CubaBrief: How the Castro regime uses Cuban migrants as political weapons to compel changes in U.S. policy, and seeded one outflow with murderers and dangerous criminals

CNN reported on May 30, 2021 that “the search for 10 Cuban migrants, who were declared missing after their boat flipped over off the coast of Key West, Florida, last week has been suspended, according to the US Coast Guard (USCG).”

Coastguard conducts search and rescue for Cuban migrants

Coastguard conducts search and rescue for Cuban migrants

The same CNN article cites a “worsening economic climate” and Cubans fleeing the communist nightmare in Cuba, but that is not a change from the last four years. South Florida Sun Sentinel journalists Eileen Kelley and Austen Erblat on February 13, 2021 reported “that over the last four months, the Coast Guard has stopped 58 Cubans before they reached Florida, marking an uptick in the number of at-sea interceptions. It’s only February, just a few months into the fiscal year, and that number exceeds the 49 Cubans who were stopped at sea during a 12-month period the previous fiscal year.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and economic sanctions were already doing their worst in April 2020, and prior migration crises, such as Mariel in 1980, occurred after years of economic sanctions being loosened. What changed between May 2020 and May 2021 to account for the new and troubling exodus of Cuban refugees? The outgoing Obama Administration further gutted the Cuban Adjustment Act, and Cuba experts claimed that it would end the phenomenon of Cuban rafters, and when Trump took office on January 20, 2017 the numbers dwindled.

A Democratic Administration enters the White House and there is an uptick in the number of Cuban migrants trying to enter the United States. This was the case during the Carter, Clinton and Obama Administrations. It also appears to be occurring now with the Biden Administration.

Kelly M. Greenhill, an American political scientist and an associate professor at Tufts University, may have answered the question back in 2002 with her paper “Engineered Migration and the Use of Refugees as Political Weapons: A Case Study of the 1994 Cuban Balseros Crisis” that described how a pattern was first established in the Camarioca crisis during the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration by the Castro regime using “coercive engineered migration” to create instability in the United States.

In September 1965, Castro announced that any Cuban who had relatives living in the US could leave the island via the port of Camarioca, located on Cuba’s northern shore. Castro also invited exiles to come by sea to pick up family members who had been stranded on the island, following the suspension of commercial flights between the two countries during the Cuban Missile Crisis three years earlier. Two days later he began offering two flights daily from Havana to Miami. … By unleashing his “demographic bomb,” Castro demonstrated to the US government he could disrupt its immigration policy and the opening of the port at Camarioca carried with it a “lightly-veiled” threat, namely that Havana, not Washington, controlled Florida’s borders. Almost overnight, and with little warning, the Castro regime had presented the US with a major refugee crisis. President Johnson initially responded with contempt to Castro’s move, making a speech before the Statue of Liberty in October 1965, in which he proclaimed that the US would continue to welcome Cubans seeking freedom “with the thought that in another day, they can return to their homeland to find it cleansed of terror and free from fear.” However, after the numbers of those leaving the island began to escalate, Johnson quickly changed tack and began a series of secret negotiations with Castro. The result, announced the following month, was a “Memorandum of Understanding,” a formal agreement that established procedures and means for the movement of Cuban refugees to the US.

Unlike the Johnson Administration that had taken a relatively strong position on Cuba advocating containment with military force, the James E. Carter Administration had been pursuing an agenda of normalizing relations with Cuba that began in 1977, but this rapprochement did not lead to a better outcome for the United States in 1980.

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Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Fidel Castro’s former bodyguard, wrote a tell all book published in May 2014 of his time with the dictator titled, The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Lider Maximo that included a remarkable passage on the events of Mariel. Brian Latell, a former U.S. intelligence analyst and academic at the University of Miami, in a June 8, 2015 op-ed in The Miami Herald reviewing the above book touched on how Castro dealt with the Mariel boatlift during the Carter presidency:

For me, Sánchez’s most appalling indictment of Fidel concerns the chaotic exodus of more than 125,000 Cubans in 1980 from the port of Mariel. Most who fled were members of Cuban exile families living in the United States. They were allowed to board boats brought by relatives and to make the crossing to South Florida.

