Not all of the migrants hoping to claim asylum in the United States are fleeing Central America’s violence-torn “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, contrary to popular perception.
Of the 71,021 asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico for their applications to be processed in the U.S. as of late February, 16% were Cuban, according to federal immigration data.
That makes Cubans the third-largest group of migrants, just ahead of Salvadorans, and after Guatemalans and Hondurans.
Why Cubans flee
The Cubans at America’s doorstep are mostly economic refugees. But since Cubans no longer have preferential status over other immigrants – as they did until former President Barack Obama stopped automatically admitting Cubans who made it to the U.S. – claiming asylum is now virtually their only hope of winning entry.
Cubans who can afford it fly to South America or hire smugglers to take them to Mexico in “fast boats” before trekking north to the U.S. border. Those who can’t afford to pay smugglers try to cross the Florida Straits on rafts or small boats called “balsas” – a dangerous 90-mile ocean passage.
So far this year, the U.S. Coast Guard has picked up 180 Cuban “balseros” at sea trying to reach the U.S. The number is modest – but it’s already more than three times the Coast Guard rescues of Cubans made last year. Cubans intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba under the terms of a 1995 migration agreement.
The current uptick recalls the gradual increase in rafters rescued at sea in the spring of 1994, numbers that rose exponentially that summer, culminating in the “balsero” migration crisis.
Triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union – communist Cuba’s main international partner at the time – the 1994 exodus saw 35,000 Cubans arrive in the U.S. in two months.
It was the United States’ third Cuban migration crisis. In 1965, some 5,000 Cubans embarked from the port of Camarioca in small boats, landing in south Florida. In 1980, the Mariel boat crisis brought 125,000 Cuban migrants to the U.S. in the so-called “freedom flotilla.”
These migration waves came when the Cuban economy was in crisis and standards of living were falling. All three occurred when Cubans had few avenues for legal migration. With legal routes foreclosed, pressure to leave built over time as the economy deteriorated, finally exploding in a mass exodus of desperate people.
After studying U.S.-Cuban relations for four decades, I believe the conditions that led to these migration crises are building once again.
Economy in free fall
Hit by the dual shocks of renewed U.S. economic sanctions during the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuban economy shrank 11% in 2020.
Former President Donald Trump cut off two major sources of Cuba’s foreign exchange revenue: people-to-people educational travel from the U.S., worth roughly US$500 million annually, according to my analysis of data from the Cuban National Office of Statistics, and $3.5 billion annually in cash remittances.
The pandemic hammered Cuba’s tourist industry, which suffered a 75% decline – a loss of roughly $2.5 billion.
These external shocks hit an economy already weakened by the decline in cheap oil from crisis-stricken Venezuela due to falling production there, forcing Cuba to spend more of its scarce foreign exchange currency on fuel. Since Cuba imports most of its food, the island nation has experienced a food crisis.
The result is the worst economic downturn since the 1990s.
Pent-up Cuban demand to emigrate
The 1994 Cuban migration crisis ended when former President Bill Clinton signed an accord with Cuba providing for safe and legal migration. The U.S. committed to providing at least 20,000 immigrant visas to Cubans annually to avoid future crises by creating a release valve.
President Trump replaced President Obama’s policy of normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations with one of “maximum pressure” aimed at collapsing the Cuban regime.
He downsized the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2017, allegedly in response to injuries to U.S. personnel serving there. And he suspended the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which provided upwards of 20,000 immigrant visas annually to Cubans with close relatives in the U.S.
These measures drastically reduced the number of immigrant visas given, closing the safety valve Clinton negotiated in 1994. In 2020, just over 3,000 Cubans immigrants were admitted to the U.S.
Today, some 100,000 Cubans who have applied for the reunification program are still waiting in limbo for the program to resume.
A policy problem
The migration crisis brewing in Cuba has been largely overlooked while the Biden administration focuses on managing the rush of Central American asylum-seekers and caring for unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently said that Cuba policy is currently under review, but that it’s “not a top priority.”
U.S. officials could head off the migration crisis brewing in Cuba by making the changes to U.S.-Cuba relations Biden promised during his 2020 presidential campaign.
Restaffing the U.S. embassy in Havana would make it possible to resume compliance with Clinton’s 1994 migration agreement to grant at least 20,000 immigrant visas annually. That would give Cubans a safe and legal way to come to the U.S. and discourage them from risking their lives on the open seas or with human traffickers.
