Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Aug. 9, 1999

CUBAN STAMPEDE SETS RECORDS By Ernestina Rosell, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - Exhausting speeches, mountains of words, interminable and uninterrupted harangues. To little avail. The facts speak for themselves in paradoxical silence: Cuba is escaping from itself.

If the category "Immigrants" were an Olympic event, Cubans would be the absolute and near perpetual champions, with world records established over the last four decades.

We have a knack for the peculiar in these immigration efforts, which while massive still show a constant fluidity. If nothing else, some of the means are spectacular, at times nearly incredible...certainly nothing previously seen on this Caribbean island.

The Cuban immigrant will use primitive rafts, sail boards, tugboats, inner tubes, rowboats...even an old Ford was somehow adapted so it would float. A horse was heavily coated with thick oil; its hooves were tied up with fins and floating tanks strapped to its sides. Anything goes...if it floats and can help one try his or her luck in the Straits of Florida.

There are more sophisticated means: One can commandeer a helicopter, a fumigation plane, a combat MiG, passenger airplane. Or one can climb into and hide in the landing gear of an international flight. Those more prudent or conservative may just wait for a chance at an overseas trip to a cultural or sporting event, a visit to relatives, or an invitation by a colleague, friend or foreign which point they apply for political asylum.

Some prefer to try their luck in the "bombo," the visa lottery...others will stand in the line in front of the U.S. Interests office after all the other lines they have stood in...That seems less disagreable. There are some who will carefully search their geneology hoping to travel to the country of their forebears. Yet others will marry a foreigner, hoping that will expedite their exit permits (with or without love being involved; that part doesn't much matter).

Laborers, athletes, professionals, military, scientists, artists, intellectuals, housewives, dissidents, apoliticals, believers, atheists, social rejects, prostitutes, students, active communists, black or white, rich or poor. All jumbled up...they all leave. People who until just yesterday held their posts at their local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), who just last Sunday participated in the Territorial Militia training sessions. People who had recently paraded shouting anti-Yanqui slogans, had vociferated against the "treacherous worms" (counter-revolutionaries), had just attended the multitudinal meetings at the Plaza of the Revolution shouting "Fatherland or Death" or "Socialism or Death," knowing the terms have become synonymous...those also leave.

Those who stay behind tied down by family, old age, fear of the unknown, personal convictions or simply not wanting to leave the fatherland see this and in their heart of hearts say, "Really, it would be best to just leave."

So Cubans leave in a tumultuous and unpredictable but constant fashion...minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, year after year...for the last four decades.

There are no videos, no movies, no magazines and no foreign influences behind this stampede. Just the asphyxiating atmosphere of the Cuban reality with its rachitic goals and accomplishments. To leave has become the only escape valve left to Cubans. To leave is the paradoxical solution which both shames and saves the system: It is evidence of the system's failure yet help it continue by eliminating discordant elements.

It serves little to augur. We shall see who would dare tamper with the valve. With no outlet left the reaction of the people is simply unpredictable.

Ernestina Rosell, Cuba Free Press.

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