Fusion.net reports on how Central America has become the preferred route for many Cubans seeking a new life the United States -- creating a new refugee crisis maybe not as dramatic as what the world is witnessing in Europe but no less tragic.
It may seem like an implausibly long detour to freedom, but it has become the preferred course of travel for most Cubans heading to the U.S. This year two out of every three Cuban immigrants arriving in the U.S. have entered through Texas instead of Miami. And in recent months the numbers are spiking in a way that’s changing hemispheric immigration flows and exacerbating tensions along borders throughout the region.
For most Cubans, the path to U.S. citizenship begins in the Andean highlands of Ecuador or the former British colony of Guyana. Those may seem like wondrously distant and absurd trailheads to the U.S., but Ecuador and Guyana are the only two countries on mainland Latin America that allow Cubans to enter without a visa. So the trip north toLa Yuma, as Cubans call the U.S., usually begins with a 1,500 mile flight in the wrong direction to South America.The long land bridge is used partly to avoid getting caught at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard, as interdictions reach a two-decade high. It’s also a way for Cubans to leave their country legally, since escaping by raft is against the law. But many Cubans are simply afraid of rough waters. A lot of emigrants—especially those traveling with young families—say they’d rather risk two months of unknown jungle and foreign cities than brave two weeks in shark-infested waters on a raft cobbled together with metal barrels, inner tubes and 1950s car parts.