More than 50 Cuban boatpeople were reported to have landed in Honduras and the Cayman Islands earlier this week in another possible sign that increasing number of Cubans are leaving the island.
Honduran authorities detained 32 Cubans on Tuesday aboard a makeshift boat spotted near the island of Roatan, off the Central American country’s Caribbean coast, according to the Honduran internet publication Proceso Digital.
The four women and 28 men ranged in age from 23 to 40, the publication added. Two were suffering from dehydration after 10 days at sea.
Francisco Román Rosales was quoted as saying that the group left the island June 16 in search of better jobs. “I am a shoemaker and I earned about $12 a month. We came because of economic conditions,” he declared.
“From Honduras we will move on to another place,” another Cuban identified in news reports as Everseas Rodriguez told HRN Radio in Honduras. The vast majority of Cuban migrants who reach Honduras continue by land to the United States.
Another 30 Cuban boatpeople landed June 13 on Guanaja Island east of Roatan.
Cuban boatpeople who wind up in Honduras and the Cayman Islands usually launch from the southeastern end of the communist-ruled island, in hopes that the prevailing winds and currents carry them westward.
CayCompass.Com, a news service in the Cayman Islands, a British territory 125 miles off southeastern Cuba, reported that a makeshift boat carrying about 20 Cubans had docked Tuesday at a dive shop in George Town Harbor.
The wooden vessel apparently had experienced mechanical difficulties and one of the Cubans was taken to a hospital, witnesses told the news service. Police on patrol boats and at the dock were monitoring the Cubans.
Under a 1999 agreement with Havana, Cayman authorities and residents cannot assist the boatpeople. Boats that are safe can sail on, but unsafe vessels are forced to dock and those aboard are detained. They can apply for political asylum but virtually all are rejected and flown back to Cuba.
The number of Cubans spotted in Cayman territorial waters appears to be experiencing an uptick in recent months, although it is not clear why that might be so.
Some experts say illegal departures from Cuba always rise in the summer months, when the seas tend to be calmer. Others say that the island’s economy is getting worse, despite the reforms enacted by ruler Raúl Castro.
Still others say that all the reports on U.S. efforts at immigration reform sparked a wave of rumors and fears that Washington might soon cancel some of the many benefits that only Cuban arrivals now receive.