Cuba-USA: Embassies and Average Cubans
Norge imagines himself sipping Cuban coffee at the Versailles restaurant in Miami on July 20 as officials of the Castro regime in white guayaberas and Americans in jackets and ties listen to their national anthems being played and watch flags being hoisted at their respective embassies in Washington and Havana.
For a couple of months he has been planning an illegal escape from the northern coast of the island with a group of friends. Days before setting off to sea in a metal boat outfitted with a diesel engine, Norge consults his Santeria priestess to see if luck is on his side.
The woman throws several snails onto a wooden board and says, “Now is the time.” The rafters then accelerate their plans.
“Once diplomatic relations are reestablished between Cuba and the United States, the Cuban Adjustment Act’s days will be numbered. I don’t have family in the yuma* and it isn’t getting any easier here. As usual, things keep going downhill, so I hope to be playing dominos in Miami on July 20,” Norge says optimistically.
He and his friends have played their last cards. “Some sold their cars and other valuables to raise money so we could build the safest boat possible. We’ve gotten GPS and some members of the group also have maritime experience,” he notes.
No sooner had President Obama and General Castro concluded their respective speeches on December 17, 2014 in which they announced their decision to reestablish diplomatic relations than Cubans who had been thinking about emigrating, legally or illegally, to the yuma began speeding up their plans.
If you talk to people who have been waiting since dawn in a park across the street from the future U.S. embassy in Vedado for a consular interview, you will find that the new diplomatic landscape has made them more dubious than happy.
A significant number of Cubans are planning to leave permanently or are applying for temporary visas before the United States turns off the spigot.
“I can already see it coming. For every ten people interviewed for tourist visas, nine are turned down. I think that, after relations are restored on July 20, they’ll only approve family reunification trips. Temporary visas will be reserved for government officials and dissidents,” claims Servando who, in spite of being twice denied a visa to visit his daughter, keeps on trying.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to the U.S. Immigration Service almost 19.000 Cubans have entered the country by sea or overland from Mexico since the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, a figure equivalent to the total for the previous year. Since the diplomatic thaw was announced, the figure is two-thirds that.
The increase in the number of undocumented Cubans arriving in the United States due to the resumption of diplomatic relations is so high that social service agencies in Florida cannot cope. They are near collapse, with two month-long waiting lists, as press reports indicate.