Dozens of Cuban ‘Mules’ Are Trapped in Haiti Due to the Crisis of Violence

One of the groups of Cubans from Camagüey that was stranded in Haiti. / Screen capture

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 7 March 2024 — Some 258 Cubans remain stranded in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The flight that was supposed to leave for Havana last Thursday, February 29, was hit by gunfire from armed gangs that have the country in a state of suspension. Haiti is a destination coveted by mules for their purchases, but the violence has led to the cancellation of all flights.

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, said on Wednesday that the Embassy “is making arrangements to guarantee the safe return of Cubans residing and in transit in that country, in the face of the increase in violence by criminal gangs and clashes with law enforcement.”

The minister stated that the situation of the Cubans is being addressed precisely on the day that some of those affected began to make their situation public through videos disseminated on their social networks. Among them there are groups from Havana, Camagüey and Santiago that have shared their situation, which they describe as distressing due to the lack of explanations from the airline and the climate of insecurity that has led the Haitian authorities to declare a state of emergency.

“We are here practically without resources, and we want to know if Sunrise Airways will respond and send us a flight”

“We are practically without resources, and we want to know if Sunrise Airways is sending us a flight because we haven’t received any communication from them. They sent us home without a response; they don’t answer our emails and don’t respond to messages,” says one of the victims. “Thankfully, we have a friend who takes care of the rent and is making a great effort to bring us food,” adds another. “We need answers of any kind, both from the Cuban Government and from Sunrise Airways.”

In another video, a man from Camagüey whose flight was canceled on Friday, March 1, complains that the airline doesn’t respond at all and their families are worried. They themselves are afraid.

Sunrise Airways, a Haitian company that maintains several routes to Cuba, released a statement last Tuesday in which it asked that it be contacted by email or instant message to reschedule their flights. “Dear passengers, please keep in mind that, for security reasons, all our flights are suspended until further notice. Please contact us to reschedule your flight. We appreciate your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience,” reads the short text.

Fifty affected people have reacted, demanding that their money be returned and that they be immediately provided with transport, but the airline insists on saying that the situation exceeds its capacity, since it is about the safety of passengers and crew. In addition, and to the disappointment of travelers who threaten to sue, the company specifies that the terms and conditions of ticket purchase indicate that there is no refund, and it posts a link where passengers can verify the statement.

The Cuban consular headquarters in Port-au-Prince stated that they maintain contact with the Association of Cubans in the country. “We are following up on the situation of Cubans residing and in transit in Haiti, and steps are being made to guarantee the safe return to Cuba of our nationals,” it said on social networks.

The embassy has asked relatives and interested parties to contact them through emails that it has provided

According to the independent media Cubanet, a family member of those affected got a response from the authorities. “At the embassy in Havana they called the representative of Sunrise Airways, which they normally use to travel, and they said that two small Cuban planes, each with a 60-passenger capacity, were going to return for the Cubans, starting with Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Camagüey and finally Havana, but only after the situation in Haiti was normalized. In other words, they don’t know when it will happen.”

For his part, the Haitian counsel in Havana “promised to try to manage a way to get them to the Dominican Republic by a humanitarian corridor, but the approval of that country is needed.”

According to the Spanish agency EFE, on Wednesday Port-au-Prince experienced one more day of shootings, looting and incendiary acts and is waiting for new measures to be implemented. Institutions, public and private companies, shops and educational centers kept their doors closed in the city, where public transport barely works and the water crisis is aggravated.

The police seem to have practically lost control, and the authorities are totally powerless in the face of armed gangs that kidnap, burn, rape, steal and kill, while the population flees and the health system is under great pressure, according to the NGO Doctors without Borders.

“The collapse of the State has reached a new level,” said the Haitian Federation of Bar Associations yesterday, calling for signs of “courage and imagination when it comes to tracing new paths towards the restoration of peace and democracy, with the Government, with Henry at the head of it, recognizing that its place is no longer here.”

Since the assassination in July 2021 of President Jovenel Moïse, Ariel Henry is the highest authority in the country, with no counterweights and without a legal framework. During these 32 months, the situation has not stopped deteriorating, and now it has become worse, with Henry out of the country after attending the Caribbean Community (Caricom) summit in Guyana and traveling to Kenya to agree on the latest details about the multinational security support mission approved by the UN that Kenya will lead.

Now Henry is in Puerto Rico, where he landed on Tuesday after not being able to go to the Dominican Republic and after several days of his whereabouts being unknown.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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