Cubans risking lives for the 'American Dream'
It was 3:00am, dark outside, and nobody on the streets.
And it was the perfect moment for Abel Mesa, 22, to risk his young life
to try to reach the United States.
He had been preparing for this day.
When he wasn't working as a waiter, he spent much of his free time in a
garage near his house secretly building a makeshift raft out of rubber
tubes that line the inside of tractor tires.
He has been discussing this day with his girlfriend, who said she'd go
with him. They planned to make it to the US, find work, settle down, and
make a better life for themselves.
"Life is tough in Cuba," he said. "We work a lot but make little money."
Mesa stepped out of his bedroom quietly so as to not wake anybody in his
house which he shared with his parents.
His mum knew he was building a raft, but he didn't give her any advance
warning as to when he was going for fear she would be so scared it could
affect her health.
"At that moment I felt a little sadness because I was leaving my family
in Cuba," he said. "But I wanted a new life, to get [to the US] and help
my family that is behind in Cuba."
That morning he met up with his girlfriend and four other members of her
Not wanting to be spotted by police, they carried the raft as fast as
they could until they reached the beach.
"We arrived at the beach, took off our shoes and changed clothes, pushed
the raft into the water, got on top, and then started to row," he said.
In Cuba it is illegal for private citizens to own outboard boat motors
without authorisation precisely to try to limit the number of people who
make the short, but dangerous,144km journey to Florida.
They each had a backpack with snacks and a change of clothes stuffed
inside. Abel also had a hand held compass. The plan: Keep rowing, follow
the compass, in two days and two nights spot Florida, and make a final
mad dash to land.
Once Cubans step foot on US soil they are not deported, and can apply
for residency after 12 months, under a special policy the US only grants
to Cubans. But if they are intercepted before they make landfall, they
are usually deported.
Last year alone, the US coastguard intercepted more than 5,000 Cubans
trying to reach the US by raft. Thousands more avoid detection and make
it to the US each year.
The Cuban government has long said the US policy only encourages Cubans
to make the dangerous journey, putting lives at risk.
Havana is pressing the US to drop the policy as part of ongoing talks to
re-start diplomatic relations, however so far the US has refused.
As for Abel, he thought he had prepared for everything for the journey,
but was doomed by something out of his control: the weather.
"For two days we were rowing, but it rained and there was thunder," he
said. "There were a lot of dangers to pass to reach our destination."
Unexpected ocean currents pushed his raft back to Cuba before he could
make it to the US. As he drifted back to his homeland, he was picked up
by the Cuban coastguard, forced to pay a fine, and released.
It is only after three unsuccessful attempts to make the water journey
to Florida that Cubans are put in jail.
Now back in Cuba, when asked about the new diplomatic talks between his
country and the US, Abel shrugged his shoulders. He's impatient for change.
"These relations are between [governments]," he said. "I want to go, I
don't want to wait. I think some things will be better, some not, who
Finally he was asked if he planned to try the risky journey again.
"If I find another raft that is in good enough condition and I think I
can make it, I'll try again," he said, with little hesitation.
"I could lose my life doing it," he said. "But I could also make it."
Source: Cubans risking lives for the 'American Dream' - Yahoo Maktoob