This could be the strangest stunt ever to be attempted in the Florida Straits.
A very young Florida mayor plans to build a raft in Cuba and sail it on his own from Castrogonia to the U.S.A., to call attention to the plight of Cuban rafters.
Is this necessary, really? When thousands upon thousands of Cubans risk their lives on rafts and other “rustic vessels” day after day, does no one really notice?
Will the efforts of one American really make any difference? Perhaps. After all, as we all know, Americans matter so much more than Cubans.
At least this is no Diana Nyad stunt. But there is still something very odd about this deal.
From The Guardian
Mayor of Florida city plans to sail raft from Cuba to highlight migrant’s plight
A Florida mayor has floated an idea he says will allow him to better understand the experience of undocumented Cubans who arrive to the United States by boat.
“My plan is to go down [to Cuba] and build a raft and come back to Florida on it,” said Clint Johnson, the mayor of De Bary, a small city just outside Orlando.
The 30-year-old official said he wants to highlight the journey of thousands of Cubans who now live in his home state: in the last three months of 2015, 1,536 Cubans attempted the trip, with nearly 5,000 Cubans picked up at sea by the US coast guard in fiscal year 2015.
“The journey they take is largely unreported and there is very little information on exactly what these men, women, & children go through to get here,” explained Johnson on his website.
Johnson said the prospect of negotiating the often-dangerous waters of the Florida Straits for 90 miles on a raft made with two steel barrels and some plywood also appealed to his adventure-seeking nature..
“I’ve heard the sharks will circle the boat, because bait fish will get underneath it and attract them,” he told the Guardian. “The sun – you can overheat quickly, you can dehydrate. You can hit a storm. There’s plenty of dangers and I don’t take them lightly.”
Johnson has already received a visa from the Cuban government and intends to fly to Havana in mid-April. Once there, he will build a raft himself with the help of local Cuban contacts, who will help source materials (it remains illegal for Cubans to construct, repair or board a sea-going vessel intended to be used for illegal immigration). He will then head back to the Florida Keys as soon as weather permits.
Johnson said he saw a photo posted on Instagram by James Harrison, a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose cruise ship encountered a raft with 16 Cuban asylum seekers.