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5 Oct, 2023 16:18

Cuba blames US for migrant exodus

Havana has accused Washington of triggering a record-breaking population flight due to its ongoing trade embargo
Cuba blames US for migrant exodus

Cuba accused the US of fomenting an economic crisis on the island and driving a record-breaking spike in outward migration through Central America, in a statement released on Wednesday. 

During the last months and weeks, the irregular migratory flow of Cuban citizens through the Central American corridor bound for the United States has experienced noticeable growth,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said. 

A record number of Cuban immigrants – 250,000, or more than 2% of the island’s population – arrived at the US southern border last year, mostly coming by land via Nicaragua and Mexico, according to US government data.

While the number of Cubans entering the US diminished slightly for a few months this year, as many opted for a new legal path to entry established by the administration of President Joe Biden, that “parole” pathway cannot accommodate all the Cubans fleeing economic disaster in their homeland, Havana warned.

The economic blockade, reinforced in recent years, causes extraordinary limitations to the Cuban economy and the population’s standard of living, which stimulates the migration,” the ministry’s statement continued. The number of departures exceeds the total outward migration of the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the 1994 rafter exodus combined and constitutes the largest migration event in the island’s modern history. 

While the administration of former President Barack Obama had begun normalizing relations with Cuba after decades of the crippling Cold War economic embargo, his successor Donald Trump reversed that process, reimposing a policy of “maximum pressure” on the Caribbean island. 

The Biden administration has given no indication it plans to end trade restrictions despite decades of international condemnation. It leveled further sanctions against Havana in 2021 after authorities suppressed anti-government riots, which they claimed were US-backed. As a result, the island is facing critical shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, spurring record numbers of Cubans to leave home in search of economic opportunities abroad.

An unprecedented number of illegal immigrants have flowed into the US during the Biden administration, with 260,000 migrant encounters reported by US Customs and Border Protection last month alone – the highest monthly total ever recorded by the agency. There were a record 1.6 million crossings in 2022.

While Biden has grudgingly reimposed some of the strict border policies of his predecessor, he has also broadened legal avenues for migrants from certain countries considered unfriendly by the US – Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba among them – to enter legally.

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