CubaBrief: Record-breaking numbers of Cuban migrants entered the U.S. in 2022-23. Cuba’s dictatorship has a serious problem with Jews

Raul Castro meets with Iranian president Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi in June 2023

The Center repeatedly alerted the Biden Administration to the threat by Havana to weaponize migration, and also addressed the manner in the public square in 2021 and 2022. On June 3, 2021, in an interview with a local CBS affiliate in Miami the Center for a Free Cuba’s executive director laid out what would happen.

“What’s driving migration over the past half century in regards to Cuba are two factors. The Cuban nightmare created by the Castro brothers combined with a perception of weakness of the occupants in the White House seeking unilateral concessions with Havana.”

On the same day the Center distributed a CubaBrief  that provided background information on how Havana weaponizes migration, and cited the work of Kelly M. Greenhill, an American political scientist at Tufts University, who in 2002 with her paper “Engineered Migration and the Use of Refugees as Political Weapons: A Case Study of the 1994 Cuban Balseros Crisis” outlined this pattern with regards to Cuba.

To stop the exodus the Biden administration, either privately or publicly, would have to take a strong stand with Havana, and demand an end to weaponized migration. Instead, the messy pull out of Afghanistan in August 2021 sent a message of weakness. Months later on November 22, 2021 Daniel Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua announced it would lift visa requirements for Cubans traveling to the Central American country.  This opened up a huge and weaponized exodus in coordination with Havana. 

Others are now observing it.

“The Ortega government knows they have few important policy tools at hand to confront the United States … so they have armed migration as a way to attack,” Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue, told The Associated Press. “This is definitely a concrete example of weaponizing migration as a foreign policy.”

This weaponization has been rewarded.

Washington’s response on May 16, 2022 announced a number of measures that in reality were unilateral concessions. One day later, the Center issued a statement in which it lamented “that these measures do not address the fundamental root cause of the island’s humanitarian crisis: the internal blockade imposed by the dictatorship on Cubans, which reflects the totalitarian nature of the regime.”  The statement also raised concerns about national security.

With regards to U.S. national security, the educational exchanges have been used by Havana to recruit spies, blackmail Americans, and insert intelligence officials in academic conferences to  act as agents of influence and to spy. Why would we want to expand opportunities for these activities?

Migration from Cuba was not reduced, it increased. Havana continues to demand that Cuba be taken off the list of state terror sponsors, but without changing their outlaw behavior. In 2023 Cuban officials held high level meetings with Hamas, and Iran. The Castro regime’s official spokespersons are contributing to the spread of anti-semitic tropes, and pro-Hamas propaganda in the aftermath of the October 7, 2023 Hamas terror attacks in Israel. The dictatorship in Cuba has deep connections to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. It allowed Hezbollah to set up a base in Cuba.

Now, terrorism and antisemitism are on the rise worldwide, along with threats to the U.S. homeland, and the Castro dictatorship in Cuba is playing a supporting role, and with open borders, over 400,000 Cubans have entered the United States in the past two fiscal years.

A reasonable question to ask: Are they all Cubans, or could they be Hamas or Hezbollah operatives with Cuban papers entering the United States?

The Hill, October 25, 2023

Cuba’s dictatorship has a serious problem with Jews

by John Suarez

​​Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, left, and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi walk past the honor guard during a state visit in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, June 15, 2023. PL

On Oct. 7 Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,300 Israelis, wounding over 3,360, and launching over 6,300 rockets. Hamas raiders entered Israel, murdering, raping, and kidnapping civilians.

In a formal statement released that same day, the Cuban Foreign Ministry blamed Israel and its “accomplice,” the U.S., for the violence. In so doing, it continues to spread a false narrative that originates in Soviet-era anti-Israel propaganda.

[ Full article ]

https://thehill.com/opinion/international/4270996-cubas-dictatorship-has-a-serious-problem-with-jews/


Fox News, October 25, 2023

Nicaragua is allowing hundreds of flights from Haiti, Cuba in push to use immigration against US, expert say

By Anders Hagstrom

October 25, 2023

Nicaragua is using migration against the U.S. by chartering hundreds of flights to ferry migrants from Haiti and Cuba, an expert warns.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government is uniquely positioned to assist migrants attempting to reach the U.S. from the Caribbean islands and elsewhere, as it does not require many travelers to have a visa. Ortega’s government faces increasing sanctions from the U.S., and funneling migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the few ways it can retaliate.