But many of the boats were forcibly loaded by Cuban authorities with criminals and mentally ill people plucked from institutions on the island. Few of us who have studied Fidel Castro have doubted that it was he who ordered those dangerous Cubans to be exported to the United States. He has persuaded few with his denials of any role in the incident. Yet Sánchez adds an appalling new twist to the saga. We learn that prison wards and mental institutions were not hurriedly emptied, as was previously believed. Sánchez reveals that Castro insisted on scouring lists of prisoners so that he could decide who would stay and who would be sent to the United States. He ordered interior minister Jose Abrahantes to bring him prisoner records.

Sánchez was seated in an anteroom just outside of Fidel’s office when the minister arrived. The bodyguard listened as Fidel discussed individual convicts with Abrahantes.

“I was present when they brought him the lists of prisoners,” Sánchez writes, “with the name, the reason for the sentence, and the date of release. Fidel read them, and with the stroke of a pen designated which ones could go and which ones would stay. ‘Yes’ was for murderers and dangerous criminals; ‘no’ was for those who had attacked the revolution.” Dissidents remained incarcerated.

A number of the criminal and psychopathic marielitos put on the boats to Florida went on to commit heinous crimes — including mass murder, rape, and arson.

Professor Greenhill documented that, “three more months would pass before the [Carter Administration] made the kind of proposal the NSC had rejected as too placatory the previous spring, namely that the migration talks would be linked to a future (broader) agenda.” In the abstract for her paper the consequences of both Camaroica and Mariel were brought to bear again on the Clinton Administration in the 1994 rafter crisis. “It argues that Castro launched the crisis in an attempt to manipulate US fears of another Mariel, and in order to compel a shift in US policy, both on immigration and on a wider variety of issues. The paper further contends that from Castro’s perspective, this exercise in coercion proved a qualified success – his third such successful use of the Cuban people as an asymmetric political weapon against the US. In addition, the paper argues that Castro’s success was predicated on his ability to internationalize his own domestic crisis and transform it into an American domestic political and foreign policy crisis.”

Every administration that engaged the Castro regime and made unilateral concessions in good faith (Carter, Clinton, and Obama) saw migration waves used against them to coercively change U.S. policy towards Cuba. Administrations that took a harder line did not face these problems on their watch ( Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43, and Trump). It appears that the Castro regime perceives good faith measures to improve relations as a sign of weakness that they have repeatedly exploited. During these Republican Administrations the Castro regime feared that the consequences of using migration as a weapon could elicit a harsh response, and they did not endure a migration crisis.

The Obama administration secretly negotiated with the Castro regime and did not consult with Congress in restricting the Cuban Adjustment Act, which is US law. This is the second time that it has happened. From 1966 until 1995 the Cuban Adjustment meant that if a Cuban touched US territorial waters the Coast Guard would pick them up and take them to shore and they would be eligible to obtain residency. The Clinton Administration in 1995 reinterpreted the law to mean that Cubans had to touch land (dry feet) or be deported if caught in the water (wet feet). The Obama Administration in January 2017 re-interpreted the law a step further saying that all Cubans who arrive in the US without a visa would be deported. This is a narrower interpretation of the law by the Executive branch without consulting with Congress.

Cubans, despite the rhetoric, did not have a special privilege but rather special circumstances that led to the Cuban Adjustment Act that unfortunately are not historically unique. The 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act was not the first such measure, the Hungarian Escape Act of 1958 granted Hungarians refugee status. Nor was it the last, the Indochina Migration and Refugee Act of 1975 granted refugees from the conflict in South East Asia special status.

