Cuba, Havana – As Cuba faces the worst food and medicine shortages in decades, as well as rampant inflation, a new exodus of island residents is begun.
According to US Customs and Border Protection data, more than 32,000 Cubans landed at the US-Mexico border in March, nearly double the amount from the previous month.
Claudia, her husband, and their little boy were desperate to flee Cuba and obtained visas to Mexico in Havana, the first step in a voyage that would put them in the hands of criminal smuggling networks known to charge migrants thousands of dollars for safe transit to the US border.
Claudia, who asked that her real name not be used in this story for her own safety, said she chose to leave Cuba when widespread protests about power outages, food shortages, and a lack of civil freedoms erupted in July 2021.
The Cuban government claimed that the protests were staged by Washington in order to destabilize the communist regime. In the largest collective trials since the beginning of the Cuban revolution, prosecutors have accused over 700 people with sedition and civil disobedience.
Claudia told CNN, “I was done after July 11.” “I’m going for the sake of my son’s future. I spent the entire day standing in line for him to get yogurt. I make $50 per month working at a [government] hospital. I essentially work for free.”
Claudia and her family were told by the Mexican smugglers they contacted to fly from Mexico Metropolis to Mexicali, a city of more than one million people right on the US border, after pretending to be tourists for two days in Cancn, Mexico.
Claudia stated that the little plane to Mexicali was packed with fellow Cubans. She claimed the smugglers had advised her that Mexican authorities would detain them at the Mexicali airport and that she should put $100 in each of their passports.
Claudia stated that Mexican authorities held all of the Cubans on their trip as well as another flight from Guadalajara carrying largely Cuban passengers that arrived at the same time.
According to her, the Cubans from the two flights were escorted to a neighboring police station, where the policemen stored their passports. She claimed that the police let her and her family, as well as the other Cubans who had placed a $100 bribe in their passports, leave free there. She stated that the others were still detained.
Mexicali police did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. Migrants frequently report that Mexican police bribe them and rob them.
Claudia stated that after being released from police detention, the smuggler they had been in contact with picked them up in a car and brought them to an unfinished house in the Mexican desert.
She claimed that a small group of armed smugglers instructed more than 30 migrants to wait in two suffocatingly hot rooms until they could attempt the border crossing. She described one room as being packed with people from various countries.
“Colombians, Bangladeshis, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians were among those there. It felt like the entire universe was inside “She stated. Claudia stated that the other room was jam-packed with Cubans.