,” recognized captain of the US Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft. Meanwhile, frigate lieutenant Kate Webb, explained that the number of people found on Cuban rafts intercepted in the Key West area fell from 750 people per month to just 20.

I was wrong and I’m very pleased. I didn’t think that the end of the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy would bring Cuban migration to the US to a halt, in the same way that the lack of these benefits don’t stop herds of Mexican or Dominican migrants from trying their luck.

However, the statistics leave no room for doubt, 4 months after revoking Cuba’s immigration privileges the number of rafters have decreased by 90% and the human migration flow which ran through Ecuador, Colombia, Central America and Mexico has ceased, leaving small groups here and there.

Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Mexico have all signed deportation agreements with Cuba and Colombia is negotiating another. The Costa Rican Director of Immigration, Gisela Yockchen, recognized that Cuban migrants “will never be in danger when they return to their country.”

The number of rafters intercepted by the US Coast Guard fell by 90% ever since Cuba’s migration privileges ended.

This new reality has meant that Cuban citizens who want to leave the island by illegal means have now returned “to normal”, that is to say that they run the same difficulties as the rest of the “undocumented” migrants, whose lives pass by in fear of being discovered during their journey or once they are on US soil.

It’s bad news for those who wanted to emigrate, especially those who had “burned all their bridges at home” – by selling their house or car – and were taken by surprise with Obama’s decision when they were already on their way in Colombia, Panama or even at the US border.

The good news is that there will be much fewer Cubans risking their lives at sea or in the Darien gap jungle, which also means that a lot of children will also be spared these horrible experiences. Elian Gonzalez is the most famous example of this but he wasn’t an exception.

One of my first jobs for Telemundo in the 1990s was to write about the story of a baby from Puerto Cortes, in Pinar del Rio, who died of dehydration on a raft, where her mother put her, so that ships which move around the south of Cuba could pick her up.

In Central America, the last Cuban migrant crisis has taken place, from 2017, immigration to the US will be mostly legal, safe and organized. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

In the early 2000s, I interviewed the family of a teenager from a town in Bahia Honda, who had disappeared at sea. The mother, in a fit of nerves, hit me demanding me that I tell her something about her daughter. I didn’t dare confess to her that the rescue team had already given up their search.

An African-American President and Democrat finally put an end to this policy and it seems that the new resident of the White House, a white man and Republican, will uphold this move. Stopping the migration flow to the US is State policy, the Cuban exception only had relevance in the context of the “Cold War”.

Revoking the “wet-foot/dry-foot” policy was much-needed a change in discourse, they couldn’t continue to go on saying that Cuban emigrants are political refugees fleeing Communism and closing the doors in their face, at the same time.

The grounds for this were carefully prepared during 2015 and 2016, when several newspapers published harsh criticism of the Cuban people’s immigration privileges. The Sun Sentinel, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times opened fire and even El Nuevo Herald joined the campaign.

Cubans who try to enter the US illegally will now live the same fate as millions of other Latin Americans who don’t have papers and run the risk of being deported.

Miami’s main newspaper ran an editorial noting that many emigres “are no longer political refugees or victims of political persecution” and that they travel to the US “in search of a better life and they very rarely take Cuba’s political situation into consideration.”

Washington continued to repeat that no changes would be made to immigration policy but they continued to prepare “public opinion” for the drastic change. Cubans, who know very well how media and politicians are closely interlinked, pushed their journeys forwards before the US’ doors would close on them.

The immigration crisis in Central America that was caused as a result might be the last that the Cuban people are ever responsible for. Cubans will continue to leave, but now, they will mostly use legal or semi-legal channels, which are much safer than the rafts they used or the jungles they crossed.

Some are disappointed without considering that the end of this cruel migration game of “Russian roulette” might have saved them their lives. Thousands of deaths trying to reach the US prove that there was always a bullet in the chamber of a revolver and nobody knew who it would hit.


What's your opinion?

  • nidal shehadeh

    finally the mask is off the USA does not care about the humanities what they care about is the question of political convenience , human beings are nothing more than chips to be moved around on a board based on political means not humanities .

    • So, are you contending that the US should have left the “wet foot / dry foot” policy in place?