The Castro regime continues to harm Cubans, seeks to negatively impact the United States and the immigration policy instituted by the Obama Administration, left in place by the Trump Administration, may create chaos in South Florida during the Biden Administration because Cubans will continue to flee, but now the Castro regime, as it had done before, will use migrants as weapons, but unlike during the 1980 Mariel Crisis, and 1994 rafter crisis Cuban refugees will go underground to avoid being deported. Also, the failure to control the U.S. border leaves it open to drug trafficking, of which the Castro regime has a long history of complicity with major cartels.

Professor Greenhill in 2016 gave a presentation with a focus on immigration used as a weapon to destabilize the European Union, but her analysis should be looked at by Cuba policy experts to better understand immigration challenges. She did mention in her presentation that in 1980 the top person in the Carter Administration tasked with tackling with the unfolding Mariel crisis did not know that Castro had done this before in 1965 in Camarioca. It is important for policy makers to know their history, and understand how the Castro regime operates to better counter it.

Sending a clear message to Havana that another engineered mass migration is viewed as a security threat, raising the cost to the regime playing this game, and backing it up with credible consequences are the best ways to avoid another Mariel or rafter crisis, and protect U.S. interests.

CNN, May 30, 2021

Coast Guard suspends search for 10 missing Cuban migrants after boat overturns near Florida

By Alta Spells and Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 12:23 PM ET, Sun May 30, 2021

The Coast Guard rescues eight people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West. Ten other Cuban migrants were declared missing.

The Coast Guard rescues eight people from the water approximately 18 miles southwest of Key West. Ten other Cuban migrants were declared missing.

(CNN) The search for 10 Cuban migrants, who were declared missing after their boat flipped over off the coast of Key West, Florida, last week has been suspended, according to the US Coast Guard (USCG).

USCG and other partner agencies, including personnel from the Navy, Air Force, Customs and Border Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, searched for more than 123 hours and covered approximately 8,864 square miles, USCG said in a news release.

“The Coast Guard, partner Department of Defense and local agency crews searched continuously the past three days to locate the missing 10 people,” Capt. Adam Chamie, commander of Sector Key West, said in a statement. “The decision to suspend a search is always difficult and is made after careful consideration of all the facts. Our deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones impacted by this tragedy.”

The boat that the migrants were traveling in capsized Wednesday evening after leaving Puerto de Mariel, Cuba, the Sunday before, USCG said.

Eight other people from the boat were rescued and two bodies were recovered on Thursday, after the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute spotted several people in the water while on a routine patrol, the release said.

The USCG suspended the search at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The search included two cutters, one 45-foot response boat, four helicopters, a C-130 Hercules aircraft, and other assets, including one US Customs and Border Protection aircraft.

A dangerous journey for migrants

As Cuba’s economic crisis worsens, US Coast Guard officials say they are seeing more Cubans attempting the dangerous journey to the US by boat.

While the number of Cuban migrants taking to the seas is far less than the rafters crisis of the 1990s, when thousands attempted the dangerous crossing, the increase is raising alarms.

“The Coast Guard does not recommend anyone taking to the seas in vessels that are not seaworthy. The vessels are often overloaded, the seas are unpredictable and the risk of loss of life is too great,” the US Coast Guard said in an earlier statement provided to CNN.

Most Cubans caught entering the US now are returned to the island, after President Barack Obama, in his final days in office in 2017, canceled the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy that allowed those who reached the country to remain.

But a worsening economic climate could push more Cubans to make the desperate voyage, despite having lost their preferential status. In 2020, the economy shrank by 11%, according to Cuban government figures, as the island’s tourism industry was almost entirely shut down by the pandemic.