“The Ortega government knows they have few important policy tools at hand to confront the United States … so they have armed migration as a way to attack,” Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue, told The Associated Press. “This is definitely a concrete example of weaponizing migration as a foreign policy.”

Flight data shows 268 charter flights from Haiti to Nicaragua and 172 flights from Cuba to Nicaragua since just August. The flights account for 31,000 Haitian migrants and 17,000 Cubans. In other words, Nicaragua contributed roughly 60% of the Haitian migrants U.S. authorities have encountered over the same period.

The charter flights are far from cheap for the migrants as well, with tickets ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 per seat.

“Ortega is going to use this migration issue to say to the United States that we’re the ones in control,” Enrique Martínez, a spokesperson for the dissident group Platform for Democratic Unity, told the outlet. ” And if they want to stop this, they’re going to have to negotiate.”

The influx of migrants comes as the U.S. has offered Venezuela a reprieve from some sanctions if it agrees to hold democratic elections. Venezuela accounts for a huge portion of migrants crossing into the U.S., and Ortega may be trying to replicate that flow in an effort to cut his own deal with the U.S., Orozco says.

Meanwhile, immigration remains among the worst issues for President Biden, with a majority of Americans saying Republicans would handle the issue more effectively, according to polls.

A Fox News poll in early October found that 48% of Americans believe the border crisis is an “emergency,” and 57% support constructing a border wall.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/nicaragua-is-allowing-hundreds-flights-haiti-cuba-push-use-immigration-us

Politico, October 25, 2023

Record-breaking numbers of Cuban migrants entered the U.S. in 2022-23

By Eric Bazail-Eimil

October 25, 2023

A record-breaking number of Cubans have arrived in the U.S. over the last two years, according to updated data released by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agency.

Slightly fewer than 425,000 Cubans were encountered at U.S. ports of entry in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, according to CBP, and 200,287 of those arrived in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September. Most were apprehended at the U.S. border with Mexico, a marked change from previous waves of migration.

Those figures have smashed records. More Cubans have come to the U.S. in the last two years than came during the Freedom Flights, which saw 270,000 Cubans leave the island over a roughly eight-year period between 1965 and 1973. They are also greater than the combined numbers of Cubans who left during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift and the 1994 Balsero crisis.

The sharp uptick in Cuban migration comes as Cuba’s economy has stagnated over the last few years, leading to widespread blackouts, shortages of food and medicine and deteriorating quality of life for the country’s inhabitants.

It also follows continued dissatisfaction toward Cuba’s communist government, which has struggled to turn unfavorable economic tides in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and a political and economic crisis in Venezuela, a major ally of Havana. The island’s leaders have also failed to negotiate with Washington on a reprieve on U.S. sanctions, which have historically limited Cuba’s trade and investment opportunities.

Dissatisfaction with the communist government resulted in widespread protests in the country in July 2021 and intense repression in response from authorities against dissidents.

The Cuban government has blamed the U.S. embargo for driving the migration surge.

The increase in Cuban migration has coincided with a surge in arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border from various Latin American and Caribbean countries over the last few years — a political headache for the Biden administration ahead of the 2024 election.

The administration has sought to expand alternative pathways for migrants to enter the country legally, while also tightening security at the border.

But government data suggests that the policies have yet to translate into an immediate change at the border. Roughly 3.2 million migrants arrived in the U.S. in the last year, an increase of nearly 500,000 from the previous year, according to the same CBP dataset.

https://www.politico.com/news/2023/10/24/record-breaking-numbers-of-cuban-migrants-entered-the-u-s-in-2022-23-00123346

Center for a Free Cuba, May 17, 2022

Center for a Free Cuba statement on new Biden Administration “measures to support the Cuban people”

The Biden Administration has announced what they described as “new measures to support the Cuban people.” One day earlier, the Cuban dictatorship approved a new penal code that further clamps down on independent journalists and human rights defenders with “penalties of 10 to 30 years—in extreme cases, even death” for giving “information to international organizations, associations, or even people who have not been authorized by the government.” Is this the proper moment to make one-sided concessions, yet again, to a military dictatorship?

