Hope and Change in Obama’s Cuba: Young Cubans fleeing the island in droves

havana cuba

Guillermo Martinez in the Sun Sentinel:

Young people don’t want to stay in Cuba

One thing never changes in relations between Cuba and the United States.

Each time Cuba has severe economic problems, it always opens up an escape valve and allows Cubans to leave the country by tens of thousands. This has been going on since the late 1960s.

First they opened the Port of Camarioca. President Johnson reacted quickly and turned what would have been a disorganized sea flotilla into a twice-a-day flight from Cuba to Miami. More than 225,000 Cubans came on these flights that lasted from 1965 to 1972.

Florida was not prepared to handle a wave of new arrivals, but the federal government quickly stepped in and handled the relocation of those coming from Cuba. Those who had families in South Florida were allowed to remain. The majority, however, resettled throughout the county

Then came the Mariel boatlift. Castro had total control of that, and in six months 125,000 Cubans made the journey from Mariel to Key West. It was a difficult time for the local governments, for federal officials and even for Cuban exiles.

A third group came from Cuba in the mid 1990s. The Coast Guard intercepted many of them and took them to the Guantanamo Naval Base. That did not last. The exile community pressured the American government, and once again with great generosity the United States allowed these Cubans to come into the country.

For decades exiles defended those who wanted to flee from Cuba. Some paid for trips through third countries. Others welcomed them into their homes. Back in those days, the Cuban American Foundation even paid for the flights of several hundred Cubans sent from the Peruvian Embassy into Lima, Peru, where they lived in a park.

Now we again find ourselves in the midst of a mass migration from the island. More than 50,000 have made it to this country so far this year, close to twice as many as came last year. And this does not take into consideration the thousands who have made it to other Latin American countries with the hope of making the overland trip through Mexico to the border with the United States. Thousands are in Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, and several Central American countries.

Cuban exiles in the U.S. are not doing much to help. Most prefer to talk about the presidential elections in this country. And at the same time, in a lower tone of voice, they say that these are not truly Cuban political refugees and thus do not deserve the community’s help.

Truth is they are not the same as those who came fleeing communism and dreamed of one day going back to a free Cuba. The historical exiles say time and again: these are not the same. They come and a year and a day after they arrive they are ready to go back to visit relatives, to vacation or to make money by taking things not readily available in Cuba.

The fact these people can do this while we couldn’t is not their fault. That is part of President Obama’s policy of rapprochement with Cuba. He believe the visits to and from Cuba are good and will eventually lead to a political change in Cuba’s Communist regime.

Obama is right. Things in Cuba are changing. But not how he thought they would.

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