Cuba, Cubanos, Éxodo, Mariel

Mariel boatlift: 42 years later, history repeats itself

Havana Cuba. — In the midst of a stampede of thousands of desperate Cubans fleeing by sea and by land seeking to reach the United States, and which seems to compete with the exoduses of 1980 and 1994, this April 15 marks the 42nd anniversary of the start of the Mariel sea bridge.

On April 15, 1980, Fidel Castro gave authorization for Cubans living in the United States to come by boat to that port, located west of Havana, to pick up family and friends who wanted to leave Cuba. The condition imposed by the boss on those who went to Mariel was that they had to also take “antisocial” elements on their boats.

These “antisocials” would not only be the asylum seekers in the Peruvian embassy in Havana, who were gradually returning home with safe-conducts, but also common prisoners, many of them dangerous criminals with mental problems.

It was the way that Fidel Castro found to get out of the quagmire that the almost 11,000 people who had broken into the Peruvian embassy in search of political asylum after his decision, motivated by arrogance, to withdraw custody of the diplomatic headquarters meant.

Fidel Castro, in a Machiavellian and dirty move, tried to repair the damage it caused to the image of the regime, which supposedly had the support of the majority of the population, the thousands of Cubans desperate to leave the country. So, by emptying the jails of criminals and sending them to Miami, he tried to convince the world that those who opposed the regime and tried to escape from the revolutionary paradise were criminals, ruffians, people of low moral character and lousy social behavior… the scum, as he baptized them.

“We don’t want them, we don’t need them, let them go,” the Maximum Leader, arrogant and spiteful, bellowed in the gallery.

Also shipped by Mariel were ex-prisoners with release letters and people who were willing to accept the humiliation of presenting themselves to the police and declaring that they were whores, pimps, thugs or homosexuals, which at that time, for the Castroists, were almost same.

As if humiliation were not enough, Castro, by calling on the “revolutionary people” to take to the streets and show their indignation in the so-called “repudiation rallies”, unleashed a carnival of infamy and vileness against those who were leaving.

The mobs, encouraged by the regime, besieged their homes, insulted, beat, stoned and threw eggs at people waiting to leave the country. At Mosquito, the fenced-in site near Mariel where they waited to board the boats that would take them to Florida, they had to endure the harassment of the guards and the torments of hunger and thirst.

Interestingly, the “indignation of the revolutionary masses” suddenly subsided, just as it had begun, at the direction of Fidel Castro, after several deaths occurred during those progroms Nazi-Maoist inspired.

The port of Mariel was closed to ships coming from the United States at the end of September 1980, after negotiations between the Cuban authorities and the Carter administration.

According to figures from the Department of Immigration and Aliens of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), in the five months that the sea bridge lasted (from April to September 1980), more than 125,000 Cubans left for Florida, more than four times the number of 30,000 people who left fifteen years earlier, in 1965, during the exodus from Camarioca.

Preceded by the bad reputation that Castro’s propaganda foisted on them, the first days in the United States of “los Marielitos” (as they were called) were difficult. But, overcoming prejudices and misunderstandings and working hard, most managed to break through.

In just a few years, many of them, taking advantage of the opportunities that were denied them in their homeland, where they were considered “social scourges”, managed to become professionals, artists, painters and writers, like those of the so-called Mariel Generation. The best known of them is Reinaldo Arenas.

Those who left denigrated, stoned and spat on by the Castro mobs would have their revenge. For years and increasingly, the economy of the regime, which contemptuously proclaimed that it did not need them, desperately depends on the trips and remittances sent by exiles to their relatives in Cuba. A demonstration that they, those who one day were called “scum”, triumphed while Castroism failed and continues on its inexorable course towards the abyss.

OPINION ARTICLE
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