Opinion: “Don’t let Cuba weaponize migration” by John Suarez | The Washington Times

The Washington Times, April 27, 2022

Don’t let Cuba weaponize migration


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.


Executive director, Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Virginia

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