The United States is in the midst of receiving the largest exodus from Cuba in history.
“We’re talking about the largest single movement of people from Cuba ever, even before the revolution, more than the previous highs which were Mariel in 1980 and the balsero crisis of 1994,” said Cuba expert and FIU professor, Dr. Jorge Duany.
Yet another homemade boat washed up on Miami Beach on Friday. It’s a marvel of welding skill and ingenuity, made somewhere in secret in Cuba. Its makers used steel drums as floats, a diesel truck engine for power, and desperation mixed with hope for fuel.
“People are really desperate to leave by whatever means are necessary, whether it’s by boat, by plane, walking across the jungle in Panama,” Duany said. “We have seen a significant rise in the number of people who are trying to come to Florida by boat, by raft, whatever floats.”
Just in the past week, the Coast Guard has interdicted at least 80 Cuban migrants in South Florida, but the overall numbers are truly remarkable. In fiscal year 2020, the Coast Guard interdicted 49. In 2021, there were 838, but in fiscal year 2022, the number is a staggering 6,182. Plus, more than 200,000 Cubans arrived at the U.S. border with Mexico.
“The situation has reached a level of frustration and desperation, especially among young people who don’t see any possibility that their lives can improve any time soon in Cuba,” Duany explained.
He says the Cuban economy is in shambles, with food and medicines hard to obtain for the average Cuban citizen. The ever-present political repression is also driving people away.
“There were massive protests all over the island, the government tried to crush down these peaceful manifestations and those are still going on a smaller level in isolated places throughout the island,” Duany said.
The true scale of the exodus from the island is unknown. The Coast Guard only has numbers for interdictions. We don’t know how many Cubans make it to Florida on boats because they blend into the community, hoping to stay here long enough to apply for legal residency.
We also don’t know how many Cubans die at sea.