A new generation of Cubans is dying in the Florida Straits in a bid to flee a brutally repressive regime — and poverty, too. They’re bedfellows.
A trail of makeshift rafts and rickety boats dots high seas. A superman rides a surfboard some 90+ miles to the Keys. And, at the U.S. border with Mexico, a jampacked queue of people asking for political asylum replaces the long wait for rationed food at the government-owned bodega in Cuba.
Desperate Cubans in risky flight — they are new protagonists in an old, sad story, a 63-year-old story that no longer stirs emotions in this country. But it should, especially given the rightful passion and outrage with which Americans are defending Ukraine.
But not all bids for freedom seem to be considered of equal value and merit — not even when both Cuba and Ukraine pose the same threat to the United States in the deranged mind of one man, Vladimir Putin, who’s pining for the Soviet Union era.
Americans think the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that brought the two superpowers to the brink of war is a thing of the past. All they want is Obama-styled access to cruising and travel to Commie Disneyland.
Lost to Donald Trump and President Joe Biden’s sanctions, Cuba is out of sight, out of mind. The pleas of advocates for attention to human-rights violations, censorship and judiciary secrecy are lost on American and European allies.
Armed Ukrainians, on the other hand, are admired for their courage to stay and fight at whatever cost. The Russian atrocities coming to light in the aftermath are horrific. Ukrainians’ deaths defending their country are truly heroic, a sacrifice that has pushed Russia back.
We Cubans almost always disappoint.
Whatever the circumstance, we choose exile. This time, in the face of puppet dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel’s issuance of 10-, 20- and 30-year prison sentences to young Cubans for the crime of truth-telling during unprecedented massive protests last July 11.
And the country next door isn’t watching, isn’t outraged, isn’t lobbying Biden for anything other than to send humanitarian aid to the enemy, to return the pleasure of visiting the island and the right of American businesses to make a buck off the backs of Cubans like Europeans do.
Constant police repression, Afro-Cuban skulls cracked by clubs, Afro-Cubans artists languishing in prisons without due process, one of them a Grammy-winning rapper being punished for a song. The fate of brave Cubans hangs in the dark, their Black Lives Matter moment evaporating now that the world has moved on to The Next Big Thing.
People who dared confront the dictatorship were left to their own devices, victims of the disgusting politics of the extreme American left and right, and now, here are Cubans, once more, at our doorstep — the only novelty being that refuge-seeking Ukrainians are joining them at the border.
Perhaps a new statistic will wake up the uninterested and replace the malaise toward Cuba with some action: More than 46,000 Cubans have reached U.S. borders in the past five months, according to new figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
That’s more than the 35,000 rafters who came in the summer of 1994 and were warehoused in Guantánamo tent cities for nine months during the Clinton administration, until they were finally processed and resettled in the United States.
The images of vessels, if you can call the homemade contraptions that, and especially the empty ones, alone ought to touch people’s hearts.
There’s the yellow raft with the olive green sail interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard amid a sea of the deepest blues, its 14 passengers repatriated to Cuba after all that risk and effort.
There’s the rustic one left on the shore of Sugarloaf Key. The toll of their passage: One dead, six survivors and more from the original group missing at sea.
There’s the 15-foot raft made with 55-gallon drums for flotation that made landfall near Key West.
However, in this divided country, the immigration advocates are getting weary of constant Republican cries of an “invasion.”
Republicans are already using immigration to bash Biden; Democrats argue in favor of engagement and dialogue with Cuba and the lifting of the U.S. embargo.
Cuba smiles at both parties’ predictable behavior.
The regime knows how to manipulate American public opinion and get rid of the opposition with one tactic: opening the floodgates.
There’s a fix.
Want to end Cuban mass migration? Support Cubans’ bid for freedom with the passion, commitment and show of outrage as has been rightly shown for Ukraine.