CNN’s Patrick Oppmann, Amir Vera and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/30/us/coast-guard-missing-cuban-migrants-search-suspended/index.html

South Florida Sun Sentinel, February 13, 2021

More Cubans are floating their way to South Florida’s shores

By Eileen Kelley and Austen Erblat

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Eight Cuban migrants are on a rustic vessel Feb. 8 off the Florida Keys. A small boat crew from Coast Guard Station Islamorada interdicted the migrants, and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump repatriated them to Cuba on Feb. 11, 2021. (Coast Guard/Courtesy)

Eight Cuban migrants are on a rustic vessel Feb. 8 off the Florida Keys. A small boat crew from Coast Guard Station Islamorada interdicted the migrants, and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump repatriated them to Cuba on Feb. 11, 2021. (Coast Guard/Courtesy)

In a busy start to 2021, the Coast Guard has seen many more Cubans venturing across the Florida Straits on their way toward South Florida.

The latest instances of Cubans saved at sea came this week, when the Coast Guard found three survivors who were marooned on a desolate island while trying to reach the U.S. In the same day, rescuers also raced to help eight migrants aboard an unseaworthy, 20-foot boat, about 23 miles south of Islamorada.

Over the last four months, the Coast Guard has stopped 58 Cubans before they reached Florida, marking an uptick in the number of at-sea interceptions. It’s only February, just a few months into the fiscal year, and that number exceeds the 49 Cubans who were stopped at sea during a 12-month period the previous fiscal year.

Cubans’ attempts to reach the U.S. is only bound to keep rising for the many reasons that have been driving Cubans to flee for decades: oppression and little hope for change on the Communist island, Cuban Americans and immigration lawyers say. But now there are more driving factors.

Some Cubans view the U.S. as a place with better medical resources for battling the COVID-19 pandemic, while other Cubans suspect their odds of being allowed to stay in the U.S. could improve under the Biden administration.

“It’s a very complicated matter, and you cannot blame them. They are going to try and protect themselves,” said Francisco “Pepe” Hernandez, the president of the Cuban American National Foundation, who first escaped Cuba in 1960. “There is not going to be a solution until there is a stabilizing and the people on the island can see a future themselves where they can live in peace. “

Repealing policy

A decades-old “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy had given special immigration status to Cubans who arrived in the U.S. It allowed for Cubans who made it to U.S. land to be granted permanent residency after a year and a day.

But those days have ended. One of President Obama’s last acts in office was to repeal the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, effectively putting Cubans in same immigration line with others seeking asylum and a new beginning here. Cubans now caught are sent home, regardless of whether they were found on U.S. land or on their way across the Straits.

Lt. Cmdr. Mario Gil, a Coast Guard liaison officer to Cuba, said crossing the Straits can be perilous. “Voyages like these are never worth the risk,” he said. “The Florida Straits waters are unpredictable and the risk for loss of life is great” on the types of makeshift vessels used by migrants.

Many supporters of the policy’s repeal argued the “wet-foot, dry-foot” practice no longer was necessary since Fidel Castro’s death. And supporters said the policy also encouraged people to risk their lives crossing the ocean.

Not so, says Hernandez. “We’ve been saying this for all these years. The policy doesn’t matter. Under the conditions in Cuba, people are going to continue to escape, and the closest way to escape is the United States.

“We are going to continue to have this problem [of people attempting to cross the ocean] until there is reform in Cuba. The situation is going to continue regardless of the policies of the United States, especially at this time.

“The situation from what we see and what we are being told from people coming from Cuba is that things are even worse there than they were several months ago.”

Since the January 2017 policy repeal, the Coast Guard reported seeing a steady decline in Cubans stopped at sea. But that doesn’t mean Cubans altogether stopped trying: Some find other ways of entering the U.S., such as through Mexico.

“I still think and I still see that there’s a conscious stream of Cubans coming to the United States,” said Saman Movassaghi-Gonzalez, managing attorney at Florida Immigration Law Counsel in Miramar. “I know it’s become more challenging, but they haven’t stopped.

“Cuba is a beautiful country, but it’s not a place to live,” she said. “So of course they want to come to the United States to have a better life.”

Hitting the seas

With 1,200 miles of coastline used by thousands of commercial and recreational boaters, Florida is ripe for smuggling undocumented people to the states by boat or for others, such as the Cubans, to try and make it ashore with makeshift boats.