Lifting Trump’s economic sanctions would curtail the need to emigrate by reducing Cuba’s economic hardship, in part by enabling Cuban Americans to send money directly to their families there.
And reversing Trump’s restrictions on travel to the island would help revitalize the private Cuban restaurants and bed and breakfasts that rely on U.S. visitors.
All these measures would put money directly into the hands of the Cuban people, giving them hope for a better future in Cuba.
Author: William M. LeoGrande – Professor of Government, American University School of Public Affairs
Justin Trudeau condemns ‘appalling’ assassination of Haitian president – National
Trudeau took to Twitter and called the deadly attack on the president “appalling,” adding that “Canada stands ready to support the people of Haiti and offer any assistance they need.”
During a press conference in Calgary later in the afternoon, the prime minister further described the act as “absolutely unacceptable and not something anyone wants to see anywhere in the world.”
“Canada has been and will continue to be a close friend to the Haitian people,” Trudeau told reporters in Calgary.
“They’ve had a number of difficult years, including politically. Canada has continued to be there for them and we will continue into the coming difficult months to stand with the people of Haiti and move toward greater stability and greater opportunity for everyone.”
Moise was killed in an attack on his private residence early Wednesday, according to Haiti’s interim prime minister. First lady Martine Moise was shot in the overnight attack and hospitalized. It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the assassination in a country that had grown increasingly unstable and disgruntled in recent years.
Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated at home, official says
Kevin Edmonds, an assistant professor of Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto, said Canada and the United States have been involved in cultivating over the long term the current political situation in which the assassination took place.
In February 2004, a military coup overthrew a democratically elected government led by president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He accused the United States, France and Canada of orchestrating his ousting.
About 500 Canadian troops went to the Caribbean country after the coup “to restore order until a new UN stabilization mission could be well established,” according to Veterans Affairs Canada website. It says UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti reached about 7,500 military members and civilian police, from dozens of countries. It also says that at times, over 750 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and 100 civilian police officers have served there.
Since 2004, Edmonds said, a series of fraudulent elections have brought deeply unpopular presidents to power while a UN mission supported them.
Haiti is the largest recipient of development assistance from Canada in the Americas.
Since the January 2010 earthquake, Ottawa has provided $1.5 billion to Haiti, including $345 million in humanitarian assistance and $1.15 billion in development assistance.
Edmonds said Canada played a role in pushing for a national election to be held in 2010, when many Haitian parliamentarians and politicians had lost their lives in the natural disaster. The general election originally scheduled to take in February was put off until November that year and the presidential election was held the following spring.
“Canada and the United States were very insistent that elections happen right away, and a lot of voices within in Haiti, civil society, politicians, the citizens were saying ‘let’s wait a bit,’” Edmonds said, adding there were concerns about electoral fraud and parties banned from running.
In a 2019 report, Human Rights Watch said the Moise government’s elimination of subsidies led to widespread protests that had escalated since July 2018, with opposition groups demanding Moise’s resignation amid allegations that he had mismanaged government funds designated for social programs.
Edmonds said Moise was “very repressive,” but that he was also friendly to foreign investment as he was getting rid of regulations for mining, oil and gas companies and repressing labour unions.
“Having a weak but accommodating centre-right government in Haiti is good for Canadian interests U.S. interests,” Edmonds argued.
“I would have thought that Moise would have been tipped off that something’s gonna happen but this (assassination) is kind of unprecedented.”
The assassination drew shock and condemnation from leaders in Latin America, Europe and the U.S., along with calls for calm and unity in the troubled Caribbean nation.
Colombian President Ivan Duque condemned what he called a “cowardly act” and expressed solidarity with Haiti. He called for an urgent mission by the Organization of American States “to protect democratic order.”
Mercenaries responsible for assassination of Haiti’s president, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says
Other initial reactions reflected concern about Haiti’s security.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, tweeted that “this crime carries a risk of instability and (a) spiral of violence.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “shocked and saddened at the death of President Moise.”
“Our condolences are with his family and the people of Haiti,” he added. “This is an abhorrent act and I call for calm at this time.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the assassination.
“I’d like to make an appeal for political unity to get out of this terrible trauma that the country is going through,” Sanchez said during a visit to Latvia.
The White House described the attack as “horrific” and “tragic.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. stands ready to assist Haiti in its time of need.
