A video posted Monday on the social network Facebook shows the arrival of 26 Cubans to the Florida Keys, aboard a rustic raft. The recording, published by the user Jose Carrera, reflects the moment when the raft touches land with the illegal immigrants on board, among them two men dressed in the uniforms of Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR).
Hector Joel Carrera, one of the rafters who appears in the video, commented to this newspaper by phone that the group left from Guanabo, on the coast north of Havana, at midnight last Saturday. There were 25 men and one woman on the boat, which was at sea for more than 30 hours, he said. During the crossing they tried to avoid the Cuban and United States Coast Guards, and so they used the engines only at night.
“The problem is that in Cuba building a boat is a crime, if you are caught taking it the sea you lose everything. That happened to us twice on land,” Carrera explained to 14ymedio, The rafter said that this was the group’s fourth attempt to get to the coast of the United States. On a previous occasion, the raft was intercepted by the US Coast Guard after traveling 75 miles from the island.
With regards to the two supposed police officers in a group of rafters, Carrera explained that the uniformed officers collaborated along with the rest of the migrants on the construction of the craft. One of the policemen was nicknamed “The Captain,” for his rank within the PNR, the rafter explained, and he added that everyone knows very well “the system in Cuba and what is happening, even the police themselves.”
This newspaper has not been able to contact any of the men in uniform.
Carrera says his main motivation to jump into the sea and reach US territory was “economic.” “In Cuba I was a rastero (truck driver), I didn’t live badly, however it wasn’t enough to support my family, to buy shoes for my children,” he adds. Remaining on the island are his four children and his wife.
“Over there, even though I work I can’t buy necessities for the family, because the work is not valued. Here, on the other hand, things are thrown away: clothes, shoes, backpacks,” he said with enthusiasm.
According to the rafter, who is currently living in Tampa with relatives who have taken him in, his main goal is “to learn English to be able to work hard,” and financially help the relatives he left behind.
The fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act will be repealed with the process of the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba, has ignited the flow of migrants from the island. According to the Coast Guard, so far this fiscal year, which began 1 October 2015, 2,562 Cubans have been intercepted in the Florida Straits, including 269 in February.