Over the past five years, some 15,000 migrants have been caught and stopped at sea by the Coast Guard District 7 group, which covers the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coastline, as well as the Caribbean Basin, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The Coast Guard said it saw a sharp increase in Haitian migrants intercepted at sea from 2017 to 2019, though that decreased substantially last year.

The dangers are clear: Many people die at sea while trying to make it to the U.S.

In late December, a 29-foot boat reportedly was overpacked with migrants, setting off past the Bahamas, facing 8- to 12-foot waves.

More than seven weeks later, there’s been no reported sign of the boat and those on board. They are believed to be dead, the Coast Guard said, bringing the number of people who have lost their lives at sea during an active search in the region to 710 in the past four years.

Moving forward

The Coast Guard marks its successes through the many migrants it helps rescue — including the Cubans it saved in recent days.

The eight Cubans stopped off the Keys were moved back to Cuba on Thursday.

It’s still not clear what’s ahead for the three Cubans who were pulled to safety from the desolate island. As of this week, the three were in federal custody after being moved from a hospital in the Keys to an immigration facility in Pompano Beach.

Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or ekelley@sunsentinel.com. Follow on Twitter @reporterkell.

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/florida/fl-ne-cubans-fleeing-ss-prem-20210213-xjznbdnn6jgrtibe6446nml3t4-story.html

International Migration, December 16, 2002

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Engineered Migration and the Use of Refugees as Political Weapons: A Case Study of the 1994 Cuban Balseros Crisis

Kelly M. Greenhill

First published: 16 December 2002

Abstract

This paper presents a case study of the August 1994 Cuban balseros crisis, during which more than 35,000 fled the island and headed toward Florida in the span of a few weeks.

It argues that Castro launched the crisis in an attempt to manipulate US fears of another Mariel, and in order to compel a shift in US policy, both on immigration and on a wider variety of issues. The paper further contends that from Castro’s perspective, this exercise in coercion proved a qualified success – his third such successful use of the Cuban people as an asymmetric political weapon against the US.

In addition, the paper argues that Castro’s success was predicated on his ability to internationalize his own domestic crisis and transform it into an American domestic political and foreign policy crisis.

Finally, it offers a novel explanation of how, why, and under what conditions, states and/or non–state actors may attempt to use refugees as coercive political weapons. Although dwarfed in size by the larger 1980 Mariel boatlift, the 1994 crisis is important for several reasons.

First, despite its brevity, it had far reaching consequences for US–Cuban relations. Without warning or preamble, it catalyzed a shift in US policy vis–à–vis Cuban immigration that represented a radical departure from what it had been for the previous three decades.

Second, it influenced US domestic politics on the national level, by expanding the scope and salience of the issue, and mobilizing not only Floridians, but also the larger public concerned about illegal immigration. Third, the crisis illustrated the potential potency of engineered migration as an asymmetric weapon of the weak.

Finally, the brief, but significant, interactions of international and domestic actors in this case warrant examination because, although the 1994 crisis was limited, in its dynamics it resembles myriad other international refugee crises, large and small. Thus the case offers valuable lessons that may aid in dealing with future (real or threatened) crises.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1468-2435.00205

The International Herald Tribune, April 3, 2020

40 Years have Passed since That Infamy

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

The “Mariel exodus” occurred 40 years ago. One hundred and twenty-five thousand Cubans arrived in the United States between April 15 and October 31, 1980. Jimmy Carter was not re-elected as president in the elections of November of that year as a consequence, at least in part, of his handling of the crisis. He refused to follow the advice of a ruthless admiral. “I have not been elected President of the United States to kill refugees,” he said.

Nor was Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton elected to a second term in Arkansas. He was accused of being “soft” for hosting hundreds of Cubans in Fort Chaffee. Less than 10% were crazy or criminal, but the stigma affected all the “Marielitos,” and even Cubans in general. Forty years later, the “Marielitos” have an economic and social performance similar to the American white population’s average, but they have also revitalized the Hispanic artistic world in the United States.

