Cuban boat refugees
One year after the easing of sanctions on Cuba by the USA and normalizing diplomatic relations, America is preparing for a wave of, at least, one million Cuban refugees.
Over the last fifty years about 1,2 million Cubans fled their socialist paradise island, but last year the steady annual 25,000 refugees stream swelled to 74,000. In rickety boats, on primitive rafts and even on surfboards, refugees reach the coasts of Florida or are picked up by the Coast Guard. The Federal “wet-foot-dry-foot” special immigration law grants Cuban refugees instant residency status in the USA. Speculations and rumors that the law will be repealed soon supposedly is the reason for the increased migration.
When Obama announced the easing of relations between the USA and Cuba, expectations were high. Many expected a massive tourist development in Cuba, even at the expense of other Caribbean destinations. Today, Cuba’s tourism is mainly from Europe and Canada, averaging about 2,3 million visitors per year. In 2015, the number grew to 3.1 million, with about 800,000 Americans visiting for vacation, out of curiosity or to check out business opportunities.
Reactions of visitors speak mostly of disappointment. The abject poverty of Cuba, friendly but poor service and lack of tourist facilities and infrastructure are the most common remarks. Businessmen encounter major obstacles as well. The hiring of staff is possible only through the government and property laws are non-existent.
Cubans in Cuba have an average salary of $20 a month, far too little to feed their families. The overall poverty is in stark contrast to the wealth of the Castro-elite, who live a life of leisure and splendor. The private fortune of the Castro-brothers only is estimated to be more than US dollars 900 million, supposedly neatly tucked away, off-shore via Castro’s private bank, (HAVIN BANK LTD, 30 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9TP, United Kingdom), and spread over 270 corporations. Over half a century, a small exclusive Castro-elite extracted all wealth of the island and subjecting the masses to slavery.
The financial support to Cuba by the USSR ended already before the collapse of communism in 1989. Exporting the revolution to Angola in 1975 with an entire Cuban army of 25,000, seemed attractive at first, but soon collapsed with the demise of Angola. Dos Santos, the dictator-president of Angola since 1979, has little or no interest in the Caribbean island of Cuba any longer. Hugo Chavez, dictator-president of Venezuela was the successor with long-term oil deals against barters of medical staff. Thousands of Cuban doctors were sent to Venezuela to fill the openings many Venezuelan doctors left behind, fleeing for the Bolivarian revolution. With Venezuela’s imminent economic implosion, such barter deals have also come to a total standstill.
So, the economic future of Cuba looks bleak, and it is to nobody’s surprise that hundreds of thousands of Cubans are planning an escape from the workers paradise of the Castro brothers, in search of a better future in the USA.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle