Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Harsh conditions drive Cuban flight

Harsh conditions drive Cuban flight
By Harriet Alexander in New York
9:47 AM Tuesday Dec 29, 2015

More tourism hasn't changed Cubans' lives, those fleeing say. Photo / AP
Yenis Rojas should be a symbol of Cuba's future. A doctor, she has
worked all her life for the state, and is full of drive, energy and

And yet she has fled, as part of the largest outflow in 35 years.

"I had to get out," she said from Costa Rica, close to the border with
Nicaragua, where she is camped out. "I couldn't stand it any more."

She is one of an estimated 6000 migrants stranded in Central America,
hoping to make it north.

It is a problem that has been brewing for many weeks. Last week
Nicaragua proposed that Washington organise an airlift to take the
migrants directly to the United States.

Since 1966 Cubans have been able, unlike any other Latin Americans, to
show up at a US port of entry, declare their nationality, and enter the
country. But with the new, slowly blossoming friendship between the US
and Cuba, they fear that policy may end.

"Now we all want to leave Cuba more than ever," Rojas said.

The 36-year-old is one of an estimated 45,000 Cubans to have left the
island this year - the largest number since the 1980 Mariel boatlift,
which took 125,000 people across the Florida Straits.

Many now are using a new route - flying in to Ecuador, which has lifted
visa restrictions, and then travelling through Central America and Mexico.

But the US-Cuba agreement was supposed to bring better days. Embassies
have opened, business has surged, and direct flights and postal services
have resumed. Internet access has widened and the number of US visitors
has risen by 50 per cent, year on year.

But when asked whether this has helped financially, Rojas said: " ...
our lives have not changed. ... it's getting worse."

Human rights campaigners claim that 1500 people were arbitrarily
detained in December.

Jordan, 38, arrived in Miami via Ecuador a month ago. "I made US$12 a
month as an electrician in Cuba. Here I can make US$1000. For tourists
Cuba is beautiful. But for us living there, it's so hard."

Rojas dreams of following in his footsteps. "You asked me what has
changed in the past year for us. Well we've all gone completely crazy to

- Daily Telegraph UK

Source: Harsh conditions drive Cuban flight - World - NZ Herald News -

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