And the Cubans keep leaving Cuba
So far, opening Cuba to Americans is not keeping Cubans on the island or changing much of anything.
On the contrary, it looks as if more and more Cubans are heading out by whatever means they can find, from Ecuador to Nicaragua to Mexico or crossing the Straits of Florida.
We can call this movie "Obama In and Cubans Out!"
According to Sarah Rumpf, this is an exodus with capital letters:
August 14 will mark the one-year anniversary since Secretary of State John Kerry went to Havana, Cuba to preside over the official reopening of the American embassy, followed by a visit by President Barack Obama this past March. The Obama administration has proudly touted the thawing of diplomatic relations with Cuba, but it’s been a failure by a very visible metric: the number of Cubans fleeing the island nation to come to the United States.
So far this fiscal year (since October 1, 2015), 44,353 Cubans came to the U.S., a figure that is already higher than the 40,115 Cubans who arrived during fiscal year 2015, reports el Nuevo Herald (in Spanish). This figure includes those who traveled through airports, by sea, or by land -- those in the latter category usually start in Ecuador or Guyana, before making their way up through Mexico.
This recent surge of Cuban immigration actually started during the prior fiscal year. The 40,115 Cuban immigrants during fiscal year 2015 nearly doubled the 23,752 who arrived during fiscal year 2014.
The number of Cubans who made their exodus by sea is also showing a substantial increase: 5,485 so far during fiscal year 2016 (since October 1, 2015), compared to 4,473 during the entire fiscal year 2015.
None of this was supposed to happen. Of course, the Affordable Health Care Act wasn't supposed to be unaffordable, either, and wars were not to break out again after Obama ended them.
What we see in Cuba is a combination of bad and very bad decisions.
First, the Obama administration assumed that Cuba would change just because we put a flag in Havana and legitimized the regime. In fact, the opposite happened. Repression is up, and Raúl Castro does not show show up at the airport to greet President Obama. We heard from the Obama White House that his visit to Cuba was historic. On the other hand, Raúl Castro decided to stay in rather than make history. So much for respect!
Second, the Obama administration, and frankly a lot of others, assumed that Cubans would start buying office supplies, tractors, air conditioners, tablets, and other consumer goods just by allowing U.S. companies to go to the island. They forgot about important stuff like purchasing power, the most undeveloped consumer market in Latin America, and Cubans driving 1950s cars.
So here we are. The Americans are told to go to Cuba, but the Cubans on the island are leaving.
As the song goes: "You say goodbye, and I say hello"!