Harsh conditions drive Cuban flight

December 29, 2015 12:15 am


More tourism hasn’t changed Cubans’ lives, those fleeing say. Photo / AP

Yenis Rojas should be a symbol of ’s future. A doctor, she has
worked all her life for the state, and is full of drive, energy and
And yet she has fled, as part of the largest outflow in 35 years.
had to get out,” she said from Costa Rica, close to the border with
Nicaragua, where she is camped out. “I couldn’t stand it any more.”
She is one of an estimated 6000 migrants stranded in Central America, hoping to make it north.
is a problem that has been brewing for many weeks. Last week Nicaragua
proposed that Washington organise an airlift to take the migrants
directly to the United States.
Since 1966 Cubans have been able,
unlike any other Latin Americans, to show up at a US port of entry,
declare their nationality, and enter the country. But with the new,
slowly blossoming friendship between the US and Cuba, they fear that
policy may end.

“Now we all want to leave Cuba more than ever,” Rojas said.
36-year-old is one of an estimated 45,000 Cubans to have left the
island this year – the largest number since the 1980 Mariel boatlift,
which took 125,000 people across the Florida Straits.
Many now
are using a new route – flying in to Ecuador, which has lifted visa
restrictions, and then travelling through Central America and Mexico.
the US-Cuba agreement was supposed to bring better days. Embassies have
opened, business has surged, and direct flights and postal services
have resumed. Internet access has widened and the number of US visitors
has risen by 50 per cent, year on year.
But when asked whether this has helped financially, Rojas said: ” … our lives have not changed. … it’s getting worse.”
Human rights campaigners claim that 1500 people were arbitrarily detained in December.
38, arrived in Miami via Ecuador a month ago. “I made US$12 a month as
an electrician in Cuba. Here I can make US$1000. For tourists Cuba is
beautiful. But for us living there, it’s so hard.”
Rojas dreams
of following in his footsteps. “You asked me what has changed in the
past year for us. Well we’ve all gone completely crazy to leave.”

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