It all started before April, when a young Peruvian diplomat named Ernesto Pinto-Bazurco Rittler arrived in Cuba. He was the new Chargé d’Affaires of his country’s legation in Havana. Fortunately for Cubans, the incumbent ambassador was off the Island. Otherwise, everything would have probably been different.

On April 1, half a dozen Cubans, desperate to leave the country, were traveling in a bus driven by Héctor Sanyustiz. They crashed the vehicle into the embassy’s entrance and managed to cross the gates. The guards opened fire, injuring Sanyustiz, but one of the policemen lost his life. He was a victim of “friendly fire.”

As a consequence of the incident, Fidel Castro asked Peruvian diplomats to hand over the new asylees. Pinto-Bazurco refused, and the “Maximum Leader” of the revolution decided to teach them a lesson –– he would lift the custody of the Embassy so that the Peruvians suffered the uncomfortable presence of a few dozen legitimate dissidents among whom he would camouflage a few of his security agents.

Gross mistake. In three days, 10,856 people entered the Embassy, 5 people per square meter in the gardens. It was a unique case in the history of relations among countries. They were an absolute sample of society –– there were doctors, engineers, farmers, lawyers, highly educated, less educated and uneducated people. There were people linked to the revolution, including members of the Communist Party, and disaffected individuals. There were children carried by their parents, teenagers excited by the adventure and elderly people. They weren’t just Havanans. Word spread throughout the island.

Pressure continued being exerted on the diplomat Pinto-Bazurco. One night he was picked up in the embassy. The Commander wanted to see him. He intended to intimidate him personally. Fidel was kind at the beginning. Pinto-Bazurco stuck to his guns. He was a lawyer and a diplomat. He clung to the defense of law and Human Rights. He dared to tell Fidel that the person responsible for the asylum of almost eleven thousand people in three frenetic days was the one who eliminated the guard in the diplomatic compound, violating international law. But when, in order to save lives, the Peruvian rejected the proposal to request the army to enter the embassy, Fidel was outraged. “I am the one who decides in this country who will live and who will die,” he said.

Finally, Fidel accepted, in fact, that he had been wrong. He organized a command post near the Embassy. He asked Víctor Bordón, one of his commanders, how many people were against the revolution. Bordón told him that he had heard it was half the country. Fidel insulted him and kicked him out. It was amazing that the more he shone, the greater the rejection. He had triumphed in Angola, in the Ogaden and in Nicaragua, he had become the head of the Non-Aligned countries, despite being an accomplished pro-Soviet, and in Cuba the protest was growing. Fidel did not understand that the cost of his leadership and the island’s presence in international affairs was immense. Cubans wanted to be reasonably happy, not heroes forced to sacrifice their lives for a thirsty-for-glory individual.

Fidel immediately thought of transferring the problem to the hated Gringos. He had done so in 1965. He provoked a crisis, he allowed Cuban exiles to pick up their relatives, which became a headache for Lyndon Johnson administration, and he released them through the port of Camarioca. Washington reluctantly gave in. It established a legal exhaust valve and called it “Freedom Flights.” Between 1965 and 1973, 300,000 Cubans left in an orderly fashion. Another two million remained dressed up and ready to go.

In 1980 he insisted on the same scheme. First, he created the conflict. Once again, he authorized the flotilla of exiles to pick up their relatives, but to avoid hesitation he used Napoleón Vilaboa to start the trips. Vilaboa was an intelligence lieutenant colonel infiltrated among the exiles who was very useful to Havana. Fidel just changed the port of departure. This time it would not be Camarioca but Mariel.

He took the opportunity to insult all the alleged emigrants. He called them “scum,” “worms,” and he took children and youth from schools to participate in “rallies or acts of repudiation.” The students killed a teacher they caught “running away.”