      • nidal shehadeh

        Dire Straits that’s how I would describe the situation in the United States of America , the Cuban people need to be careful , if there is a collapse of the US dollar as anticipated there would be millions of American refugees washing ashore , United States of America at this point and time is a totalitarian state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises the citizens activities , this assessment is out of my own experience
        https://youtu.be/XOiNgAU8Bvw
        there is nothing safe anywhere anymore , the final decision should be based on the humanity of the situation and not the racist politics that control the United States of America

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          If I were you nidal, I would get out of the US as fast as possible as clearly everything within it is unacceptable to you. Don’t stay a moment longer, pack your bags and leave – try Cuba where there is a shortage of immigrants with no Syrian refugees despite the al-Asad and Castro families being amigos.
          On the other hand, capitalist Canada paid the costs of accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees who fled the al-Asad butchery and chemical gasses. Cuba is reported to be building a mosque! There has been one in Edmonton, Alberta for fifty years!

          • nidal shehadeh

            Go where the hell too ,
            I am a Greek Orthodox Palestinian , my home and native land is Palestine nowhere else , I am not allowed to go back to my homeland because of United States government politics , get your Zionist out of Palestine and I would go back tomorrow , United States of America have made a cripple out of me , weed the Palestinians should sue the government of the United States of America for compensation The US owe us whole lot, there is no place safe or immune from the US dollar anticipated collapse , it is like a disease in the blood that can’t get rid of research the following , Oded Yinon Plan ,
            can we stick to Cuba and the issues at hand

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Are you prevented from going to the West Bank or to Gaza? I don’t quite follow the logic of criticizing the US so bitterly for allowing you to live there.
            As a Member of the Greek Orthodox Church which has a long history, you must also be aware of the recent burning and destruction of churches and murders of Christians in Egypt by the Muslims.
            I assume from what you have written that you were born in Palestine – but,was that in what is now Israel?
            I recall all too well that in 1955 when Germany regained her sovereignty, that there were still displaced persons camps for thousands of Eastern Europeans who were stateless and many of whom in my opinion could have been allowed to emigrate to Canada – which had the space and resources – to start a new life. But Canada did nothing. Just prior to the start of the Second World War, Canada turned away a whole shipload of European Jewish refugees to return to Europe.
            The world nidal moves on with it appears too little concern for the over 60 million refugees now seeking refuge. the fortunate ones are those who have found homes and hospitalityin the other countries.
            You keep forecasting the collapse of the US dollar – but in my opinion it is more likely to rise in value against other major currencies, especially if Janet Yellen in July increases interest rates.
            The communist regime in Cuba almost daily on TV, criticizes the European Union for not taking in anybody from anywhere who claims to be a refugee
            without mentioning the hundreds of thousands who have found refuge there. But according to the 2012 Cuban Census, there are less than 5,500 people out of a population of 11.1 million who were not born in Cuba. So what is Cuba contributing to resolving this major human catastrophe? The simple answer is absolutely nothing!.

        • I note that you did not answer my simple yes or no question in spite of your extended dialogue.

          • nidal shehadeh

            I wish it was that simple yes or no unfortunately it’s much more complicated then you and I could think of , what we are dealing with human beans as in Humanity .

          • Actually the question was simple. Are you contending the US should have left the wet foot / dry foot policy in place? Yes? No? That is what the original post was about.

            It is easy to find fault with something in general when you are not proposing a specific course of action.

          • nidal shehadeh

            United States government of America impose themselves on the rest of the humanities as the self-appointed guardian of the humanities therefore whatever decision should have been taken should have been based on the humanities and not political convenience , this is my answer to you the yes and no does not help in this kind of situation

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    I refer nidal to your comment about “all the foreign doctors who get educated in Cuba with no cost then go back to their own communities.”
    ELAM does not provide its services for free! It does endeavor to promote communism by for example providing brand new yellow Yutong coaches for the foreign students while Cuban citizens travel in 60 year old converted trucks. But ELAM is not a free service!
    You are correct in saying that Cuba did not “go out there creating banana republics” when it intervened militarily in 13 countries including its involvement in the failed invasion of Israel led by the al-Asad family’s Syrian regime. Its purpose was the further imposition of communism which as so amply demonstrated inevitably results in dictatorship.
    Don’t imagine nidal that the Castro family’s communist dictatorship is lily white. It is blood red – stained by a history of executions, persecutions and repression of human rights.
    Like you, many Cubans long to return to their homeland when it is eventually freed.

    • nidal shehadeh

      You need to keep it on Cubans please

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        In the five short paragraphs which I wrote nidal, each makes specific reference to Cuba.