CUBA: THE RISING SPECTER OF ILLEGAL MIGRATION

Created: 5/11/1994

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

Directorate of Intelligence Intelligence Memorandum

Office of African and Latin American Analysis4

Cuba: The Rising Specter of Illegal Migration

Summary

Cuban migration to the United States is at its highest levelled in the Mariel boatlift:

Moreeaborne refugees arrived in Floridaanuary amiercent more than during the same period last year.

sylum seekers reached Guancanamo in the first four months of / 6 percent more than during the same period in

Although Cuba's steep economicsparked the escalated migration, it has been fanned by reduced, spasmodic patrolling of the coastline and foreign volunteer efforts to assist those fleeing the island. J

Havana is trying toalance between allowing enough migration toelease valve for popular frustration, while at the same lime preventing an unchecked flow that might threaten the regime's control.

The increase in seaborne arrivals will probably continue to be pronounced, although tightened security around Guantanamo may reduce arrivals there.

Based on current trends, as many0 Cubans could request asylum in the United States this year. Over the short term, however, chances for another-mass migration along the lines of0 Mariel exodus remain slim. I

s

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Rising Refugee Rate

The flow of Cuban migrants is at its highest level in years.

The number who trekked by sea to Florida in the first four rnonthsercent above the same period the previous year; the totaleaborne arrivals3 wasercent above2 level.

sylum seekers arrived at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in the first trimester ofpercent more than during the same periodhai yearigrants reach Guantanamo, the highest yearly total

Illegal migration to other Caribbean destinations,raction of the total outflow, has also increased significantly. Last yearecord for defections worldwide of Cuban Government and cultural figures as well. |

Why the Cubans Axe Leaving

The continuing, severe economic downturn probably accounts for the sharp increase in illegal departures. Most individuals who left the island wereery low wage or were unemployed; many report that they saw no future for themselves or their children in Cuba had they remained. The overwhelming majority avoid citing specific reasons for their decisions to leave the island, stating simply that "things are

leave, they almost always are allowed to depart legally.

"Political" differences with President Fidel Castro's regime are rarely the decisive factorecision to flee. According4 Miami Herald surveyewly arrived Cubans,ercent had ever spent time in jail. Moreover, other such interviews lead us to believe that most of those individuals probably were incarcerated for relatively minor infractions. The few Cubans that Havana termsof dissident or human rights groups, forwish to stay on the island lo promote their cause; when they

Although the country's economic troubles are largely responsible for the current wave of emigration, lax patrolling of Cuba's coastline by the paramilitary Border Guardresult of shortages of fuel and sparebeen an additional catalyst. While the random nature of TGF patrols can worketerrent to departures, vigilance has been so greatly reduced that it no longer has much of an impact. Most emigres agree that TGF vessels put to sea irregularly and mainly when in possession of specific intelligenceroup is attempting escape. Havana recently admitted that the Border Guard now has no air assets of its own; moreover.

Asylum Seekers Entering USNB Guantanamo Bay

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More thanercent are mate; most of these are married but leave their spouses behind.

Roughlyoercent of arriving females are married, having departed Cuba with their husbands.

The most common age is20s; from one-third to two-thirds were born in.

A plurality received high school or technical school education;o JO percentniversity.

Most were employed in manual labor or technical fields; betweenndercent were unemployed when they departed

More than half depart in groups of between twon small boats (less thanr rafts. I J

miliiary air sorties on TGF-style missions are relatively infrequent. Personnel on foot patrols are mcreasiagly apathetic and willing to look the other way in exchange for hard currency bribes.

Stepped-up foreign monitoring and reporting of Cuban migration efforts also deserves considerable credit for boosting the flow, in our opinion. Brothers to theiami-based humanitarian group foundedends pilots aloft over the Straits of Florida in search of Cuban rafters, transmitting their positions to the US Coast Guardhe group now fields several planes most days of the week. On-island Cubans have heard not only about the group's existence but also that flights often come very close to Cuban territorialmereiles from shore. We believe that many who attempt illegal departure by sea do so because they mink that this volunteer group's efforts have increased tlieirurvival in what traditionally hasery risky undertaking, >l

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word has been shading rapidly intelephone, US radio broadcasts, and word ofthe increase in the number of Cubans that survive the voyage.

