A Judge Grants Political Asylum to the Pilot who Escaped from Cuba on an Antonov Plane

In a year and a day, the Cuban pilot Rubén Martínez Machado will be able to apply for permanent residence through the Cuban Adjustment Law. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Miami, February 23, 2023 — Cuban pilot Rubén Martínez Machado, who escaped from Cuba on October 21 in a Russian Antonov plane, was granted political asylum in the United States. “We won. They gave asylum to my client,” lawyer Eduardo Soto reported on Thursday.” There was no reservation of appeal, so he stays here.”

Martínez, 29 years old and detained up to now at the Broward Transitional Center, a facility in Florida of Immigration and Customs Control of the United States, attended a judicial hearing this Thursday. After the decision in his favor, he is expected to be released this Friday, according to Telemundo 51. In a year and a day Martínez Machado will be able to apply for permanent residence through the Cuban Adjustment Law.

The Cuban said that he used the plane he was flying, belonging to the National Air Services Company, to leave the Island, and he flew from the province of Sancti Spíritus, in central Cuba, to the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport in the wetlands of the Florida Everglades.

After an hour of travel and a little after landing, Martínez Machado was placed at the disposal of the U.S. Government Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP).

His future was uncertain after the judge denied him bail to be released on the grounds of having stolen the plane in which he arrived in Florida. In this context, the pilot’s lawyer filed an appeal.

During the hearing on November 10 before a U.S. prosecutor for the crime of “stealing an aircraft,” Martínez declared that the plane was only “a means” to leave the Island, and that 12 days were enough for him to plan the maneuver.

Martinez stressed that he had managed to raise the equivalent of 3,000 dollars to legally leave Cuba for Spain, but that after the monetary change brought about by the Ordering Task,* his savings were reduced to 1,500, according to his calculations.

He insisted that he made the decision to bet his life “on being free, which is still at stake.” During the process, the Cuban’s lawyer commented that his client “is happy to have arrived in the country of freedoms.”

In mid-November, when the U.S. Government was trying to move the plane in which Martínez traveled, the aircraft crashed in the Everglades, west of Miami-Dade, Florida. Federal authorities then said that it was operated by two “government-contracted pilots,” who were in the process of moving the plane to another location, but they did not provide details.

* Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.   

Translated by Regina Anavy


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