In the streets of Havana, citizens celebrated the historical reconciliation between Cuba and the United States. The announcement could mean an improved trade flow, more money sent from relatives living abroad and the introduction of the dollar, all of which would help to keep the struggling Cuban economy afloat. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the measure came into effect yesterday — Jan. 16 — at least in terms of American politics. Despite the fact that for almost 60 years Cuba has known Uncle Sam as the Bogeyman, it seems he’s finally ready to help Cubans in a way that the Castro regime just couldn’t.
However, the flip side to all this is that since Dec. 17, the amount of Cuba-U.S. swim attempts has skyrocketed. According to the Miami Coast Guard, U.S. authorities have since captured, intercepted or turned away at least 421 Cubans sighted in the waters. This figure is almost double that of the 222 migrants recorded in December 2013.
What the Cubans say is one thing; what they feel is something entirely different. Many fear a revocation of the Cuban Adjustment Act passed in 1966 by the U.S. Congress. This was a measure protecting them from deportation once they had reached American territory. Under what was known as the “wet foot, dry foot policy,” any person fleeing Cuba was able to pursue residency in America after a delay of one year. Although only Congress has the power to recall the law and U.S. authorities have confirmed that they have no intention of modifying it, Cubans fear an end to this privilege granted to them as victims of a dictatorship spanning 50 years.
Drop in Political Exiles
But if something has indeed diminished, then it’s the concept of the political exile: he who fled and was subsequently condemned to expulsion. Today, very few people fit this definition. Although Cuba remains a single-party state, in recent years, the majority of Cubans who have since emigrated are now cautious when visiting the island.
Another phenomenon worth considering is the amount of Cubans who commit a crime in the U.S., only to return to Cuba as fugitives seeking safety. Recently, the newspaper Sun Sentinel published a three-part article highlighting the principal crime organizations at work in the U.S. These included car insurance and health care fraud, mass marijuana production and the falsification of credit cards. The above are all money-making operations that have a clear influence on Cuba, where, it seems, certain government sectors receive underhand bribes in order to grant refuge to these fugitives. Although Cuban-born nationals make up only 1 percent of the entire U.S. population, they are nonetheless responsible for 41 percent of arrests concerning health care fraud. According to the newspaper Sun Sentinel, “Cuba has become a bedroom community for criminals who exploit America’s good will.” This is a delicate subject, which could very well be discussed by Department of State representatives in Havana on Jan. 21.
In Congress, where salient figures such as Cuban-American Democratic Sen. Bob Menéndez are demanding explanations regarding the concessions granted to Castro’s government, the validity of the Cuban Adjustment Act will be up for discussion. Meanwhile, in Cuba, those who still cling to the “American dream” continue to swim for U.S. soil. It seems almost nobody believes in the tale of the Bogeyman anymore. Three million Cubans and their relatives in the U.S. serve to prove just that.
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