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Rumor of mass exodus attracts hundreds of Cubans looking to escape the island

A scene from the Mariel Exodus of 1980

How much better is life in Cuba under the rule of the magnanimous reformer dictator Raul Castro? So good, apparently, that when rumors of a mass exodus reached a fever pitch, hundreds of Cubans showed up at a port ready to escape the island paradise.

Juan Tamayo has the report in The Miami Herald:

Hundreds of Cubans turn up for rumor of mass exodus

It was only a rumor. But several hundred people turned up at a remote Cuban port on the last days of 2013, some carrying inner tubes, hoping to reach the ship said to be waiting offshore for anyone who wanted to escape the island.

“Police, state security and border guards sealed off the town, and still people were arriving,” said Antonio Luis Caballero, a farmer and dissident from Gibara, 478 miles southeast of Havana.

The rumor about a possible mass exodus through Gibara starting Dec. 24 was the latest in a growing string of odd rumors about everything from official corruption to the kidnappings of children and even satanic rites, several island residents said.

One recent rumor had posters appearing around Havana with the words, “Mothers will weep and children will disappear,” said independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra. Two other rumors had young girls kidnapped in separate neighborhoods of the capital and Vice President Marino Murillo escaping Cuba with millions of dollars.

Theories about what sparked the rumors vary.

Guerra blames “the level of disinformation in Cuba,” a country where the communist government controls and censures all mass media outlets in print, radio and television.

Retired University of Havana Prof. Enrique Lopez said he has noticed the recent increase in wild rumors and chalks it up to an increase in “tensions and anxiety” generated by the island’s shift toward a more market-oriented economy.

Dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) said he believes the rumors are part of an effort by state security agents to manufacture a bit of bedlam — and then identify those who dare criticize the government.

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