Regime Reaction

Havana is attempting toalance between allowing illegal migration sufficient to serveelease valve for popular frustration, while preventing an unbridled expansion that could allow events to spin out of control:

On the first score, the government has markedly moderated its rhetoric against those deciding to flee. In frank public reviews of the issue, Havana disclosed USCG statistics on the exact number of rafters arriving in the United States, and noted that illegal ernigrationatural and understandable phenomenon throughout the world, and one that Cubans undertake forThis switch from previous characterizations of rafters as counterrevolutionary "worms" is indicative of efforts toat times, even tacitlydisgruntled Cubans to leave the country. Individuals caught in the act of illegalif it is the firstprosecuted less often than before and generally are given minor reprimands,!

At the same time, the government is clamping down in areas where illegal departures have accelerated, particularly aroundthe number of asylum seekers reaching the base escalated more than fourfold2o To curb the outflowM

| the government has extended tneugmlycornroll^

tokilometer radius, augmented Frontier Brigade troops with the military's elite Special Troops, more than tripled the policeuantanamo City, and increased guard posts and checkpoints in other nearby cities. These measures appear to havearked effect Although arrivals at Guantanamo from January through4 are higher than during the same timeear earlier, they generally have totaled less than one-third the level reached during the last months

Outlook and Implications for the United States

Economic desperation and Havana's faltering interception capabilities will drive greater numbers of Cubans to attempt to leave the country in increasingly bold and inventive ways.

Regional Reception

Increasing numbers of Cubans are fleeing, at least initially, to nontraditional destinations, especially The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

Moreubans arrived in Nassaup fromigures4 are, even higher; many Cubans transit the country without Bahamian

roughlyubans each in April.

ubans have escaped to George Town in recent years, inundating the tiny country.

Santo Domingo's migration statistics are weak, but hundreds of Cubans probably transited the country Insing fake passports and visas or. less often, arriving by ship. Moreubans who first landed in the Caymans subsequently flew to the Dominican Republicoping to eventually reach Florida.

Mexico City's recent troubles with Cuban migrants dateew boatloads reached the Yucatan, llut Mexican Navy rescued two groups of

While steadily increasing, the "rest-of-Caribbean" tallyraction ofnumber of Cubans ending up in the United Suites. Highly publicizedCubans in these countries tend lo promote an inflated picture of the extentAlmost all Cubans who leave the island desire to reach themost eventually succeed Navigation and mechanical failures, as wellweather, traditionally account for most of Out voyages that stray farFlorida. Attempts to make treks shorter, safer, and more assuredmore recent sujpoffs at Bahamian islands such as Caya fewfromCuba 's shore and only one-third the distance between Havana and

Ever larger groups will set out to sea.

Growing numbers will leave the island with the aid ofCuban and foreign.

Brazen efforts to securestealing TGF or Navy boats-will increase, raising the chancei for violent clashes between emigres and security

forces.

creative methods to depart the country will beinclude windsurfing to Florida andruck-mounted water tank for maritime transport to arrive at Guantanamo. I

At current rates,0 Cubans could arrive in the United States by sea and via Guantanamo inmore than twice last year'swith the spike in seaborne arrivals most dramatic. The influx of asylum seekers at Guantanamo may taper off thisrise onlytighter security measures remain in effect. Greater numbers will continue to arrive in other countries throughout the Caribbean.

We nevertheless judge that under current conditions in Cuba the chances for another mass migration along the lines of0 exodus remain slim:

a regime-sponsored mass departure of citizenry could very well exacerbate existing destabilizing trends, something the Castro regime might not be able to survive at this point, given the significant weaknesses brought onlailing economy.

However, we cannot rule out the possibility that domestic eventselief that the country was close toprompt many on the island to decide quickly toeparture by sea. With little notice, those on the northern coastercent of all seaborne migrants traditionally hailusurpmall and medium-sized boats and

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