“It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss that (the people of Haiti) are all suffering and going through as many of them are waking up this morning and hearing this news,” Psaki said during a previously scheduled interview with CNN. “And we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”
Haiti’s first lady in stable but critical condition, country’s ambassador to the U.S. says
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen offered her condolences in a statement on Twitter.
“We wish the First Lady a prompt recovery, & stand together with our ally Haiti in this difficult time,” Tsai wrote. Haiti is one of the few countries in the world that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
— With files from Global News and The Canadian Press
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Haiti’s murdered president laid to rest with tensions high
- President Jovenel Moise was murdered on 7 July at his home in Port-au-Prince.
- The attack was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombian former soldiers.
- Moise’s funeral was attended by foreign dignitaries including US President Joe Biden’s top advisor.
Pallbearers in military attire carried late Haitian President Jovenel Moise’s body in a closed wooden coffin as his funeral got underway on Friday, two weeks after he was shot dead at home in an assassination still shrouded in mystery.
The bearers placed the polished casket on a dais garlanded with flowers in an auditorium. Four stood guard as a Roman Catholic priest blessed the coffin and a Haitian flag was unfurled.
Foreign dignitaries including US President Joe Biden’s top advisor for the Western Hemisphere flew to Cap-Haitien to pay their respects to Moise, joining mourners who have taken part in a series of commemorations in Haiti this week.
Moise was gunned down in his home in Port-au-Prince before dawn on 7 July, setting off a new political crisis in the Caribbean country that has struggled with poverty, lawlessness and instability.
Protests by angry supporters of Moise convulsed the slain leader’s hometown, the northern city of Cap-Haitien, for a second successive day on Thursday as workers prepared for the funeral.
The protesters set tires on fire to block roads, while workers paved a brick road to Moise’s mausoleum on a dusty plot of several acres enclosed by high walls.
Set on land held by Moise’s family and where he lived as a boy, the partly built tomb stood in the shade of fruit trees, just a few steps from a mausoleum for Moise’s father, who died last year. Police controlled access to the compound through a single gate.
The assassination was a reminder of the ongoing influence foreign actors have in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere despite it becoming Latin America and the Caribbean’s first independent state at the start of the 19th century.
The attack was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombian former soldiers, at least six of whom had previously received US military training. Haitian-Americans were also among the accused.
The attack’s plotters disguised the mercenaries as US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, a ruse that helped them enter Moise’s home with no resistance from his security detail, authorities have said. At least one of the arrested men, a Haitian-American, had previously worked as an informant for the DEA.
The turmoil has pushed Haiti up Biden’s foreign policy priorities and on Thursday the State Department named a special envoy for the country. Biden has rebuffed a request by Haiti’s interim leaders to send troops to protect infrastructure.
Screens inside the auditorium broadcast images of Moise and his meetings with world leaders including Pope Francis, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Helen La Lime, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Haiti, was among the guests.
A former banana exporter, Moise failed to quell gang violence that surged under his watch and he faced waves of street protests over corruption allegations and his management of the economy.
However, the demonstrators in Cap-Haitien were venting anger over the many questions that remain unanswered about the assassination, including who planned it and why.
Banners celebrating Moise festooned buildings along the narrow streets of Cap-Haitien’s old town, with proclamations in Creole including, “They killed the body, but the dream will never die,” and “Jovenel Moise – defender of the poor.”
At least 1 U.S. citizen arrested in connection to killing of Haitian president, official says
Haitian officials say 15 people have been arrested and four were killed following the early morning assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, and at least one of those arrested — possibly two — are U.S. citizens.
Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections, told multiple news outlets on Thursday, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, that Haitian American James Solages was among six people arrested in the brazen killing of Moïse by gunmen at his home in the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday.
Pierre would not provide additional details about Solages’ background, nor provide the name of the second Haitian American. The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports that Haitian Americans were in custody, but could not confirm or comment.
The FBI said Friday it would be helping Haitian authorities investigate Moïse’s murder. “The Haitian government requested assistance today from U.S. law enforcement with the investigation into President Moïse’s assassination,” said a spokesperson for the bureau. “The FBI is currently engaging with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti and our law enforcement partners to determine how we can best support this effort.”
Thursday night, Haiti’s national police said authorities were looking for nine people in connection with the assassination.
Police also said that four people were killed in an exchange of gunfire with police, and that automatic weapons were seized. Police had earlier said that seven suspects had been killed.
Police late Thursday said that of the 15 arrested, 13 were Colombians.
Léon Charles, Haiti’s director of National Police, had said earlier that three police officers had been held hostage, but police freed them.
