Maritime migration from Cuba to South Florida has come to a mysterious halt over the past few weeks, during what was expected to be the busiest period of migration in four years, the Miami Herald reported.
For about the past 10 days, U.S. officials with the Coast Guard have not come across any person from Cuba in the Keys or anywhere else in South Florida by sea or land, the Herald reported. Similarly, the U.S. Border has not run into any Cuban migrants who’ve landed in South Florida since July 12.
This is a shift from months prior, where officials were encountering multiple groups weekly, if not daily. The Coast Guard has stopped 554 people traveling from Cuba at sea this year, compared to the previous fiscal year where they only stopped 49, The Miami Herald reported.
The abrupt stop concurred with massive anti-government protests erupting in Cuba. “Inside of Cuba, it could also be because of the police — the high alert that all the security forces in Cuba could be making it difficult for people to leave,” Ramón Saúl Sánchez, a prominent member of the Cuban exile community in Miami and the leader of the civil rights group Democracy Movement, told the Miami Herald.
Citizens may be waiting for the situation to die down, Jorge Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, told the Herald.
Duany noted that the increased migration seen this year was likely an indicator that discontent was bubbling over. “There are a number of factors making life for ordinary Cubans very hard, from worsening shortages of food to the recent rise in COVID cases, so looking back now it appears that the increase in desperation led to a rise in migrants taking a risk to cross the Florida Straits,” Duany told the Herald.
He also said the announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that Cuban and Haitian refugees would not be accepted if they came to the U.S. could be a factor, the Herald reported.
“Mayorkas’ comments may be also having some impact, though that kind of warning never stopped migrants from coming to the U.S. if that’s what they really want to do,” Duany said.
Sánchez also theorized that the protests could be giving Cubans hope that things will change within the country, but that they will eventually start to abandon the country again.
“When the Cubans see maybe something will change, maybe they would not leave,” Sánchez told the Herald. “Exodus will last until they regain faith in their own power to change things. Then, they will want to stay.”
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