One dead as Cuba’s migration crisis hits new peak

Over 2,000 islanders who tried to reach Florida by sea have been deported by US authorities since early 2022

A group of Cuban migrants crossing the Suchiate River, the natural border between Guatemala and Mexico.
A group of Cuban migrants crossing the Suchiate River, the natural border between Guatemala and Mexico.PEP COMPANYS

The number of Cubans leaving their country by any means amid the serious deterioration of living conditions continues to grow at an alarming rate. Last month 25,000 Cubans crossed the Mexican border after traveling through various Central American countries, bringing to 140,000 the total number of Cubans to have illegally entered North American territory since October 2021, more than during the entire Mariel exodus of 1980, when 125,000 people did so.

More than 2,000 Cubans who tried to reach the United States by sea have been deported back to the island by the US authorities so far this year (a figure that almost triples last year’s), while the Cuban Ministry of the Interior reported this Tuesday on two recent shootouts between Cuban border guards and speedboats from Florida seeking to pick up Cuban migrants, during which one of the suspected smugglers was killed.

According to the Cuban authorities, so far this year there has been “an increase in incursions of speedboats from the United States with the aim of carrying out human trafficking operations from Cuba to that country,” and 13 speedboats have been intercepted. with 23 crew members on board. The incident in which one person was killed occurred on June 18 in Bahía Honda, in the province of Artemisa, near Havana, when the coast guard spotted a speedboat with Florida license plates. According to an official statement, “at the time that they were going to be identified, the offenders fired shots” and “the crew responded. One of the assailants was seriously injured and later died.”

The Ministry of the Interior said that it shared with the US Coast Guard the identification details of the boat, of the person who died and of “other people detained,” without providing information about the number of arrests. “During the inspection of the detained boat, evidence was found of the use of firearms by its crew and the presence of drugs. As a result of the shots fired, the unit of the Border Guard Troops suffered several impacts from projectiles,” said the authorities, who reported another shooting on the same day on the north coast of the province of Villa Clara. On this occasion, always according to the official statement, another boat was sighted and chased by a Cuban coast guard ship, although it failed to catch up.

Illegal departures from Cuba have increased notably in recent months, coinciding with the serious crisis that the country is going through. Since Nicaragua eliminated the entry visa for Cuban citizens, tens of thousands of people have left the island through that country on their way to the United States, crossing various Central American borders, a very risky adventure that usually entails falling into the hands of mafias and coyotes. and which can cost migrants between $8,000 and $10,000 to reach their destination. This is the most usual route, but migration by sea has also multiplied exponentially, in crossings that often end in tragedy.

The Cuban authorities reported that they are currently carrying out a search and rescue operation after a boat with 15 people aboard sank after departing on June 21 from a spot along the coast of Jibacoa, about 50 kilometers from Havana. The vessel sank “a considerable distance from the coast,” according to the Ministry of the Interior, which reported that six people have been rescued. Cuban authorities blame the United States for this type of incident because of laws in force there that benefit Cuban migrants when they manage to enter US territory, even if they do so illegally. The current migratory crisis that Cuba is experiencing is one of the greatest in recent decades, and has made daily survival an ordeal for a large part of the population.

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