Haiti’s government has blamed mercenaries for the attack.
Moïse was killed early Wednesday in what the country’s acting prime minister, Claude Joseph, described as a “hateful, inhumane and barbaric act.”
Joseph said a group of “highly trained and heavily armed” people attacked Moïse’s residence around 1 a.m., shooting the president and his wife.
First lady Martine Moïse was flown to Florida and receiving medical attention in Miami, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States said.
Moïse, who was 53 and took office in February 2017, was attacked in his home in a suburb of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas.
Joseph called for calm in the country. He told The Associated Press that elections scheduled for later this year should be held and pledged to work with Moïse’s allies and opponents alike.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he was shocked and saddened to hear of the assassination of Moïse and the attack on his wife and called it a heinous act.
“The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” Biden said in a statement.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the assassination in the strongest possible terms and said the U.N. will continue to stand with the government and people of Haiti.
“The Secretary-General calls on all Haitians to preserve the constitutional order, remain united in the face of this abhorrent act and reject all violence,” a spokesperson for Guterres said in a statement.
Moïse had been resisting calls to step down from opponents who accused him of corruption and who insisted his term expired in February because the country’s constitution starts the clock once a president is elected, rather than when he takes office.
He had been demanding to serve out the remainder of the year and threatening to amend the constitution to give himself more power.
Gabe Gutierrez, The Associated Press and Julia Ainsley contributed.
Telstra bids on Digicel amid South Pacific tech expansion
Developments in the South Pacific region include Telstra’s $2 billion bid for Digicel in an effort to block China from acquiring the mobile network assets, writes Paul Budde.
LAST WEEK, we published the first part of the overview of broadband developments in the South Pacific, where we covered the three largest countries – Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.
Australia has a special relationship with our South Pacific neighbours and we have a responsibility to collaborate with them and assist them, especially also in the fields of information technology and telecommunications. Therefore, I would like to share this information with you that BuddeComm has prepared for this region.
It is also important to report on the latest development since last week. The Australian Government together with Telstra have made a $2 billion offer for the Digicel telco assets in the South Pacific. The Irish company is one of the largest mobile operators in island nations in both the Caribbean and the South Pacific. It is facing financial difficulties because of the drop in revenues from tourists that would normally visit these islands.
China has shown interest in buying the assets in the South Pacific and the Australian Government is keen to block that. For that purpose, it has offered $1.5 billion to assist Telstra in buying these assets. At this point, it is still uncertain if Digicel accepts the offer.
Now back to an overview of broadband developments in New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Samoa.
The telecom sector is dominated by OPT-NC, which holds a monopoly and provides fixed and mobile voice services, mobile internet, fixed broadband access and wholesale services for other ISPs.
The country is well serviced by extensive 3G and LTE networks and is considered to have one of the highest smartphone adoption rates in the Pacific region.
While DSL is still the dominant fixed broadband technology, OPT-NC is also deploying a nationwide FttP network. Fibre subscriber numbers had increased to over 20,000 by end 2020 with 32,800 homes passed.
With improved international connectivity, fixed broadband penetration has become among the highest in the region. A considerable number of consumers access FttP-based services. With the first data centre in French Polynesia on the cards, the quality and price of broadband services will improve as content will be able to be cached locally, reducing costs for consumers.
About 43% of the country’s mobile connections are on 3G networks, while LTE accounts for 12%. By 2025, LTE is expected to account for more than half of all connections. It is estimated that 77% of mobile subscribers will have smartphones by 2025.
Timor-Leste has been moving forward with the regeneration of its economy and rebuilding key infrastructure, including telecommunications networks, that were destroyed during the years of civil unrest.
Fixed-line and fixed broadband penetration in Timor-Leste remain extremely low, mainly due to the limited fixed-line infrastructure and the proliferation of mobile connectivity. The number of subscribers through to 2026 is expected to develop steadily, though from a low base.
The country has three telecom service providers who jointly achieved 98% network coverage nationally. All three major mobile operators – Timor Telecom, Telkomcel and Telemor – launched LTE services during 2019.
Earlier this month, the Timor-Leste Government announced it will issue a public tender for the purchase and installation of a fibre optic submarine cable connection from capital Dili to Darwin and Port Hedland. Costs are estimated between U.S.$40-$60 million (AU$54.6-$82 million). The project could be completed in September 2022. The cable is likely to be built with the money pledged by the Australian Government back in 2019.