The State Department released a fact sheet that claims they are “taking a series of measures” to increase support for Cubans in line with U.S. national security interests, but some of the specific actions empower the dictatorship and may endanger Americans. 

The Center welcomes the reunification of Cuban families, but the other elements of the measures outlined  raise concerns. Furthermore we lament that these measures do not address the fundamental root cause of the island’s humanitarian crisis: the internal blockade imposed by the dictatorship on Cubans, which reflects the totalitarian nature of the regime.

As we have seen, engagement with the communist dictatorship of China over the past 40 years, in a bipartisan consensus, has been costly both in terms of American lives, and in abandoning Chinese democrats. This pattern was repeated on a smaller scale during the 2009 – 2017 detente with Cuba.  Repression skyrocketed, opposition leaders were killed, jailed, or exiled, and U.S. diplomats were victims of health attacks in Havana, with many of the victims suffering brain damage.  The proposed new measures would increase the probability of such actions on the part of the regime.

Such measures do not address the need for a humanitarian corridor to directly assist Cubans.  The Cuban military through its conglomerate, the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), and its sub-entity Gaviota, the military’s tourism arm, will profit from the expansion of authorized travel.  Expansion of travel does not support the oppressed Cuban people, but their oppressor.

With regards to U.S. national security, the educational exchanges have been used by Havana to recruit spies, blackmail Americans, and insert intelligence officials in academic conferences to  act as agents of influence and to spy. Why would we want to expand opportunities for these activities?

The family reunification policy will help some Cubans, but funding the dictatorship through travel and remittances to “independent Cuban entrepreneurs” who will be chosen by Havana will not free Cuba’s political prisoners or improve human rights on the island. This is a proposal that sounds progressive to naïve ears, but it will only further enhance the regime’s authority.

The Center is concerned that the timing of these measures gives a green light to the Castro regime to continue ratcheting up its repression against the Cuban people, will provide the military and secret police more resources to carry it out, and negatively impact U.S national security. This is not the time for us to embrace a regime that has opposed US diplomatic efforts in other venues, including most recently Ukraine.  Consistency is important.

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2022/5/17/center-for-a-free-cuba-statement-on-new-biden-administration-measures-to-support-the-cuban-people

The Washington Times, April 27, 2022

Don’t let Cuba weaponize migration

OPINION:

The Washington Times editorial “Biden should not bow to Cuba’s political blackmail” (Web, April 24) is spot on in its conclusion that “the United States must take charge and only negotiate on its own terms without bowing to political blackmail,” but not while the military dictatorship engages in “its manipulative migration tactics — and finally frees political prisoners.”

The editorial mentions Mariel (1980) and the rafter crisis (1994) but omits the fact that between 2014 and 2016, over 120,000 Cubans entered the United States in another migration surge, during former President Barack Obama’s detente with Raul Castro. Obama responded to this extortion by ending the asylum policy for trafficked Cuban doctors, as well as the wet-foot/dry-foot policy. Ending these policies harmed Cubans and strengthened the dictatorship.

All Cuban migration crises have occurred under administrations seeking better relations with Havana: Camarioca (1965), Mariel (1980), the Rafter Crisis (1994), the Central American exodus (2014-2016) and now. The Cuban dictatorship reasoned that it could use immigration as a tool of asymmetric warfare to obtain more concessions. And it has been right on these four prior occasions.

In contrast, when Fidel Castro threatened a new exodus during the Reagan and Bush administrations, he was met each time with the response that the weaponization of migration would be dealt with as a national security matter. No exodus occurred.

To understand Havana’s tactics, Prof. Kelly M. Greenhill’s 2002 peer-reviewed paper, “Engineered Migration and the Use of Refugees as Political Weapons: A Case Study of the 1994 Cuban Balseros Crisis,” is required reading.

JOHN SUAREZ

Executive director, Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Virginia

https://amp.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/apr/27/letter-to-the-editor-dont-let-cuba-weaponize-migra/