Granma, the newspaper of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, compiled a list of one hundred insults to shout at the “bastards” who had decided to emigrate. It was a terrible time. From the rostrum, Fidel spoke of a revolutionary “gene.” He was a kind of unleashed Nazi. A cameraman told me in Madrid, crying, that when he said he was leaving the country, he was forced to walk on his knees among coworkers who spat on him and insulted him.

Everyone must smear their hands with blood. Singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez participated in an act of repudiation that lasted several days against Mike Porcel, his partner in the Nueva Trova. Rodríguez never asked for forgiveness for his miserable behavior. Porcel could not even leave Cuba. He had to remain on the Island, as a “non-person”, for nine years. The academic Armando Álvarez Bravo was not allowed to leave with his wife and daughters. His wife was sent to Peru. A few years later, Armando was allowed to emigrate to Spain. The Cuban regime, under Fidel’s lead, was dedicated to dividing and breaking up families.

Castroism hated homosexuals, to the point of locking them in concentration camps in the sixties to “cure” their perversity through intense agricultural work. The regime had to postpone that monstrosity and close the camps due to international pressure, which in this case came from the left. But Fidel Castro saw in the Mariel exodus the opportunity to get rid of thousands of homosexuals accused of being “counterrevolutionaries by nature.” Were there not, according to Aristotle, “slaves by nature”? Well, there were also people genetically incompatible with a political process inspired by Marxism-Leninism.

It is worth noting that there was no real purpose of amendment when he closed the UMAP concentration camps where gays and religious believers were crowded together. The homophobia of the 1960s was still intact in the 1980s. Homosexuals were mistreated during and after the Mariel exodus. Labor and student meetings, in which they were publicly accused of this “improper conduct,” were frequent in the 1980s.

Fortunately, the crime and the cruelties that they did to the “Marielitos” were documented in the press, books and movies. One of the books that caused the most impact was Mañana, by the journalist Mirta Ojito. She was 15 years old when she boarded the ship that gave its name to the book. There is a detailed description of what happened in that terrible episode in the history of Castroism.

Another valuable book was Al borde de la cerca (On the Edge of the Fence) by Nicolás Abreu, a writer of the so-called “Mariel’s Generation”, to which, among others, belong his brothers Juan and José, the poet and narrator Vicente Echerri and Luis de la Paz, although they did not necessarily go through the trauma of “Cayo Mosquito” (the inhospitable and desolate place where they waited for the boat that would take them to freedom.)

Among the films on those events, I choose En sus propias palabras (In Their Own Words) by filmmaker Jorge Ulla and let him put an end to this painful account:

“The movie In Their Own Words was an assignment from the Carter administration. The idea was to document how different government agencies provided their services in the midst of the crisis. When what the newcomers’ stories were heard, another film was revealed to all, that of a choral testimony that dismantled a series of ambiguous myths about Cuba –– many social cracks became visible, and through them many lovers of the “Cuban project” could suddenly question or reassess that project in a critical way. In the 29-minute documentary many people spoke with dismay, from a worker and an ordinary citizen to a novelist of the stature of Reinaldo Arenas. It would be the first time that Arenas spoke on camera. It was an unusual phenomenon that would find its best repercussion between the intelligentsia and the most enthusiastic left. Suddenly paradise was a source of disillusionment.

President Carter grew fond of that film and was showing it to different guests at the White House. USIA showed it in more than 50 countries. Jack Anderson wrote in The Washington Post a sentence somewhat exaggerated, “29 minutes were enough to reveal what is happening in Cuba.” As it was USIA material, it could not be exhibited in the United States. A Congress resolution allowed it to be shown here and, furthermore, to file it in the Library of Congress. After that, it was seen in hundreds of universities and public libraries.”

There, in less than half an hour, Ulla recounts Mariel’s infamy. Forty years later the documentary retains all its vitality.

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2490979&CategoryId=13303