For many years, GSM was the primary mobile technology for Vanuatu’s 300,000 people. Recent infrastructure projects have improved access technologies, with a transition to 3G and, to a limited degree, to LTE. Vanuatu has also benefitted from the ICN1 submarine cable and the launch of the Kacific1 satellite, both of which have considerably improved access to telecom services in recent years. Vanuatu’s telecom sector is liberalised, with the two prominent mobile operators Amalgamated Telecom Holdings (operating as TVL) and Digicel Vanuatu offering effective competition.
While fixed broadband penetration remains low, the incumbent operator is slowly exchanging copper fixed lines for fibre. Several ongoing submarine cable developments will also assist in increasing data rates and reduce internet pricing in the coming years.
Samoa was one of the first Pacific Island countries to establish a regulatory infrastructure and to liberalise its telecom market. In 2006, it became the first in the region to see the market entrance of Digicel, which has since launched services in other Pacific nations. The advent of competition in the mobile market saw prices fall by around 50% and network coverage increase to more than 90% of the population.
Like other countries in the Pacific Islands, Samoa’s telecoms sector has been inhibited by a lack of international connectivity. While Samoa has had access to the Samoa-American Samoa (SAS) cable laid in 2009, this cable has insufficient capacity to meet the country’s future bandwidth needs.
This issue was addressed with two new submarine cables which became available in 2018 and 2019. These, combined with the Samoa National Broadband Highway (SNBH), have improved internet data rates and reliability and have reduced the high costs which were previously associated with internet access in Samoa.
Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.
How I Travel: Questlove Is Finally Learning How to Vacation
Ahmir Thompson, best known as Questlove, has not really stopped producing content once during his fifty years. While most know him as the drummer of the Roots, which has been the house band of The Tonight Show since 2014, he’s also a radio host, composer, Broadway producer, author of four books, actor, and now, a filmmaker: he makes his directorial debut this month with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The documentary, in theaters and on Hulu now, shares the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a nearly forgotten concert series the same summer as Woodstock that featured performers like Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Nina Simone.
In case it wasn’t clear, Questlove isn’t really a kick-back-with-a-tiki-drink kind of guy when it comes to travel. “I’m super notorious,” he says. “My reputation is known for being anti-vacation. The pandemic slowed that down, and made me realize the importance of resting.” He shared his other inspiration for more leisure time, as well as his favorite cities and why private planes are overrated, with Condé Nast Traveler.
His catalyst for trying to become a vacation person:
In the past five years, I’ve struck up a friendship with a gentleman named Shep Gordon. He had a documentary made about his life, directed by Mike Myers, called Supermensch. And when I saw Supermensch, I went on social media and just stalked him, like, “If anyone knows who Shep Gordon is, contact me.” Weird enough, Apollonia was like, “That’s my BFF.” So Shep, he invented the rockstar manager rule book, like everyone from Alice Cooper to Anne Murray to Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James. He’s had them all. Like me, he was a workaholic, and then one day he just walked from it all. He’s just like, “I’m letting everything go. I’m going to make relaxation my priority.” He basically opened up a utopian getaway for fellow workaholics. All you have to do is call him up and say, “Shep, I need a break.” Once a year, for the last five years, I go to Maui just to do nothing. It’s his house, and it’s really simple, a beautiful, sprawling estate. But he has the world’s best grass. There’s nothing like walking on his grass with your bare feet. That’s one of my top five feelings in the world, is just to sit and let hours go by. And that’s the thing, I go there specifically to do nothing. Sleep, sit, and do nothing. Wake up and go back to sleep. Just to unwind.
His love affair with JetBlue:
People think I’m joking, but I’m dead serious—JetBlue Mint, to me, is even better than private planes. Private planes aren’t fun at all. The only good thing about private planes is the bragging that you get to do in that 20 second walk up to the plane. Once you’re in it, there’s no space. I’m in 11-man groups, so you’re crunched in there. If you’re the kind of person that gets off on that one Instagram story that makes it look like your life is that fabulous, more power to you. But for starters, [JetBlue has] the right balance of the movies I like to watch. Right now, their whole summer is dedicated to Hitchcock. I usually catch up on the black and white films or musicals or thrillers that were done between the ’50s and ’60s that I always say I’m going to watch and never do. I’ll say that yes, I often do sometimes just go to sleep, but most of the time, if I’m on a plane, chances are I’m doing a DJ gig, so I’ll practice what my plan is going to be.